The Music and Magic of the Disney Animated Canon, Vol. 2: Pinocchio

The Walt Disney Company has been making us laugh, cry, get angry, whoop for joy, sing, dance, and fall in love since its first feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, in 1939. In this, the second part of an intended complete series of separate discussion threads about each movie in the Disney Animated Canon, we will discuss our memories of the movies, with what I hope will be a special emphasis placed on the music therein.

This is intended to be a regular series, but just because a new thread opens up doesn’t mean you have to stop posting in the previous ones. I can also promise you that there will be, on occasion, schedule slip on my part, as there was in the first volume of this series, which I wrote shortly before going into a hospital, as it turned out.

Previous volumes:

  1. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

OK, so let’s talk about Pinocchio.

“When You Wish Upon a Star” was a seminal song for Disney, that to this day they use in their prologues. It won the 1940 Academy Award for Best Original Song. It was sung in the song by the character of Jiminy Cricket, whom we’d see again in Fun and Fancy Free. I’ve always liked Jiminy. He starts out in this movie as a homeless person, but gets promoted to Pinocchio’s conscience and does a fine job.

Jiminy’s also responsible for my favorite line from this film: “You’ve buttered your bread. Now sleep in it!” He also cracked me up at the puppet show, where he went from not watching on general principle to watching FERVENTLY when the girl puppets came out. All men are perverts?

It was never explained how playing pool, drinking and smoking turns you into a jackass, but Lampwick’s transformation sequence was terrifying.

Missed the edit window, but I voted for “When You Wish Upon a Star”.

“Talking like Gepetto” is a running joke in our house.

“Oooooh, Pinocchio … why you never call me anymore?”

“Oooooh, Pinocchio … why you so angry?”

My teenage son started doing it last year and for a while it worked its way into almost every conversation.

Give a Little Whistle gets sick in my head all the damn time. I have no idea why. That said, When You Wish Upon a Star is one of the best songs ever written.

I picked I’ve Got No Strings, but only because When You Wish is massively overused since it became the official Disney theme.

Something I just realized is that Pincocchio is the only Disney Animated Canon movie (and one of a small handful of movies, period) to earn a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Unfortunately, whenever I hear “I’ve Got No Strings” I can’t help but hear Evil Robot Raymond Reddington.

Although “When You Wish” remains perhaps the best and most influential song in the history of the Disney canon, my favorite music cue from the film is the wonderful Coach to Pleasure Island, which uses “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee” to both jubilant and ominous effect. Simply a brilliant score all-around.

Bringing this one back now as well, now that I’ve got Disney+. I’ll be watching Pinocchio again soon and giving new thoughts on it. Anyone have anything else they’d like to share?

I’d forgotten how funny Gepetto is in this movie. Dunking water on himself to wake himself up when he realizes Pinocchio has come to life. “Father, here I am!” “Don’t bother me now, Pinocchio,” he replies, not realizing that his long-lost son has returned to him.

And the funniest one is at the very end, when Pinocchio is brought back to life.

“Father, why are you crying?”
“Because… you’re dead, Pinocchio.”
“No! No, I’m not!”
“Yes. Yes, you are. Now lie down.”

I’m also going through the Disney movies on Disney+.

The visuals are still stunning.

I like Jiminy Cricket, but he was totally ineffective and terrible at his ‘job.’

Figaro is the best Disney cat.

I think the most brilliant thing about PINOCCHIO is its fearlessness because it does so many things that would be completely unthinkable for the Disney template today:

  • There is no romantic interest whatsoever
  • Anthropomorphic, talking animals and non-talking animals co-exist without the need for an “explanation”. It’s just a fairy tale.
  • The most critical one: Pinocchio becomes a Real Boy because of his bravery, but he hasn’t changed any of the horrors of the world he lives in. He doesn’t burn Pleasure Island to the ground. He doesn’t rescue any of the terrorized donkey-boy slaves. None of the villains (Honest John, the Coachman, Stromboli) get their comeuppance or are punished in any way for their cruelty and evil acts. One might call the larger overview of the story depressing because of this, but it is also the way the world often works. Love manifests itself in simple acts infused with incredible courage, but it doesn’t mean all Wrongs will naturally be Righted. Evil endures. Similarly, Jiminy is rewarded not because he was “successful” but because he showed courage in trying. There’s absolutely no way Disney would leave all these “loose ends” dangling nowadays, but the film is far more honest for it.

Easily (imho), the greatest of all Disney animated features (w/BAMBI and DUMBO close seconds) because of both the exquisite craftsmanship but also because it exists in what we now see was a pre-formula Mouse House world. A masterpiece.

Offhand, I think there are no romantic love interests in:
The Wreck-it Ralph movies
Finding Dory

Who was that asshole who voiced Jiminy Cricket, anyway?

Some moronic shithead, no doubt.

Cliff Edwards, who also was the first person to perform “Singin’ in the Rain.”


I only recently learned that Cliff Edwards also did the voice for the lead singing crow in Dumbo. Great voice actor.

I also think that Pinocchio is the best of all the classic Disney movies. The drawings and animation are unequaled.

It’s true that after 70 years, the Mouse has started to loosen its grip on how it tells its stories. (While Pixar has had a whole different set of templates and formulae long before Disney acquired them). But the Ralph films have still had major relationships develop and evolve, but for secondary characters.

Similarly, MULAN positioned characters as potential love interests at the end but they couldn’t hook up for obvious plot-driven reasons. And the love interest in FROZEN was a (wise and well-executed) bait & switch. Plus I’ll concede, THE JUNGLE BOOK and SWORD IN THE STONE didn’t have any major women characters in them at all (except one lady villain in the latter).

So the company has learned to gradually break away from its tried & true formula, though like I said in that punch list, the real revolutionary move on its part was that third bullet item. That still has, I think, no real parallel (unless you want to project ahead on the future of POCAHONTAS as we know it in history).

Yeah. Didn’t that guy have a stage name, or a nickname, or some dumbass thing?

Wreck-It Ralph had a romance between Fix-it Felix and the soldier woman.

Zootopia had no romantic love interest that I can remember. I don’t think you can really interpret Judy’s and Nick’s friendship as a romance.