US Animated Movie (1940). Disney. Pr Walt Disney. Supervising dir Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen. Based on The Adventure of Pinocchio (1883) by Carlo Collodi. Voice actors Mel Blanc (Gideon), Walter Catlett (J. Worthington Foulfellow), Franki Darrow (Lampwick), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket), Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Charles Judels (Coachman, Stromboli), Christian Rub (Geppetto), Evelyn Venable (Blue Fairy). 88 mins. Colour.
Geppetto makes clocks and automata (> Toys), and one night he completes his new and most realistic marionette, Pinocchio. His prayer that night that the Puppet might become a Real Boy is heard by the Wishing Star, which sends the Blue Fairy to give the marionette life, though he is told that he can become a real boy only after he has discovered bravery, truth and unselfishness; she charges Jiminy Cricket, a cocky insectile character, to be Pinocchio's Conscience. Sent to school the next morning, Pinocchio is waylaid by Trickster J Worthington Foulfellow (aka Honest John), a fox, and his inept feline sidekick Gideon who, despite Jiminy's efforts, sell Pinocchio to evil puppeteer Stromboli, who imprisons him. However, the Blue Fairy reappears and, after the famous sequence in which Pinocchio's lies about his circumstances cause his nose to elongate, frees him. Homeward bound, Jiminy and Pinocchio are separated, and again the latter is intercepted by Foulfellow, now collecting little boys on behalf of the Coachman. Pursued by Jiminy, Pinocchio is taken by the Coachman to Pleasure Island, where hundreds of boys are seduced by decadent pleasures before being transformed into donkeys (> Asses) for sale. Jiminy saves Pinocchio, but not before the marionette has become part-donkey. Reaching home, they discover their friends have been swallowed by the whale Monstro (> Sea Monsters). The two rescue them, but Pinocchio is apparently dead. However the "corpse" is filled with the Blue Fairy's radiance and comes alive: Pinocchio has earnt the status of being a real boy.
P is widely regarded as the best animated movie of all time. Jiminy Cricket has become a fantasy Icon of some note, as have the Blue Fairy and Pinocchio himself. Part of the reason for the technical brilliance was extensive use of a horizontal version of the new multiplane camera, which could "penetrate" layers of painted scenery to give a superb illusion of depth: the opening sequence, lasting mere seconds, had 12 planes and cost $25,000. The movie's total cost, $2,600,000, almost bankrupted the studio. Viewed today, the artistry of P is still impressive; no description of it can avoid superlatives. [JG]