Walt Disney Presents: Pinocchio (1940)

Walt Disney Presents: Pinocchio (1940)


Walt Disney’s take on Carlo Collodi’s immortal children’s novel about an old woodcarver named Geppetto who creates a wooden puppet that comes to life and dreams of becoming a human being.

Reaction & Thoughts:

Walt Disney’s second animated feature is his first bona fide masterpiece. The animation is absolutely brilliant, the characters are appealing, and there are endless bits of zany business that will delight both children and adults.

Kudos to Disney for using the proceedings from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to create something more ambitious and satisfying. Everything clicks here. The animation, songs, story and characters blend seamlessly. You sense that Disney is moving the art of animation forward. Incredibly, unlike its predecessor, Pinocchio was a dud at the box office. I’m not sure why it was received lukewarmly by audiences — this is as good as animation will ever get.

Pinocchio does get a bit maudlin here and there, but as the story progresses, it gets very serious. Jiminy Cricket’s, Pinocchio’s sidekick and conscience, acerbic observations help cut through some of the wholesomeness so we don’t choke on sugar. Jiminy is really the best thing about the movie. It’s a true rarity — a three-dimensional character in a two-dimensional movie. The character would reappear in Fun and Fancy Free (1947) and TV’s Mickey Mouse Club.

There are some magnificent set pieces along the way. The attention to detail pays off throughout the film. The final sequence inside the whale is an animation tour-de-force; a superbly staged moment. It’s a truly hair-rising sequence. The scenes at “Pleasure Island” are kinda scary too — the stuff nightmares are made of.

Looking back, most of Disney’s early films had genuine moments of terror. Pinocchio’s confrontation with “Monstro” The Whale is one of the best examples of Disney’s willingness to go to a dark place, a willingness to show real suffering. Ironically, Disney’s current crop of animated features are far less “adult” than the ones produced by Disney himself. He treated his audience, mostly composed of children, with respect.

The songs are fantastic too. They were composed by Leigh Harline, Ned Washington, and Paul J. Smith. The incidental music score was done by Harline and Smith. The Oscar-winning song “When You Wish Upon A Star,” sung by Jiminy (voice by Cliff Edward), has become the theme song of the Disney Company — it’s really a beautiful melody. I do have a special spot in my heart for “I’ve Got No Strings,” by Harline and Smith. All songs are great, end of discussion!

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Pinocchio is more than a great animated film; it’s a perfect movie fantasy. It’s a sensational film that deserves its reputation as one of Disney’s very best movies. Color, 85 minutes, Not Rated.

7 responses to “Walt Disney Presents: Pinocchio (1940)

  1. I was so excited to see your post on this film! After recently watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs for the first time in years, I was thinking about this film…which I haven’t seen in an even longer time. But I am now doubly eager to see it again.

    It’s interesting what you say about Disney treating children with more respect than they do now. That seems so true. It’s been a bit surprising to me – as I go back and watch these classics after many years – how they seem even better then they did when I was a child.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: George Pal Presents: Tom Thumb (1958) | Diary of A Movie Maniac·

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