Source: Turner Classic Movies
Notes for Pinocchio (1940)
According to material contained in the production file for this film at the AMPAS Library, the original Carlo Collodi story was written in installments for an Italian weekly magazine. Although the onscreen credits do not specify which animators worked on which characters, these credits were obtained from a March 4, 1940 ad in Hollywood Reporter, in which producer Walt Disney thanks his staff. It is possible that animators credited with work on specific characters also worked on other animation for the film. The onscreen credits list Leigh Harline, Ned Washington and Paul J. Smith as writing the music and lyrics, although contemporary sources indicate that Harline and Washington collaborated on the songs while Smith wrote the film's score.
According to contemporary sources, work on Pinocchio, which was Disney's second feature-length cartoon, began while Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was being completed in 1937. A March 6, 1938 New York Times article noted that Pinocchio had been "held up by story difficulties," and therefore Bambi, which was also in production, would probably be released first. (Bambi was ultimately not released until 1942, due partially to the difficulty of drawing the animals realistically.) A June 12, 1938 New York Times article reported that Disney "had just discarded 2,300 feet of Pinocchio because it had missed the feeling he had in mind." According to a modern source, this footage was the result of at least five months of work. Another modern source asserts that this footage was supervised by David Hand, who did not receive onscreen credit but is credited in the Hollywood Reporter ad mentioned above. According to contemporary sources, a large part of the problem was the characterization and "look" of Pinocchio, who in the original stories was not a very appealing hero. Disney and his staff gave the puppet a more sympathetic personality, and the depiction of him progressed from an angular stick-like figure to a more rounded, "cute" shape. One New York Times article stated that when they first began work on the production, Disney artists used the drawings of Attilio Massino, which accompanied Collodi's story, as a basis for Pinocchio. According to modern sources, children's book illustrator Gustaf Tenggren drew the initial sketches and paintings that inspired the picture's "European storybook flavor." Tenggren left the project before it was completed, however, and did not receive onscreen credit for his work. A May 20, 1938 Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the studio had created a new department to design and manufacture character models, and that Disney had placed Bob Jones in charge of the department. According to the 1985 reminiscences of Jones, located in the Disney Archives, "at least 12 Disney artists struggled over an 18 month period-each contributing their own ideas-before the design [for Pinocchio] was finalized." Jones states that Joe Grant was in charge of the character model department, which produced models of all of the characters and "scenic 'props' such as unusual furniture, tools, toys, clock, and other items for Geppetto's workshop and anything else that needed designing." In addition to the character designers and animators listed above, Jones states that the following people helped to create the designs and models: Charles Cristadoro, Teddy Kline, Helen McIntosh, Shirley Sodaholm, Duke Russell and Wah Ming Chang.
As Pinocchio's features were refined, Disney decided to include the cricket character from Collodi's story (although in Collodi's version, the puppet kills the cricket). Naming him Jiminy, Disney asked his artists to create a cricket who looked "like a human being" and "talked and wore clothes." Also according to a New York Times article, Cliff Edwards, who provided the voice of Jiminy, was originally tested for the voice of Pinocchio, "but Disney had turned him down because there was a 'drop of adult' in his voice." According to a March 11, 1940 Life article, the "voice actors" worked intermittently for nineteen months "projecting dialogue and song into a microfone [sic] for transfer to a sound track. When this track was broken down into charts allotting footage for every vowel, consonant and syllable, Disney animators drew pictures to fit." According to a 1984 Los Angeles Times article on Dick Jones, who was the voice of Pinocchio, "the facial expressions and lip movements of Jones and the other actors were shot on 8-millimeter film as a reference for the animators." Jones also dressed as the character and acted out various scenes. A April 7, 1940 New York Times article on sequence director T. (Thornton) Hee, reported that Hee "donned a Stromboli costume, got up in front of Walt [Disney] and the other story men, spoke the dialogue and acted exactly as Stromboli would." Other contemporary sources also note that the animators often acted out scenes for each other for visual references on expressions and movements. Marjorie Bell, who was also known as Marge Belcher and Marge Champion, was the model for Snow White as well as The Blue Fairy, and was married to animation director Art Babbitt at the time of production. A February 25, 1940 New York Times article noted that although Walter Catlett provided the voice of J. Worthington Foulfellow, "the characterization was based upon a couple of famous actor brothers whose last name begins with B." It is likely that the article is referring to Lionel and John Barrymore.
A contemporary study guide for the picture stated that 2,000,000 drawings were created, of which 300,000 were used in the final film. The studio's use of the multiplane camera helped create the realism and detail lauded in contemporary reviews. The multiplane camera was first used in the 1937 Disney short The Old Mill, and Disney's first feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. According to Life and New York Times, the picture cost $2.5 million, and modern sources note that much of this cost went into the scenes filmed by the multiplane camera, single sequences of which cost up to $48,000. According to a 1940 New York Times article written by Disney, the cameras were much improved from those used previously. Disney stated: "Among the most important [new development] is a type of universal camera crane, a development whereby instead of using a vertical method of shooting, as on the original Disney multiplane camera, the camera dollies into a scene or away from it, on the same principle as motion-picture photography in a live action studio. The backgrounds which we were able to use on this camera for Pinocchio were twice as big as those which fitted into the original multiplane set-up used in Snow White." For more information on the multiplane camera, please see the entry below for Snow White. Another advance Disney describes in the New York Times article is "the blend," a "technique which gives roundness and dimensions to the characters." "The blend" was accomplished by twelve ink and paint "girls," who would use a variety of special paints and rouge to add depth, roundness and highlights to the scenes. The example Disney gives is the scene in which Geppetto, thinking that someone has broken into his workshop, looks around while holding a candle. The highlights on his turning head and body as reflected by the candle are a result of "the blend."
The film had its world premiere in New York at the Center theatre on February 7, 1940. A Hollywood Reporter news item noted that the picture had "one of the biggest and most widespread exploitation and merchandising campaigns seen in years." According to the news item, stories and pictures about Pinocchio had appeared in sixty-three national magazines and hundreds of newspapers. A February 10, 1940 Motion Picture Herald article reported that "The Pinocchio opening...received one of the largest foreign coverages in motion picture history. Sixty-seven representatives of foreign publications, news syndicates and wire services, covering thirty-eight countries with a total population of more than one billion attended. The notices by the foreign writers are expected to be read by over one million persons in seventeen different languages." Motion Picture Herald also reported that "art shows have been arranged in three New York galleries, including a special exhibit of three Walt Disney originals at the Brooklyn Museum. A comprehensive display showing a Disney film in the various stages of production is on view at the New York Museum of Science and Industry in Radio City. Two hundred original paintings from Pinocchio are displayed inside the Center theatre." The day after the premiere, Hollywood Reporter reported: "One of the greatest ovations ever accorded a motion picture was given Walt Disney's Pinocchio....At least ten times during the running of the picture the audience broke into applause, and the close was cheered for several minutes."
According to articles in Motion Picture Herald, publicity stunts for the picture included mayors in Los Angeles, Buffalo and Niagara Falls proclaiming the opening day of the film "Pinocchio Day," and in numerous cities, leading citizens bought theater tickets for underprivileged and handicapped children to attend the show. RCA Victor released a three-record set of songs and selected scenes from the film, which were recorded "exactly as in the picture." According to information in the film's file at the AMPAS Library, Paolo Lorenzini, author Collodi's nephew, asked the Italian ministry of popular culture to sue Disney because he distorted the character of Pinocchio to make him seem more American. Lorenzini stated that "Pinocchio's adventures are an Italian work of art and must not be distorted to make it American." No indication that action was taken on his complaint has been found. A modern source states that the character of Gideon, who is mute in the film, was originally conceived as a chatterbox, and that Mel Blanc recorded his dialogue. After Gideon's personality was changed, all that remained in the finished film of Blanc's work was two hiccups.
In a November 3, 1940 New York Times article, Disney "dismissed as 'false rumor' the report that he suffered a severe financial jolt because Pinocchio was a dud." Contemporary sources noted that the picture did not gross as much money as did Snow White, only because of war conditions (New York Times stated that "Disney's European market fell 80 percent with the start of the war"), and that Pinocchio was only translated into two foreign languages, Spanish and Portuguese, whereas the earlier film had been translated into many more. Although some modern sources state that the film did not make a profit in its initial release, others say that it made a profit of approximately $1,000,000. According to a modern source, RKO, which distributed the picture, actually lost $94,000, but was nonetheless pleased because the quality of the product enhanced RKO's standing with exhibitors. The picture won an Academy Award for Best Original Score, and Leigh Harline and Ned Washington won an Academy Award for their song "When You Wish Upon a Star," which has since become a signature Disney song. John Garfield performed in a version of Pinocchio, inspired by the yet-to-be released Disney film, for the Lux Radio Theatre, broadcast on December 25, 1939. The film was re-issued in October 1945, February 1954, January 1962, July 1971, December 1978, December 1984 and June 1992. It was released on video in July 1985, and appeared on cable television on The Disney Channel September-October 1986. According to modern sources, a 16-millimeter extract from the picture, entitled Pinocchio: A Lesson in Honesty, was released for use in schools. Modern sources also note that Jiminy Cricket is one of the few characters from Disney feature films to be used repeatedly in later Disney projects, such as the I'm No Fool series of shorts. He also appeared in the 1947 Disney feature film entitled Fun and Fancy Free. In the later film, Jiminy (Cliff Edwards) sings "I'm a Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow," which according to a modern source, was originally written and recorded for inclusion in Pinocchio.
Among the many filmed versions of Collodi's story are a feature-length color cartoon made in Italy and distributed in the U.S. in 1936; a 1938 feature-length 16-millimeter picture produced in the U.S. by Jerry Bresler; a 1965 color Swallow Ltd.-Belvision cartoon directed by Ray Goossens entitled Pinocchio in Outer Space; a 1974 X-rated live-action version, directed by Corey Allen and starring Alex Roman and Karen Smith; and a 1987 Filmation Studios animated feature entitled Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night, which featured the voices of Edward Asner, Tom Bosley and James Earl Jones. Television productions of Pinocchio include a October 13, 1957 NBC live-action broadcast, directed by Paul Bogart and starring Mickey Rooney and Walter Slezak; an animated series, entitled The New Adventures of Pinocchio, produced by Arthur Rankin, Jr., which ran for 130 episodes beginning September 25, 1961; and a live-action Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation on December 8, 1968 that was directed by Sid Smith and starred Burl Ives and Peter Noone.