After I came home last night and after watching Frank and Ollie the night before, I figured I should watch something I haven’t seen in a long time (ten years+). I dug through the tapes in my basement and found our sole copy of this film. I rewound it and reheated some leftovers and sat down to watch it.
A wooden puppet comes to life and learns about right and wrong in order to become a real boy.
When I first started on the 1001 quest, I noticed it was in here and immediately checked it off. I passed it off as just another entry and never really thought about it. Sure, when I watched it as a kid it was because there was a talking puppet and it kept me occupied for an hour and a half. It also helped that I was a kid during the Disney Renaissance and had most of the animated Disney films on tape for my use. Now, I realize there’s a whole lot more that I missed as a kid and am glad to experience as an older person.
For example, the primary and secondary motions that the characters make. As a kid, I only paid attention to the primary (the fact that they move). Now, especially after Frank and Ollie, I looked at the secondary (how they move). One of the strongest characters with secondary motion is Figaro the cat. He could have been an ordinary cat and blend into the background like an animated extra. But no, he acts like a cat as well as a human to some extent, like when he has to wait to eat the delicious-looking fish with hot melted butter. The depth that Figaro has is amazing, especially when you compare his role today as just a cat on Mickey Mouse Clubhouse and the like.
The relationship that Jiminy Cricket and Pinocchio have also has depth. When he is trapped in the cage in the wagon, both of them are resigned to the fact that it is the end, plain on their faces. The boy messed up and his mentor is helpless to do anything about it.
I grew up with the music as some of the songs were either on Disney CDs or on their Disney Sing-Along line. With the iconic “When You Wish Upon a Star”, it is THE Disney song as heard in their theatrical logos in one form or another (though I have difficulty pinpointing what part is used in the retro blue logo from the 1990’s). You can’t separate the two, no matter how hard you try.
One nitpick I have is that the story takes place over two days but it seems longer. We are witness to Pinocchio’s first day as a living being, leaving the shop first thing in the morning, yet when Pinocchio returns to the shop after escaping Pleasure Island, the entire place is cobwebbed in less than a day. I don’t know how to explain it.
I guess I repressed some memories, especially with the above photo. I never was frightened but it was one of those films I could watch when my autistic brother wasn’t around as he would flip out at some of the intense scenes. Thanks to the conditioning back then, it snuck through and minor flashbacks happened. While unpleasant, it is a part of my experience with this film.
With today’s ratings system being what it is, I seriously doubt it would retain the G it has, especially for a theatrical re-release. You have the heavy smoking, complete with a section on Pleasure Island called “Tobacco Road”, intense imagery, language (I had a mental twitch each time the mule synonym was used), and alcohol references with one clock in Gepetto’s shop. I don’t think I’d see it in 3D if it was converted, especially with something like the Coachman’s face as it is.
For the second Disney film in the animation canon, I’ve read a lot of things saying that this was the pinnacle of not only the studio’s career but also of animated films in general, practically nearing Citizen Kane status. If that’s the case, especially for a film from the 1940’s, then is there something missing in animated films since then? I am not 100% sure that I have an answer that would be well-thought out. The fact remains that this film has and will always have a high status in movie history.
The general consensus is that this is one of those films that you are required to watch when you are young. I would add that it is one that should be viewed every so often as it gracefully ages with time, like a fine wine or cheese.
1001 MYMSBYD selection
400 Noms for AFI Top 100 for both years
Winner of Best Original Song and Best Original Score