Pinocchio appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. Across the board, this was a stellar presentation.
Sharpness consistently looked solid. Only the slightest hint of softness ever occurred, and those instances remained minor, so the vast majority of the film boasted fine clarity and definition.
I witnessed no signs of shimmering or jaggies, and edge enhancement also seemed to be absent. Expect no source flaws, either, as the transfer came totally free from specks, marks or other concerns.
Colors looked bold and bright, with no signs of bleeding or smearing. The film offered a broad palette that always appeared dynamic and concise.
Black levels were dark and firm, while shadows seemed smooth and clear. If any problems materialized here, I didn’t notice them, as I thought the flick looked fantastic.
Note that some Disney transfers have suffered from excessive digital noise reduction, but that didn’t become a concern here. While the image alleviated grain, it still maintained a good level of precision, and unlike some of its peers, it continued to “feel like a film”. I’d prefer to see some grain, but because the transfer avoided the glossy, smoothed-out look of others, I won’t complain.
In addition to the film’s original monaural mix, Pinocchio came with a remixed DTS-HD MA 7.1 track. For the most part, the soundfield seemed pretty well anchored in the center channel. The music spread to the sides a bit, and we heard the occasional effect from the right or left.
Nonetheless, it remained essentially a mono mix the majority of the time. The surrounds backed up the music gently and that's about it.
Really, this modest agenda was perfectly fine with me, for it didn't overreach the boundaries of what an 80-year-old mono track can produce. It added a bit of ambience to the experience, and that's all it needed to do.
Dialogue appeared a bit tinny but was always clear and intelligible, with a reasonable amount of depth to it. Music seemed clean and smooth, though those elements lacked much bass.
Effects were also fairly thin but acceptably realistic and without distortion. A few segments featured more prominent bass, such as during storms. Source noise remained absent.
Overall, this was a competent remix but not anything special. Honestly, I’d rather stick with the original monaural track, so I’m glad it’s here, albeit only in lossy form, unfortunately.
How did the Blu-ray compare to the 2009 70th Anniversary DVD? The lossless audio showed a bit more heft, though given the limitations of the source, we didn’t gain much.
Visuals offered the more obvious improvements, as the Blu-ray looked tighter, clearer and more vivid. As good as the DVD seemed, the BD topped it.
As we shift to extras, we start with an audio commentary from film historians JB Kaufman and Leonard Maltin and Disney animator/director Eric Goldberg.
All three sit together for a running, screen-specific chat that also incorporates archival remarks from animators Ward Kimball, Eric Larson, Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Wolfgang Reitherman and Ken Anderson. The track looks at the project’s origins and development, cast and crew, characters and performances, animation and art notes, songs and music, and other production areas.
Though this doesn’t become one of the best historical commentaries I’ve heard, it offers enough useful information to succeed. On the negative side, the three participants devote too much time to general praise for the film. Yes, Pinocchio was – and is – a remarkable achievement, but we don’t need to be told that over and over again. Also, I’d like to hear more of the archival tapes.
Commentaries for Snow White and Fantasia consist largely of old remarks from Walt Disney, and that format works well. A similar track for Pinocchio would’ve been great.
Nonetheless, I like this commentary and don’t want to sound too down on it. We find a mix of good details that help provide a nice overview for Pinocchio. There’s more than enough solid material here to sustain us.
Note that the disc also includes a Cine-Explore version of the commentary. This allegedly accompanies the discussion with archival materials.
I say “allegedly” because the option won’t play on my machine. The disc tells me it’ll only work on “players that support BonusView”. Given that other Cine-Explore titles functioned fine, this surprises me, but what’re ya gonna do? I tried two different brands of player with the same result.
Like many pre-widescreen Disney movies, Pinocchio offers the option to view it with DisneyView. This provides subtle, appropriate art in the black space on the side of the 1.78:1 image. It acts as a form of screen saver if you worry about burn-in and offers a pleasant option.
A text commentary also appears. Pinocchio’s Matter of Facts uses a “Pop-Up Video” format to provide information about the original story and its adaptation for the movie, cast, crew and production elements, characters and music, background details and factoids, and the flick’s release and reception.
Some of the information already appears during the commentary, so don’t expect a ton of new tidbits. What we get seems moderately interesting, though facts can be few and far between at times; they don’t exactly come to us at a rapid pace. This becomes an average compilation at best.
Two components show up under “Music and More”. We find a music video for Meaghan Jette Martin’s version of “When You Wish Upon a Star”. The tune gets a pretty generic dance pop makeover turned even more plastic by Martin’s heavily Autotuned vocals.
Indeed, her singing sounds so mechanical that it’s unclear if this occurs to compensate for a lack of talent or if it’s a stylistic choice. I’m guessing the former, as “Star” doesn’t seem like the kind of song meant for android vocals.
The video just shows movie clips and general lip-synching from Martin. It’s a dud.
Like many other discs from the Mouse, we find Disney’s Song Selection. This basically acts as an alternate form of chapter menu. It lets you jump to any of the film’s five song performances, and it also allows you to show on-screen lyrics.
Exclusive to the Blu-ray, Pinocchio Knows offers a “trivia challenge”. This offers a slew of questions about the movie and offers options including “Easy” and “Expert” as well as games that last 10 minutes, 30 minutes, 60 minutes or 90 minutes.
The questions appear alongside movie scenes, though the set-up doesn’t really allow you to enjoy the film as the game runs. The flick shows up in a small box in the upper middle of the screen. If you could skip ahead to questions, that’d fare better, but you can’t, so you’ll end up stuck with that tiny movie image as you plow through the “challenge”.
And at the “Expert” level, “Knows” does offer a challenge, so don’t expect “gimme” questions. I like the idea but the execution seems problematic, as I don’t want to sit through the whole movie just to play the game – and I don’t want to watch Pinocchio in a dinky box.
Disc One opens with ads for Blu-Ray Discs, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Up, and Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure. These also appear in the Sneak Peeks area along with clips for Bolt, Monsters, Inc.and Disney Parks.
With that we move to all the components on Disc Two. Only one component appears under the “Games & Activities” domain: Pinocchio Puzzles, which offers five virtual jigsaws.
The game demands you find the piece that matches specified slots, and once you finish each puzzle, you see the corresponding scene from the movie. It’s not especially challenging, but it provides some fun.
Everything else shows up under “Backstage Disney”. The biggest component comes from a 56-minute, one-second documentary called No String Attached: The Making of Pinocchio.
In this program, we hear from Maltin, Goldberg, Thomas, Kaufman, Kimball, Johnston, Larson, producer Don Hahn, animators Andreas Deja and Joe Grant, animation historians Michael Barrier, John Culhane and Jerry Beck, Disney historian Brian Sibley, UC Berkeley film historian Russell Merritt, visual development artist Mike Gabriel, author/Professor of Media Studies Thomas Andrae, Case Western Reserve University music professor Daniel Goldmark, special projects creative director Dave Bossert, and actor Dick Jones.
We look at the source material and its adaptation, story and themes, character and visual design, the film’s crew and their work, cast and vocal performances, technical elements, sound design and music, and the film’s reception.
Like most Disney projects, this one comes with a heavy helping of praise for the film involved. However, these plaudits seem appropriate, and “Strings” throws in more than enough useful details to overcome the fluffy elements. We get good notes about various aspects of the flick and learn a lot along the way in this informative piece.
Three Deleted Scenes last a total of 10 minutes, 32 seconds. (That includes a 59-second introduction.) We discover “The Story of the Grandfather Tree” (3:19), “In the Belly of the Whale” (4:16) and “Alternate Ending” (1:57).
None of these provide final – or even rough – animation. Instead, we find storyboards and concept art embellished with audio.
In “Tree”, Geppetto tells Pinocchio about his “ancestry”. It’s cute but would’ve slowed the story to a crawl.
“Whale” dwells on Geppetto’s deteriorating state while trapped in Monstro. It’s pretty dark – especially when Figaro tries to eat Cleo and Geppetto almost follows suit – but it seems unnecessary in the greater scheme of things, as we already know that life inside the whale isn’t much fun.
Finally, the “Alternate Ending” reflects a mild switch from the movie’s final conclusion, as it reverses the identity of the character who “dies”. The actual ending seems more satisfying
We also receive a Deleted Song. “Honest John” goes for two minutes, 37 seconds as it provides a jazzy number about its title character.
It’s unclear where – or if - this would’ve been used in the final flick, but the tune did get commercial release, at least as sheet music. The performance here comes from a rough period recording; it sounds like an acetate, not a released record, but I could be wrong. It’s a fun piece of archival material.
A few featurettes follow. The Sweatbox goes for six minutes, 24 seconds and features Kaufman, Goldberg, Maltin, Beck, Gabriel, Goldmark, and storyboard artist Floyd Norman.
“The Sweatbox” refers to story meeting sessions in which Walt Disney and his workers would review works in progress. The featurette gives us a nice look at this then-innovative – and still used - behind the scenes side of the filmmaking process.
Geppettos Then and Now runs 10 minutes, 56 seconds and provides notes from toy maker Cyril Hobbins, marionette maker Lenka Pavlickova, Toy Museum Munich and Prague curator/owner Ivan Steiger, Disney Toys VP of Technology and Innovation Chris Heatherly, Tomy Company General Manager of Seeds Products Kimitaka Watanabe, Emotiv Systems co-founder/president Tan Le, and Emotiv Systems product engineer Marco Della Torre.
The show looks at the past, present and future of puppets and subsequent kinds of toys. Occasionally it degenerates into an ad for Disney toys, but the piece provides a decent overview of the way these products have evolved over the years.
For the final featurette, we get the Live-Action Reference Footage. It runs nine minutes, 55 seconds and presents silent footage of film made to give the animators ideas. A narrator gives us details about what we watch. It’s amazing that this footage still survives, and it’s a lot of fun to see.
Next we find some Art Galleries. These break down into “Visual Development” (134 images), “Gustaf Tenggren Art” (10), “Character Design” (63), “Maquettes and Models” (63), “Backgrounds and Layouts” (45), “Storyboard Art” (144), “Production Pictures” (94) and “Live-Action Reference” (22).
Across these, we find thumbnailed stills, though “Maquettes” also includes 15 video “turn-arounds” that show all angles of the sculptures. Expect a treasure trove of great Pinocchio art here.
Under “Publicity”, we get three Trailers. These come for the film’s original 1940 release as well as re-issues in 1984 and 1992. All are fun to see, though it’s too bad we don’t get more re-release ads, as it’d be cool to trace the changes in promotional style over the decades.
Pinocchio stands as a terrific achievement in animation and a darned entertaining film as well. If it’s not the greatest animated film of all-time, it’s close. The Blu-ray brings excellent picture, solid audio and a nice selection of bonus materials. All movie buffs should own this classic.
Note that the Blu-ray featured in this review went out of print. As of February 2020, a “Signature Collection” Blu-ray remains in print, and it apparently brings a presentation with identical picture and audio.
The “Signature” comes with different supplements. It represents a more affordable version at this time and can be purchased via the link on the upper left part of the screen, though if you’d prefer the more expensive original, that link appears as well.
To rate this film, visit the DVD review of PINOCCHIO