Pinocchio (1940)

About halfway through “Pinocchio,” it occurred to me that perhaps my memories of this early Disney classic were better than the actual movie. Mind you, it’s cute and all, but it wasn’t really all that engaging, with little misadventures leading the plot forward in a “and then this happens, and then that happens” structure that’s, at best, tepid and repetitive. However, from the time our naïve protagonist arrives at Pleasure Island, everything changes: The infamous donkey transformation scene is just as powerful and downright horrific as it was when I was a child, and from that point on I was transported back to my original viewing experience of it as a young child. I mean, the donkey thing is hard for kids to take but it’s an extraordinarily effective tool for reinforcing the movie’s theme (which basically boils down to “think before you act and be responsible”), and it leads to an absolutely spectacular climax involving Monstro the giant whale. For real, the climax is actually kind of scary in a real way; at that point we’re attached to the characters so the stakes are high, which is underlined by an operatic, majestic score and some of the most beautiful, old-school animation I think I’ve ever seen. So in the end, re-watching “Pinocchio” turned into quite an experience: I went from mild disappointment to exalted appreciation over the course of 80ish minutes, and walked away with new memories of enjoying it. So I highly recommend it if you haven’t seen it in a while, it holds up… but you may need to be a little patient at first.

Rating: ★★★★★ (out of 5)

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