September 20, 2022
Pinocchio has long been a misfit within the classic Disney canon – the early animated films which solidified Walt Disney’s reputation as a master storyteller and formed the bedrock layer of American cinematic fairytales. You’re hard-pressed to find someone who claims the 1940 original, the second animated feature ever made by Disney, as their favorite. Many found it to be frightening and unsettling, myself included. It’s a weird story, this tale of a sentient wooden puppet who dreams of being a real boy and, among other things, witnesses rogue children transform into donkeys and gets swallowed by a whale.
So it makes sense that the inevitable (for business reasons) live-action remake of Pinocchio will bypass theaters and head straight to Disney+. It is an odd fit, less hyped than its live-action cousins, neither quite a children’s movie nor a children’s movie for adults. There’s a strangeness to the whole proceeding – an unbeloved classic, sanded down from the original 1883 novel by Italian author Carlo Collodi, updated into a 1 hour, 40-minute visually stimulating but emotionally dull mishmash.
Disney’s live-action churn through the catalog has resulted in, at best, faithful adaptations that struggle to capture the magic of animation (The Lion King, Aladdin) and at worst, unsolicited cash grabs reaching deep into the uncanny valley (Dumbo, Lady and the Tramp). Pinocchio, directed by Robert Zemeckis from a screenplay by Zemeckis and Chris Weitz, leans more toward the former, though it’s hampered by the fact that it’s just never not weird, on a visual level, to watch a CGI wooden puppet interact with real humans.