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Genre: Animated Family Fantasy Drama
Starring: Dickie Jones (Stella Dallas • "Buffalo Bill, Jr."), Cliff Edwards (His Girl Friday • "Disneyland")
Supervising Director: Ben Sharpsteen (Dumbo • Fantasia)
Overview: In this Disney classic, a woodcarver fashions a marionette and wishes upon a star that it could be made into a real boy. When the Blue Fairy appears to grant his wish, it is the magical wooden boy, Pinocchio, who must prove himself worthy of being a real life boy.
The magic and mystery of childhood has in Pinocchio a champion film. I have quite a fond recollection of watching this at age 6 and being spooked by the moral twist that takes place on Pleasure Island. Now in my thirties, I see Pinnocchio in a very different light. Today a children's movie that includes truancy, deliquency, corrupting a minor, neglect, kidnapping, pederasty, slavery and a slew of broken child labour laws makes me wonder if such a movie has outgrown the Filthy Forties it was born into.
The perfomances of voice actors Cliff Edwards as Jimminy Cricket and Christian Rub as Gepetto are golden, of this there is no doubt, and there was nothing more enjoyable than the atmosphere of Gepetto's wonderful workshop. Every time we cut back to Jimminy surveying the magical tale unfolding before him, we were blessed with yet another original background of wooden mechanical marvels made by our master carver. Yet, although the longest scenes in Pinocchio take place in that beautiful workshop, I still felt that these wonderful scenes were cut short by Pinocchio's quest for humanity, which unfolded not only rediculously, but I could go as far as saying it was the tamest fever dream Walt has ever phoned in.
But let's get back to my 'accounting of irresponsibility'. Once Gepetto admires his handiwork that is the lederhosenned Pinocchio, he winds down with a pipe in his very flammable bed. Then, once the miraculous transformation is cast, and Pinocchio begins making noise in the middle of the night, Gepetto grabs his trusty pirate gun and wanders around in the dark, extolling a beautifully ironic comment of what would come to be a significant American firearms accident statistic. From this point, Pinocchio is left, pretty much to own devices, and strays from the less dramatic path of going to school and actually learning to be human, to taking the easy route and becoming a slave to vaudevillian villains who also manage to cart him and some other young boys to a place called Pleasure Island, where kidnappings with pederastic intention are implied to the point of creeping out even a degenerate like me. Yet, all these contrived life lessons of the 'wrong way to live' are not the problem, it's really the final chapter, one that begins with Pinocchio coming home only to learn that Gepetto has been swallowed by a whale and he must go rescue him.
Excuse me? Fantasy is one thing, but honestly. Granted, the whale subplot is in the original tale written in the 1880s, but the rest of the original story is so different in so many ways that the excuse of including the whale for reasons of 'staying true to the original', well that's certainly a stretch given the artistic liberties taken with what was originally a vicious little punk of a hunk of wood.
Performance: 8 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 7 Mood: 8
Overall Rating: 76% (And Quite an Average Boy He Is)
Still, if you're a kid, you'll probably find the song-rich Pinocchio to be about as magical as I did when I was a child, and when compared to Looney Toons and their overzealous editing of frying-pan-violence for Saturday morning, it's certainly enjoyable if you watch with a social anthropology slant. Seeing these little no-nos of stark imagery and shifted paradigms can be downright wondrous!