“When you wish upon a star . . . Anything your heart desires will come to you.” That’s what the famous song says in 1940's Pinocchio and yet it’s a film with a consistent message about how the easy route is never the right route to what you want. It’s an incredibly complex, strange, funny, and beautiful film. Snow White is a great achievement in animation but Pinocchio is really Disney’s first great film.
Based on a darker 1883 story by Carlo Collodi, the Disney film is a sterling example of the Disney attitude and aesthetic perfectly suiting a subject for adaptation. The less human a character looks, the easier time the animators had working with him. The dwarfs in Snow White are much more developed than Snow White herself and Sleeping Beauty is really a movie about the fairy godmothers, not Aurora. The princess is an archetype, though, so it works on that level. Pinocchio is an everyman, or everyboy—even more than that, or less, he’s a blank slate. But he’s little, he has a big head and big eyes. He’s expressive, he’s all emotion, not a lot of brains.
Which is where Jiminy Cricket comes in, of course. He’s there to help finish the job started by Geppetto, with his wish, and the Blue Fairy, with her magic. But ultimately its up to Pinocchio himself to determine whether he has what it takes to be a real boy or if he’s going to just be a real jackass.
Speaking of movies that may not align with current moral standards, it’s a testament to the film’s position in the Disney canon that nothing in it has been cgied out on Disney+. Not Pinocchio smoking a big fat cigar, not Geppetto’s wonderfully naughty cuckoo clocks.
And it works marvellously well because of it; it feels honest.
So many people have analysed and discussed this film and the Pinocchio story in general. Maybe you’re one of the more than a million people who’s watched Jordan Peterson’s nice lecture on YouTube. It’s amazing so many people apparently stuck around for more than two hours for a university lecture—albeit a particularly good one. I saw video where Noam Chomsky was asked about Jordan Peterson. Chomsky laughed derisively and claimed never to have watched one of Peterson’s videos, instead referring to an article he’d read about Peterson which he felt said everything needed to be said about Peterson. The article, “The Intellectual We Deserve”, basically asserts that Peterson is overrated but suited to an “impoverished political and intellectual landscape”. Spoken like someone who doesn’t like kids.
Many of Peterson’s fans consider him a modern day philosopher on the level of Nietzsche or Kant. That’s definitely going too far. But what Peterson is—or was, if the mysterious ailment that has silenced him is permanent—is a very good lecturer. A good lecturer who’s successfully transferred his intelligence and talent to a popular medium at a time when students find university lectures thin on substance, dominated by the shallow and yet bottomless well of deconstructionism. Here’s a guy who can actually talk about Freud and Jung and Dostoevsky, offer his interpretation of their ideas, and apply them to a subject in a way that captures the imaginations of students who are being exposed to these things for the first time.
He draws people’s attention to the fact that the film’s message is still very good and very relevant, all too relevant in a world where the myriad forms of instant gratification on the internet can turn people into helpless jackasses. I love that part of the Pleasure Island story—when the kids are turned into donkeys for slave labour. Of course, if you pursue only idle pleasure, you’re not going to cultivate the willpower to assert yourself when you need to.
The film is filled with potent, dreamlike scenarios. I love how the whale, Monstro, is put together in the film. There’s not one thing about him reflective of actual physics or anatomy, from his habit of sleeping on the sea floor like a big sack of goo, to his hollowed out interior. Somehow being swallowed by him puts you in a spot where you can see his spine.
I hadn’t watched the film since I was a kid so it was wonderfully refreshing when I watched it last week. Pinocchio is available on Disney+—for now.
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Another cup of tea invites the nose.
Deceptive watches click beside the breast.
The shadows strike a strangely normal pose.
Decisions number hearts among the best.
A paper wall detains a shadow passing through.
The lantern tricks deliver dreams to night.
The solemn gang has endless things to do.
Projected noise creates a sonic fight.
Tomatoes grow again beneath the cloud.
The endless muddy pond contains the seeds.
The dot of health would make the lettuce proud.
Another pod was filled with hungry beads.
Insistent rice has filmed the grainy shot.
From crimson choice, the bev’rage can was hot.