Disney has a repository of characters that are iconic to its brand. Pinocchio is certainly one of them.
In 1940, pinocchio was the second-ever animated film that Disney made, right after the critical success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). It was adapted by Walt Disney from a 1883 Italian children’s novel called The Adventures of Pinocchio written by Carlo Collodi. While the character’s story remained the same as the book, Disney made tweaks to the character to make it more likeable. Whatever happened during those creative discussions, it worked. The film was a spectacular success and is widely considered one of Disney’s greatest films.
Since then, the story has become engrained in pop culture and children’s storytelling for decades, appearing in everything from videogames to other Disney properties.
2022 alone will see the release of three pinocchio films. This Disney live-action adaptation that we will talk about, Guillermo del Toro’s animated film pinocchio coming to Netflix, and an English-dub of a Russian adaptation Pinocchio: A True Story.
This Disney live-action adaptation follows a similar plot as the original, with notable changes which we’ll discuss later. Here’s a snapshot: A woodcarver and toymaker named Geppetto (Tom Hanks) carves a puppet named Pinocchio. Before falling asleep, he wishes upon a bright star that Pinocchio be a real boy. The Blue Fairy (Cynthia Erivo) visits Geppetto’s workshop at night and brings Pinocchio (Benjamin Evan Ainsworth) to life, informing him that if he wishes to be a real boy as his father wishes, then he must prove that he is brave, truthful and unselfish. With some support from Jiminy Cricket (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), Pinocchio must face and overcome some shady characters along the way including Honest John (Keegan-Michael Key), Stromboli (Giuseppe Battiston) and The Coachman (Luke Evans), all to ensure he makes his father proud.
A solid live-action reimagining
Disney has been on a roll creating live-action adaptations of its classic films over the last few decades. While they’ve been doing it since 1994, its only in the last decade or so that they’ve picked up the pace.
This adaptation of pinocchio brings forward the spectacle of Disney we’ve come to see in recent films by the company. Lots of colour, beautiful settings and sophisticated details in practically every aspect, all paired with beautiful music. With the human element running alongside the animation, you get to experience great performances like what Tom Hanks and Luke Evans give as Geppetto and The Coachman respectively in this production.
Geppetto’s workshop was a place of magic, filled with beautifully thought-out props and ornaments. There was a nod to Disney’s history in Geppetto’s workshop that I will let you experience yourself. I felt that it was a lovely touch, capturing the magic of Disney and its history.
The various settings of the film, such as Pleasure Island, are marvelous and spectacular. There is so much detail in the environments that it complements the live-action animation that is worked into the scenes.
My only issues with the film were around pace and dialogue. I felt at times the dialogue from some characters were a little hard to understand, maybe because of the volume of the voices vs the activities happening around, or if the accents used were a little too strong. It is by no means bad, but it did make it difficult to follow at times.
While I felt the story was well captured and framed, there were parts of the film that I felt could have been shortened or removed entirely. This would have helped with the pace of the story which at one point felt a little flat. It is about 20 minutes longer than the original animated.
However, the technical aspects that fell a little short didn’t mask the performances of the stars. I think Benjamin Evan Ainsworth gives a solid voice performance as Pinocchio, capturing the naivety and positive-attitude of the character we have all come to understand. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was wonderful at Jiminy Cricket; an energetic and captivating voice performance. Cynthia Erivo also dazzles as the Blue Fairy, pairing her beautiful voice with the lyrics of the iconic song “When You Wish Upon a Star”. Keegan-Michael Key is a wonderful choice as the voice of Honest John, bringing his comedic flare to the role.
Doesn’t follow all aspects of the original, and yet it still works
While the general gist of Pinocchio’s journey is captured in this adaptation, there are some notable changes. I won’t speak about them in complete context so I don’t spoil the film.
Firstly, the film features some new characters including Fabiana (Kyanne Lamaya), her marionette Sabina (Jaquita Ta’le) and Sofia The Seagull (Lorraine Bracco). I felt these characters were valuable additions to the film, changing up the story a little bit but adding a lot of value to Pinocchio’s journey. I felt Kyanne Lamaya is a wonderful addition to the cast and her character of Ella Fabiana will be an important, sequel-worthy character.
I also felt the film was a lot more toned down than the original, especially in terms of how Pinocchio and those around him behave. While Jiminy Cricket was meant to be Pinocchio’s conscience, I felt the character had a level of conscience already built into him, evident in many scenes where mischief and just bad behavior were expected. I felt the film purposefully positioned the character as such, and it works well for audiences today.
Lastly, while some aspects of the story are not like the original at all, the newer storyline I feel adds more value to the relationships. Pinocchio is a loving character, and often times his mischief of him and falling in with the wrong crowd clouds who he really is. The new storylines captured the inner boy he so desperately seeks to be, and that is a win I think for this adaptation.
Disney+ a right place for pinocchio?
I found it interesting that Disney+ was chosen as a launch-pad for this film rather than theatres, especially with the cast attached with this film. I know that the pandemic played a role in not-so-great box office numbers for certain films released in the last two years, and releasing the film on Disney+ would likely have been the safer bet.
However, I feel this is one of those films you could enjoy in the theaters. There is a lot of marvel and detail that a theater would spotlight. Lets hope that with Disney+’s wider accessibility, more audiences around the world get a chance to experience this magic. I would highly recommend you watch this on as big of a screen as possible rather than your handheld devices. Smaller devices won’t do the film justice.
pinocchio is a classic story and this live-action film respects many aspects of Walt Disney’s inspiration of the original while tweaking it for modern audiences. I am a big proponent of respecting source material, but I also feel that entertainment media needs to adapt to modern audiences. This is a welcomed addition to Disney’s ever growing live-action lineup and should be added to your casual watchlist.
pinocchio is now streaming on Disney+.
Cover Photo: Tom Hanks as Geppetto in PINOCCHIO, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.