Pinocchio

Talkie of the Week: Disney Series

USA 1940, 88 minutes, Technicolor, Walt Disney Pictures. Distributed by: RKO Radio Pictures, Based on “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi

Plot summary: When wood-carver Geppetto makes a wish for his puppet Pinocchio to turn into a real boy, he doesn’t expect his dream to come true.

Pinocchio posterReview: When you wish upon a star, makes no difference who you are. Anything your heart desires will come to you.

Do you remember the melody and those lyrics written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, a perfect composition for children of all ages?

If your heart is in your dream, no request is too extreme. When you wish upon a star as dreamers do.

Whenever I hear it, I can’t stop singing along. It’s such a catchy tune, such a lovely song rightly rewarded with an Academy Award and later selected as Disney’s signature tune.

For all of you who grew up watching Disney movies, Pinocchio is probably a film that stands out in your memories. Based on Carlo Collodi’s Le Avventure di Pinnochio, it was Disney’s second feature, a dream-like adaptation of Italian tales written for children between 1881 and 1883. Now considered a children’s classic, Collodi’s collection of stories introduced us to the adventures of a wooden puppet who was eventually given the chance to become a real boy. Not unlike Bambi in 1942, Pinocchio dealt with harsh realities in a charming way and confronted its audience with lessons on poverty, deceit and loss. Woven into a fantastic plot that allowed a marionette to come to life by grace of a stunning (Jean-Harlow-esque) Blue Fairy, Pinocchio offered children a glimpse into the pitfalls and dangers of a grownup world without disillusioning them. For adults, the plot offered a reflection on their own lives, especially in the early days of WWII.

Although blessed with positive reviews upon release, the film was not immediately considered a success but only gradually brought in the production coasts. Re-released several times, Pinocchio is now a Disney treasure available on DVD and Blu-ray. Colorful and imaginative, the film has preserved its potential to win over any child by passing on key values such as courage, honesty and unselfishness. It is a film that may be more important now than it’s ever been, a classic gem that only grows on you with age.

Refresh your memories of Pinocchio by watching the trailer here.

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Sleeping Beauty

Talkie of the Week: Disney Series

USA 1959, 76 minutes, Technicolor / Technirama, Walt Disney Productions, Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution. Based on La Belle au Bois Dormant by Charles Perrault, with music arrangements from Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s ballet Sleeping Beauty

Plot summary: On her sixteenth birthday, Princess Aurora is doomed to prick her finger on a spindle and fall asleep until her true love comes to kiss her awake.

Sleeping-Beauty-PosterReview: As a child, I dreamed of being a great sketch artist. I wanted to be able to draw characters as cute as Minnie Mouse and as easy on the eyes as one of Disney’s early princesses. Sleeping Beauty was my favorite. I had a picture of her in a book, a book I read so often, its binding is now broken. Luckily, the picture is still as immaculate as Aurora’s beauty and I thus still cherish the artwork as one of Disney’s best. Truth be told, I cannot recall watching the film when I was little but that book has left a lasting impression on me. Watching the film now, as a grown-up, is like adding voices to a film I have already seen on paper many times. And it is every bit as wonderful as I had always imagined. Especially the three fairies, Flora, Fauna and Merryweather won my heart. Their warmth, woolgathering and practical sense of humor puts the cherry on top of a film that turned out to be Disney’s last fairytale until The Little Mermaid revived the genre in 1989.

To summarize the story: on her day of christening, Princess Aurora is blessed with beauty and song by two good fairies. Maleficent, their evil peer, drops in uninvited and casts a spell on the baby princess: on her sixteenth birthday, she shall prick her finger on a spindle and die. A third good fairy tries her best to attenuate the curse and rephrases it so the princess will only fall into a deep slumber that can only be broken by true love. Alarmed by their daughter’s destiny, the King and Queen ban all spinning wheels from their kingdom and entrust their only child in the care of the three good fairies to keep her safe from harm. Raised as Briar Rose, the princess spends an enchanted childhood in a remote little house in the woods. Unaware of her title and status, she reaches her sixteen’s birthday but is ultimately unable to escape her fate. Saved by Prince Phillip who fell in love with her voice and charm, she breaks the malicious spell and lives happily ever after.

Considered corny and trite by some in our cynical times, Princess Aurora and her dashing prince are still beautiful to look at while their story remains engaging and timeless. Although released in January 1959, production started as early as 1951 and kept designers, musicians and actors busy over the course of nearly a complete decade. Inspired by medieval times, Sleeping Beauty’s visual style set itself apart from Disney’s previous productions. Princess Aurora and her prince, however, were once again based on live action models, following a tradition Cinderella and Snow White had started before them. Despite the praise for its elegant villain, the film (like other productions of the era) fell surprisingly flat with audiences and critics alike. Now considered a Disney classic, it may be hard to understand why. Based on a fairytale classic, Sleeping Beauty introduced new aesthetics as well as wonderful musical arrangements. Sadly, though, it did not manage to create the kind of sparkle Pinocchio and Bambi had a decade or two earlier. Still breathtaking in its detail and color today, the feature film can be marveled at in full length on DVD and Blu-ray. A true gem for anyone who still has a heart for some good old-fashioned romance and three genuine fairies who are a treat of their own.