Just as I was struck by the firstness of Snow White, I can’t even explain what it’s like to hear “Wish Upon a Star” and realize that this was the first time anyone had ever heard it. Could Disney have known this would be their anthem?
What’s interesting about Pinocchio is how different in tone it is from Snow White. While Snow White opened with a fairy tale book (with no voiceover–these kids better know how to read) and then immediately jumped to the Evil Queen and her mirror, Pinocchio begins with Jiminy Cricket introducing himself to us. It’s a much more child-friendly opening, and generally, the whole movie seems to be more marketed towards children than Snow White was. Not that there aren’t some frightening moments, but the tone of this one is brighter and more humorous than its predecessor.
I also wonder if Pinocchio is supposed to be the “boy movie” to counter Snow White. Technically, both movies have an equal number of female characters (a whopping two), but in terms of screen time, Snow White‘s ladies obviously win. In Pinocchio, we have Cleo (the fish) and we have the Blue Fairy (plus some female puppets, but they don’t really count). I don’t know about other little girls, but the Blue Fairy was my favorite part of the whole movie when I was little. Plotwise, too, the emphasis is on boyish adventures (no girls on Pleasure Island) and the father-son connection rather than the romantic plot and the mother-daughter tension of Snow White. Not to say that girls can’t enjoy adventure over romance, but this is the 40s we’re talking about, and I’m pretty sure the thought process was, “Girls like romance, and boys like adventure.” It seems to me that Pinocchio is purposefully a “boy movie” in contrast to Snow White.
Let’s take a moment to talk about Cleo. Cleo is a very girly fish. I want to take note of this, because in my memory, she’s the only female animal sidekick, and one of the only female sidekicks, period. I just…find that interesting. Also, she and Figaro seem to have a little something going on. Let’s wait and see if I can find any other female sidekicks.
All right, so now it’s time for me to complain. I don’t really like this movie that much, and aside from the lack of female characters, there are two big reasons why. First, it’s episodic. That isn’t a bad thing in itself, but it doesn’t really allow the drama to build the way it did in Snow White. We have about five villains in this movie, and not one of them is truly vanquished. It’s just Pinocchio making some dumb decision, getting in trouble, and then running the hell away before the villain realizes he’s gone. Honest John is pretty cool, and Monstro is damn scary, but otherwise, the villains aren’t very effective. The Evil Queen set the bar pretty high, and these guys don’t cut it. There’s just no trajectory once Pinocchio comes alive–stuff happens, and then more stuff happens, and then finally Pinocchio is self-sacrificial so he can become a real boy. Maybe that works for some people, but I was just bored.
The second reason I don’t care for Pinocchio is because it’s didactic. Clear moral lessons are EVERYWHERE. Don’t lie. Don’t skip school. Don’t smoke. Don’t play pool. Don’t disobey your conscience or your father. Do be brave and selfless. Each of these episodes has a lesson or two to impart, and that’s just annoying. Several Disney movies have lessons embedded in them, but it’s just so blatant in Pinocchio. It makes the movie a lot less fun to watch as an adult.
Really, Jiminy Cricket is the best part of this movie. Hands down.
Favorite scene: Hi Diddle Dee Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me)
Because Honest John is awesome, and because it’s just a really fun song.
Next time: Fantasia!