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Disney's Platinum Edition DVDs: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs • Beauty and the Beast
The Lion King • Aladdin • Bambi • Cinderella • Lady and the Tramp • The Little Mermaid
Peter Pan • The Jungle Book • 101 Dalmatians • Sleeping Beauty • Pinocchio

Pinocchio: Platinum Edition DVD Review

Pinocchio (1940) movie poster Pinocchio

Theatrical Release: February 9, 1940 / Running Time: 88 Minutes / Rating: G

Directors: Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske / Writers: Carlo Collodi (story), Ted Sears, Otto Englander, Webb Smith, William Cottrell, Joseph Sabo, Erdman Penner, Aurelius Battaglia (story adaptation)

Voice Cast (uncredited): Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket), Christian Rub (Geppetto), Walter Catlett (J. Worthington "Honest John" Foulfellow), Evelyn Venable (The Blue Fairy), Charles Judels (Stromboli, The Coachman), Frankie Darro (Lampwick), Mel Blanc (Figaro, Cleo, Gideon)

Songs: "When You Wish Upon a Star", "Little Wooden Head", "Give a Little Whistle", "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor's Life for Me)", "I've Got No Strings"

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Page 1: The Movie, Disney's Stunt, Thoughts on Blu-ray
Page 2: Video and Audio, Bonus Features, Menus and Packaging, Closing Thoughts

VIDEO and AUDIO

Pinocchio appears in 1.33:1 "fullscreen", recreating its original Academy aspect ratio. The 10-year-old previous Region 1 DVD transfer the film left a lot of room for improvement, with its grainy, littered presentation. This new remastered transfer occupies that room. The word that instantly springs to mind upon seeing it is "perfect." All of the visuals have an immaculate, polished, consistent look, which leads a person to wonder if the perfection is true to the original creation. Pinocchio certainly hasn't looked this good anytime recently and I doubt it did even at its very first public screening.

Still from Pinocchio: Limited Issue/Gold Collection DVD - click to view screencap in full 720 x 480. Stromboli gives himself a bombastic introduction at his well-attended special show. Still from Pinocchio's 70th Anniversary Edition DVD - click to view screencap in full 720 x 480. Stromboli gives himself a bombastic introduction at his well-attended special show.

Screencap from Pinocchio Gold Collection DVD

Screencap of same frame from this Platinum Edition DVD

The differences between Pinocchio's original DVD release and its new Platinum Edition are extreme. This has to rank as the biggest improvement seen in a separate DVDs of a film from the same studio. It almost looks like these aren't even the same movie.

With such a comment, you may wonder if restoration efforts haven't been taken too far. Is the goal to make the movie look as it did when it was first made or as Walt and company would want to if they were still alive? I'm not sure. The practically grainless digital clarity does give off the vibe of something tied to the present-day, but at the same time we're seeing the animators' remarkable artwork without hindrances or the deterioration of age. Among Walt's earliest works, only Bambi (brought to DVD four years ago) comes close to the picture quality seen here and even that didn't dazzle as much or raise ethical questions.

In the audio department, viewers can choose between a Dolby Digital 5.1 Disney Enhanced Home Theater mix and a 1.0 Mono track that recreates the film's original soundtrack. Despite the extreme difference in channel count, the two offerings sound rather similar because the 5.1 is probably the mildest DEHT-branded remix the studio has produced. For the most part, surrounds are used only to very quietly reinforce music, even on the film's most theatrical scenes. That should please purists since it means that the original intent hasn't been betrayed nor the elements built up in this faithful remix. But those hoping to get more of an aural kick from the twice-decorated soundtrack may be disappointed not to here. The Limited Issue/Gold Collection DVD presented the movie in Dolby 4.0 and though that entails a third distinct encoding, the experience was much of the same. Although, one can tell that work has gone into making the old recordings a bit crisper for the Platinum Edition.

It should be noted that a single line of dialogue, a single word to be specific, has curiously disappeared on this presentation. Jiminy Cricket's reassuring "Right!" to Pinocchio's utterance of his name during the song "Give a Little Whistle" has vanished. Occurring at the 20:35 mark, the "Right" no longer appears in subtitles or captions, whereas it did on past releases, as those familiar with the number are aware. I have no idea what could explain this minor edit.

Instead of getting a really accomplished singer to do justice to what is perhaps Disney's most famous song, the studio just got Meaghan Jette Martin, the girl who played the bratty diva in "Camp Rock" to do the obligatory pop cover/music video. The origin of the word "Marionette" is just one of Pinocchio's many Matter of Facts.

DISC 1 BONUS FEATURES

As usual, Disc 1 contains a few basic bonus features.

First up is the obligatory pop music video. Another Platinum Edition, another forgettable cover. This time, it's Camp Rock's villainess Meaghan Jette Martin giving the dance treatment to "When You Wish Upon a Star" (3:11).
Decades from now, Cliff Edwards' rendition of the Oscar winner may be forgotten, but I think Ms. Martin's daring take will still be heard all the time. Or not. But actually both the song and video are about as benign as these things get and we're thankfully spared seeing more of Raven's dance moves.

Closing out Music & More, Disney Song Selection gives you the chance to view five musical scenes from the film with the song lyrics shown as subtitles. The reprises are not afforded such a luxury (unless you access them with standard subtitles activated).

Carrying more weight are the platter's two playback-enhancing extras. An audio commentary enlists Leonard Maltin, animator Eric Goldberg, and historian J.B. Kaufman. Theirs is a lively, telling discussion which is amply supplemented by archival clips from those who worked on the film, including animators Ward Kimball, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, and Eric Larson. The main trio talks with evident admiration for the detail and craft, as they should. They also point out an otherwise unnoticeable but major continuity error and debate certain turns and choices. Throughout, they provide much insight on the makers, the voice actors, and the comparably brief 2-year production period. The closest thing to drawbacks I can find in this great track are that it's occasionally heavy on name-dropping and that well-placed archival comments briefly break up the flow.

Visual accompaniment is had in Pinocchio's Matter of Facts, a subtitle track strangely deemed a game/activity. Like most of its kind, this one spouts out information on the film and what's on screen. That means production anecdotes are joined by animal facts. You're apt to have both the commentary and fact track enabled at once. Rarely, do they render one another redundant and any echoes are not aligned. This isn't as chock full of information as the commentary, but both certainly add value.

When loaded, the FastPlay-enhanced first disc promotes Disney, quitting smoking, Disney Blu-ray, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Up, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, and Disney Movie Rewards. Additional menu previews showcase Bolt, Schoolhouse Rock! Earth, Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too, and Disney Parks.

You simply put together scenes from the movie in the fun Pinocchio's Puzzles section. Dickie Jones, the voice of Pinocchio, is a real senior citizen today, as seen in the documentary "No Strings Attached." Pinocchio's grandfather, a Geppetto-esque pine tree, provides a place for wooden birds to perch in this deleted scene.

DISC 2 BONUS FEATURES

Disc 2's features are divided into two classes.

Games & Activities has just one listing, but there are six "Pinocchio's Puzzles" to complete within it. As Geppetto sleeps, players must complete his six-sided puzzle "toy" for him. Each virtual puzzle depicts an image from the movie; completing them yields a short clip of the featured moment. The puzzles grow ever so slightly more difficult and all give you more pieces than you'll need. Still, with no threat of a time limit or a wrong move strikeout, it's pretty relaxing. Although it shows less imagination than other Platinum Edition games, as a fan of jigsaw puzzles, I can say this easily offers more enjoyment, at least for a not overly challenged adult. Even the narrator's Jiminy Cricket voice is agreeable.
The case claims there are 18 puzzles, which must mean there are three different sets of pictures you can encounter, but it's basically the same thing each time.

The rest of the goods are housed in Backstage Disney, starting with "The Making of Pinocchio: No Strings Attached". This 56-minute documentary rounds up the usual mix of historians/professors (including Leonard Maltin, Jerry Beck, and J.B. Kaufman), modern Disney animators (including Andreas Deja, Eric Goldberg, and Mike Gabriel), and, in archival clips, some of the original filmmakers (like Walt's famed Nine Old Men). Primarily through their comments, the piece covers all the standard bases: the story, the animation, the voice cast (with comments from Pinocchio's vocalist Dick Jones), visual techniques, sound, music, reception, and legacy. It's a little too adherent to the established topical structure and the roster of experts isn't as strong as others have been, but still delivers plenty of information and insight into this masterpiece film.

The Deleted Scenes section runs 10½ minutes and consists of three sequences: a story Geppetto tells about Pinocchio's grandfather the pine tree, a climactic scene in which Geppetto and Figaro fantasize about food (namely fish) in the face of starvation; and a slightly different alternate ending. Each scene comes to life with story and character sketches plus a narrator's context.

A 1938 Pinocchio story meeting is recreated from a transcript with many shadows in "The Sweatbox." Kenilworth's Cyril Hobbins certainly (and proudly) bears the most physical resemblance to Geppetto of the toymakers featured in "Geppettos Then and Now." An acetate sheet of Jiminy Cricket warming himself is laid over a frame of an actor doing the same in "Live-Action Reference Footage."

Not to be confused with Sting's wife's tell-all documentary on how Kingdom of the Sun became The Emperor's New Groove, "The Sweatbox" (6:24) is a short featurette on the process Walt used to fine-tune animators' work. In addition to comments from a wide variety of sources, we get a taste of a Pinocchio session recreated from a '30s transcript.

"Geppettos Then and Now" (10:55) profiles contemporary toymakers (and a toy museum curator) from around the globe and takes a look at their creations while pondering the calling they sort of share with Pinocchio's dad. Those featured include an eccentric Englishman, Japan's i-Sobot, and Disney's own pricey, cool Ultimate WALL•E. One of those good inspired-by-film-content pieces that turn our attention to a topic not often considered, this featurette gladly avoids feeling overly commercial.

"Live-Action Reference Footage" (9:55) offers more than just people acting out scenes from Pinocchio. This vault-unearthed material more fully depicts the animators at work with a narrator explaining the silent content and score excerpts livening up. Scale props are designed, an actor dresses up like Jiminy Cricket for his fire-warming scene, and the animators take the recordings of it and then bring it to life within the film's universe. It's an enlightening overview of the rotoscoping process as used on Disney's earliest films.

Gustaf Tenggren Art is the smallest of the DVD's eight galleries, but it's also one of the most interesting. Honest John Worthington Foulfellow gives us two turnarounds in this art gallery video. "Pinocchio" was the first Disney film for which animators built maquettes of characters.

It wouldn't be a Platinum Edition DVD without Art Galleries. Quick and easy to navigate, Pinocchio's number eight. Visual Development (143 stills) encompasses anything from detailed drawings of Geppetto's workshop items to wildly varying atmospheric paintings/sketches of scenes. Gustaf Tenggren Art (10 stills) exhibits the striking imagery of the uncredited Swedish illustrator that clearly influenced the film's visual style. Character Design (63) holds model sheets and sketches of the leading characters.
Maquettes & Models displays assorted designs for characters and a clock; in an unusual but welcome move, 15 of its 63 items are videos that allow a 360-degree turnaround (in the clock's case, a detailed zoom). Backgrounds & Layouts (45) gives us a mix of penciled and fully-painted settings. Storyboard Art (144) maps out the entire film with few touches of color. Production Photos (112) show us Walt and his men making and working with models, storyboards, mirrors, and voice actors. Live Action Reference (22) doles out black & white photos of costumed actors performing for characters.

For Publicity, we get the 110-second original theatrical trailer (the only bonus feature on the old DVD) plus trailers for the 1984 (1:25) and 1992 (1:32) theatrical reissues, the latter of which is matted and revoiced. Too bad the movie's other four American engagements aren't represented here.

Finally, there is the deleted choral song "Honest John" (2:30), set to a static image of the sheet music cover.

Most missed from the 2003 UK Special Edition DVD are two Jiminy Cricket I'm No Fool... shorts. A total of twelve safety-advocating cartoons starring the comedic conscience were made. Most debuted on the "Mickey Mouse Club" in the late 1950s while the final one went to theaters in 1970. To date, none of them have been released to DVD in the US.

Disc 1's main menu shows us the star wished upon from Geppetto's workshop/home. The European village seen in the costliest and most ambitious shot of "Pinocchio" serves as the backdrop for Disc 2's main menu, where birds and chimney smoke denote life.

MENUS and PACKAGING

Both discs' menus are surprisingly simple for a Platinum title. They provide little animation (only a short intro and minor touches on the main and bonus features screens) but a lot of different score excerpts as they take us to the movie's various settings.

Per tradition, you should find plenty of paper inside the keepcase. Your Disney Movie Rewards code is part of a booklet that hypes a loosely Pinocchio-themed sweepstakes in which the grand prize is an Amtrak vacation. More important is a 6-page DVD Guide, whose presence confirms that either Disney will still provide an insert on tentpole titles or that this was printed before the latest bit of cost-cutting.
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It supplies a contents map, write-ups on major bonuses, a chapter list, and the usual Platinum collection spiel (reiterating that fellow early Disney works Snow White and Fantasia are next in line for the treatment). Last and probably least is a booklet of ads, most notable of which is a $10 mail-in rebate offer for those who buy both the DVD and Blu-ray editions of Pinocchio within the next six months.

As usual, various retailers are enticing consumers to choose them as the site of their brick & mortar Pinocchio purchase. The this-week-only exclusive bonus at Target, where I got my copy, is an audio CD packaged in a 70th Anniversary-emblazoned paper envelope. The meager disc holds three original Pinocchio songs ("Give a Little Whistle", "Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee", and "I've Got No Strings"), two Aladdin numbers performed by no names ("Friend Like Me" and the deleted "Proud of Your Boy"), Raven-Symonι's cover of Mulan's "True to Your Heart", and a generic recording of "When You Wish Upon a Star." While something like this is hard to object to, it doesn't outweigh the convenience of Amazon, who I certainly would have used had I gotten proper advance notice of Disney's stunt.

When you wish upon a star... (as Geppetto does from his bedroom window) ...your dreams come true (like a marionette becoming your wooden son, wearing a nice vest, and holding an apple for his first day of school).

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Pinocchio has stood the test of time better than any of Walt Disney's other animated films and also practically every live-action movie from Hollywood's Golden Age. It may have been the studio's second feature, but it is second to none as an affecting, enchanting tale that has only grown more potent with the passing of nearly seventy years.

This Platinum Edition DVD doesn't set any record for bonus features and most of them have become expected and almost ordinary. Still, this is a great set that has been long overdue for what I wouldn't hesitate to call Walt's finest film. Even ignoring the terrific extras, Pinocchio is one of a very few films that no home video collection can be complete without.

Buy Pinocchio: Platinum Edition from Amazon.com: DVD / Blu-ray / The Book by Carlo Collodi

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Related Reviews:
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Platinum Edition • Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition • Bambi: Platinum Edition • Cinderella: Platinum Edition
Peter Pan: Platinum Edition • Lady and the Tramp: Platinum Edition • 101 Dalmatians: Platinum Edition • The Jungle Book: Platinum Edition
The Little Mermaid: Platinum Edition • Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition • Aladdin: Platinum Edition • The Lion King: Platinum Edition
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Reviewed March 6 - March 11, 2009.