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When you wish upon a star,
It can kindle things bizarre.
Like a puppet made of wood
Becoming real.
When Geppetto, cheerful yet,
Made his youthful marionette,
He pronounced his puppet good
And played with zeal.
When he wished he had a boy,
To delight in and enjoy,
One Blue Fairy came that night
And filled his wish.
Jiminy Cricket is assigned
So Pinocchio will mind;
He will teach the boy what’s right
And what’s wrong-ish.
On his first day out to school,
Young Pinocchio’s a fool;
He’s tricked by a fox and cat
To take the stage.
He performs to quite the crowd,
But to leave is not allowed.
He’ll make his boss rich and fat,
But in a cage.
That Blue Fairy, kind and wise,
Comes to him, but he just lies.
Though his nose extends and grows,
She helps him out.
When the puppet’s free to roam,
He is stopped while running home.
Fox and cat again impose
To change his route.
He instead wastes time a while,
Acting bad on Pleasure Isle,
But he’s shocked to learn the cause
Of where friends go.
When boys act their worst, alas,
Each becomes a poor jackass.
Though Pinocchio withdraws,
He’s filled with woe.
Back at home, Geppetto’s gone;
He is hungry, cold, and wan
Inside Monstro, a great whale
Who causes fright.
In the sea, Pinocchio
Is devoured by Monstro.
Puppet and creator hail
And reunite.
Though they both are in a scrape,
That small puppet plans escape.
On Geppetto’s raft, he makes
The beast lose its meal.
On a beach, the group is spilled,
But Pinocchio is killed.
Yet he offered what it takes
To now be real.

Pinocchio is a true classic and is widely considered to be Disney’s greatest masterpiece. You’ll find that not all of Disney’s older films are on my list, notably Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White was chosen as the best American animated film by AFI and is lauded by critics today as well as when it was released, but it’s just not my cup of tea. I have no issue with fairy tale movies, the scenes with the dwarves, or the exciting end, but Snow White herself is entirely too bland, the voice acting is often grating, and the film drips sugar. I think it’s gained most of its accolades solely because it was the first full-length animated film.

In contrast, Disney’s next film Pinocchio offers some saccharine moments but is a vast step forward in character development, entertainment, and animation quality. Pinocchio himself has an actual character arc, and the villains he meets are all colorful and frightening in different ways. The beginning is overtly child-centric (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing), but the end is impressively thrilling, and everything that comes between succeeds in confirming to all bad little boys that they should listen to their parents and consciences. Considering this was only the second animated film released, Disney’s animators pulled off some beautiful pictures and amazingly fluid scenes, from the opener with all the cuckoo clocks to Pinocchio’s walk through the underwater world of Monstro.

I don’t usually think of Pinocchio as a musical, but it does have some charming ditties, including “Give a Little Whistle” and the ever-classic “When You Wish upon a Star.” I especially enjoy Pinocchio’s performance of “I’ve Got No Strings,” which predates The Sound of Music’s puppeteering version of “The Lonely Goatherd” by over twenty years. The songs aren’t on the level of Alan Menken or the Sherman brothers, but they’re memorable nonetheless.

Disney put his indelible stamp on the project and certainly “Disney-fied” the material, leaving out some darker elements from Collodi’s book, such as Pinocchio and Lampwick being tormented to death as donkeys or Pinocchio’s killing of a certain talking cricket. Though, there’s still a good amount of smoking, including by children, that wouldn’t fly nowadays. One interesting thing my VC pointed out was the film’s frequent focus on the posterior as the “butt” of several jokes. It’s certainly tame, but I wonder if back then that was perhaps the only way to “push the boundaries,” so to speak. Either way, it’s something I had never noticed before.

For all the praise I’m heaping on this film, it may seem odd that it is as low as it is on my list. It’s an undisputed classic, but I simply enjoy watching other films more. I can applaud a movie for its artistry and trailblazing, but this list is ultimately based on how I like films overall. It probably deserves better, but regardless, I admire Pinocchio as a milestone in animation that is quite watchable and enjoyable.

Best line: (the Blue Fairy) “Now, remember, Pinocchio: be a good boy. And always let your conscience be your guide.”

Artistry: 9
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 6
Visual Effects: 10
Originality: 7
Watchability: 5
Other (I just like other films more): -6
TOTAL: 40 out of 60

Next: #219 – Journey to the Center of the Earth

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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