If you were Walt Disney, how would you follow the wild success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs? A logical choice would have been something like Cinderella, which features similar themes and would have been exactly what audiences were begging for. But instead, Walt shifted gears to a very different type of fairytale, which is now getting the Walt Disney Signature Collection treatment, Pinocchio.
Walt wasn’t merely trying to recapture the success of Snow White with Pinocchio, he was trying to push the medium even farther, a medium that was still in its infancy. The title character is an innocent, like Snow White, but the key difference is that Pinocchio’s world is constantly trying to corrupt him and steer him down the wrong path whereas Snow White’s goodness changes the mood of any pessimist she comes across, save for the Evil Queen.
Pinocchio tells the story of a living wooden puppet, the result of a wish granted to his good-natured father. But if he ever wants to honor Geppetto’s wish of having a real boy, he must prove himself “Brave, truthful, and unselfish.” The gullible child’s conscience, a cricket named Jiminy, will have his work cut out for him in this Disney animated classic.
Thematically speaking, Pinocchio is one of the darkest films in the Disney animated canon. One of its most relatable themes is the desire to please a parent, a message that seems very personal to Walt if you’ve ever read a biography about him. It also explores the sometimes-thin line between right and wrong and the consequences of crossing it. It lacks many of the stereotypical Disney plot elements, such as the death of a parent or even a villain’s demise.
But for all of its dark elements, Pinocchio stands as one of the most charming and well-animated films of all time. Nearly every shot could be framed, including the breathtaking panning opening, the brilliant clocks in Geppetto’s workshop, and Pinocchio’s marionette performance. Not to mention the music, which gave Disney its corporate anthem, “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
After several years in the vault, Pinocchio returns in this Walt Disney Signature Collection release, the third in the line behind Snow White and Beauty and the Beast. It is now available on digital platforms like iTunes, Amazon Video, and Vudu, and will make its way back to Blu-Ray and DVD on January 31st. This review covers the HD Digital version, connected through Disney Movies Anywhere.
Pinocchio’s digital presentation closely mirrors the 2009 restoration found on the Platinum Edition release. The original Technicolor spectrum is brought back to life in this release, with some very vivid and contrasting colors on screen. Deep reds, bold yellows, and inky blacks pop against the often-muted color schemes of the world Pinocchio lives in. And Pleasure Island literally pops in this release.
The previous DVD’s 5.1 surround mix is replicated in this digital release, including the missing dialogue in “Give a Little Whistle,” an error from the previous restoration. Disney did a disc replacement to correct the issue, but somehow forgot to not make the same mistake twice this time around. Like most films from the 1940’s, this surround mix adds a little bit of scope to the stereo version, but audio mostly lives in the front three speakers.
New Bonus Features
- Sing Along Edition (1:27:43) – Watch the film with on-screen lyrics during every song so your entire family can sing along.
- The Pinocchio Project: When You Wish Upon a Star
- The Project (3:03) – Singers JR Aquino, Alex G, and Tanner Patrick collaborate to create a modern recording of Disney’s theme song, “When You Wish Upon a Star.”
- The Video (2:49) – A music video for the same song from “The Project” where the singers perform in front of a starry background.
- Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island (7:14) – Transcripts from the Pinocchio story meetings are brought to life by actors with an introduction by Pete Doctor and J.B. Kauffman. Storyboards and production artwork accompany this feature, where they discuss “Boobieland,” which was later renamed Pleasure Island.
- In Walt’s Words: Pinocchio (4:48) – Archival recordings of Walt Disney discussing why he made Pinocchio are presented along with clips from the film and rare behind-the-scenes photos.
- Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in “Poor Papa” (5:20) – A recently restored Oswald short from 1927 where the stork pays the lucky rabbit a visit with a seemingly endless number of baby rabbits.
Classic Bonus Features
- Disney View (1:27:43) – Watch the film on a 16:9 screen with images filling the black space on either side.
- Cine-Explore (1:27:43) – The film is presented with a visual commentary where images and videos pop-up over the film that match the discussion taking place.
- No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio (55:58) – Animation talent and
film historians reveal the origins of the story, how it attracted Walt Disney, why this was the second animated feature, and its impressive legacy.
- The Sweatbox (6:24) – One of Disney’s innovations, the sweatbox, is highlighted in this feature about the way Walt would review his animator’s work everyday in a tiny hot room.
- Geppettos Then and Now (10:57) – Modern toy makers are juxtaposed against classic wooden toymakers in this featurette. It dates itself by focusing on toys from Pixar’s WALL-E.
- Live Action Reference Footage (9:58) – Live action reference footage was used as a tool to aide the animators on Pinocchio. This footage was made at Disney’s Hyperion Studio in 1939 before the move to the current Burbank lot.
- “When You Wish Upon a Star” Music Video (3:14) – Meaghan Jette Martin from Camp Rock sings the Disney anthem in this pop video.
- A Wish Come True : The Making of Pinocchio (5:06) – From the 1999 VHS re-release, this short feature was absent from all DVD releases and is a welcome addition, even though all of the topics are repeated in the 2009 documentary.
- Storyboard to Final Film Comparison (4:04) – Not seen since the 1992 laserdisc deluxe release, this showcases the “Little Wooden Head” musical number comparing the final film with the original storyboards.
- Audio Commentary (1:27:43) – The same audio track from the Cine-Explore feature is presented without the added visuals in case you just want to see the film as you listen to animators and historians.
- Deleted Scenes
- Introduction (1:02) – This introduction shows a quick tour of the Animation Research Library where artwork is stored, including storyboards of deleted scenes.
- The Story of the Grandfather Tree (3:21) – Geppetto tells Pinocchio a bedtime story.
- Im the Belly of the Whale (4:18) – Geppetto, Figaro and Cleo try to find food inside Monstro before Pinocchio meets up with them.
- Alternate Ending (1:59) – In this version, Pinocchio is transformed into a real boy after blaming himself for Geppetto's illness instead of the more chilling reveal in the final film.
- Original Theatrical Trailer 1940 (1:52)
- Theatrical Trailer 1984 (1:27)
- Theatrical Trailer 1992 (1:29)
- Song Selection – Jumps to a designated song in the film with on-screen lyrics. Available in English and French.
- “When You Wish Upon a Star” (2:04)
- “Little Wooden Head” (2:12)
- “Give a Little Whistle” (1:38)
- “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee” (1:31)
- “I’ve Got No Strings” (2:58)
What’s missing? The deleted song “Honest John” was on the Platinum Edition Blu-Ray release in demo form and is questionably missing here. The song was also missing on the recent Legacy Collection release of the soundtrack. An impressive gallery of artwork from the production has also been left off, in addition to a forgettable collection of Blu-Ray games that won’t be missed. From the original laserdisc release, a 20-minute making-of featurette hosted by Robbie Benson (Beast) is also excluded. And a new feature advertised as “Women in Animation” on the press release is nowhere to be found in the digital version.
Pinocchio makes its Digital HD debut with a near-perfect presentation that mirrors the 2009 Blu-Ray release. Most of the memorable bonus features from the Platinum Edition are carried over, with a few new ones and some pre-DVD features that haven’t been seen in decades. It’s the perfect time to add Pinocchio to your every-growing digital collection so you can take it with you wherever you go. The uncorrected “Give a Little Whistle” is a disappointment, but one that can easily be fixed since they’ve corrected digital copies before (example: The Little Mermaid).