I’m going to start my review of the just-released Signature Collection edition of Pinocchio with a shocker-of-a-story:
I had never seen Disney’s Pinocchio, in film form, until I reviewed the digital release.
“What? You’re one of GeekMom’s Disney-philes! How could you have NOT seen it?”
Well… um… I just hadn’t. If you go into the Wayback Machine, you’ll happen upon the 1970s, a time when we didn’t have VCRs, DVRs, or the ability to purchase films for a home collection. No On-Demand. No skipping of commercials. No “I want to watch my favorite movie every day for three months.” So if you wanted to see a classic Disney movie such as Pinocchio, you only had a couple choices: seek out theater re-releases or wait for it to show up on one of Disney’s television anthology shows, such as The Wonderful World of Disney. Now, in the case of Pinocchio, there were seven theatrical re-releases, but I don’t remember having seen any of them.
But what I did have was the book adaptation of the film, as presented by the Disney Book Club (which many of us might remember as Disney’s Wonderful World of Reading). I had over 20 of these little books in the 1970s, and they directly contributed to my love of reading when I was a preschooler and Kindergartener. I don’t remember whether we subscribed to the books or if we received them as gifts from someone.
I read this Pinocchio story dozens of times between ages 4 and 7. The book remained in our family’s library for years after that, as my younger sister learned to read. My parents have moved a few times since I was in college, so I’m fairly certain those books are gone now.
It’s with this premise that I downloaded my iTunes review copy of the Signature Collection version of Pinocchio through Disney Movies Anywhere so that I could play it through our Apple TV. The whole family sat down and joined me.
Seeing the entire movie was quite an eye-opener. My book only covered a subset of the full story covered in the film. Watching the full film ties together so much: it’s a simple story of doing the right thing. I think most of our readers know Pinocchio’s story, from the growing nose to Pleasure Island to Jiminy Cricket constantly chasing Pinocchio down to question his morals.
It’s clear that this film was drawn with much of the same talent, and with the same techniques, as 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The Blue Fairy really stands out with artwork that looks completely different than the rest of the characters… more like Snow White in a blue dress, with the soft edges that make the original Disney princesses so unique.
I remember Jiminy Cricket fondly from when I was a little girl. After all, Disney used “When You Wish Upon a Star” as the theme song for many of their other programs in the 1970s and 1980s. Jiminy Cricket was featured prominently in my book as Pinocchio’s “conscience,” trying to help the puppet figure out between right and wrong. It wasn’t lost on my sons that if Jiminy really was a cricket, one can’t really tell. He has two arms, two legs, and no wings.
What stood out the most, though? The generational gaps of what was okay for a children’s film in 1940: scenes of spanking, Pinocchio getting smacked in the face when he made a mistake, and children smoking, drinking, fist-fighting, gambling, and hustling in a pool hall on Pleasure Island*. There are themes of trafficking in persons (albeit that was the “evil” Pinocchio was attempting to conquer), complete with a very emotional scene of a youngster named Lampwick realizing his fate. My youngest son wouldn’t have taken that scene too well a few years ago. At age 12, he can handle it decently, but he definitely looked concerned for Lampwick.
*In addition to not having seen the movie, I never made the connection with the nightlife area at Walt Disney World being an homage to Pinocchio. Pleasure Island at Walt Disney World was a pretty hopping nightlife spot on the resort property until about 10 years ago, when declining attendance led to the area’s closure.
In addition to owning the film itself, the Signature Collection will bring you several hours of extras. While most of the extras are the same ones that were available on the 2010 Blu-ray release (cataloged as “Classic Extras”), owning the 2017 Signature Collection version includes the following new features:
- “Walt’s Story Meetings: Pleasure Island” – The Pleasure Island scene in Pinocchio had much more development than what is seen in the film. Join Pixar’s Pete Docter and Disney historian and author J.B. Kaufman as they explore artwork recently discovered in Disney’s animation research library revealing some of the attractions, gags and games, which Disney animators created for this iconic location of the film, that never made it on screen.
- “In Walt’s Words – Pinocchio“ – Hear Walt himself discuss the making of Pinocchio through archival recordings and interviews.
- “The Pinocchio Project: ‘When You Wish Upon a Star'” – Music influencers Alex G, Tanner Patrick and JR Aquino from Disney’s Maker Studios, a global leader in short-form videos, gather in a creative workspace to create their rendition of the film’s signature song, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” and produce a fresh new music video.
- “Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Poor Papa“ – This recently restored and scored 1927 short features Oswald the Lucky Rabbit who gets multiple visits from the stork and is forced to attempt various methods to help stop the onslaught of baby deliveries.
The clip below is an excerpt from “Walt’s Story Meetings – Pleasure Island,” where Pixar director Pete Docter and historian J.B. Kaufman walk viewers through the development of the Pleasure Island sequence, which was quite the undertaking!
My sons weren’t nearly as interested in the extras as I was… in part because the first several we chose seemed to be like trailers proclaiming how wonderful Walt Disney is.**
You can now own the Signature Collection version of Disney’s Pinocchio on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital download. Purchase the digital download alone via iTunes, Google Play, or Amazon Video (digital MSRP $14.99 – 19.99), or take advantage of the combo pack (MSRP $39.99), which is our family’s favorite. We usually watch the digital version via iTunes, but we like having the DVD available for our vehicle’s player.
**Yes, our family does think he’s wonderful, but these trailers are like classic 1940s American propaganda films.