'Pinocchio': THR's 1940 Review

Pinocchio - H - 1940
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In 'Pinocchio,' Disney has so far surpassed all his previous efforts that one wonders to what heights this wizard of entertainment will eventually go.

On Feb. 23, 1940, Walt Disney brought Pinocchio to theaters nationwide. The classic animated feature went on to score two wins at the 13th Academy Awards, for original score and the original song "When You Wish Upon a Star." The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below.

The doorway to captivating fantasy on the screen has been opening with increasing frequency during the past year, but when one enters the land of enchantment under the guidance of Walt Disney, the magic wand is in the hands of the supreme master. In Pinocchio, Disney has so far surpassed all his previous efforts that one wonders to what heights this wizard of entertainment will eventually go. 

Pinocchio is entertainment for every one of every age, so completely charming and delightful that there is profound regret when it reaches the final fade-out. Since comparisons will be inevitable, it may as well be said at once that, from a technical standpoint, conception and production, this picture is infinitely superior to Snow White

With all due allowances for the aura of novelty which surrounded the first feature-length cartoon, it is difficult to see why this picture should not closely approximate the tremendous grosses garnered by Snow White. Certainly, every one who saw that picture will want to see this one, and they will see a production which has many qualities which either were lacking in Snow White or had not been developed to the high point reached in Pinocchio

This masterpiece has all the elements which are to be expected in a Disney production — humor, drama, sweeping action and rare beauty. The story is a distinct departure for Disney, in that the major portion of the characters are human, but, in this production, he has attained a near-perfection in the animation of humans. At the same time, he has again woven the magic with which he handles animal figures into the story, with a cricket, a cat and a goldfish rising as new Disney creations which are wholly enchanting. In fact, Clea, the goldfish, has so much "oomph" that she promises to give many a screen glamour girl a run for her money, and Jiminy Cricket is a wise-cracking, sardonic little fuss-budget of a Conscience which puts him in a class by himself. 

Collido's classic story of the puppet who was given life and had to learn how to become a real boy the hard way, by suffering devastating punishments for his moments of weakness, has been presented faithfully, but with a wealth of glowing embellishment and a constant flow of chucklish humor, with drawings and script sharing honors. 

The episode of Monstro, the gigantic whale, so enormous that when Pinocchio's maker, his cat and goldfish are swallowed bodily, they set up housekeeping, is a classic in itself, invested with passages of tremendous spectacle and sweeping action. This undersea sequence enables Disney to turn to fish for the majority of his non-human figures, and he does it with the complete success to be anticipated, although the scope of this phase is not commensurate with the opportunities offered by earthbound animals. 

In only one respect does Pinocchio fall short of Snow White and this is in the musical score. This score is delightful, but it does not have the multiplicity of haunting melodies of the former. Of the five songs, "When You Wish Upon a Star" and "Give a Little Whistle" are the most memorable.

The brush artistry of Pinocchio is superb, with many passages of enthralling beauty. In this picture, the Disney organization has achieved a third dimensional sense and depth which sets a new standard. 

Taken as a whole, the picture is a masterpiece which sets another milestone along the road of screen entertainment. The credits announced are many. Of them all, it can only be said that everyone who had any part whatsoever in the making of this picture deserves unstinted praise. They have provided a new source of joy for which they deserve and will receive the gratitude of millions who will see it. — Staff review, originally published on Jan. 30, 1940