I can only imagine the amount of pressure that Walt Disney must have been under after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Audiences were so anxious to see what Walt would do next and Disney rose to the occasion with their second animated feature, Pinocchio. The film premiered on February 7th, 1940, and was a big hit with audiences and critics. Unfortunately, the production cost was so high that even though the film was successful in the U.S., Walt didn't make any money from it. Whats worse is that World War II broke out in Europe and the overseas revenue from the film wasn't allowed to be shipped back to the studio. In some countries, it couldn't be released at all.
Thankfully for us, time did not forget this amazing film. It was re-released to theaters five years later in 1945 and finally turned a profit for the studio. From that point on, it was given at least one theatrical release in each decade until the 1990's, when it went to theaters for the last time in 1992. That is when I first experienced this amazing film. I was 7 and I still remember being amazed by the beauty of the Blue Fairy, delighted by Pinocchio's performance of "I've Got No Strings," and terrified by Monstro the whale.
Pinocchio is the tale of Geppetto, a puppet maker who wishes he had a son. One night, the Blue Fairy grants Geppetto's wish by bringing one of his puppets, Pinocchio, to life. However, Pinocchio will have to prove that he is brave, truthful, and unselfish before he will turn into a real boy. With the help of his conscience, Jiminy Cricket, he will face a myriad of obstacles to make his father's wish come true and become a real boy.
In the three years between Snow White and Pinocchio, Disney was able to elevate the animated art form in such a way that this film almost feels like it couldn't have been made so shortly after. This truly is one of the best examples of great animation. Like Snow White, Pinocchio has stood the test of time thanks to it's strong cast of appealing characters. Even the villains are appealing, which is a good thing because there are a lot of villains in this film (Fowlfellow, Giddeon, Stromboli, the Coachman, and Monstro). Pinocchio is also filled with memorable songs. In fact, it won Disney's first Academy Award for Best Song for "When You Wish Upon A Star," which has become the studio's anthem. They even use it in their studio logo on all current films.
It's hard to find anything bad to say about Walt Disney's Pinocchio. Surprisingly, this film was put into production before Snow White was released, but after more than a year of work on it, Walt wasn't happy with the results and made his team start over. It's a good thing he did, too. In the original version, Jiminy Cricket was an ugly character who was only in once scene. Jiminy Cricket went on to be one of Disney's most popular characters and his role as Pinocchio's conscience throughout the film help move the plot along in a way that isn't as entertaining without him. All subsequent film versions of the original book have been disasters, probably because the cricket is hardly in them.
Without a doubt, Pinocchio stands as one of Disney's best animated features. It is definitely deserving of the tremendous success it has enjoyed as each new generation is introduced to this important part of childhood. While the film is full of life lessons for children, it is just as easy to enjoy it as an adult as it was as a child.
Pinocchio was released on Blu-Ray and DVD in 2009 and has since gone out of print. The high-definition restoration is spectacular, presenting a clean print with accurate colors. In addition, the set serves up a second disc of bonus features, including a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and a Cine-Explore video commentary (exclusive to Blu-Ray). Pinocchio is expected to be released again in 2016.