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Culture Re-View: He's a real boy! Disney's second film 'Pinocchio' is released

Walt Disney's Pinocchio 1940
Walt Disney's Pinocchio 1940 Copyright Public Domain
Copyright Public Domain
By Jonny Walfisz
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On this day in 1940, Disney introduced us to a little Italian puppet who just wanted to be a real boy.


7 February 1940: The original and definitive Disney 'Pinocchio’ is released

If were paying attention to movies released last year, you will have noticed that not one, not two but three versions of the classic Italian tale ‘Pinocchio’ were released.

There was the outstanding stop-motion musical adaptation from Mexican auteur Guillermo del Toro. There was also a somewhat jaunty and just generally peculiar Russian direct-to-DVD version released.

But hot on the heels of these two unique interpretations was a gutless remake from Disney. Continuing the company’s trend of taking a well-known classic from their oeuvre and shot-for-shot remaking it while also draining the source material of any magic it once had, Robert Zemeckis’ ‘Pinocchio’ was released directly onto the company’s streaming platform Disney+.

Guillermo del Toro poses with his Pinocchio modelNetflix

The 2022 Disney film wasn’t warmly received. Partly this was to do with the vastly superior del Toro film released the same year, but mostly it was because it didn’t have half the charm of the 1940 film.

Adapted from the 1883 children’s novel ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio’ by Italian author Carlo Collodi, ‘Pinocchio’ was Walt Disney’s second ever animated feature film. Hot on the success of their first 1937’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’, Walt Disney loved the idea of adapting Colldi’s book.

Originally intended to be the company’s third feature film, production issues stalled ‘Bambi’ to a 1942 release. The writers took the original book and played with the main character, turning him from a rude and ungrateful brat to the gentle-hearted version in the final cut.

2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Pinocchio (voiced by Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) in Disney's live-action PINOCCHIO2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc.

While animating the film, Milt Kahl suggested that instead of creating a wooden puppet, they should animate a normal boy and then add in the wooden signifying features later. This gave Pinocchio his humanity as previous tests had producers worried about audiences sympathising with the puppet.

Released on this day in 1940, ‘Pinocchio’ was a critical success. Reviewers thought it was a step up from Snow White in terms of both the animation and the depth of the story. But the Second World War meant that the European and Asian markets were completely cut off from distribution.

Nonetheless, the film won two Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for ‘Wish Upon A Star’. ‘Pinocchio’ has been re-released by Disney multiple times and has become a core part of the company’s significant contribution to cinema.

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