It’s hard to believe that Disney’s version of Pinocchio is 82 years old. With Pinocchio’s first recorded appearances in books back in 1883 (139 years ago), and the Disney feature-length animated film being released in 1940, Disney’s Pinocchio is the latest Disney classic to have the live-action make-over.
If you don’t know the tale of Pinocchio already, the story follows a humble woodcarver, clockmaker, and toy maker named Geppetto that only has a tiny cat named Figaro, and a fish named Cleo for companions. Despite being content with his life and kind-hearted, the aging artist longs for a son. Making a cute little boy-shaped puppet, complete with strings, Geppetto secretly makes a wish upon a star and naturally, despite these pure intentions and dreams, chaos still ensues.
I distinctively remember my first experience witnessing Pinocchio’s story. It wasn’t the animated Disney film, but at Disney On Ice, where a whole show was dedicated to the story of Pinocchio. I even remember being in awe at how large and terrifying Monstro was when he swallowed Pinocchio whole. My origins with live performance and film were always with a strong Disney influence, which is a big reason on why I love animation and musicals so much.
The live action makes a few changes to the original Disney animated feature, including providing more context on Geppetto’s sad, lonely origins, while also making Monstro more frightening than ever. Although a remake, the film manages to retell the story of Pinocchio without being word-for-word from its source material, throwing a fresh new take on the old tale and remaining respectful to its inspiration.
Tom Hanks is perfectly cast as Geppetto, and I could not imagine anyone else in the iconic role. Granted, in reality, Hanks’ cast mates are all CGI. But Hanks manages to pull off a convincing, emotional performance regardless, making Geppetto someone you just want to give a hug to. He feels like he could be your grandparent with how patient, focused, and loving he is, and with how familiar he feels.
The voice acting from Benjamin Evan Ainsworth is also superb, providing much needed emotional depth to Pinocchio’s character. I’ve never been particularly fond of Pinocchio in the past with how naughty he is portrayed, but in this film, I felt that he felt more real, and more human with his actions, decisions, and choices.
The way Jiminy Cricket, voiced by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, was written to break the fourth wall, much like the original was good, but I loved how self-aware he was, much like The Fox also is in the film, voiced by Keegan-Michael Key. Both characters feel important, but they never overshadowed the film’s title star.
While I enjoyed Cynthia Erivo gracing us with her voice and presence as The Blue Fairy (seriously, she was refreshingly breathtaking and beautiful), the biggest surprise for me was seeing Luke Evans as The Coachman, randomly breaking into song and even more randomly, appearing out of nowhere to peddle ‘root beer’ to children. Temptation can be a bad thing, but who can really say no to Luke Evans?
The animation in the film is truly beautiful as well. Seamlessly combining CGI with live action, while making everything feel and look like it’s a moving storybook. The costuming is also gorgeous from what we do see, and the film really makes you feel like you’ve gone back in time. The workshop is also stunning. The wall of clocks is exactly how I remembered it from the original animated feature, but better, and with little Easter eggs of Disney magic.
Disney manages to insert several new songs into the film, while never distracting from the story. I don’t necessarily see Pinocchio as a musical, and it’s not. More so a story with some songs. At times when I felt the story was beginning to lull, the pace would pick back up and the film would have my attention again. I don’t think this is a fault of the new film, but more so, the story of Pinocchio in itself. Pinocchio is a classic tale, and a remake can only change so much before it starts spinning into a completely different story. Pinocchio is also not exactly the most exciting tale nor my favourite Disney animation, but it is a beloved Disney classic for a reason.
Overall, I surprisingly enjoyed this film and found Disney’s new Pinocchio to be an exquisitely charming new look at a classic tale, but retold with the utmost care, respect, and love. This wholesome remake would be best appreciated by fans of the original Disney Pinocchio animated film and Disney die-hards.
Pinocchio is now available to stream on Disney+.