Thomas Clarke’s review published on Letterboxd :
After proving to the world, the industry and those who doubted him that animation is a median capable of presenting feature length movies, Walt Disney as well as his company set about releasing the follow up film. Instantly enthusiastic to the translated Italian novel he was presented, Walt originally wanted Pinocchio as his third feature behind ‘Bambi’. This changed after the success of ‘Snow White’ as they felt Pinocchio was the more easily adaptable feature. Doubling the budget from the first film, Pinocchio was able to be produced to a higher standard. These scenes that raise the quality are easily scene in the film, whereas ‘Snow White’ only seemed to skim the quality in few scenes of note. Relying on songs to move along and explain key storyline points – Pinocchio is the film that first used this way of progressing the film, a way that is still used in Disney films today. Pinocchio also changed the feeling of this type of film, from the silent-movie- esc style used in the first animated feature to one that feels like a little bit more modern.
Beginning with the film’s most famous song ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ sung by a cricket named Jiminy, the main plot begins when he begins to narrate the story through a flashback style, showing why the song is relevant to the piece. Outlining his first encounter of an old wood carver, Gepetto, Jiminy watches the old man finalising his latest project – a wooden puppet of a young boy. When this puppet is finished he is deemed Pinocchio, and the maker heads to bed in need of sleep. Whilst settling down he spots a wishing star in the night sky, making a wish that Pinocchio was not wooden but alive, he falls asleep. When he is in his slumber, the building is visited by the Blue Fairy who grants Gepetto his wish and Pinocchio is brought to life. When the young wooden puppet asks the reason behind him still being made of wood, the fairy outlines the rules to which his transformation can be completed. He must first showcase himself to be brave, truthful and unselfish. Confused on how to know whats right and wrong, the fairy selects Jiminy as his living conscience. When he begins to move around, the young boy stumbles and awakens his maker. At first shocked, he slowly becomes overjoyed at his wish being granted.
Sending Pinocchio to school the following morning, he looks at his creation as a real boy. On the way to school Pinocchio is led astray by two con artists who play on his naivety. Honest Jon and Gideon – for some reason unbeknownst to many, a fox and a cat – send him to Stromboli and his travelling party of marionettes. Utilizing the young boy as his star puppet, Stromboli locks Pinocchio away. Rescued by the Blue Fairy, after learning his nose will grow whenever the boy lies, Pinocchio and Jiminy head back towards Gepetto’s house. On the way there, he is once again led astray, this time to the promise of a vacancy on Pleasure Island – a place full of temptation for truanted boys which holds a much darker side. Now Pinocchio and Jiminy must find it in themselves again to somehow escape this nightmare place. Then they must seek out Gepetto, who upon not receiving his son from school has set out to find him. To get back to their father the two must first find the giant whale, Monstro, and rescue him from the depths of his stomach. Through doing all this he, Pinocchio must also prove his worth and claim the reward of becoming a real boy.
Unlike ‘Snow White’ which is an adaptation of a fairy tale, and the first of the many Disney Princesses storylines, Pinocchio is a film that fully adapts a classic novel perfectly. A narrative that holds many moral messages in its content, this film serves as an easy way to show the correct way in which to act to those who watch the film. Also unlike ‘Snow White’ which was light hearted. Pinocchio is a film that feels a lot darker and mature. With its content dealing with darker themes, this film shows a much more grown up content that raises the demographic that would find interest in the company’s work. Having a larger budget also allows the plot to not skip character development and decision making, with the overall effect being that of a more thorough creative work. Through this ability, the filmmakers have been able to make everything more rewarding to watch. Although the last third of the film is highly implausible in content, this section also marked the most magical of the film and ends the movie on a complete high.
A complete update on everything that the first feature did correct, Pinocchio shows the vision and respect that the company had for this production. Dramatically superior to Snow White – something that was achieved in only three years – the amount of work and skill present is colossal. Featuring many aspects that are still found in modern Disney films, this film began the dominance in this market that Disney still hold. With high morale messages present, this film feels as relevant today as it must have on initial release. Fully deserved of its status as a classic, this film is another film that will hold the test of time.