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Pinocchio DVD Review (Limited Issue/Gold Collection)

Pinocchio (1940) movie poster - click to buy and browse through others Pinocchio

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

Director: Ben Sharpsteen

Voice Cast: Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Cliff Edwards (Jiminy Cricket), Christian Rub (Geppetto), Charles Judles (Stromboli/The Coachman), Evelyn Venable (The Blue Fairy), Frankie Darro (Lampwick), Walter Catlett (J. Worthington Foulfellow), Don Brodie (Barker)

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

Awards: Academy Awards - Best Song ("When You Wish Upon a Star"), Best Original Score (Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith, Ned Washington)

Click to buy Pinocchio: Platinum Edition, now available on Disney DVD.

On March 10, 2009, Disney reissued Pinocchio in 2-Disc Platinum Edition DVD and Blu-ray editions. This new "70th Anniversary" set boasts a remastered transfer plus a large number of exclusive bonus features.
Click here to read our Pinocchio: Platinum Edition review, here to buy Pinocchio: Platinum Edition DVD from Amazon.com, and here to buy Pinocchio: Platinum Edition Blu-ray from Amazon.com. Or read on for our critique of the film's original Limited Issue/Gold Collection DVD.

Review by Jake Lipson

There are certain movies that everyone considers classics. They are timeless pieces of art that push the boundaries of their medium while telling an joyful story that will entertain us for generations. They combine all of the elements of fine moviemaking to create something rare, unique, engrossing and special.

In addition, every hardcore movie buff has a select few movies that they will always feel a strong personal attachment to. Classic or not, these movies are important to them personally. You have them, I have them, and so do your friends and family. Maybe one of yours introduced you to a new genre, or showed them something they'd never seen before. Perhaps it's the movie that you replayed endlessly as a kid. It could be a movie that you saw with your best friend, or the movie you saw on your first date. Maybe it's just your personal favorite. But, for whatever reason, it's very special to you.

Geppetto pulls the strings to make his wooden puppet look up at him Honest John looks less than forthright in this wink.

Pinocchio is both a universal classic and emotionally connected to my life. I'll always be especially fond of it because it was the first movie I ever saw in a movie theater. I went during the June 1992 reissue, I was four, and I was so terrified that I wanted to leave before the previews started. But I didn't, and I loved the story of how Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) came to believe in wishing upon a star.

One night during his travels, he stumbled upon the cottage of the kindly but lonely toymaker Geppetto (Christian Rub), who wishes that his beloved wooden puppet could be a real boy. During his sleep, the Blue Fairy (Evelyn Venable) gives some degree of life to Pinocchio (Dickie Jones) so that that the wish may come true. Now alive, Pinocchio is capable of movement and speech, but he's still a little wooden head. The Blue Fairy tells him that in order to become a real boy and fulfill Geppetto's wish, he must prove himself brave, honest, and loyal, with his conscience helping to tell him the difference between right and wrong.
But Pinocchio doesn't know what conscience is, and in explaining, Jiminy inadvertently ends up being assigned to act as conscience for the pine child. But, sadly, he's not much help, as innocent and unknowing Pinocchio has several hilarious and heartwarming misadventures. These encounters could either allow him to prove himself worthy of boyhood, or threaten to keep him wooden -- or worse -- and away from his father forever.

Originally released as the initial "Limited Issue" title October 26, 1999 and later under the "Gold Classic Collection" label March 7, 2000, Pinocchio became the first Disney animated classic ever to be released on DVD, just as it had been for VHS in 1986. Although there had been some hope that the Gold version would be a special edition disc, both releases were identical in every aspect of their disappointing content. The only justification I can think of for releasing it this way is because of how Disney felt about DVD at the time. When they released this gem on DVD, Disney was extremely tepid and unsure of their devotion to the then-new format, so thus their original discs were all barebones. As such, there isn't much for me to discuss in this review.

Buy Pinocchio on DVD from Amazon.com Marketplace DVD Details

1.33:1 Original Aspect Ratio (Fullscreen)
Dolby Digital 4.0 (English, French)
Subtitles: English; Closed Captioned
Limited Issue Release Date: October 26, 1999
Gold Collection Repackage Date: March 7, 2000
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $29.99
Out of Print
White Keepcase

Video: Just look at it!

As a result of the lack of bonus features, the movie has the disc almost all to itself. Pinocchio is presented in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, and it looks great. While this image will fill today's standard 4x3 televisions, fear not!
It was originally released in 1940, long before filmmakers began to create their images in widescreen frames. At the time, all movies were shot in this ratio, and thus, the 1.33:1 presentation properly preserves the movie as Walt Disney and his team meant it to be seen, and is not pan and scan like so many of Disney's live action catalog titles unfortunately are.

High on the heels of the 1937 breakthrough of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Pinocchio helped animation to evolve as much as anything else has ever done. Its very stylized animation perfectly suits the story, and allowed Disney artists to expand vastly upon their already incredible foundation. The movie has several incredible scenes, and never ceases to amaze as well as enthrall. Over sixty years after it originally got audiences' adrenaline pumping, the climactic Monstro sequence is still chillingly terrifying and breathlessly exciting.

Pinocchio has a very unique animation style, and I'm very happy to report that the debut DVD replicates it wonderfully. Disney presents it on DVD in a new THX certified transfer which was taken from a restoration done in the '90s and is very good, and is helped considerably by the capabilities of the DVD format. It makes for a very solid show. Colors are appropriately deep and rich, and there are no problems with grain, blemishes, or print defects of any kind. It goes without saying that this blows my old '90s VHS tape out of the water. It is currently the definitive, best-looking version of the movie released on any format for Region 1 owners, and I'm very glad to have it.

Donkey-eared Pinocchio doesn't seem to agree with Sebastian the crab's claim that darling it's better down where it's wetter.

However, I found it lacking a certain something extra on display in abundance in Disney's more recent high-profile animated classic DVD restorations such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland Masterpiece Edition. These beauties all received stunning restorations by Lowry Digital Imaging for their DVD releases, and the good news is that Pinocchio also underwent a similar, significant restoration by the Lowry team for the recent Special Edition re-release in Region 2. The bad news is that while the new print will eventually find its way into Region 1 homes, it won't be for quite a while yet because of a revision that fans would otherwise consider a good thing.

In May 2003, Disney pleased fans when it announced plans to accelerate the timeframe for the release of the DVDs in the Platinum Edition lineup, the top-selling titles in their animated classics library. Previously, only one of these feature-packed double-disc sets would be released per year, but beginning in 2005, the number per year will be upped to two (one in March and one in the current October slot.) In addition to the speedup, Disney added some new titles to the collection, including Pinocchio. After covering all of the original lineup and two of the 2003 additions, the studio will finally get to Pinocchio in March 2009 when it releases a 70th Anniversary Platinum Edition on DVD and Blu-ray.

Audio: What's all that noisy racket?

Sound and music always play a very important part in Disney animated classics, and Pinocchio is no exception. It includes great sound effects, a very strong score, and some of the best songs ever written, the most widely known being "When You Wish Upon A Star." For its highly-anticipated inaugural DVD, Disney elected to present its soundtrack in Dolby Digital 4.0. (A French dub is also included as an alternate audio track.) Although I don't have a fancy sound system of any kind, from what I heard, this sounds very solid and clear with no distortion, and there was never any point where I had trouble hearing or understanding the mix. Even without the extra oomph that a 5.1 mix provides, this is probably as good as a 1940s film is going to sound on DVD, and obviously nothing is going to make this a surround sound experience like today's blockbusters. So all in all, no complaints can be had with this exellent audio presentation.

Like many Disney DVD menus of the late 1990s, Pinocchio's shows few frills. Pincchio's title screen is seen in its theatrical trailer.

Extras, Extras! Read all about it!

Ah, extras. This is where Disney's current release of Pinocchio fails to deliver the goods as it does on all other points. Despite the inclusion of a very brief making-of featurette on the VHS tape reissue that was released day and date with the Limited Issue DVD, nothing of the sort can be found here.
Despite originally being expected to pay much more for the DVD than the VHS -- the Limited Issue ran for $39.99 retail -- DVD fans were only rewarded with the original theatrical trailer for the first release in 1940. This is a nice inclusion for the fans and is especially interesting because it's so different from how movies are marketed now. Video quality is average, though grainy. It was obviously taken from the original print, and wasn't reconstructed from the restored footage.

Sadly, that's all that Disney saw fit with bothering to include on the DVD release of one of its most marvelous animated classics. But they did at least throw in a good laugh free of charge. If you need some quick humor, look no further than the back cover, which lists "full-color character artwork on disc" as a special feature. That's right, folks, the label on the top side of the disc that we all thought was standard is really a special feature. Huh. I don't know about you, but they could've fooled me. We should really thank Disney for alerting us to this fact, so that we can appreciate the artwork as a special bonus for this release. I had no idea it was so special, personally. I thought it was normal for most DVDs to have artwork. But I suppose not. I should find out who designed the disc artwork, call him, and thank him for producing such a detailed, exquisite portrait of Geppetto painting the puppet Pinocchio so that it could be included on the DVD for us all. It's such a privilege to own this wonderful piece of artwork. If I didn't have to save the disc so I could watch the movie, I would frame it just so I could wake up every morning and see this amazing piece of art on my wall, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way. I think I speak for the entire world when I say that this is the finest piece of artwork ever produced. It truly deserves to hang on the wall right next to the Mona Lisa.

Let's all wish upon a star that the Platinum Edition is much better (as it should and will be) and finally gives this wonderful, timeless movie its due share of meaty, entertaining, and informative extras on DVD. Let's also beg for it to come to us devoted fans very soon.

Packaging and Presentation: Just in case you do judge a DVD by its cover....

Pinocchio came home on DVD in a standard white keepcase. The insert is a single sheet of relatively thick paper. One side features a picture of the cover art, and the other includes the list of sequences you can pick from on the scene selection menu. There are a grand total of 24 chapter stops on the DVD.

Although Disney had originally announced that Pinocchio would only be available for 60 days before going out of print, the Limited Issue version sold extremely poorly (obviously due to a high SRP, ridiculously sparse extra content, and a general lack of promotion.) Left with an excess of unsold discs at the end of the 60-day period, Disney re-released Pinocchio under the Gold Collection label six months later. The Gold Collection DVD is a direct repackaging of the Limited Issue; only the labeling was changed. The cover and disc artwork is the same except for the new Gold Collection label being in place of a "Limited Issue" title.

It is even common to find a disc or insert labeled "Limited Issue" inside a "Gold Collection" case. Don't worry, it's not defective or a bootleg. Disney was just trying to use up the Limited Issue discs and inserts before pressing new nearly-identical Gold Collection ones. The same is true for Mulan, and (albeit to a lesser extent) Hercules (which had a redesign in its packaging for the rerelease on the market now.)

Also of note is that both the Limited Issue and Gold Collection versions of Pinocchio are now out of print in Region 1, with the re-release being discontinued on January 31, 2002. As such, Pinocchio DVDs are nearly impossible to find in stores and very expensive collector's items.

The Blue Fairy comes to a caged Pinocchio's rescue.

The End - Wait, it's over already?

To its credit, Disney's DVD release of Pinocchio does present the movie in very fine fashion, with a good transfer and a solid soundtrack. But because of the lack of extras, it's hard for me to recommend trying to find this now-rare, out-of-print release. If you do happen to run across it for a reasonably nice price, you'll do well to buy it to have the movie on such a good-looking DVD. Otherwise, it's probably not worth going through all the trouble to hunt down, and certainly not worth spending lots of money for on eBay. The only reason I can find to justify that is if for some reason you absolutely have to have this now. Even then importing Region 2 special edition would probably be easier than finding the Region 1 disc. All in all, with so much going for it, not to mention the classic status of the movie, it pains me that I can't tell you that you simply must own this disc.

Buy from Amazon.com Marketplace

Buy from Amazon.com Marketplace

Click to buy Pinocchio: Platinum Edition, now available on Disney DVD.

On March 10, 2009, Disney reissued Pinocchio in 2-Disc Platinum Edition DVD and Blu-ray editions. This new "70th Anniversary" set boasts a remastered transfer plus a large number of exclusive bonus features.
Click here to read our Pinocchio: Platinum Edition review, here to buy Pinocchio: Platinum Edition DVD from Amazon.com, and here to buy Pinocchio: Platinum Edition Blu-ray from Amazon.com.

Related Reviews:
Pinocchio: Platinum Edition (1940)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) | Bambi (1942) | Dumbo (1941) | Fun and Fancy Free (1947)
Fantasia & Fantasia 2000: The Fantasia Anthology | The Adventures of Ichabod & Mr. Toad (1949) | Saludos Amigos & The Three Caballeros
Peter Pan (1953) | Sleeping Beauty (1959) | 101 Dalmatians (1961) | The Jungle Book (1967)
The Little Mermaid (1989) | Cinderella (1950) | Aladdin (1992) | Robin Hood (1973) | The Fox and the Hound (1981)
Jiminy Cricket: Sing Along Songs: The Bare Necessities - The Jungle Book

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Reviewed March 5, 2004.

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