Ranking Disney: #10 – Pinocchio (1940)
Most people would consider this a top five Disney film for all time. And objectively, you’d be right. This is one of the single best pieces of animation ever made.
However, I did say when I was making this list — I was going to rank them based on how much I love them. And while I love Pinocchio — I’d rather watch the other 9 films on this list before this. I’d also rather watch Alice in Wonderland, which I put at #11 yesterday. And the reason I said I did that was because, while I think Alice is a much more entertaining film, and I love the animation more, in terms of how trippy it is and all the little things they do — this film wins in terms of the music, the heart, and the simple fact that it includes “When You Wish Upon a Star.” And, I’ll be honest — it doesn’t fucking matter anyway, since lists are bullshit.
So, objectively this is a top ten, probably top five Disney movie, so what better way to start my top ten?
The film begins with Jiminy Cricket singing the greatest Disney song ever written, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” while sitting on top of the storybook of “Pinocchio.”
He then explains that he’s gonna tell a story of a wish coming true, then opens the book and starts telling it.
It’s about the woodcarver Geppetto. It begins with Jiminy entering Geppetto’s workshop to get in from the cold.
He watches as Geppetto puts the finishing touches on a marionette that he names Pinocchio. It’s clear Geppetto is a lonely man. His only companions are the cat, Figaro, and the fish, Cleo.
Before he goes to bed, Geppetto wises upon a star, wishing that Pinocchio could be a real boy.
And after Geppetto falls asleep, the star turns into a Blue Fairy, who enters the workshop and grants Geppetto’s wish.
Pinocchio is made to be alive, though still as a puppet.The Fairy tells Pinocchio that he cannot become a real boy until he proves himself to be brave, truthful and unselfish. He must be able to tell right from wrong by listening to his conscience.
But Pinocchio, who was literally born yesterday, doesn’t know what a conscience is, so Jiminy shows up to explain it to him. And the Fairy appoints Jiminy as Pinocchio’s conscience. And Jiminy explains that whenever Pinocchio is faced with a crisis of conscience, he should “give a little whistle,” and he’ll come and help him out.
Then Geppetto wakes up and sees that his wish has come true. And he happily dances with Pinocchio and is very happy. And the next day, he sends Pinocchio off to school, like a real boy. Only, on his way to school, Pinocchio encounters Honest John and his mute sidekick Gideon, who are freelance con artists who try to tempt him into joining Stromboli’s traveling puppet show (“Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee”). Jiminy tries to be Pinocchio’s conscience, but Pinocchio ignores him, and decides to join Sromboli’s show, led by delusions of stardom.
Pinocchio joins Stromboli’s show, performing “I’ve Got No Strings.” He is indeed a star. Only Stromboli doesn’t intend on paying Pinocchio, and locks him up in a cage, preventing him from leaving. That night, the Blue Fairy arrives and asks Pinocchio why he didn’t listen to Geppetto. Jiminy tells Pinocchio to tell the truth, but he doesn’t, and we have the famous scene where his nose keeps growing with each lie he tells. Pinocchio then tells the truth and apologizes, and the Fairy sets him free, saying it’s the last time she’ll help him.
And on his way back to Geppetto’s workshop, Honest John and Gideon come back again, and this time tempt him into going to Pleasure Island, which is a place designed to lure young boys into temptation. There, he meets Lampwyck, who teaches Pinocchio how to drink, smoke, and gamble. And it is discovered that the island is designed to turn all the boys into donkeys, whereupon they are sold to work in mines and circuses. Pinocchio starts turning into a donkey, but manages to escape after only growing a tail and the ears.
When he gets back to Geppetto’s workshop, he discovers that it’s closed. The Blue Fairy tells him that Geppetto went off to look for him. So Pinocchio and Jiminy set out to find Geppetto.
They go out to sea, and end up meeting Monstro, the giant whale. They discover that Geppetto has been swallowed by Monstro, along with his boat. So Pinocchio gets himself swallowed by Monstro, and finds himself reunited with Geppetto.
They then devise an escape plan,which involves setting fire to a bunch of wood, which would make Monstro sneeze them out. It works, and they end up having to swim to safety before Monstro can eat them again.
Only, in the ensuing chase, Pinocchio is killed by Monstro. He dies saving Geppetto, Jiminy, Figaro and Cleo.
And because of his sacrifice, the Blue Fairy makes Pinocchio a real boy. And then everyone is happy again.
And Jiminy, when he goes to thank the Fairy, is given a gold badge that makes him an “Official Conscience.” (I guess it’s kind of like the Cowardly Lion’s badge of courage.)
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Official Disney Number: #2
Run Time: 88 minutes
Release Date: February 7, 1940
Budget: ~$2.3 million
Box Office: After reissues, the film has made $84.2 million domestically. And there’s also a $39 million figure, which I can’t imagine is its initial run. But that’s what it seems to be. Seems kind of high for 1940, especially since Wikipedia says Disney reported only making somewhere between $1.4-1.9 million by late 1940.
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- “When You Wish Upon a Star,” performed by Cliff Edwards
- “Little Wooden Head,” performed by Christian Rub
- “Give a Little Whistle,” performed by Cliff Edwards & Dickie Jones
- “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee,” performed by Walter Catlett & Dickie Jones
- “I’ve Got No Strings,” performed by Dickie Jones
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- The film won Oscars for Best Original Song, for “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and Best Original Score. (It didn’t really beat anything particularly memorable for Song, but for Score, it did beat The Great Dictator and Rebecca.)
- It’s actually the first Disney film to win an Oscar (competitively. Snow White won an honorary Oscar).
- Not only that, this is one of the few Disney films to win both Best Original Song and Best Original Score (the others being Mary Poppins, The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King and Pocahontas. Though the latter won for Musical or Comedy Score. The rest won for Original Score).
- This was the first Disney film available on DVD.
- Originally this was going to be Disney’s third film, after Bambi, but production delays pushed that one to fifth and this became Disney’s second film. (Fantasia is third, Dumbo fourth. Just checking.)
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1. Storybook opening. Classic Disney. (Also, notice the two books to Jiminy’s left.)
2. This village reminds me a lot of the one in the “Night on Bald Mountain” sequence in Fantasia.
3. I love this shot. (Also, it’s technically the “side window” Disney shot.)
4. Classic Disney framing. Not foliage, but close enough.
5. This fish looks a lot like the fish in Fantasia. The one I call the “Marlene Dietrich” fish, during the “Nutcracker” sequence.
6. I want a watch like this:
7. Look at how fucking adorable that cat is. You don’t have feelings if this shot doesn’t immediately make you want to pick up that cat and play with it.
8. A frame within a frame. I love when movies do this.
9. Have to include a shot of Jiminy parachuting with his umbrella.
10. This shot is featured in a lot of other movies. I can think of similar shots in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Pocahontas… and then just the birds flying around in the morning, they use that in Sword in the Stone, Sleeping Beauty — it’s a very popular image for them. They like to use variations of it.
11. Villain seen on a poster. You’ve seen this a bunch.
12. Beautiful animation, for one. I love when they do pouring rain. Also, this is a lot like a shot from the end of Lady and the Tramp.
13. Bubble gags. This is the father of all of the Disney bubble gags.
14. I love the tracking in they do. They first did it in Fantasia (though technically, here, based on release dates). They push in, and the colors change as they move closer. It’s great stuff.
15. Classic Disney image. They’ve done this a few other times after this as well.
16. You can’t end a Pinocchio article with anything but this shot.