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Blu-ray Review: Pinocchio: The Signature Collection

January 31, 2017

By John Corrado

pinocchio-blu-rayAs Disney continues to reissue animated classics on Blu-ray, the studio’s timeless 1940 film Pinocchio is the latest addition to their Signature Collection.  Based on an Italian novel, the film tells the story of a wooden marionette named Pinocchio (Dickie Jones) whose lonely creator Geppetto (Christian Rub) dreams of him being a real boy, and has his wish granted by a fairy who appoints Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) to act as his conscience.

Released just three years after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937, Pinocchio became only Walt Disney’s second full length animated feature, when their intended followup Bambi was pushed back due to production delays.  As such, the film holds special distinction in the studio’s vast library of classics.

The film was initially a box office flop, making back less than half of its unprecedented for the time $2.5 million budget, forcing distributor RKO Radio Pictures to write it off as a loss, because World War II prevented it from reaching profitable markets in Europe.  But the film has more than recouped its costs upon reissues starting in 1945.  It’s now rightly considered one of Disney’s finest productions, with animation that pushed the boundaries of what was possible at the time, including advancements in realistically illustrating elements like shadows and water.

The beautifully drawn film still dazzles as a superior artistic achievement, including the brilliantly dark sequence on Pleasure Island, and the final set-piece involving a massive whale.  There are little details packed into the background of many of the frames, perhaps most notably in Geppetto’s impressively designed workshop, where his collection of mechanical wooden clocks all come to life in their own unique ways, with little bands playing and tiny birds popping out.

True to many of Disney’s classics of the time, Pinocchio also works in ample musical elements, and the film was awarded Oscars for Best Original Score, and also for the now iconic song “When You Wish Upon a Star.”  The film remains arguably the most beloved iteration of this classic story, a gorgeously animated film packed with delightful characters, brilliantly done sequences and timeless morals to impart.  It still entertains nearly eighty years after first being released, and that’s a true testament to Disney’s ability to craft classics that transcend time.

The Blu-ray includes the brand new bonus features The Pinocchio Project: When You Wish Upon a Star, which focuses on modern musicians preparing to record the classic song followed by their music video, as well as the featurettes Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island, which reveals earlier versions of that famous sequence through discussions of the original production team meetings, and In Walt’s Words: Pinocchio, which offers archival recordings of Walt Disney discussing the film in 1956.  There’s also a new version of the classic short film Oswald The Lucky Rabbit in “Poor Papa.”

The set also features the bonus features from the previous Blu-ray release, including commentary with critic Leonard Maltin, animator Eric Goldberg and historian J.B. Kaufman, the documentary No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio, as well as deleted scenes and other featurettes.  This is an excellent new edition of this beloved classic, that is well worth picking up for fans and collectors alike.

Pinocchio is a Disney Home Entertainment release.  It’s 88 minutes and rated G.

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