September 24, 2014


Pinocchio, the film, is greater than Pinocchio, the book. Nevertheless, it is well worth while to experience both. Little is known of Carlo Lorenzini other than his authorship of this one book. He was born in 1826 in Italy and died in 1890. The book was published under the penname Carlo Collodi, as Le avventure di Pinnochio in 1882.

I personally held off reading this book until only recently. Even in translation the text is simplistic and lacking any kind of narrative beauty. Just simple Anglo-Saxon sentences telling the story in plain words any child could understand.

The print story would be plenty scary to a child, but the film is one of the most terrifying films (to a child) ever made. According to Disney scholar, Christopher Finch, Pinnochio is probably Disney’s greatest film.

After the incredible world-wide success of Snow White, Disney had a lion by the tail: he not only had to keep all his raw talent busy and happy but also figure out how he was going to pay them all. Over 750 artists, 80 musicians, 1,500 shades of color, and one-million drawings were involved in bringing Pinnochio to life.

Back in the Depression years [released in 1940] when it was created, the film cost $2,600,000; today its cost would be staggering. To give you an example, just the multiplane scene where the camera zooms down on the village with school bells ringing and pigeons gradually circling down to houses—only a few seconds worth—cost $45,000!

The plot: how a little wooden puppet must prove himself worthy of becoming a real boy. The film itself is characterized by action,  Scan_Pic0116excitement, and terror rather than humor. As a case in point, William K. Everson considers the scene where Lampwick turns into a donkey (it all starts, almost as a joke, with long ears; he begs Pinocchio to help him as his hands turn into hoofs. As he becomes more frantic, the music grows louder and more discordant. Finally, with the metamorphosis almost complete, he screams “Mama!!,” his cry turning into a loud bray as we see the finishing touches of his shadow on the wall) to be one of the screen’s supreme moments of horror.

The Monstro (whale) sequence is another of the film’s highlights. And Stromboli is generally considered to be one of Disney’s greatest villains. One of the film’s most amazing pieces of animation, from a technical standpoint, occurs when Pinocchio is trapped in a cage inside Stromboli’s wagon. The wagon is moving and Pinocchio is inside the swinging cage, while lightning flashes outside cause changes in color and shadow!

In Pinocchio, Disney reached not only the height of his powers but the apex of what critics consider the realm of the animated cartoon.

Strangely enough, in spite of its magnificent animation, it was the music that garnered the Academy Awards: “Best Original Musical Score” and “Best Song” (“When You Wish Upon a Star”), which has since become Disney’s most symbolic song.

So in conclusion, you should both read the book and experience the movie. The book was published in 1927 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Many reprints have followed.