Walt Disney not only started animation with a bang with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937; Disney’s second film would also be of critical acclaim. In fact, it is the only Disney animated feature to have been awarded Rotten Tomatoes’ 100% tomatometer, indicating 39 “fresh” reviews from registered critics. Roger Ebert of Chicago’s Sun-Times had this to say:
“The beauty of Pinocchio is that what happens to Pinocchio seems plausible to the average kid – unlike what happens, say, to the Little Mermaid. Kids may not understand falling in love with a prince, but they understand not listening to your father, and being a bad boy, and running away and getting into real trouble. The movie is genuinely exciting and romantic, great to look at, and timeless.”
While I do agree, to an extent, what Ebert is saying, I have three major problems with this film. Pinocchio needs to prove himself “brave, truthful, and unselfish” before he turns into a real boy, and yet, he never undergoes any metaphysical transformation at any point of this film. While the beast from Beauty and the Beast demonstrates his ability to love by giving up his dreams of becoming human again, something he would have never done prior to Belle arriving at his castle, Pinocchio does not demonstrate any learned lessons from his experiences. Pinocchio always loved his father, so it is not surprising that he would act courageously when it came time to rescue him from the whale. Pinocchio should have learned the virtue of honesty from his fairy godmother, and yet, when his father is shocked at his donkey ears, Pinocchio casually responds by saying, “Oh, these! Huh, that’s nothing. I got a tail, too!” Why didn’t his nose grow long again? This is a blatant lie! Did the movie just forget that we watched a boy drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes?!? In what should have been a really big, or at least touching, moment in the film, Pinocchio does not concede that he did bad things, which may be considered a selfish act on the part of his reputation.
Moreover, Pinocchio never disobeys his father, never runs away, and never was a bad boy. If anything, he was a naïve boy who was captured, which made his father worried. Had the movie been able to recognize their own character and his actions, they may have been able to save this movie from disaster.
The last and most important problem I have with this film is that it is not a kid’s movie. Would you expect a kid’s movie to have someone take kids off the streets in the same fashion a pimp or rapist would? Would you expect a kid’s movie to use the word “jackass” on multiple occasions? Would you expect a kid’s movie to have kids doing drugs? It’s one way to get their point across, but the manner in which they try to tell kids: don’t let strangers abuse you, don’t lie, don’t do drugs, is oftentimes very scary. It is fifteen minutes of pure entertainment until Pinocchio turns alive and makes you wish he stayed a puppet.