Blu-ray Review: Pinocchio (1940) - The Signature Collection

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Perhaps the Disney classic to end all Disney classics, even 77 years after its original release, Pinocchio is back in print after six years in the "Disney Vault." Say goodbye to all those sky-high secondary market prices for the out-of-print 2009 Platinum Edition Blu-ray. This latest Signature Collection Blu-ray edition offers the same outstanding audio/visual presentation and a few new extra features to boot. That said, true-blue completists will want to hold onto their '09 set, which contained two discs and several bonus features that haven't been carried over to the latest release. For better or worse, losing some features in the shuffle has become more or less standard as Disney has been retrieves titles from their vault (most Pinocchio content has, in fact, been ported over). 

As is so often the case, Disney's Pinocchio is a softened version of its source material, the 1883 novel The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi. Though intended for young readers, the original fairy tale presents a far more violent tale. All things considered, the small army of directors, writers, and animators who brought producer Walt Disney's second animated feature to life kept things just sinister enough. They don't make 'em like this anymore. Modern Disney (and other major studios, for the most part) animation is so overtly focused on being "funny" and tugging at the heartstrings, much of the product winds up needlessly flabby and sentimental. There's danger in Pinocchio's morality tale, which sees the puppet's mettle truly challenged as he faces the temptations presented by Honest John and Gideon the Cat.

There's also a purity to the hand-drawn, traditional animation. Golden age Disney animated films each had their own distinct look. Today's young viewers will likely consider the look of a film like Pinocchio quaint at best, downright outdated at worst. On a superficial level, these charges probably have some merit. But is the candy-colored sameness of today's animation really better, per se? These days, CG imagery can encompass just about anything the animators dream up. But sometimes (probably more often than not) less really is more. The artistry in an early Disney gem like Pinocchio lies in its simplicity. 
 
rsz_034d565e-0cb2-458d-a6d7-1d586ac3dc33.png And the songs. Every one of them is a stone-cold classic: "Give a Little Whistle," "Hi Diddle Dee Dee," "I've Got No Strings," and the immortal "When You Wish Upon a Star" (to be fair, "Wooden Little Head" is a little less lustrous than the rest). Disney's Blu-ray offers a DTS-HD MA 7.1 that really lets these vintage recordings sparkle. Not for nothing did Pinocchio win two Academy Awards for it's music ("When You Wish Upon a Star" for Best Original Song, as well as the score itself), so it's essential it sounds as good as it does here. The audio restoration is top notch, though it would've been even better had they included the original mono mix (which was part of the '09 release, in lossy Dolby Digital).

Features new to the Signature Collection Blu-ray (aka "collector's bait" for those who already own the '09 edition) are slim, but there are a few. Most interesting (and relevant) is "Walt's Story Meetings: Pleasure Island," a seven-minute piece that utilizes stills and transcripts from pre-production meetings to convey some of the film's early creative process. "In Walt's Words - Pinocchio" is a five-minute featurette containing archival footage of the late Mr. Disney from 1956, looking back on not only Pinocchio but also a smattering of tangential subjects.

Unrelated to Pinocchio, but of historical interest to Disney fans, is the first official appearance of the 1927 animated short "Poor Papa." This five-minute cartoon, featuring the debut appearance of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, has been restored and boasts a new score.

Of the least interest is the two-part featurette (only about six minutes in total) "The Pinocchio Project: When You Wish Upon A Star." The first part, "The Project," briefly details the recent creation of a new recording/video for "When You Wish Upon a Star." The second part is the music video itself, featuring musicians JR Aquino, Tanner Patrick, and Alex G.

There's a ton of previouly-released content carried over, including nearly hour-long 'making of,' "No Strings Attached" and an audio commentary by Leonard Maltin, Eric Goldberg, and J.B. Kaufman. What isn't here probably won't be missed too much (mostly some still galleries and a few kiddie-oriented puzzles and games), with the exception of the deleted song "Honest John."

If you missed Pinocchio during it's 2009-11 window of availability, don't make the mistake of passing it up now that it's back on the market. Formats: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD, and Disney Movies Anywhere.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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