Cinema: The New Pictures: Feb. 26, 1940

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Pinocchio (Disney-RKO) is the world's third full-length cartoon movie.* It is Disney's second, and in every respect except its score his best. In craftsmanship and delicacy of drawing and coloring, in the articulation of its dozens of characters, in the greater variety and depth of its photographic effects, it tops the high standard Snow White set. The charm, humor and loving care with which it treats its inanimate characters puts it in a class by itself.

Since the Disney studio works as a collective enterprise (1,200 people worked two years to produce Pinocchio), it is difficult to evaluate Walt Disney's exact share in the picture. Disney himself always says "we" instead of "I" in talking about his productions. But the producer's hand is apparent in Cleo, the coyly diaphanous goldfish; in the fluffy antics of Figaro, the kitten; above all in the creation of Jiminy Cricket.

Like Carlo Collodi's children's classic, the picture is a morality tale. Kindly old Wood Carver Geppetto carves a puppet so lifelike that he is given life. But before the live puppet can become a boy he must become truthful, courageous, unselfish. His one constant companion in the adventures that test the little puppet is Jiminy Cricket, his conscience, "that still, small voice that nobody listens to." This worldly but goodhearted little insect, topped by a grey topper and swinging an umbrella ("a genuine Chamberlain" which he sometimes uses for a parachute), comes to work late the very first day, fails Pinocchio when he needs his conscience most, despairs when Pinocchio despairs, is chirpingly cheerful when the puppet is. He is a fresh little fellow, too, who always calls Pinocchio "Pinoak," yells, "Break it up, boys," to the marine life that gets under his feet. When Monstro the Whale sneezes catastrophically, Jiminy says: "Gesundheit." Most people will call Jiminy Cricket the most human character in Pinocchio and Disney's best inspiration. Grimmest inspiration is Pleasure Island, where little boys turn into asses. Not the moral, but the one vulgarly realistic false note, will scare the wits out of little boys and girls, too.

In cartooning, technique is almost as important as inspiration. Articulation in Pinocchio is much better than in Snow White, and the animals are better articulated than the human characters.

And technique has added one new effect to Pinocchio that Snow White did not have—terror. The peeping eyes in the night scenes in Snow White were scary, the beautifully drawn buzzards (of which Manhattan's Metropolitan Museum of Art now owns one sketch) were ghoulish. But in Pinocchio the plunging, charging whale, Monstro, is terrifying.

Nor are there any characters in Snow White to compare with J. Worthington Foulfellow, the actor-fox, who sells Pinocchio to the puppet show, or his shabby, screwloose, unscrupulous companion, Giddy, the cat. In satirizing this pair of ham actors, Disney is working on a new plane. This is no longer the playful caricaturing of old Wood Carver Geppetto, the frolicsome kitten or Jiminy Cricket. Foulfellow and Giddy are savage adult satire. They are even out of place in a children's picture. But they suggest the direction Disney may take if he ever makes a greater picture than Pinocchio.

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