"Starlight, Starbright, first star I see tonight. I wish I may, I wish I might have the wish I wish tonight!" These are the words that kind woodcarver Geppetto says while wishing upon the stars in one of the opening sequences of Disney‘s Pinocchio. And the stars have been very kind and not only turned the puppet into a real boy but also made of Pinocchio one of the masterpieces in the history of both cinema and animation. A masterpiece that this month is getting his 70th anniversary celebration re-release on DVD and debuts on the brand new Blu Ray format. Today, here at Disneylicious.com, we would like to celebrate these new releases by revisiting some of the stories behind this film.
Pinocchio is such a unique creation. One of the things that is so fascinating about this animated film is that Pinocchio has both in the story and real life, a father (Geppetto/his creator Carlo Collodi) and a person who gives him the gift of life (The Blue Fairy/Walt Disney). Over the years, the original tale by Carlo Lorenzini known as Carlo Collodi, relatively unknown outside his native Italy, gained strenght and popularity from the Disney film that on the other hand could benefit of the appeal of one of the nicest and original characters ever created in children’s literature.
Originally released to theatres by RKO on February 7 1940, Pinocchio is the second full lenght animated feature by Walt Disney, after Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs. Disney believed it was the perfect story to follow the huge success of Snow White and it had to be perfect in every aspect. This quest for perfection conviced Disney to resend the project to the concept stage even if it had already entered final production and delete a number of characters that appear in the original Collodi story but that were unsuitable for the then still evolving concept of "Disney movie".
Trying to get as far as possible from the dark setting of the book Disney had Pinocchio redesigned to find a new personality for him to be the loved hero of the film, a character the audiece could sympathize with, instead of the naughty, stubborn, vile and sarcastic puppet of the original tale. To complete the task and give him a touch of familiarity Disney decided to give Pinocchio Mickey Mouse gloves on his hands. Disney also decided to give proper first names to many of the side characters to make them familiar to people, just like he did with the dwarfs in Snow White. So the characters vaguely known in the Collodi book as the talking cricket, the cat and the fox, il mangiafuoco and the whale became respectively Jiminy Cricket, Gideon and J. Worthington Foulfellow, Stromboli and Monstro the whale. It’s interesting to note that in the Italian dubbing of the film, these characters have again no first name and are called as in the original book. One of the main differences between the film and the book is that while the "talking cricket" gets killed by Pinocchio at the beginning of the story, Disney’s Jiminy Cricket’s role is expanded and accompanies, guides and saves the puppet from trouble for the entire film.
Unfortunately Pinocchio was not a total commercial successful when it was first released in February 1940. It took $2.6 million to make and it only recouped $1.9 million with that first US release. Unlike Snow White, that was quicky distribuited in Europe as well, Pinocchio couldn’t benefit of the abroad release due to World War II. Italy, the country of the original author Collodi could only see Disney’s Pinocchio for the first time on November 5 1947 when the animated film, dubbed into Italian, finally reached local cinemas (that original 1947 dubbing is still the one currently used in Italy for the Blu Ray edition as well – amazing!)
Put aside the intriguing story plot, another element that makes Pinocchio a timeless classic is without any doubt its songs and music. Jiminy Cricket’s opening song, "When You Wish Upon a Star," not only bacame a major hit at the time of original release but became the official Disney song, still used today before the opening titles of every Disney film release not to mention it won an Oscar in 1941 for Best Song while the film also won an Oscar for Best Score. Other great songs included in the picture are "Little Wooden Head", "Give a Little Whistle", "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me)" and the lovely "I’ve Got No Strings". Many of these songs have been covered through the decades and memorable are the versions of "I’ve Got No Strings" by Barbara Straisand, Diana Ross with the Supremes.
But there were also a lot of songs that didn’t make the final cut. The song "I’m a Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow" by Jiminy Cricket was eventually used in the "package movie" Fun and Fancy Free while the scrapped song "Honest John" is presented for the first time on the brand new 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition DVD.
We would like to close this mini celebration of Pinocchio with the opening words of its theme song, a celebration of humany that reminds us that no matter all, we’re all the same in our hearts… "When you wish upon a star makes no difference who you are".