My Rating: 8/10 (Production: 1.5/2, Plot: 1.5/2, People: 1.5/2, Purpose: 2/2, Personal: 1.5/2)
In some ways it’s hard to review a 76-year-old Disney movie using the same critical lens as we use for current animated movies. In other ways, it’s a pure delight.
Modern animated films, as well as many non-animated films, attempt to barrage our senses with overwhelming visual stimuli and unrelenting, low-hanging humour to make up for a lack of substance underneath. While that’s certainly not true for all films, it does unfortunately seem to becoming more and more frequent.
Pinocchio, as Disney’s second feature length film, was culturally significant, though not initially commercially impactful, in its time and has remained one of the better loved, more influential Disney classics over the past 8 decades. And it’s easy to see why.
At the centre of Pinocchio and underlining its characters and story, is a simple, strong, pure message that is masterfully intertwined throughout the film in a unique (even to this day) on-the-nose yet appropriate way.
Jiminy Cricket, for example, is a stroke of thematic and structural genius and provides a strong anchor to the story. The animation itself is wondrously elegant and layered, especially considering the technology and industry capabilities in 1940. The comedy is surprisingly astute and enjoyable, with subtle jokes applied generously throughout and is a welcome surprise for an adult (in age if not maturity) revisiting this truly timeless tale.
Whew! What they can’t do these days! – Jiminy Cricket
But Pinocchio is also a sign of its time, not least due to the presence of kids smoking cigars (albeit as an act of rebellion). Plot get-out-of-jail-free cards are played unabashedly and certain meandering sequences (notably in the beginning) seem to test one’s 21st century patience. Though this may not be due to any fault of our own and is probably more a reflection of the wonder animated sequences set to orchestral music had on an early-to-mid 20th century audience. (The mere existence of Fantasia (1940) is testament to that.)
Disney really was at the top of his* game with Pinocchio and if you think I’m biased towards the ‘classics’, take into consideration my less impressed viewing of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). Having viewed both as part of a renewed interest brought upon by delving into the beginnings of the Disney company, it is clear that Pinocchio over all holds up better over time and, personally, is a far more entertaining and pertinent film.