When Walt Disney Animation Studios finished and released "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" in 1937, they had no idea how huge the film would become. Their debut animated film was initially deemed during production as "Disney's folly" but soon won over audiences and critics when it came out and became a massive success for the studio and ended up becoming one of the highest-grossing films at the time. Naturally with success that huge, it seemed only natural for the stakes on their follow-up film to be higher, and "Pinocchio" is a film that truly soared above those heights. While the film wasn't as financially big as "Snow White" at the time of its release in 1940 due to the Second World War breaking out in Europe, its reputation over the years has grown drastically and it's now often considered one of the very best animated films that has ever come out of Walt Disney Animation Studio, a notion I also agree with completely. This film truly earns its place as an animated classic.
In a village in Italy, an old woodcarver named Geppetto (Christian Rub) carves a wooden marionette that he names Pinocchio. Before going to sleep, he makes a wish upon a star hoping that the puppet is a real-life boy. Soon enough, his wish does come true as the Blue Fairy (Evelyn Venable) arrives and gives Pinocchio (Dick Jones) life. While he still remains a puppet, the Fairy tells Pinocchio that to become a real boy, he must prove himself to be brave, truthful, and unselfish and names a cricket named Jiminy (Cliff Edwards) to be his conscience. From there, Pinocchio sets off on a grand adventure to become a real boy despite some bumps along the way from some untrustworthy characters, including a fox and a cat named Honest John (Walter Catlett) and Gideon.
It's pretty easy to see why Walt Disney and his team of artists had to step up their game for this film. As previously stated, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was a massive hit when it was released and the stakes were a lot higher for their animated follow-up. Fortunately, this film truly proves that Disney Animation wasn't going to be a one-trick pony with feature films after "Snow White" and while they've since gone on to make even more incredible works, this film still remains one of their most iconic and top-notch works to date. If there's one thing that really shows how amazing the film is, it's easily the story. While I do think "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" is a truly great animated film, it does at times feel like a starting point for the studio as they were trying to get a feel on how to take what worked from their animated shorts and apply it to a feature-length film. With this film though, the team at Disney took everything they learned from their last film and truly stepped up the game by spinning Carlo Collodi's tale into animated gold. It obviously doesn't get nearly as dark as Collodi's original story, but there are still a lot of dark and scary moments in this film that perfectly balances out the lighter and happier scenes. The most famous instance is the infamous Pleasure Island scene where Pinocchio and a bunch of naughty boys are taken to an island filled with no rules and tons of fun with the boys constantly smoking and drinking alcohol while partaking in rebellious activities without knowing the island has a notable side effect of turning people into donkeys if you stay too long. It's a truly disturbing scene that has definitely scared tons of children for the past eighty years and it still works its wonders today.
Even lighter moments still have strong messages with another famous instance being where Pinocchio lies to the Blue Fairy about why he didn't go to school with his nose growing with each new lie he tells. It all builds to a truly tremendous climax with the giant whale Monstro that has so much weight and scale to it that it leaves me on the edge of my seat every time. That leads me into talking about the absolutely incredible animation. If there's another instance where Disney Animation stepped up their game after "Snow White", it's the animation. This is some of the finest animation that has ever come out of Walt Disney Animation Studios which is easily saying a lot. You can tell how much the artists on this film were learning every year and putting their knowledge to the test. It's such a lush film filled with gorgeous watercolor backgrounds, amazing character animation, and stunning effects animation to boot. There's so much life that's in the character animation and the attention to detail with scenes like Stromboli's puppet show and especially the climax with Monstro standing out in particular. You can see every ounce of detail that goes into every frame within this film and it's so staggering. Then there are the characters who are all very loveable and fun to watch. Pinocchio is an especially endearing protagonist that grows a lot throughout the film. He's not perfect and he does go down wrong paths as every young boy does, but he grows tremendously as he tries to figure out how to be brave, truthful, and unselfish. Jiminy Cricket is a helpful sidekick as well who tries to lead Pinocchio down the right path though never turns his back on his friend even if he does make some terribly wrong decisions. The other smaller characters are fun too which includes Gepetto, his pets Figaro and Cleo, and a pal Pinocchio makes at Pleasure Island named Lampwick. The villains all stand out too with Honest John and Gideon being playful while vindictive, Stromboli being over the top, the Coachmen being mysterious, and Monstro being gigantic and menacing. I also do love that the status of each character isn't revealed at the end as well since it perfectly shows that you may never know what happens to some of the dangerous people you'll meet in your life. I should also add that the songs are also quite wonderful as well with the highlight easily being "When You Wish Upon A Star". It's no wonder the song went on to win the Oscar as well as become the theme for Disney as a whole.
If anything, "Pinocchio" truly earns its status as an animated classic. The story is grand and filled with iconic moments, the animation is amazing and truly beautiful, and the characters are all iconic and memorable. This is truly one of the very finest animated films to be made by Walt Disney Animation Studios and in general and it's a film that I absolutely cannot recommend enough. It's a film that will continue to make people wish upon a star for years to come.