“A conscience is that small still voice that people won’t listen to. That’s just the trouble with the world today. You see?”
Animated Disney movies have always been a pretty big part of my life, and still are. Sure, most of us had some kind of attachment to the house of mouse, and I was no exception. I enjoyed them just as much as any kid my age, and I don’t think my love for them was anything out of the ordinary until I eventually stopped caring altogether. It wasn’t until I started getting older that specific things about Disney animation started making sense, and I don’t know what type of voodoo that mouse has got on me but I’ve only become more and more fascinated (or obsessed) as time went on. There’s something about those hand drawn Disney movies from the 50’s, and the dark tones that some of those movies would go on to be immortalized by, and behind the scenes stories about why there’s most definitely a naked lady barely hidden in the Rescuers, and why is Pluto the only “animal” that’s treated like a pet in a house where a mouse, duck, and another dog get to walk around, talk, and dress up like people—
Let me back up here because I’m starting to ramble and there is not enough space on the internet for me to write about all the Disney related shennanigans that goes on in my head. Disney is a huge part of my life, and just like any Disney fan, I have my personal favorite movie.
We all have our top choices. The Lion King, Sleeping, Beauty, and Toy Story get a lot of mentions from my perspective. Even Tangled gets a ton of praise among my friends and that movie deserves every bit of the love it gets. As much as I love all those and more, I oddly found myself particularly drawn to the one about a puppet who wants to be a real boy.
Why Pinocchio? That’s both hard and easy to explain because I think I know exactly why but at the same time, I’m still bewildered by a lot of what that movie has to offer. There are no princesses, no castles, or even heroes for that matter. The subject it tackles is very unique, kinda frightening and all too real to anyone who lives in the real world and has at some point or another fucked up but hopefully learned from their mistakes. A.k.a all of us.
I’m going to get into all the symbolism and even some of the scariest stuff but before I do that, watch this movie, and then tell me how it’s possible that a movie from 1940 still looks THAT good. Honestly. We were still fighting nazis when this movie was released so the character animations have no business looking that amazing still, along with the machinery throughtout the entire movie. I’m not even gonna go into the smoke, rain, and wind animations. Visually, this was a monumental achievement, and that’s one of the reasons it holds the rare pleasure of being one of the only movies to have a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Critically, the movie was a masterpiece, being the first animated movie to win academy awards, mainly for its composition. Too bad the movie was also a complete flop that didn’t make its money back until a 1945 re-release
Back to the tale of the movie:
The world is full of temptations, you see. They’re the wrong things that seem right at the time. But, uh, even though the right things may seem wrong sometimes. Uh, sometimes the, the wrong things may be right at the wrong time. Or, uh, vise versa. Understand?
The moral of Pinocchio is something we all relate to, and it really is very simple which makes this one of the most grounded Disney movies you’re ever gonna see. Yes, there’s magic, a talking cricket who looks nothing like a cricket, and a blue fairy, BUT none of that interferes with the point that if you want something, you have to work hard for it. And yes, you will make mistakes but it’s whether you learn from them or not that defines who you become in the end.
Now, we’ve all had different experiences growing up, and we’re all at some point gonna come across people who will try to steer us in the wrong direction. Sometimes you get snatched up by a fox and a cat who convince you to not go to school and pursue an actor’s life instead. Sometimes that turns into you lying to cover up your tracks once your conscience catches up with you. Sometimes you screw up so bad that you end up on an island in which children are encouraged to fight, drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes so they can eventually be turned into donkeys and sold into slavery. What?
I wasn’t joking about that. One of the reasons i adore this movie…scratch that, this *kids movie* is how dark it gets towards the end. And when I say dark, I mean “what the hell is going on” levels of dark. Let’s talk about Pleasure Isle for a second here because I cannot make this stuff up. It really needs to be emphasized just how much this movie got away with.
Of course, “give a boy enough rope and he’ll make a jackass of himself”. I bring this up not just because it’s incredibly grim and depressing in the middle of what’s supposed to be a family friendly Disney movie, but because it’s things like these that would go over my head when I was little and can appreciate so much more as an adult. But just in case you’re still confused, those kids taken to Pleasure Island to fulfill their deepest and most animalistic impulses by having things to break, cigars to smoke, beer to drink, and other kids to fight. And for what? So that once they’ve had their fun they can pay the price. What about those kids turned into jackasses who can still talk? Well:
That, of course, is followed by one of the most terrifying scenes in cinema history:
Let’s just say Pinocchio is lucky to have escaped when he did because those kids are never rescued or seen from again. Shall we move on?
Actually no, we’re not moving on yet. Did I mention that he just fucking dies at the end. Yeah, sure, the blue fairy brings him back to life seconds later but still.
There’s a ton of this movie that can be discussed, and it will be discussed long after you and I are gone. Dig up any publication of the greatest animated movies from any generation and you’re bound to see Pinocchio in there, if not at the top of any given list. It’s a classic, and will be a staple of pop culture for as long as there is pop culture (“tell a lie, and watch your nose grow”, we all know the saying). Hell, it’s officially been added to the National Film Registry and preserved in the library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant”. I could go on forever about this movie, but I’ve gone on long enough. Watch it if you haven’t. Enjoy it, and if you take anything away from it, I hope it’s something positive. Always let your conscience be your guide.