Reviews: Pinocchio

Disney's greatest animated film

It is a fact that no one can agree on what Disney's best animated film is. For some, it's Frozen, for others, The Lion King... But in my own personal view, it is Pinocchio. The Disney adaptation of Carlo Collodi's book was released in 1940, and as far as I'm concerned, they have never outdone it, at all. Why, you may ask?... Well...

The voice cast is well-selected. Cliff Edwards, who was one of the most popular singers of the 20s, gives a terrific performance as Jiminy Cricket. A lot of the other gems are among the supporting cast. Walter Catlett as Honest John sells the character, giving him a sort of blowhard con-man panache; Charles Judels excels as both a comic villain with Stromboli and a terrifying villain with the Coachman.

The animation is terrific, the best Disney had produced then. The use of rotoscoping is well-done, limiting it to the Blue Fairy and giving her an ethereal air that fits a supernatural character such as her. It also helps to provide suspense - the scene where Pinocchio and Geppetto try to outrun Monstro the whale is suspenseful in the best way, and the animation is a big part of this; Monstro is animated in such a way that he becomes innately terrifying.

As for the story... I have never understood the idea that Disney softened the book. One look at the sequence where Lampwick becomes a donkey and you realize that Disney didn't get rid of the book's darkness completely. When it goes for an emotional moment it really works; there is no cheapness to the presumed death of Pinocchio, nor when it seems that Stromboli will keep Pinocchio under lock and key forever. The film does any moment well, really, whether dramatic or comedic.

And that, folks, is why Pinocchio is Disney's greatest animated film. Well, next to The Jungle Book, or Who Framed Roger Rabbit if that counts. Or any of their shorts. But still, it is probably among the greatest.

(For a different take on Collodi's book, check out Tatsunoko Production's 1972 anime version, Kashi no Ki Mokku, which keeps more of the darkness of the book and is in some ways more satisfying than the Disney film. But that is another review, for another time...)