1 The Mickey Mindset: Disney Animation Reviews #2 - Pinocchio

Friday, November 29, 2013

Disney Animation Reviews #2 - Pinocchio

Disney Animation Review - 2/52: Pinocchio

Ryan Dosier - It’s amazing to me that I am only two films into my review countdown of Disney animated features and I’ve just watched Walt Disney’s masterpiece. That film is Pinocchio, Walt Disney’s 1940 piece of brilliance, his magnum opus (words I don’t often use lightly) (because I don’t really know what they mean).

From the opening credits and the chords of “When You Wish Upon a Star,” Pinocchio sets itself apart from the rest. It is clear almost immediately that this film is brimming with heart, charm, and unflinching artistry. Jiminy Cricket steals the picture right away and never gives it back. Jiminy’s voice (provided by radio man Cliff Edwards) is so distinct and his mannerisms are so funny that he shoots to the top of my list of favorite Disney characters. Jiminy also benefits from being animated by a Disney master: Ward Kimball. Jiminy dances and jumps and flirts hysterically all through the film with some of the finest character animation of all-time. He quips and insults and solidifies himself as the movie’s moral compass, driving force, and most entertaining character.

That isn’t to say that Pinocchio himself does not make for a wonderful protagonist and a true hero. As soon as the Blue Fairy brings him to life, Pinocchio is funny, sweet, and adorable. Unlike his forebear (I can’t believe I used that word either), Snow White, Pinocchio is interesting, entertaining, and adorably flawed. The little wooden boy is innocent and ridiculously naive, but this never works against him. If anything, it makes him more lovable and fun to cheer for. Just look at the lively “I’ve Got No Strings” song for Pinocchio’s most charming moment as a character. There are moments where Pinocchio fears and we fear with him, where he laughs and we laugh with him, where he is heroic and we root for him. That is the making of a great character, and that is what Pinocchio is.

The other characters in the film are truly wonderful as well. The Blue Fairy is a stunning animated feat—she’s so realistic it’s incredible. Gepetto is the film’s most sympathetic and lovely character. Figaro, the cat, and Cleo, the goldfish, serve their purposes as comic reliefs well. Each character has a sense of purpose, fun, and magic, something that was painfully lacking in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Disney’s story department had evolved immeasurably for Pinocchio.

Through it all, there are an incredible five villains in Pinocchio. Honest John, his sidekick Gideon, Stromboli the puppet master, the Pleasure Island Coachman, and Monstro the whale. Unbelievably, all of these villains work to enhance the movie. They are all unique, whether they are sly and silly (Honest John and Gideon), a cruel blowhard (Stromboli), pure evil (the Coachman), or just an unstoppable force of nature (Monstro), all of the many villains filter in and out of the film and provide a new sense of danger or comedy, working wonders for the fantastical plot.

The movie is clearly a fantasy, with the wild Pleasure Island, the fact that Honest John is a fox and Gideon is a cat... oh, and it stars a talking puppet and a talking cricket. But Pinocchio possesses a sense of fun and joy that elevates it from the weird plot points. Viewers simply pass off the outrageousness of an island where little boys turn into jackasses because they are having so much fun with Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket. It is remarkable that a film with so many crazy things can work so wonderfully.

Everything about Pinocchio is masterful. The animation is perfect, the backgrounds and layouts are remarkably gorgeous, and the colors burst from the screen. But the true wonder of the film is its characters. Pinocchio, most of all, wins by fighting for his happy ending himself. He saves the life of Gepetto, sacrificing himself in the process, and so becomes a real boy. But unlike Snow White, Pinocchio grabs his happy ending himself. He earns it and he deserves it, and Walt Disney and his team of animators and filmmakers earned this film and deserve the label of masterpiece.

5/5 Russian Puppets

The Mickey Mindset, mickeymindset@gmail.com

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