As a Diehard Disney lover, I am above all a Disney traditionalist. I love all the Disney classic cartoon shorts and classic animation features. You can tell anything that Walt was personally involved in. This is not to say in any way that today’s amazing characters and films are not up to Walt’s standards, after all Walt never wanted to rest on his laurels, he hated sequels and wanted to move forward onto new and untested projects. This is a personal thing for me. The last project and film that Walt Disney personally touched was 1968’s “Blackbeard’s Ghost” Walt watched it being filmed just before he entered Joseph’s Hospital just before he passed. The Disney Company has never disappointed, but for me, without Walt, there is something that cannot ever be replaced! I want to run a series of articles of past characters and films, so in the light of all the newest and greatest innovations, we never forget what a genius Walt Disney was…
Following the enormous success of his first feature length cartoon film “Snow White and the seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney put his magical touch on another classic child’s novel entitled “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Italian author Carlo Collodi. The novel was originally penned in two parts between 1881 and 1883. The first part of the novel is the original story that Walt based his movie on. The premise of the story begins in Tuscany Italy where a carpenter named Antonio was to begin carving a block of pinewood into a leg for his table. As he begins to carve, the log shouts out “Please be careful!” Antonio is of course terrified, a talking log? Soon his neighbor Geppetto comes to his shop looking for some wood to build a marionette. Antonio seizes the opportunity and gives Geppetto the talking log of pinewood.
In the original story, after Geppetto carvers the puppet, he names him Pinocchio, Italian for “Pine Eye” He teaches Pinocchio how to walk and the puppet promptly runs away into town. Since Geppetto is known for his dislike of children, when Pinocchio is caught by the police, they assume that Geppetto mistreated him and put him in jail. It is after Pinocchio goes back to the workshop that he meets the “Talking Cricket” (Later renamed Jiminy Cricket in the Disney Film). Here the Cricket tells him that children who do not obey their parents turn in Donkeys. In the original story, Pinocchio throws a hammer at the Cricket, killing him.
The Disney version of the story was released in theatres on February 7th, 1940. In the story, Pinocchio is brought to life by a blue fairy. Pinocchio longs to become a real live boy, and the fairy tells him that if he proves himself to be unselfish, brave and truthful he will succeed. Of course, Pinocchio becomes involved with many objectionable characters. The main difference from the original story is that Walt decided that the Talking Cricket or now “Jiminy Cricket” is not killed by Pinocchio and is assigned by the blue Fairy to act as his “Conscience” and keep him on the straight and narrow.
The original plans for the movie were vastly different than the film which was released. Walt, always the perfectionist halted the project halfway and ordered the story re-written and the characters re-done. One of the major things Walt did not like was that Pinocchio looked exactly like a real puppet, wooden hands, pointed nose, etc. Eventually the animators designed him to look more like a real boy, down to five fingers with Mickey Mouse type gloves on them. Walt felt that people would express sympathy for a boy more than an actual puppet. Even Jiminy Cricket originally looked more like a real Cricket, than the softer, more human looking character that Walt finally approved on.
Pinocchio did not become the box-office hit that “Snow White” was, partially due to the fact that its release was in 1940. With the European film markets cut off due to fighting the Nazis, there was not as large an audience for the film. Other factors were that the film did not have the “Romantic” angle that Snow White enjoyed nor were many people interested in seeing “Fantasy Stories” due to the mood of the war in Europe. The song “When you Wish upon a Star” sung by Jiminy Cricket was a major hit and is still recognized as one of Disney’s “Classic Songs”. The film was added to the United States National Film registry as “Culturally, aesthetically, and historically important. In the many Theatrical, Video and DVD re-releases, the film was re-discovered by a new generation of fans and is still a hot seller today. In fact, a new DVD release was done for March of 2009; a Platinum Edition. Walt Disney himself could not imagine just how popular his film would become.