Pinocchio (1940)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Pinocchio</strong> (1940)

(On DVD, May 2018) The interesting thing about Disney’s decades-long media saturation is that it’s possible to know almost everything about one of their movies without actually having seen it. I grew up in the seventies with tons of materials (multiple books, mostly) about Disney’s Pinocchio. The events, characters, themes (don’t lie!) and visuals were deeply embedded in my brain growing up, and further material available is available now for another generation. I know everything about Pinocchio the film … but this was the first time I’ve watched in beginning to end in its original language. As it turns out… I don’t particularly like it. Oh, there are plenty of things to like about it. The theme song is iconic, Jiminy Cricket is terrific, the quality of the animation remains exceptional … but there is something I don’t quite like about Pinocchio. Part of it is the heavy-handed morality tale; another is the uncanny valley of Pinocchio as a character; another has to do with the quasi-hallucinatory quality of the episodic plotting; much has to do with heavier episodes in the story that go well into child-endangerment territory. To be fair, few early-era Disney movies (and quite a few of the 1970s ones as well) escape the shifting of what we consider to be acceptable material for kids—there’s some rough stuff in everything from Snow White to Dumbo to Bambi to The Rescuers. Still, respecting the historical context in which Pinocchio was created isn’t the same thing as saying that the film is enjoyable today: I may appreciate seeing the film on my way to Disney Animation Studios completism but I won’t necessarily push for the film to be on heavy rotation in my household. (Not that I need to—my child isn’t particularly fond of Pinocchio either.) It’s certainly worth a look for a bunch of reasons, but a purely enjoyable viewing experience isn’t one of them.

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