Pinocchio (1940)

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Once upon a time, there was a little four-year-old girl whose mother was desperate for her to watch literally anything besides The Little Mermaid.  The mother took the girl to the legendary lost land of Blockbuster to pick out something– anything– else.  The girl found a movie about a cute puppet and a pretty sparkly fairy.  After she watched it, she had night terrors well into adulthood that persist to this very day.  Her beleaguered mother resigned herself to ten more years of reggae-singing crabs.

The End.

Who’s ready to relive some childhood trauma?

Oh, sure, it looks all quaint and cutesy now…

If I hadn’t made it quite clear, I’ve never been a fan of this movie.  I’m 26 years old and it still freaks me out.  However, I seem to be in the minority on this, and actually?  Fair.  The animation in this one is actually better than Snow White.  The world is rich and beautifully detailed, and the special effects on things like smoke and seawater almost look real.  It’s number 2 on the American Film Institute’s list of the 10 Best Animated Films and number 38 on their list of the 100 Most Inspiring Films of All Time.  And then there’s the fact that it introduced the theme music and one of the mascots for the entire Disney company!

It’s still absolutely terrifying, though.

Children’s movie my eye.

Actually, Disney’s version of this story is much lighter and softer than the original 1883 novel, The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (it’s public domain so don’t worry it’s cool).  Examples of the horrors I just subjected myself to: an unnamed talking cricket tries to tell Pinocchio to stop being terrible and Pinocchio throws a hammer at him and kills him.  The Fox and the Cat try to rob Pinocchio, so Pinocchio bites off the Cat’s paw.  The Fox and the Cat hang Pinocchio from a tree (which was originally the end of the book until the editor asked Collodi what was wrong with him).  The Coachman hears a donkey crying like a little boy (!!!!) and punishes him by biting his ear off.  And all in a series of short morality stories written for an Italian’s children’s magazine.  I guess terrifying your children is all fine and dandy as long as they learn something from it.

Highlights for Children ain’t got nothin’ on this

Pinocchio ended up being one of the most expensive movies ever created, largely due to the massive amount of detail in the animation and the decision to use celebrities as voice actors instead of unknowns as in Snow White.  Unfortunately, it was released in 1940.  During 1940, the large and profitable European market was a little too busy to go see a whole lot of movies.  Little things like World War II will do that.  So, Pinocchio was such a box office flop that Walt fell into a deep depression.  Fortunately, it was a critical success and subsequent rereleases saw Pinocchio raking in the money Walt always hoped it would, launching Pinocchio into the public conscience.

Fun fact: look at the books in the background.  Walt already had those two movies in their conceptual stages!  Foreshadowing!

Pinocchio tells the story of a lonely old toymaker named Geppetto who wishes for a child.  This universe’s Big Good, the Blue Fairy, grants his wish and brings his newly created puppet to life.  She promises that if he proves himself brave, truthful, and unselfish, he’ll be a real boy.  She names a passing cricket who’s just kind of squatting in the house Pinocchio’s conscious, which seems like a terrible idea.   More on that later.

Geppetto sends Pinocchio to school with absolutely no supervision, and predictably, terrible things happen.  Pinocchio is lured into the company of an evil puppet master by two conmen who no one seems to notice are an anthropomorphic fox and a cat.  Sure, movie.  The Blue Fairy shows up again to save the kid’s bacon, and Pinocchio lies and says he was kidnapped on the way to school.  Which, summarized like that, isn’t actually a lie.  But it makes Pinocchio’s nose grow and grow, which is now THE iconic Pinocchio thing despite only actually happening once.  The Blue Fairy bails him out, shrinks his nose, and warns him that she can’t help him again.  So naturally, Honest John and Gideon find him again and lure him to an actual child trafficker who promises children the time of their lives only to turn them horrifically into donkeys and force them to work in the salt mines!

Nope nope nope nope nope.

The Pleasure Island sequence deserves special attention because it’s so unlike anything Disney’s done since.  Disney has a reputation for being sanitized, safe, and sunny.  And then you have this.  The music, visuals, and general feel of the whole scene wouldn’t be out of place in a horror movie.  It starts nice enough, with kids running excitedly towards what is essentially a carnival.  But it doesn’t take long before the carnival is abandoned.  Jiminy noting that it looks like a graveyard is unsettling enough.  Then you see what lies outside the gates.

The Coachman barks orders over the sound of donkeys braying from inside crates labeled “To the salt mines”.  He turns sweetly to one of them in his cute little sailor suit and asks what his name is.  When the donkey sobs that his name is Alexander and he wants to go home to his mama, the Coachmen brutally tosses him aside because he can still talk.  “You’ve had your fun.  Now pay for it!”  The boys cry and plead to be turned back and brought home as the scene fades out and that’s the last we see of the Coachman!

I’m fine.  This is fine.  Everything’s fine.

Poor Alexander’s fate is spine-tingling as it is, but that’s nothing compared to what comes after it.  Pinocchio and his new bad-influence friend Lampwick are in a pool hall after a fight with Jiminy.  Lampwick sneers that Jiminy’s worrying too much.  He laughs, “What do I look like– a jackass?” and when he turns around, his face has turned into a donkey’s!  I can’t do justice to what in words.  Like the Queen’s transformation from Snow White, it’s heavily inspired by Dr. Caligari and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  But the Queen did it to herself.  Lampwick screams and cries for his mother, begging for help until finally, his pleas fade into hysterical braying as he kicks and flails and destroys the room, slowly losing his humanity but panicking all the while.

It’s a masterfully done sequence.  Even before it happens, there’s a ton of foreshadowing that all is not as it seems with this haven for bad boys.  It builds and builds and gets worse and worse.  Each half of the horrible reveal is handled very differently but very effectively.  The scene with the Coachman and Alexander is very direct.  There’s no dancing around it: these are the boys.  They’re being sold to the salt mines.  They’re going to die for being bad kids.  And then you get the Lampwick scene.  Hay’s Code probably has something to do with a lot of the artistic choices here, but honestly, I don’t think they’d be as effective any other way.  The whiplash between the scornful laughter and the terrified screaming, the shadow twisting and shuddering as it morphs, the hands tensing into hooves as Pinocchio stares wide-eyed… not showing this scene is scarier than showing it could ever be.

My skin is crawling just writing this.

I’ll try not to focus so much on single scenes in the future.  I had a lot to say about this one that wouldn’t fit anywhere else.

After traumatizing me and dozens of other kids, Pinocchio and Jiminy escape that hellhole.  The make it home and find only a letter from the Blue Fairy that Geppetto has been swallowed by a whale.  Pinocchio dives into the sea to rescue him and after a terrifying chase with Monstro the whale, rescues his father.  His bravery during the chase fills the conditions the Blue Fairy set, and in the end, Pinocchio becomes a real boy after all.

The original story was a magazine serial, with each chapter appearing in a different issue to depict a different temptation.  The movie borrows this episodic structure.  It almost feels like it’s telling four different stories: Geppetto’s love for Pinocchio, Stromboli, Pleasure Island, and Monstro.  I don’t usually like this kind of storytelling, but here it kind of works to show just how much Pinocchio earned his happy ending.  Much like Snow White’s characters fleshed out a very thin plot, it’s Pinocchio’s characters that really draw this weird horrible nightmare into a coherent and memorable story.


First up, our hero!

Collodi’s version of the Pinocchio character was very brash, obnoxious, rude, and generally unlikable.  It’s about 24 chapters into a 36 chapter book before he learns anything and it was infuriating.  In the original Disney script, he kept close to that horrible bratty nasty characterization.  Walt objected to this, quite rightly saying no one in their right mind would sympathize with a protagonist like that, so he was rewritten to be more naïve than outright malicious.

That said, he is really, really naïve.  It borders on straight-up stupidity that can’t even be excused by the fact that he’s meant to be about five years old.  Seriously, there are multiple instances where Jiminy tells him exactly how to escape a situation.  Does Pinocchio listen?  Of course not!  He just keeps right on with whatever terrible decision he was about to make.  His complete inability to say no to all these sketchy people gets really frustrating after a while.

That said, those moments of frustration are exactly what make you feel for the poor kid.  In the entire time he’s been alive, he’s met exactly two people who aren’t manipulating or abusing him.  And one of them is a cricket!  Despite that, he maintains a sweet little smile and an optimistic attitude that you just can’t help but root for.

It’s also nice to see a young protagonist that actually feels like a kid.  This is largely because of Walt’s insistence that a real child, Dickie Jones, voice the character, instead of a grown woman.  Jones gives Pinocchio an earnestness that can’t be duplicated by an adult actor and I love it.  He’s also very inquisitive, constantly asking why and trying to learn about the world he’s been thrust into.  It’s a real shame Geppetto throws his kid into the big bad world not twelve hours after he’s born, because Pinocchio clearly shows a desire to learn.  He also has the capability to be quite ingenious, as shown when he comes up with the idea to make Monstro sneeze.

As previously mentioned, Jiminy’s role was greatly expanded from his role in the book.  Instead of just showing up then dying, he’s the deuteragonist of the film, second in importance only to Pinocchio himself.  He’s our perfect Disney mascot, poised and polished and always there when Pinocchio’s in a jam.

Just kidding.

Jiminy sucks at his job.  We meet him as a homeless drifter, squatting in a violin in Geppetto’s house just because it’s warm.  The only reason the Blue Fairy names him a conscience is because he’s… there.  And the only reason he agrees is for the promise of a personal gain if Pinocchio becomes a real boy.  He’s late the first day, he storms off in a snit every time Pinocchio doesn’t listen, and he’s got a really creepy thing for non-sentient women.

Seriously, what is this?

All his flaws and failures are just what makes Jiminy so likable.  He gets off to such a rough start, but he grows into his role.  He consistently messes it up, but he keeps trying and keeps trying.  It may start as being for the promise of the Blue Fairy’s attention and a material reward, but as the movie goes on, you can see his affection for Pinocchio grow.  By the end, Jiminy doesn’t think twice about following Pinocchio to the bottom of the ocean.  He’s got a fascinating character arc and is, in my opinion, the best-written character in the movie.  He’s not a Disney icon because he starts out sweet and helpful.  He’s a Disney icon because he grows into it.  And the journey is truly heartwarming.

Jiminy’s voice actor is another milestone marked by this movie.  Cliff “Ukelele Ike” Edwards was the first celebrity voice actor to star as a Disney animated sidekick.  In the 30s and 40s he was a very famous radio personality, though he sadly died completely broke.  He did such a fantastic job here that Disney brought the character back for Fun and Fancy Free, the theme parks, and tons of other extraneous material.  For better or for worse, now it’s common practice for celebrities to voice the funny sidekicks.  So we kind of have Edwards to thank for Robin Williams as the Genie… aaaaand also Jason Alexander as Hugo.  It’s a mixed bag.

Speaking of characters who are iconic for being great at things they’re actually pretty terrible at, next up is Geppetto.  He’s a sweet, lonely old man who just wants some company that isn’t one of his pets.  The Blue Fairy informs us he’s spent his whole life bringing joy to others, but we’re introduced to him taunting and trolling his poor adorable kitty cat by having his puppet kick the poor thing!  And his constant attempts to make his cat and his fish kiss are weird.

Geppetto is known for being warm and fatherly.  However, what kind of parent lets their kid that young walk to school by himself?  They haven’t even spent 24 hours together before that point!  I get that if people didn’t make poor decisions somewhere, there wouldn’t be a story.  But it’s just so cringey and it takes me right out of the movie.  That said, the scenes of a heartbroken Geppetto searching the rainy streets for Pinocchio are some of the most beautifully animated and emotional scenes in the film.

I want to finish my discussion of Geppetto by ruining some childhoods.  Christian Rub, who voiced Geppetto, was a notorious Nazi sympathizer.  Everyone around the studio hated him, naturally, because he’d run around the studio praising everything that was going on in Europe.  The animators finally had the proper response to having to work with a Nazi sympathizer.  Under the pretense of studying the movements of Geppetto’s raft when he’s fishing, they sent him on a wild and nauseating ride on a rig just to mess with him.  I’m proud of everyone on that animating team.

I’m ragging on everyone here and I’m sorry.  So let’s get on to some characters that I really rather like.  The Blue Fairy is the film’s Big Good, an angelic figure who is responsible for the vast majority of good things that happen in this film.  She has a motherly presence, which is fitting because in the book The Fairy With the Blue Hair took on the role of Pinocchio’s mamma while Geppetto was trapped in the whale.  It’s comforting having a character like her around when so many scary bad horrible things keep happening.  It’s really a shame that she only appears twice and states she can’t help anymore.  Pleasure Island could really use her lovely, soothing voice.

She’s exquisitely animated, showing off how much the animators improved on their Rotoscoping skills since the last film.  She looks very different from the cartoony rest of the cast and it totally works to give her a mysterious, otherworldly quality.  The glitter on her dress and the light from her wand look incredible, too.  It blows my mind to think they’re all hand drawn!

I really only have one criticism for her.  Being brave, truthful, and unselfish is a very tall order for a small child.  I’m no expert in child development and I try to avoid prolonged contact with them, but I’m pretty sure that egocentricism is a normal part of their development.  This poor kid needs better parental figures.

But really, she’s one of my favorites and both scenes she appears in are just delightful.

Rounding out team good guys, we have Geppetto’s pets.  I mentioned in the Snow White review that I’m not usually fond of characters who serve no purpose to the story except for gags.  I also mentioned that I find those kinds of characters a lot more forgivable when they’re mute.  Figaro and Cleo are some prime examples of cute silent sidekicks who add a little levity to otherwise very sad scenes, mostly through facial expressions.  It’s much more effective than, say, completely shattering a sequence of a whole city burning for some stupid jokes about playing poker with pigeons.  You know, like some movies I could mention.

Cleo is a weirdly seductive fish.  Her main thing is that she’s weirdly seductive, batting her eyes and puckering her lips whenever Geppetto talks to her.  She’s also the more levelheaded and obedient of Geppetto’s pets.  I like her fine, but she doesn’t do a whole lot.  I did find it interesting that her bowl is apparently made of adamantium.  I mean, the thing survives being swallowed by a whale, then chased throughout the ocean by the same whale.  And she stays inside too!


Cleo’s fine I guess, but there’s not much to say about her.  Figaro the cat, on the other hand, steals the whole movie and runs away with it.  He’s basically a bratty little child who just got a younger sibling he never really wanted and is very grumpy about it, but he loves him really.  He puts up with a ton of nonsense from Geppetto, like being forced to get up from his nice comfy bed to open the window that’s like three feet above Geppetto’s head.  But the most important thing about Figaro is…


I nearly always prefer mute sidekicks to wisecracking ones, with very few exceptions.  It’s amazing what silliness you can get away with in my book with just a cuddly little face.  Fun fact: despite the myth that Walt hated cats, Figaro was actually his favorite Disney character.  He even got his own series of shorts following the movie!

Now that we’ve examined our good guys, let’s talk about the other team.  The villains in this movie are numerous, far more than in any other Disney film I can think of.  It makes it feel like the whole world is out to get this puppet.  What’s worse, none of them receive any comeuppance for their misdeeds at all!  Sure, Pinocchio gets his happy ending, but are we just not going to talk about the child traffickers?  Because there are child traffickers.  Somebody should call somebody.

The first villains we meet are my favorite characters in the entire movie.  Honest John and his sidekick Gideon are the movie’s answer to the Fox and the Cat from the novel.  And they are a delight to watch.  From Honest John’s over the top hand gestures to Gideon’s desperation to clobber somebody with the hammer he pulled out of nowhere, these guys walked straight out of a vaudeville sketch and it is glorious.  Their third appearance, where they pretend to diagnose Pinocchio, is my favorite scene in the whole movie.  It’s a riot.  They’re two of the best examples of comedic villains in the Disney canon, right up there with Yzma and Hades!

Yet right from the start, anyone not named Pinocchio can tell these guys are bad news.  They’re on the payroll of two out of three of the other villains, willing to kidnap, enslave, and even murder children if it’ll make them a few gold coins.  They’re not just scammers, they’re assassins!  It’s a weird dichotomy and yet it’s a pretty cool one.  Never underestimate the funny ones.

Nice book reference!

Fun little anecdote: Gideon was originally voiced by Mel Blanc of all people!  He’d recorded everything when Walt suddenly decided the character would work better as a mute.  All Blanc’s hard work went to waste and the only work the greatest voice actor in the world would ever do for a Disney film was three hiccups.  I can’t disagree with Walt, though.  Gideon’s such a great slapsticky character and I personally think dialogue from him would distract from that.  It’s just a shame that it happened to such an incredible talent.

Now we start getting into the really scary ones.  Stromboli scared me so badly as a small human that I wouldn’t eat pizza folded over until I was about 17.  True story.  The guy’s all fun, larger than life showman one minute and homicidal, screaming psychopath the next.  Little me could not handle it, and as previously mentioned many of my childhood nightmares included having axes thrown at my head and being chopped into firewood on stage while getting shouted at in Italian.  Also he descended from storm clouds like a deranged puppeteer version of Jupiter.  Man, I don’t know.  I was scared.

I know none of this actually has to do with the character but I struggle hard to separate any actual impressions of the film from how bad he used to scare me.  But here goes.  Stromboli is actually a pretty racist caricature of an Italian Roma but no one ever really talks about it.  Despite the movie taking place in Italy, he’s the only character with a cartoonish, overwrought accent and exaggerated mannerisms.  I think he was supposed to be funny?  But mostly he just reminds me of that cringey Fuller Brush Man joke from Three Little Pigs.

also there is not enough brain bleach in the world to save me from this shot

Weirdly, his book counter part wasn’t a villain.  Mangiafuoco (or Fire-Eater) had a nasty temper and could be unreasonable, and also tried for like two chapters to set Pinocchio on fire.  And when he decided not to set Pinocchio on fire, he just had to set one of his other sentient puppets (because this was just a thing) on fire because he had to roast his mutton perfectly.  But in the end Pinocchio convinced him to just eat rare mutton and no one gets set on fire.  Mangiafuoco even gives Pinocchio a good chunk of money to bring home to Geppetto!  I really don’t know why they turned him into a villain instead of just focusing on the Coachman and the donkey sequence.  It would give the movie more focus and make it feel less like we’re jumping around between multiple stories.

Or maybe I’m just holding all those nightmares against him.



The Coachman.  Deer god.  Where do I begin with this guy?  His whole thing is kidnapping children to sell them into slavery!  He turns them into donkeys to work them to death!  He collects stupid little boys!  He words it exactly like that!  No one ever finds out about this!  He gets no comeuppance whatsoever!  HE MAKES THAT FREAKING FACE!

There are legit theories that this guy is the Devil himself.  And honestly?  I can see it, especially in that one shot.  That freaking face makes even Honest John and Gideon, by all rights the Coachman’s own henchmen, cower in fear!  Honestly, though, he’s scarier without the supernatural element.  Like Frollo or Mother Gothel, this world unfortunately has people who would kidnap and hurt children like this.  Children need to be taught to be careful and vigilant or who knows what could happen.  As Pinocchio is at its heart a morality tale, a more realistic interpretation of the Coachman makes its lesson that much more pointed.

Our final villain is one I actually don’t find that scary but I know a lot of people do.  Personally, I don’t even really think Monstro’s a villain at all.  He’s a force of nature just swimmin’ around, gobbling up fish.  And honestly, I’d be a little cheesed off too if someone lit a fire in my stomach.  I know there are some people who consider him scarier than the Coachman.  Those people are wrong.  But I digress.

Monstro may not really be doing anything evil, but I will admit the climactic chase scene is one of the most suspenseful in Disney history.  The sequence opens with Pinocchio and Jiminy searching for Monstro, whose name alone is enough to send fish scattering.  This anatomically incorrect demon from the deep snaps teeth it shouldn’t have at our heroes while the strings go berserk in the background.  The animation of both the whale and the surrounding water are gorgeous, and really sell the idea of this animal that’s just doing his thing as being malicious.


There’s no denying that Snow White looked gorgeous.  But Walt Disney was never satisfied with leaving things as they were.  He always wanted to keep moving forward and get better.  And my God did the do that!  The detail work in the backgrounds is absolutely incredible, from the clocks and toys in Geppetto’s workshop to the seaweed and corals in Monstro’s ocean lair.

Speaking of Monstro’s ocean lair, apparently, animators later referenced those sequences when working on The Little Mermaid almost fifty years later!  That’s how well they hold up.  There was an entire team dedicated to nothing but animating every individual drop of water.  Their work shows beautifully.  Geppetto’s workshop, too, is one of my absolute favorite locales in any Disney film, which is really impressive considering I don’t actually like this movie much.  They actually built all the clocks you see on the walls to scale to animate them accurately, and not a grain of wood is missing from those paintings.

Something that the upcoming screencaps aren’t going to be able to capture are the improvements in the camera work.  They pull off some really neat tricks that I know weren’t possible with the room-sized multiplane camera.  One of the earliest moments in the film is a POV shot of Jiminy hopping, where the camera itself bounces up and down with his movements.  It’s such a neat trick and it’s the moment where you just know Walt and his animators are ready to kick it up a notch.

Seriously, look at those things!
Apparently a very large chunk of the movie’s budget went to this one panning shot of the village and no one notices it and that is a tragedy.
This scene’s sad enough without the puppets dangling from the ceiling like hanging corpses but sure, movie, make it more unsettling.
Nothing goes together like evil scheming and cheddar bay biscuits.
Under da sea, under da sea…

They don’t make ’em like this anymore.


Before I start dissecting the songs, I want to throw a shoutout to the incidental score.  When I was listening to it on Spotify, I was able to follow along with every story beat from the background music alone, without a line of dialogue being spoken.  That’s the mark of an excellent score in my book.  You can tell the bright bouncy music box melodies in Geppetto’s workshop from the honest-to-god scare chords in the donkey transformation and instantly know where you are in the story.  Pinocchio was the first of only three Disney films to win Oscars for Best Song and Best Score, a feat that wouldn’t be repeated until Mary Poppins in the late 60s!  The third was The Little Mermaid, for the curious.

I was going to put this shot in for the Artistry section because it’s stunning but I kinda need a picture of the star so pls appreciate it.

When You Wish Upon a Star: The film opens as most films of the era do with an opening credits number.  Normally, these are kinda forgettable.  Not this one.   This one is so incredible that it has become the de facto theme song for the entire company!  It was rated seventh on AFI’s list of the Top 100 Film Songs of All Time!  It was well-deserved.  Edwards’ soulful crooning gives it a beautiful, dreamy quality that just can’t be replicated.  It’s an ode to optimism, a message that has been unfairly maligned by a cynical modern audience who can’t just sit back and be happy for five minutes.  Hope is just as important as practicality and to suggest otherwise is doing a disservice to an absolutely exquisite song.  My only criticism is that putting it first does a bit of a disservice to the rest of the soundtrack.  It’s so good it overshadows everything else!

Little Wooden Head: I feel like no one ever really remembers this one, which is a real shame.  It’s a sweet, fun little piece meant to showcase how much Geppetto longs for a child.  It almost feels like a lullaby, actually.  It’s a little weird because he spends a fair chunk of the song bullying his cat, but even then, there’s a nice bit where Pinocchio’s foot gets caught in his strings after kicking Figaro.  Geppetto gently untangles him and warns, “You see what happens?” which foreshadows the hard lessons Pinocchio learns from his misbehavior later on.   I also like that Geppetto starts the song by playing one of his music boxes and just sings along to the melody it plays.  I love when the incidental music is integrated into the songs.  Interestingly, the version of the soundtrack I listened to doesn’t include the lyrics (probably because Christian Rub was actually a Terrible Person).  I like it even better as an instrumental!

Give a Little Whistle: This song’s largely forgettable in my opinion.  I know it establishes the concept that Pinocchio needs to learn right from wrong and Jiminy’s teaching him, but that was already established in the previous scene.  Not only that, but Pinocchio never actually has to whistle for Jiminy.  I never like it when the action stops just for an instrumental interlude, and that’s exactly what this song does.  Also it always makes me salty because I can’t whistle.

Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee: This is more like it!  This is our very first villain song!  The great granddaddy of Poor Unfortunate Souls and Be Prepared!  This one’s actually repeated a few times throughout the film.  The first one introduces Honest John and Gideon and is mostly a nonsensical romp through all the lies he’s using to lure Pinocchio, most of which he’s clearly making up as he’s going along.  It’s actually very funny simply because it makes no sense, even if the logical part of me’s screaming “DON’T DO IT PINOCCHIO!”  The next time we hear it is in the Red Lobster Inn, where he’s gloating over having successfully kidnapped a child and sold him to the circus.  The third takes on the horribly sinister lyrics gushing about how great Pleasure Island is, and the dramatic irony is chilling.

I’ve Got No Strings: This one does the same thing Little Wooden Head does, in which it actually justifies why the characters are singing. I love it when musicals do that!  This time around it’s a show within a show.  I really like how stilted Pinocchio is at the beginning like a real child getting on stage for the first time in a school play.  And then things get weird.  It’s implied Stromboli is voicing all these female puppets, which is weird enough, but all of them hitting on this five-year old child is extremely uncomfortable.  Especially when Jiminy gets all excited over the can-can dancer.

And that’s it.  That’s not even the halfway point of the movie and that’s the last song.  I’m not counting reprises there, of course.  The point is, after this point, all frivolity stops.  The movie takes a left turn into the depths of Hell and lets the score do its job to carry the film’s emotion.  It does that, as I mentioned before, extremely effectively.


Sing it with me: “star light, star bright, first star I see tonight…”

The biggest impact this movie had on the Disney parks was, of course, the introduction of one of their mascots and their theme song.  Jiminy Cricket is in every parade, every commercial.  He even narrated the fireworks shows Wishes in the Magic Kingdom and Remember… Dreams Come True at Disneyland before they were replaced.  Those shows also used When You Wish Upon a Star as their central theme.  Even now that Wishes is no longer with us (though to be fair, Happily Ever After is great), that song is played everywhere.

Now I want pizza.

Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Disneyland Paris also feature variations of Pinocchio’s Village Haus restaurant.  For some reason, it features Bavarian architecture and used to serve German food like liverwurst.  Somewhere down the line, someone realized that the story takes place in Italy and now they serve tasty tasty flatbreads and pasta dishes.  This is, of course, Magic Kingdom’s version.  I’m not really familiar with the other two.

It looks all nice and cute now…

One thing I do know about the other parks regarding this movie is that Disneyland, Disneyland Paris, and Tokyo Disneyland feature Pinocchio’s Daring Journey.  It, like most Fantasyland dark rides, is basically a condensed version of the film that inspired it.  Like the film that inspired it, it is terrifying.  In fact, I think the ride’s versions of Stromboli and Monstro are worse than the film versions!  And then there’s the long tunnel of the screaming donkey boys.  NOPE.

If I have to see this, so do you.

Speaking of the donkey boys, some genius had the brilliant idea to have them featured as dancers in Dreams Come True Parade and the Main Street Electrical Parade.  Let me repeat.  Someone thought the most utterly horrifying sequence in Disney history would be good to use as a cute, fun thing for their parades.  Not cool, dudes.


Listen, guys, it’s a great movie.  It’s a really, really great movie.  It’s emotional, it’s got great music, it’s got stunning animation.  It’s got iconic characters and one of the best songs ever written for film.  It’s one of the only movies to have 100% on Rotten Tomatoes for goodness sake!

But I’ve never loved this one.  Admittedly, I’m the world’s biggest wuss.  But this one always scared me so bad I never got over it.  That said, I can recognize that the sum of this one’s parts is absolutely incredible, even if I don’t really enjoy the whole.

Favorite scene: Honest John’s second meeting with Pinocchio, where he “diagnoses” Pinocchio.  The line deliveries and the physicality are just so funny and almost distract me from the horror that follows after it.

Final Rating: 8/10.  Just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not fantastic.  I’m just not going to sleep for a month.  That’s all.

Published by The Great Disney Movie Ride

I'm a sassy snarky salt bucket lucky enough to live in Orlando, Florida. I've had a lifelong interest in the Walt Disney Company and the films and theme park attractions they've created. I've now made it a goal to go down their Wikipedia page and watch every animated AND live action film they've ever made. Can I do it? How many of them will make me go completely mad? Only time will tell....

6 thoughts on “Pinocchio (1940)

  1. “The Coachman.  Deer god.  Where do I begin with this guy?  His whole thing is kidnapping children to sell them into slavery!  He turns them into donkeys to work them to death!  He collects stupid little boys!  He words it exactly like that!  No one ever finds out about this!  He gets no comeuppance whatsoever!”

    The Coachman appears as a boss in the film’s video game adaptation, where he fights Pinocchio on a cliff and attacks using a donkey as well as his own whip. At the end of the boss battle, Pinocchio knocks him over the cliff.

    Also, poor Lampwick. I never really thought about the boys/donkeys as a kid, but now I can’t help but go, “Why, Disney?! What did Lampwick ever do to deserve that?! Why?! He’s not a villain, he’s just a kid who didn’t wanna go to school! Why?!” (Even worse is that he does get worked to death in the original book (Collodi, what the hell?! You’re some kinda psychopath)) Also, there’s a deleted scene where donkey!Lampwick is running away with Pinoccio and Jiminy, and they’re being chased by the shadow-guys, and they catch Lampwick, and he says, “Go on without me. I’m a goner.” Seriously Disney, what did you have against him?!


    1. At least he goes down in some version! Always bugged me that he never even showed up in Kingdom Hearts. Two different Pinocchio worlds and I still don’t get to beat my childhood nightmares with a metal pole? Cmon.

      Lampwick gets the raw deal and I feel bad for the kid. Good Lord Disney was on another level with the nightmare fuel with this film.


  2. Pinocchio is a very dark movie, and it does creep me out but I actually rather like it. Artistically this movie is incredible and I do enjoy the characters (the villains are definitely effective in how terrifying they are). I’m not huge on the songs, but the instrumental soundtrack is top tier. I definitely understand why you don’t like it though.


    1. Thank you for commenting!

      1) That’s really interesting , I didn’t know that! I know why they do that, of course, and there are plenty of voice actresses who can convincingly sound like young boys (Nancy Cartwright and Veronica Taylor come to mind), but I still appreciate the authenticity of classic Disney.

      2) You are so right and I totally forgot about that whoops.


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