Pinocchio (Hamilton Luske & Ben Sharpsteen, 1940)

24Aug10

[Voices] Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket), Christian Rub (Geppetto). Screenplay by Ted Sears et al. Directed by Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharpsteen. Rating: U. Running time: 88 minutes.

Pinocchio must be what a partnership between Miyazaki and Kurosawa would look like, even if it precedes the careers of both of those maestro Asian auteurs. It carries both the animated beauty of the former and the overt moralising of the latter, and thus creates a tale ripe for teaching children the ways of life. To be fair to the geniuses behind Disney, they put huge faith in their young audience here. I can’t remember how I reacted to this as a kid, but presumably I managed to discern fact from fiction and not be fearful that my puppets would start moving and talking; nor would I think that diving down to the bottom of the ocean in search of entering a whale’s stomach was the best of ideas. At the same time, though, I’m guessing I did take from Pinocchio the idea of a conscience, even if my inner voice of right and wrong failed to materialise itself in the shape of a lively cricket. I imagine I also learnt the risks of gullibly listening to strangers, and the dangers of having any whacky ideas like skiving from school and going on mad adventures; never mind the naughty nature of telling lies, even if my nose wouldn’t really grow longer as a consequence. Mix this in with the beautifully bright colours here and the joyful music (‘I-got-no-strings, to-hold-me-down…’ – remember?), and Pinocchio becomes a film that is both magical and educating in its morals. It’s the former aspect I appreciate now as an adult. What children focus on remains as mysterious as how a fairy can help turn a wooden puppet into a real boy.

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