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Category:    Home > Reviews > Animation > Fantasy > Comedy > Musical > Pinocchio (1940/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)

Pinocchio (1940/Disney Blu-ray w/DVD)


Picture: B+/B-     Sound: B-/C+     Extras: B+     Film: B+



There is a reason the Walt Disney version of Carlo Collodi’s classic Pinocchio (1940) has endured, no matter how many films and TV shows have tried to do it more “realistically” or tried to deconstruct the all time Disney hit to begin with.  It is no surprise that music video directors like Steve Barron could not crack it or that it remains the low point of any career that tried to revive the same material from Roberto Benigni to in A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, even Steven Spielberg.  Why?


Because it proved that Snow White was no fluke and it is so well-rounded a work that it and MGM’s 1939 Wizard Of Oz permanently established the Fantasy genre as more than just trickery but a viable A-level genre that Classical Hollywood’s studio system might not have taken as seriously at the time, but would eventually be key to their artistic and financial survival.  Some films are just on the money every moment they play down to every single frame and this is one of them.


Sure, it is tight at 88 minutes, but it gets to the point and tells the tale of the legendary toymaker whose work made endless numbers of children happy in a world where not enough of that joy exists.  Then he builds an amazing boy puppet who eventually comes to life thanks to a female fairy who wants to reward the man for all the love he gave.  Of course, Pinocchio needs to be a “good boy” and stay out of trouble, the perfect child wish people and society always have when they don’t allow drugs and weapons to be sold to and used by its children.


Despite the politics of that, it becomes a journey about a child’s soul and serves as a larger metaphor for freedom and being able to be what you want, i.e., can he become a real human.  Is he not “human” already?  How human is human?


So much has not been explored about this film, as hard as that is to believe, but as it stands, it is a classic that does not age.  Mel Blanc is among those doing the voices and Jiminy Cricket (voiced by Cliff Edwards) is a clever intermediary between the audience and characters, a bridge between the suspension of belief and disbelief in one of the greatest artistic coups the real Walt Disney ever came up with.


Of course, the film was a huge hit at the time and continues to be a money machine for the studio, that is when they allow it to be available.  Its historic timing is also amazing.  When WWII officially involved the U.S., the U.S. Government actually set troops to the Disney studios to spies and other forces of the original Axis powers could not steal or hijack its innovations for propaganda purposes.  The studio did plenty of WWII propaganda and Mickey Mouse became an Allied mascot.


But there is something often missed by historians.  Here was a film about hoping for the best against the odds when the Nazis and Japanese Imperialists were trying to crush the world.  The scene of dueling songs in Casablanca is often sighted as the most ironic moment in Classical Hollywood cinema that reflected the WWII conflict when no one knew what was going to happen.  However, Pinocchio has as much importance in that it believes in hope based on dreams in a free society where anything is possible and progress is rewarded as it should be.  In this respect, it turned out to be one of the most anti-Fascist works in the WWII period defiantly holding out hope in the face of a darkness that had to end.  Like the communists, the fascists would consider any such tale (especially as told by Disney) weak & a joke, but this work of art outlasted all those actual government regimes and shines triumphantly as the winner ideologically.  Pinocchio is rightly a classic and one with substance it is not always given credit for having.



The 1.33 X 1 1080p digital High Definition image (centered in a 1.78 X 1 frame on the Blu-ray) is a brand new master from the original film elements and it has much going for it.  You can see the detail, depth, pencil detail and fluid movement of the film throughout in ways you may not have before.  The image is clean throughout and cell dust is eliminated as much as possible.  Even the DVD looks good, but one thing stops this from being a total knockout: the color!  It looks good, but is far from the best frames I have seen of the film and is no match for what it would look like if it were from a print made in three-strip dye-transfer Technicolor process.  These colors are not that vibrant, even when they have their moments and it is the one thing that let me down about the release.


The DTS HD Master Audio (MA) lossless 48/24 7.1 mix does anything and everything it can to take the original theatrical monophonic sound (usually RCA’s optical system in Disney’s case) and does its best to redirectionalize the sound, but it is hard to fix this for a film that is 70 years old when stereo was only just being experimented with.  The Dolby Digital 5.1 on the DVD is even thinner, so DTS is the way to go.


Extras include BD Live interactive functions, a feature length audio commentary with Leonard Maltin, Eric Goldberg & J.B. Kaufman, Geppettos Then & Now, the terrific No Strings Attached: The Making Of Pinocchio, trivial, games, never-before-seen deleted scenes/alternate ending, isolated songs, The Sweatbox, deleted songs, art galleries and a bonus DVD version of the film.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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