Review by Adrina Palmer
A living puppet, with the help of a cricket as his conscience, must prove himself worthy to become a real boy.
The little puppet boy who came alive and transformed into a real boy is a classic Disney film. Originally released in 1940, watching this movie now makes me wonder about the parenting style of our later generations. Of course, a puppet turning into a real boy is not the norm, but there are some areas about this movie that make me shake my head. I’m not talking about the far-fetched ideas, like taking a goldfish for a trip into a whale’s stomach, but about leaving a young child to walk somewhere, they have never been. Moving right along, let’s discuss the plot.
Gepetto is a lovable music box and clock maker, somewhere in Italy, living a lonely life with just a kitten and a goldfish for company. While playing with his handcrafted puppet one night, he spots a shooting star and wishes his wooden doll was a real boy. Meanwhile, a cricket has taken up residence in Gepetto’s small home, to stay out of the rain. The twinkling star turns into a beautiful fairy ready to grant a wish, with strings attached. Pinocchio is given life but is not yet a real boy. He must earn the right to become a real boy by being a good puppet boy, with the help of Jiminy Cricket.
The next morning, after the shock has worn off, Gepetto sends his new almost-boy off to school with his ‘conscience,’ Jiminy Cricket, and an apple. A fox and his sidekick spot the wooden child and see a profit, not a student. The naive Pinocchio is quick to follow the wayward fox to a theater where he becomes the star in minutes because of his lack of strings. Stromboli, the theater owner, decides to exploit Pinocchio for profit and locks him in a cage. The Blue Fairy returns to offer her assistance to her little creation, but Pinocchio lies about why he didn’t listen to his father and go to school and ends up with an elongated nose for his efforts. Released from his cage, Pinocchio and Jiminy, find themselves in an amusement meant to turn lost boys into working donkeys. Finally, they make their way home and discover the house is empty. Now Jiminy and Pinocchio turn to the seaside to rescue Gepetto and his pets from the inside of a massive whale. The group is reunited and the little wooden boy’s dreams finally come true as is the way of all Disney films.
My family was definitely entertained by this vintage cartoon. But I have a few reservations. Why would a boy be sent to school with no concept of well, anything, by himself? Gepetto was to blame for every bad circumstance that happened. He did not walk Pinocchio to school, did not even tell him what school was, or to avoid strangers. Of course, being only eight hours old means everyone is a stranger. The story would have been a lot shorter had Gepetto done his fatherly duties, and quite boring. If Pinocchio had made it to school, he would have been mocked by cruel children for having wooden body parts instead of skin and bones. This really may be just about one of the strangest stories ever told.
I am trying to figure out what message this movie hopes to convey to its target audience. Do not tell a lie is one of the lessons, for sure, and a good lesson. Along with don’t talk to strangers, and if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. I told my children to take it for what it is: an entertaining cartoon. Despite the strangeness of this film, it is still a classic and worth the purchase.
Disney’s timeless tale joins the Walt Disney Signature Collection on Blu-ray Tuesday, January 31st.