Time was, before DVDs and even, yikes, home videos, the folks at Disney kept their animated classics under lock and key.
I’m not certain this was literal, no more than I’m certain Uncle Walt isn’t lying frozen inside the Cinderella castle.
Anyway, as a marketing strategy it was pretty shrewd. Every seven years, as a new generation of prime-target tots came of age, Disney would release a film. It was a constant rotation, almost biblical in its consistency — like seven years of fat and seven years of lean.
Except, mostly it was fat, with wonderful works of art like “Bambi,” “Fantasia,” and “Lady and the Tramp” returning to the big screen on a regular basis. But then came the home entertainment industry, which typically out grosses theatrical releases and the Disney machine applied its strategy to a different market — DVDs. And instead of a steady seven-year rotation, they became caught up in anniversaries and the like.
So it has come to pass that possibly the greatest — certainly, the greatest looking — Disney classic is back on the shelves. “Pinocchio” is celebrating its 70th anniversary (well, technically, its 69th since it was first released in 1940) and Disney is doing it up in a big way.
Thus, “Pinocchio, The Platinum Edition,” available for the first time on 2-disc DVD, as well as Blu-ray. The DVD is loaded with the usual extras: commentary, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette. Plus trivia, games, puzzles, a music video version of “When You Wish Upon a Star” (I’ll pass) and even an alternate ending (Pinocchio stays a puppet?)
But hard as the staff may have worked on this enticing bundle of all things Pinocchio — or just plain Pinoch, as his best friend, conscience and guide, Jiminy Cricket would say — the most important aspect of this re-release is the movie itself.
All spruced up with a digital restoration (enhanced sound and picture), “Pinocchio” looks as good as gold. Or perhaps platinum.
The story remains the same — and much different from the original Carlo Collodi tale, in which the puppet squashed his cricket companion flat in the first few pages. In the Disney version, as we like to say, Jiminy (voiced by Cliff “Ukulele Ike” Edwards) stays with our little wooden hero (voiced by Dickie Jones) through the perils of Stromboli’s Circus, Monstro the Whale and, creepiest of all, Pleasure Island, where greedy little boys are turned into jackasses. Literally.
For years, one of my favorite Disney characters was J. Worthington Foulfellow, a flamboyant fox who specialized in leading little puppets astray on their way to school. His companion is a beaten-up, tipsy, mute cat named Gideon. Ironically Gideon is voiced by THE greatest voice in animation history, Mel Blanc. I think all Blanc gets out is a burp or a hiccup.
The point, however, isn’t the way “Pinocchio” sounds, but how it looks — the most masterful hand-drawn animation ever done. There was a time, back in the ’70s and early ’80s when “Pinocchio” was the pet of film insiders, often ending on the same “Best of” lists as “Citizen Kane” and “The Searchers.”
Give yourself a break and the kids a treat. Let them see what a masterwork looks like. Maybe they’ll realize that not everything Woody and Buzz did was for the good of humankind.
Editor’s note: Eleanor Ringel Cater is a founding contributor to likethedew.com. This article was distributed by Georgia Online News Service.