Pinocchio (1940)

The chart-topping daddy of all animated movies, "Pinocchio" finds itself resting on top of "Best of" lists time and time again. Perhaps it's because the movie is so well-orchestrated, featuring some of Disney's finest animation in any film, or maybe the iconic stature of the move--seen in Jiminy Cricket's "When You Wish Upon a Star", now the theme song for Disney--was instantly established. Either way, the film proceeds as a glorious and technically flawless work that deserves a lot of respect for cheap story telling.
The movie is episodic in nature and draws a lot of inspiration from current though. We can see how the movie anticipates certain aspects of "Lord of the Flies" with its not-so subtle references to boys gone wild. "Pinocchio" begins with an elderly toy maker named Gepetto (Christian Rub) making a wooden puppet that he calls Pinocchio. After dancing with the toy a bit and showing it off to his two pets, the toymaker goes to bed and wishes upon a star that the puppet he just made be turned into a real boy.
All of this is witnessed by Jiminy Cricket who serves as our narrator and point of view for most of the movie. Well, right on cue, a fairy descends from heaven to give Pinocchio life and tells him that he must do right and be good and then he'll be a real boy; because now, he's just a wooden thing with chutzpah.
She appoints Jiminy Cricket to be his conscience and then flies out the window, like mind. Don't look that up, promise me.
Anyways, the episodes break down as such: first day of school, Stromboli's puppet, Pleasure Island, Monstro, fine.
There isn't a lot that makes linear sense in a narrative structure here because it seems like just happy accidents that occur in Pinocchio's life. That being sense, the loose sense of a return to home is necessary but the whole "oh, and your dad got swallowed by a whale" thing makes little to no sense and is, yes, cheap story telling...though it does give way to some spectacular sequences.
Pinocchio is bright and likable and not that annoying and Jiminy Cricket is a lovable narrator. The movie does have some moments that it probably isn't proud of and if you get the DVD you'll find an anti-smoking ad at the beginning that uses the imagery of "Pinocchio's" characters smoking to warn against cigarettes and cigars. That, and well, the anti-Italian sentiments.
There is something to be said about "Pinocchio's" imagery, because it is hellish. This is right up there with the most scarring of Disney's moments, like that thing that happens in "Bambi" or "Pink Elephant On Parade" from Dumbo. This is nightmarish and horrifying and to this day, the movie can evoke and unsettling feeling of doom and loss.
That's kind of much for a children's movie.
Here I begin another point: no one ever said "Pinocchio" was a children's movie. Animation didn't begin as a kid's genre though it has now become one. If you look at Disney's early feature films, a lot of them were experimental in nature, "Fantasia" being the most obvious example. Anyways, the movie deserves respect because of how well it has stood the test of time and how good it still looks after years and years of being the top-dog in animation. I think in terms of its visual style, the movie is golden; but it terms of the actual whimsical story its telling, it skips a few crucial moments.

Score: ★★★½

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