Pinocchio Turns 70 and Goes Bluby Tony Phoenix, staff writer
- DVD Release Date: March 10, 2009
- Original Theatrical Release: February 2, 1940
- 1.33:1 (Original 4:3 format)
- Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, Blu-Ray: 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio
- French and Spanish Language Tracks
- Subtitles: Closed Captioned
- Suggested Retail Price: $29.99 / $35.99 Blu-Ray
It has been nearly 70 years since Pinocchio was first released by Walt Disney to the world. Today, the strains of When You Wish Upon A Star are instantly recognizable to all of us. Pinocchio's nose growing as he told a lie has been used by countless parents to teach their children the importance of telling the truth. Its influence on our culture cannot be overstated.
Disney last released Pinocchio as a standalone DVD in 1999. That edition was a basic recut of the VHS release, with a few enhancements. I popped my copy of the 1999 release into the player first, to get an idea of what the movie looked like to recent generations. With this baseline in mind, I then loaded up the Blu-Ray movie disk to start my comparison.
Once you watch (or skip past) the obligatory promotional clips and anti-smoking PSA, the disk begins to play what looks almost like an old theater print zooming in on the window of Geppetto's workshop, with countles scratches and an audio track that is marred by constant hisses and popping. Suddenly, the Blue Fairy's wand appears, and the image slowly transforms to show the differences made by the restoration work. There is a bit more to this introduction, but I won't spoil it for you here. What a difference there is in this restoration. To be fair, the transformation is amplified by the use of that bad theater print they use at the beginning. The last DVD release was nowhere near that bad. But it is still amazing to see the changes to the film. Where images on the old DVD seemed to shimmy, they are rock solid here. The colors are clean, and there are no scratches or dust anywhere.
Image Copyright Walt Disney Studios
I do want to add an acknowledgment here to a controversy that has been brewing over this restoration in many of the animation purist circles. Some people are objecting, unhappy that the color palates have seemingly changed from the original, as the restoration has significantly lightened the darkest parts of the movie. While I understand the criticism, the ability to see the artwork so clearly is worth it, in my opinion. For example, in the beginning of the first act, for the first time in my lifetime you can see the detail of Geppetto's village and the mountains behind the town. On the old DVD release, all you really sense are shadows. The restoration did not create the detail, it just made it more visible.
The movie is well known, so I won't bore you with a recap of the story. But, there is one very nice touch that was done with this restoration. On the 1999 DVD release, the Studio title card was for Buena Vista Pictures, using a modern version of that logo. With this new release, that title card has been removed, and the original RKO Pictures title card has been returned to the opening.
This new commentary, featuring Leonard Maltin (Film Critic), Eric Goldberg (Disney Animator & Director) and J. B. Kaufman (film historian & author of upcoming book on Pinocchio) was recorded just for this release. It is an interesting commentary, looking at not just trivia about the film, since none of the commentators were involved in the actual movie production, they instead include clips of comments from the original artists and crew. Animation buffs will really find it worth watching. Blu-ray owners can use the Cine-Explore feature to get an accompanying picture-in-picture feature that enhances the commentary.
Pinocchio Matter of Facts
Enabling this option will play the movie with popup windows featuring trivia about the movie. The Blu-ray version of this goodie is much cleaner and easier to read.
Disney Song Selection
Features a modern music video of When You Wish... performed by Meaghan Jette Martin. It also includes clips of different songs from the movie and subtitles for the songs so you can sing along. This is a cute feature, but has minimal repeat value.
Disney View (Blu-ray only)
The movie with Disney View. Copyright Walt Disney Studios
One of the major complaints people have had about widescreen movies is that they don't like the black bars at the top and bottom of the image. The complaint changes when you move to an HDTV that is a widescreen format (16x9). When you have a movie like Pinocchio, you end up with black bars on the left and right sides of the film. Anticipating this, Disney created "Disney View." Animator Toby Bluth was commissioned to create the black bars with 16 different hand painted designs that complement and frame the film. At first, the artwork was a nice addition, but the transition to a different set several times throughout the movie became distracting .
Pinocchio Matter of Facts (Blu-ray only)
Trivia games have long been a staple of Disney DVDs. Unfortunately, the repeatability of these trivia games is, well, non-existent. Thankfully, the Matter of Facts game in this release overcomes that problem. When you begin, you are given a number of choices: How long to play for (10-90 minutes), as an individual or as a group of up to four people, and easy or challenging questions. Once you make your choices, the game begins. The power of the Java engine that powers Blu-ray come through here. The more correct answers you get, the shorter Pinocchio's nose gets, and the higher your score goes. This should be a lot of fun to play as an individual, as a family, or with a group of friends for a movie night.
No Strings Attached: The Making of Pinocchio
A clip from No Strings Attached. Copyright Walt Disney Studios
This hour-long documentary looks at the making of the movie. Historians and animators (including several people who worked on the film) talk about the challenges faced in making the movie. Photos, concept art and sketches, and screen test intermingle with the comments and memories. Given that this was planned as the third movie to be released by Disney Studios, and ended up bumping Bambi to become the second release, there is a lot of discussion about the challenges encountered with the story and the character development.
The book Pinocchio was published as a serial, with 'episodes' published over time in a magazine. There were a number of different episodes available to the Disney animation team. This goodie looks at three of those episodes. The first is the Story of the Grandfather Tree where Geppetto tells Pinocchio of the great pine tree from which Pinocchio is decended. The second looks at a different proposal for Geppetto's experience inside the whale, and the third presents a different ending, showing how Pinocchio became a real boy. Unlike modern films where deleted scenes are often completely finished for the DVD, these three are made up only of the original storyboards, and are presented using the original story notes that were retained with the boards. There is also a recording of 'Honest John,' a song written for the movie and released as a promotional recording prior to the movie's release.
A clip from the Sweatbox featurette. Copyright Walt Disney Studios
When working on a film, Walt Disney would hold review meetings to go over rough animation, dailies, and more. These meetings were held in the 'Sweatbox,' a small projection room at the Hyperion Studio. This short seven-minute goodie looks at how Walt used this room to effectively control the production
Live Action Reference Gallery
This ten-minute clip shows archival footage of live-action reference footage that was used in the making of Pinocchio.
A series of games are available, ranging from a very simple puzzle hosted by Jiminy Cricket available on both DVD and Blu-ray, to some very detailed carnival games from Pleasure Island available on Blu-ray only.
Disk 3 (Blu-ray only)
For the first time ever, Disney has included a DVD disk as part of their Blu-ray release. While Blu-ray players can play DVDs, DVD Players cannot play Blu-ray disks. Since so many people have DVD players in their car, laptop, or portable DVD players for the kids having the movie on DVD was a nice addition.
Image Copyright Walt Disney Studios
The Final Evaluation
Adding this DVD to your collection is a no brainer. Even if you don't have a Blu-ray player, I really recommend buying the Blu-ray edition. You get both the Blu-ray disks, and the same Disk 1 as the regular DVD release. This allows you to watch the movie on your existing DVD player and when you eventually replace it with a Blu-ray player, you will be able to enjoy the full version. MSRP is on $5 higher for the Blu-ray version, so there really is no excuse not to get the best quality disk.