Monday, April 25, 2011

Disney's Saludos Amigos

OK, so imagine that you are America. You are in wartime in 1942, and besides fighting the Germans, Japanese, Italians, and several other countries in Europe, you have to worry about several South American countries that have ties to Nazi Germany. If you are America what do you do? Send dignitaries to coax those countries into supporting the allies? Send them a fruit basket? Well, if you were America, you wouldn’t do any of those things. You would send Walt Disney to sever those ties to Nazi Germany. And as part of that trip, Walt Disney would make an animated film devoted to those South American countries. Bet you didn’t see that coming! But this is exactly what the United States did. They realized that Mickey Mouse and the other Disney characters were extremely popular in South America and decided that having Walt Disney go down to these countries and make a movie would be a great way to counteract the ties those countries had with Nazi Germany. You didn’t realize how important Mickey Mouse was to fighting the Nazi’s, did you? Walt and a group of roughly twenty composers, artists, technicians, etc. from his studio went to South America, mainly to Brazil and Argentina, but also to Chile and Peru. Luckily for Walt, the film itself was given federal loan guarantees from the government. Disney studios had just run into a rough patch; Bambi did OK, the European market was closed, and the studio was currently dealing with labor disputes. Disney needed this movie to do well.

The movie that resulted from the Goodwill tour was Saludos Amigos, or Hello, Friends in English. It was first of Disney’s package films in the 1940’s and takes place completely in South America. When I say that it is a package film, I mean that it is not just one feature, so to speak, but a film made up of several segments. In this case, Saludos Amigos has four segments. The film is partly animated and partly live actions, sometimes at the same time. Outside of the main four segments, there is an intro segment for each individual segment that shows the Disney artists and composers walking around the South American countries.

The first segment focuses on Peru and specifically Lake Titicaca…hee hee hee! Oh…sorry. I forgot that I’m an adult. This segment, like all the others are not pure entertainment. You will probably learn something about the culture of these South American countries. This segment stars Donald Duck and his troubles with a belligerent Llama. Hilarity ensues. Seriously though, Donald never gets old. That’s why I like this feature and the next, The Three Caballeros, so much, as they mainly star Donald.

The next segment is an all animated feature starring Pedro, a small plane that delivers mail in Chile. Pedro has to deliver mail from Santiago to Mendoza since Pedro’s mother and father couldn’t fly the route. This is a typical Disney type cartoon with the “Goofy narrator.” If you’ve seen many Goofy cartoons, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Since Pedro doesn’t talk, the narrator does all the talking. To get to Mendoza, he has to fly over the Andes. This proves difficult for Pedro and he gets into trouble. I won’t spoil what happens in this segment, so you’ll just have to see this movie. Incidentally, some Chileans, namely cartoonist René Ríos Boettiger, who felt that Pedro gave Americans a negative view of Chileans and made his own comic, Condorito, to counteract the film. Why get offended by a cartoon plane? Pedro is portrayed as a small, incapable being.

The next segment features Goofy, who is learning about the ways of the Gaucho in Argentina. A gaucho is basically a cowboy, but a South American version of a cowboy. Goofy, though it takes him awhile, learns the ins and outs of the ways of the gaucho, including what attire to wear, how to cook and prepare food in the wild, and how to catch an ostrich. Again, we have a narrator moving the story along.

The movie’s last segment deals with Brazil, namely Rio. This is another Donald segment that has him meet up with Jose Carioca, a Brazilian parrot. In this segment we are introduced to the samba and Carnival, a week long celebration that is filled with music, dancing, and plenty of alcohol. Jose Carioca is a great character and is basically dressed like a Brazilian ladies man. If you enjoy seeing old Jose, don't worry, he's in Disney's next feature The Three Caballeros, then Melody Time, a part of the jury in Alice in Wonderland, and has a small cameo in Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

Saludos Amigos might seem a bit dated now, but it's still great fun to watch. Since the movie mainly focuses on cultural heritage, most things mentioned in the movie are still celebrated or practiced in Chile, Brazil, Argentina, and Peru. If you feel like learning more about South America and it's culture, especially it's music, check this movie out. This is unfortunately one of those movies that gets forgotten since it's less for kids, but it's still worth a watch. The movie did well in theaters and was popular enough to lead Disney to make The Three Caballeros two years later. The movie did garner mixed reviews for it's lack of appeal to children however, but at least did well despite criticisms.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Disney's Bambi

Walt Disney had intended Bambi to be his second film. This proved difficult as Disney found it hard to adapt a full length novel into a movie and also animate life like deer. The movie was shelved for a few years. Serious work on Bambi began in 1938 but continued running into trouble because of the flow of personnel and methodology of handling animation at the time. By the time the writing was finished, the movie's budget swelled to $858,000. Disney really wanted the animals to appear lifelike in the movie. So much so that he had two deer and several other animals featured in the film brought to the studio. They set up a small zoo and had the animators watch how the animals moved around. The background of the film was inspired by the eastern woodlands of America. One of Disney's best artists, Maurice Day, went out to the woods of Maine and Vermont and drew pictures to draw inspiration for the film. The use of the multi-plane camera also added to the realism of the background.

Bambi is based on the Austrian book, Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten. The book follows the birth and life of Bambi, a roe deer. This had to be changed in the Disney version to a white-tailed deer since roe deer are not found in America. The story is not too different from the Disney version. Massive changes involve the tone and the amount of time Bambi spends with his father. The book wasn't meant for children, as it's themes focused on loss, love, and the many dangers of life. In the book there is no Thumper or Flower. Instead there are many other secondary characters including Bambi's aunt and cousins, and many other deer. Oh, and by the way, one of his cousins is Faline. As in the deer that he falls in love with. I guess animals can do whatever they want! Bambi and his cousins see the princes, or male deer, for the first time. They find out that those princes were their fathers and Faline remarks that they don't stay around for long. Lesson one: Male deer mate a lot and don't have time for their ladies after they have kids! Bambi is kind of a momma's boy. He likes being around his mom a lot, but notices that she is trying to get him to be by himself more often. On one of these times of loneliness, Bambi sees "Him" for the first time. "Him" being the term used for man by the animals. The man raises his gun at Bambi and Bambi gets the lead out and starts crying for his momma. His mom accompanies him on his scared run through the forest and they find somewhere safe. A stag comes by and scolds Bambi for being a momma's boy. Bambi attempts to further remove himself from his mother's care. He later learns that the stag that scolded him was the old Prince, the oldest stag in the forest, known for being cunning and aloof.

Winter comes and the hunters come in droves. It is during this time that Bambi's mother is shot by a hunter. Gobo, Bambi's cousin goes missing and is presumed dead. Yes....they named one of their kids Gobo. Sounds like a Marx brothers name. Good ol' Gobo Marx. After this point, the novel skips a few years to when Bambi is older. Bambi spends a lot of time with Faline and starting to fall in love. The old Prince starts to take an interest in Bambi, as Bambi is tricked by everything. The old Prince saves him from hunters imitating a doe call, and Bambi learns never to trust noises....ever. Gobo returns, having been raised by a man who found him hurt in the forest. Gobo decides that he is now invincible to humans and becomes severely diluted. He is shot a week later after a hunter sees him. Gobo believed that by wearing the halter (head collar) he was given, he would be safe from hunters. Poor Gobo Marx.

Bambi begins to avoid everyone including Faline, though he still loves her, and tries to live a solitary life. Several times he runs into the old Prince who teaches him about snares and other dangers. But of course, Bambi basically attracts hunters and is shot. The old Prince comes and shows him how to avoid the hunters and dogs by running around in circles until the bleeding stops. The old Prince takes care of Bambi until he is healthy again.

When Bambi is old, the old Prince shows him that man is not all powerful by showing him the body of a dead man who had been shot by another man. Geez! The old Prince has been old for a really long time! He has to be decrepit by now! Bambi then realizes that there is "Another" that rules over all the animals, including man. At that point, the old Prince tells Bambi that he's always loved him and calls him "my son" before leaving to die. Oh dear. This is about as sad as Bambi's mother getting shot. Oh and Bambi and Faline don't get together in the end. Yay! Happy Ending!

Disney decided that the book was far too "adult" to leave it like it was. So, Disney decided to add Thumper and Flower, make the dad even more aloof, have Bambi and Faline stay together, and took out all the other deer. So, almost the same storyline except add in some characters and subtract some. In the Disney version, Bambi is born, meets Thumper and Flower, learns about girls, learns about man, loses his mother, taken in by his father, fights a male deer for Faline, saves Faline from fire and dogs, becomes King of the Forest! There can be only one! That's the short version of the story. There's memorable moments such as the ice-skating scene and the scene where Flower and Thumper fall in love at first sight. Not with each other, with other animals. Can you imagine a skunk and a rabbit hybrid? A Skrabbit named Flumper. Oh, and the scene where Bambi's mother is shot and Bambi is left alone in the snow desperately calling her name....*sob*.

Bambi's father shows up and tells him that his mother can't be with him anymore. More crying. Seriously. This movie is majorly depressing. The father takes care of Bambi and teaches him how to be a man, though we don't see this, it's assumed. Bambi comes back all grown up and meets up with his old friends and they all swear off girls. Easier said than done. They all happen to run into their soul mates in the matter of a few minutes. Bambi meets up with Faline again and they jump around like idiots until another deer shows up. Bambi fights the deer for Faline and totally goes all alpha male on him. After that, a hunter and dogs chase after the two as a fire rages from the campfire the hunter left unattended. Smokey Bear would be ashamed. Bambi's father helps the two escape the flames and they all live happily ever after. Bambi and his father do the whole Pride Rock pose and the movie ends. Bambi is so king of the forest.

Bambi was released in theaters in 1942. Unfortunately, the movie lost money the first time around thanks again to WWII. People were too busy to see a movie about a deer, and many theaters weren't open in Europe to screen the film. Bambi made up for it in it's subsequent re-releases starting in 1947. A small bit of controversy was stirred up when hunters spoke out against the film, saying that it was an insult to sportsmen. This didn't last very long however, mostly because people realized that calling the movie an insult to anything was stupid.

The movie has had far reaching influence in the years after it's release. Paul McCartney has credited seeing the scene where Bambi's mother is shot to sparking his interest in animal rights. This is known as the "Bambi effect." Bambi was the mascot for the government's fire prevention public service campaigns, but Disney only loaned the image out for a year. Thus, Smokey the Bear was created. In recent years, footage from Bambi and Bambi II has been used in commercials to spread awareness of the dangers of fire. The "Man" in the movie tops many "Top Movie Villain" lists, proving how powerful a character can be, even if you never see it.

Bambi today is considered by many to be one of the best Disney features of all time, for it's story, beautiful backgrounds and visuals. Many also praise Disney's life-like animals of the film. This is one of the more simpler films that some in our generation might not flock to due to it's less than action packed nature, but I urge you to watch the movie when you get a chance.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Disney's Dumbo

As it turns out, Pinocchio and Fantasia had basically put Walt Disney into the hole. Pinocchio made little to nothing overseas, and Fantasia was expensive and only played in thirteen theaters. Disney needed money, badly. Meanwhile, a very short storybook was being made. It was a different sort of children's book called a Roll-A-Book, sort of like a panoramic book. The main character was named Dumbo, and the small book was only eight pages long. It didn't have a lot of detail. Disney's head of merchandising happened upon the prototype and showed it to Walt. Walt loved the character and decided this was the way that he would bring Disney back. What Disney sought to do was make a simple animated film that reach audiences. Disney basically made the movie on the cheap, having the character designs simple, less detailed backgrounds, and reused cells. Dumbo used water-color backgrounds like Snow White, the two classic animated films being the only ones that used that method. The movie was also one of Disney's shorter movies, clocking in at a total of sixty-four minutes. With all these cost-cutting techniques, Disney was able to make Dumbo for $813,000. That was nearly half of Snow White's cost and a third of Pinocchio's.

Dumbo is about a small elephant with huge ears. So big in fact, that he is constantly ridiculed for them. At the beginning of the film, we see Dumbo delivered to his mother by a stork to the circus where she lives. I blame this movie for my bad grades in biology class. How was I supposed to know we aren't delivered by storks? It seems plausible! Well, it better than being bought at a K-mart blue light special as I've also been told by my loving parents. All the other elephants see Dumbo for the first time and laugh it up. Dumbo's name is actually Jumbo Jr., but the mean elephants brand him with the name Dumbo because of his ears. Not literally. I doubt they happened to have that specific brand ready for when they found someone worthy of it. We then get a scene of everyone setting up the circus in a storm. When I say everybody, I mean it. They had the elephants putting up a tent! I can't even get my pet elephant to crush peanuts for me! Lazy elephant. Side note: Anyone know what elephants eat?

A group of boys start to make fun of Dumbo for his ears, which sets off Mrs. Jumbo. Unfortunately, she is subdued before she can crush anyone in her path and is locked away, deemed mad. Since Dumbo is so funny looking, he is shunned by the other elephants and is left to take care of himself. Circus elephants= Massive jerks. Timothy Q. Mouse comes and swears that he will stick by Dumbo's side. Disney seems to have a thing for putting small creatures as the conscience or best friend of the main character. Timothy is basically Dumbo's voice in the movie, as Disney decided to give him the "Dopey effect." Also, Jiminy and Timothy are very similar names and are just about the same character. So in all honesty, Timothy is not that creative of a character. It's Jiminy without the singing voice. Dumbo is made a part of the circus acts, first being the top of an elephant pyramid, then a clown when his ears cause him to fall off the pyramid and topple the other elephants. As a clown, Dumbo has to fall into a vat of pie filling. Though he is popular with the crowd, he's miserable. At this moment, just picture a circus actually trying to get a baby elephant, dressed as a clown, to fall into a vat of anything. I'm pretty sure PETA would be all over this circus if it was real.

To cheer Dumbo up, Timothy decides to take him to visit his mother. Mrs. Jumbo cradles Dumbo with her trunk from the cell window and sings "Baby, Mine." Cue the waterworks. Besides the death of Bambi's mother, this is one of the most emotional scenes in a Disney movie. On the way back from visiting his mother, Dumbo starts to hiccup. Timothy finds a bucket of water for Dumbo to drink, but alas, a bottle of champagne has spilled into it! Dumbo and Timothy drink up and get totally wasted. How wasted? Well, enough to start seeing this:

Holy crap. What kind of champagne were they drinking!?!? Like most people after a long night of drinking, they both wake up in place they didn't expect; in this case, a tree. Timothy cannot fathom how they got up the tree until he figures that Dumbo must of flown them up there by using his ears as wings. Timothy still must of been drunk. Enter the crows. This is one of those things that you don't notice until you are older. The scene with the crows has been labeled incredibly racist, perhaps just because of the main crow being named Jim Crow. If you know anything about our history, you know what that name means. Over the years, many have cried out over the racial content in the movie, but the movie has had it's defenders. Many point out that besides Jim Crow who was voiced by the same man who voiced Jiminy Cricket, all the other crows are voiced by African-Americans. The crows are sympathetic towards Dumbo, making them and Timothy the only characters in the story that are. Many argue that the crows do not exhibit the same stereotypes that were prevalent in movies at the time. You can make your own decision on whether its racist or not, but I still don't like that they named one Jim Crow.

Timothy is able to get Dumbo to fly again by telling him that by holding the magic feather that he just gave to him, he could fly. Back at the circus, Dumbo is made to jump off of a high building. As he does, he loses his feather and thinks that he can't fly anymore. Fortunately, Timothy tells him that he can fly without the feather, since it had no magic at all. Dumbo pulls up from the free-fall and flies around the circus to everyone's amazement/horror at seeing a flying elephant. While flying around the tent, Dumbo takes vengeance on his tormentors. Sweet, sweet vengeance. After this, Dumbo is now very famous and has a special train car for him and his mother. Timothy becomes his manager. Timothy becomes corrupt and shiftless.

RKO production studio wanted Disney to either make the movie longer or make it the length of a short subject. Disney wouldn't let them change the movie and forced them to release it in it's original format. Released in 1941, the movie ended up being a big success, mainly due to the low budget costs. It grossed $1.6 million on its first theatrical release and turned an actual profit like Snow White. Disney had his money-maker. Many were glad that Disney had reverted back to his old formula and were afraid that his movies were going to become too "arty" like Fantasia. The movie went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Music Score. The movie was such a hit that it was going to be featured on the cover of Time Magazine until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The entrance of America into WWII hurt Dumbo's box office earnings, but not enough. Luckily it had two months before we entered the war.

Not all good came from Dumbo though. Almost all of the Disney animators went on strike during production. They eventually came back to work, but the family atmosphere and camaraderie inside the Disney Animated Studio was now gone. Besides this little speed bump for Disney, the film was a huge hit for them. Dumbo is still considered a classic of animation and a favorite of many.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Disney's Fantasia

It may seem unbelievable now, but in the 1930's, Mickey Mouse wasn't that popular. I'm not saying that he hadn't been, because he really had. It's just that for some reason or another, Donald and Goofy became highlights. Even Popeye was considered more popular during this decade. Walt Disney knew that he had to do something to bring Mickey back into the limelight. He wanted to do a very elaborate Silly Symphony called The Sorcerers Apprentice. It was to be longer than any of the others and have Mickey as it's main star. As production costs grew, Walt Disney recalled a piece of advice that Leopold Stokowski, the famous orchestra conductor, gave him: Take that segment and put it with a few other songs and cartoons using classical music. Disney decided this was the best way to go about bringing his idea to life. While in production, the feature was called The Concert Feature. That doesn't quite roll off the tongue. It was Stokowski who described what they were making as a "Fan-ta-zee-ah." So, that's how they came up with the name. Disney intended the feature to also bring people back to classical music. Some ideas came very fast for the group, such as having a segment for dinosaurs and one for a mythological setting. Others came later, such as Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria, whose section was finished two days before the movie's release. They even had Bela Lugosi come in to model poses for Chernabog, the demon from the Night on Bald Mountain segment. Disney was afraid that he wouldn't be able to convey the feeling of being at an orchestra concert with a single speaker behind the screen, so they developed a multi-channel sound process that was dubbed "Fantasound." With many microphones recording the orchestra in the studio, they took separate sounds and fed those to distinct speakers. Several speakers were put around theaters to make a surround sound effect. This was all very costly however, and sound engineering took up about a fifth of Fantasia's budget. With their new technology, Disney became the first to release a record on stereo sound.

The movie featured seven musical numbers and one "Meet the Soundtrack" segment. As a way of showcasing the orchestra itself, the movie starts off with Johann Sebastian Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. There isn't much to say about this section, because it does basically focus on the orchestra the whole time.

Next up is Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite. This takes select pieces from the ballet and uses them to characterize the changing of the seasons. The first part of this segment is Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairies, or for It's Always Sunny fans, the song that plays every time that Charlie is waiting in dark. This segment features the transition from winter to spring as brought on by fairies. I knew it! My teachers didn't believe me! I'll show them! The next part is the Chinese Dance featuring the mushrooms. Dance of the Flutes has floating flowers. Arabian Dance has fish. Russian Dance has more flowers, and Waltz of the Flowers guessed This is actually one of my favorites because almost every song is recognizable.

The next segment is the most recognizable of all, save for Night on Bald Mountain: Paul Dukas' The Sorcerer's Apprentice. This segment made us all afraid of two things: drowning and brooms. Not much to say about this one besides don't let a mouse do any magic...ever. For some reason, I never liked this segment. I'm pretty sure it was the whole brooms flooding the place scenario. Some Disney movies made me anxious as a child.

Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring comes next. If the title doesn't look familiar, this is the dinosaur one. This is the segment that was really boring as a kid until the two dinosaurs started fighting near the end. The segment basically goes through the formation of the planet, it's first inhabitants and through the reign of the dinosaurs. What happens to them in the end? Spoiler Alert! They all die. Sorry to disappoint you. You'll never get to ride a T-Rex.

Mythical characters from ancient Greece inhabit Ludwig van Beethoven's The Pastoral Symphony. All you remember about this was the Pegasus'. Believe me, that's all I remember. The world is inhabited by many mythological creatures such as centaurs, fauns and Pegasus', who all get together to celebrate with Bacchus. For those who don't know their Greek Mythology, Bacchus was the god of wine. Everything's dandy until Zeus crashes the party, i.e. throwing lightning bolts at everyone.

Amilcare Ponchielli's Dance of the Hours is the one with hippos, ostriches and gators. I'm pretty sure I didn't like this one as a kid because they spent too much time focusing on the ballet of the ostriches and all I wanted to see was the gators. I mean come on. Gators make everything better. If you ever wanted to see a hippo in a tutu, this is the segment for you.

To end off the movie, we have Modest Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain, and Franz Schubert's Ave Maria. This is by far the best of the whole movie. I have a penchant toward scary stuff, even in my childhood, so this was always my favorite. Chernabog comes out of the mountain, raises the dead and even eats a few of them. The whole segment is so creepy, but awesome at the same time. Chernabog is forced back to sleep however by the ringing of the church bells and the singing of Ave Maria, which ends the movie.

Fantasia did not do well initially when it debuted in November 1940. It literally only showed in fourteen theaters because Fantasound was hard as hell to transport and expensive. Even though it only showed in fourteen theaters, it was immensely popular, with people making reservations for a show well in advance and driving from hundreds of miles away to see it. The movie was finally able to make a profit in the late sixties, when the film took on a stoner feel. When it was re-issued in 1969, a bunch of people went and saw it while they were on cannabis and LSD. This lead to Disney basically using psychedelic advertisements for the movie. So, thanks to stoners, Fantasia finally made Disney a profit. In total, it has made 76 million and is the 21st highest grossing movie of all time when adjusted for inflation.

The film met with mixed reviews. There were many who felt it wasn't a kids movie at all. People couldn't imagine their kids sitting through the whole ordeal. People marveled at the music and sound quality though and today it has extremely high marks. Walt Disney himself labeled it as a failure and decided to move on to his old formula, which was taking old stories and making them new.

Warning! Watching this movie too many times may result in ending up like Steve Buscemi.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Disney's Pinocchio Part III

OK, where did we leave off? Oh right, Pinocchio is hanging from a tree. The moral of the story is that cocky, selfish little boys will get their just desserts. The original story wasn't really meant for kids though. Think of the original Pinocchio as a cautionary tale in the same vein as a Grimm's Fairy Tales. It's geared to make kids afraid of disobeying their parents. Pinocchio was a jerk, so he got hung in the end. Collodi's editor thought that it would make a better story specifically for children, and asked that the ending be changed. Collodi decided to listen to his editor and added a large portion to his work.
So, we have to rewind a tiny bit. Let's go back to the part where Pinocchio bites off the cat's hand. Pinocchio gets away and instead of being caught right away, he reaches a white house. When he knocks, a fairy with turquoise hair greets him. Before he can really start talking to her, the cat and the fox catch up with him and hang him from a tree. They get tired of waiting to see him suffocate, so they leave the scene. The blue haired fairy sends a falcon and a poodle to rescue Pinocchio. I can see why a falcon might be able to help, but a poodle? Do they even have poodles in Italy? The fairy then calls on three famous doctors to tell if Pinocchio is alive or not. Oh, by the way, the famous doctors are also animals, an owl, a crow, and a cricket. It's the same cricket that Pinocchio supposedly killed in act one back from the dead to scold Pinocchio. The owl and the crow can't tell if Pinocchio is dead or not, but the cricket knows he's fine and proceeds to tell Pinocchio that he's been very bad and has hurt his father.

The blue fairy then asks Pinocchio where the gold coins are. He lies and tells her that he lost them. Bad move. His nose grows. And it keeps growing because Pinocchio doesn't know when to shut up. The fairy explains to Pinocchio that his nose will grow anytime he tells a lie, so he better watch what he says. Unlike in the Disney version, Pinocchio's nose does not go back to normal eventually. The fairy has to send a group of woodpeckers to hammer his nose back to normal.

Things start to get weird again. Not that it isn't already weird, but this story keeps surprising me. The fairy and Pinocchio decide to become brother and sister and the fairy has her animal minions send for Gepetto so he can live in the forest with them. It's not like he has a perfectly good house to live in. It's possible that they could not live in the woods. I don't know, I didn't think they were out of options. Pinocchio decides to go out to meet his father but runs into the cat and the fox again. He apparently cannot see past simple disguises because he didn't know that they were the bandits that just tried to rob him. It should be painfully obvious with the cat's paw being gone, but no, Pinocchio decides that these two are trustworthy. They remind him of the field of miracles and off they go. The reach the city of Catchfools, where all that live there suffer for their foolishness. Pinocchio goes to the "Field of Dreams" and finds only a baseball field. Not really, but that would be awesome. He gets there and buries his gold coins, then goes away to wait the twenty minutes it will take for the tree to grow. He comes back twenty minutes later and finds no tree, and even worse, no money. Even though his brain, if he has one, is made out of wood, he realizes that he's been tricked. He goes to the judge in Catchfools to complain about the fox and the cat, but as is the custom in Catchfools, is thrown in jail for his foolishness. Pinocchio is quickly released though, because the emperor of Catchfools declares a celebration and all prisoners are set free. If we ran on that kind of system, we'd be screwed.

Collodi must of been high for at least some of the writing of this story. Proof: Pinocchio heads back to the forest but a snake with a smoking tail is blocking his way. Pinocchio assumes it's dead so he tries to step over it. The snake jumps up and hisses at Pinocchio and makes Pinocchio fall down on his head. Struck by Pinocchio's fright and his comical position, the snake begins to laugh. He laughs so hard in fact, that he bursts an artery and dies. Yep. So to recap: Snake with smoking tail, falling down, laughing, death. Collodi must of really hated snakes.

Pinocchio makes it back to the fairies cottage, only to find a gravestone. Assuming that the fairy is dead, Pinocchio begins to weep. He cries until a pigeon offers to give him a ride to Gepetto who is on the seashore about to set sail to find Pinocchio. Why Gepetto assumed that Pinocchio was out to sea, I have no idea. Pinocchio rides the pigeon to the sea but they are too late. Gepetto has set sail. Pinocchio leaps into the sea but is swept underwater. He comes up to see Gepetto get swallowed by a large shark.

A dolphin offers a ride to Pinocchio and they go to the nearest island, where he runs into the blue fairy. She is now old enough to be his mother and takes on that role, telling him to go to school because it will help him become a real boy. OK, has Pinocchio really forgotten about Gepetto? I mean, he just got eaten by a shark! Here's a short version of the next big part: Pinocchio plays hooky, gets in a fight, gets arrested, gets chased by a dog into the sea, rescues drowning dog, becomes best friend with dog, caught in ogre's fishing net, dog saves Pinocchio, Pinocchio goes home, snail answers door, Pinocchio kicks door and gets stuck, Blue fairy gives him another chance, does well in school, goes to invite friends to party, meets Candlewick. Candlewick tells Pinocchio of the land of play, a place where you play all day and never work. He goes with Candlewick there and plays for a very long time until one day he wakes up with donkey ears. A squirrel shows up and tells Pinocchio that that's what happens to people that don't work. Communist squirrel! Also, why a squirrel? Why not a human being? Are animals on the same level as humans in this book?

This is seriously the dumbest book ever. Just wanted to get that out there. Pinocchio becomes a full on jack-ass and is sold to a circus. He brakes his leg and like every horse like creature, he needs to be put out of his misery. Since they didn't have shotguns back then, they attempted to drown Pinocchio in the sea. When they pull him up though, he is a wooden boy again. He explains that a fish ate all the donkey skin off of him. Seriously, what's wrong with this story? What kid wants to hear this? Pinocchio is then let out to sea and is promptly eaten by a large dogfish. Inside he finds Gepetto who has been living inside the shark with his raft. Oh, whats that? I said it was a whale at first, then a dogfish, and then a shark? Well, Collodi apparently couldn't make up his mind on what creature eats the main characters in this story. Pinocchio and Gepetto get out of the shark/whale/dogfish and swim back to shore. How'd they get out? It doesn't say. ANOTHER PLOT HOLE!

They get to shore and go back to the woods. Along the way they meet the cat and fox, who are now actually blind and lame. They ask Pinocchio for money, but he doesn't listen to them. He leaves them to their demise. Pinocchio is totally cold-blooded! I mean, he lets people go to jail for him, bites off a cat's hand, makes a snake implode, fights a boy, and then denies destitute animals. They find a small house and find that the cricket lives there. He says they can stay there as long as they work. Communist cricket! Pinocchio gets a job working for a farmer. While he is there, he notices that the farmer's dying donkey is none other than Candlewick. Pinocchio mourns his stupid, stupid friend. He mourns his donkey friend, but not once did he grieve over losing Gepetto. This kid has his priorities straight. After some time, Gepetto is ill and Pinocchio has to take care of him. When Pinocchio goes out to get some supplies, the snail comes and tells him that the fairy is dying and needs the money that Pinocchio has made from his job. Pinocchio gives the snail the money and returns home. That night he dreams that he is kissed by the blue fairy. OK, so first they are strangers, then siblings, then mother and son, but now she is kissing him in his dreams. Ugh. Pinocchio wakes up to find that he is a real boy, has a new suit and shoes, and a bag full of gold coins. Not only that, but Gepetto is all better. They all live happily ever after...except the cat, the fox, the snake, and Candlewick.

So, as you can see, Disney had to rework a couple things, as in most of it. You'll notice that the only character that they added was the coachman. But, it was basically like Disney was writing the story from scratch since the original was so freaking disturbing.

Disney's Pinocchio released in 1940 and was critically acclaimed in the U.S. and did well. This was not the same result worldwide however. WWII kept Pinocchio out of many foreign countries til after the war which greatly hurt the movies gross. The movie cost Disney 2.28 million and the movie made only 1.42 million. So, thanks to Hitler, Pinocchio wasn't a big financial hit like Snow White. With subsequent re-releases and adjusting for inflation, the movie has, in total, grossed over 84 million. The movie did go on to win Oscars for Best Song (When You Wish Upon A Star) and Best Score. This is the first competitive Oscar that Disney won and would be the only Disney movie to win both those Oscars until Mary Poppins. Pinocchio today is considered one of the greatest Disney films, both in story and animation. The effects animation alone set the standard for all animated films afterward.

In my opinion, I'm glad that Walt Disney created a different version from the original. I thought the donkey transformation scene and Monstro were terrifying enough. I can't imagine what I would of thought as a child if I had seen all the stuff in the original Pinocchio story.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Disney's Pinocchio Part II

Like I was saying before, the original tale of Pinocchio is pretty messed up. Created by Carlo Collodi in 1883, the Italian children's book was originally a serial, but was put together into a book a few years later. The story starts off with a carpenter named Master Antonio. He finds a good piece of pinewood and is about to carve it to make a leg for his table. As he starts though, the log shouts out, "Don't strike me too hard!" This legitimately freaked out Master Antonio. His clock, candlestick and fine china talked, but a piece of wood, that was too much! He had to get rid of this thing, but didn't know exactly what to do. He looked at his fireplace, then back at the possessed log, then back at his fireplace, then back at the possessed log. Just then, his neighbor Geppetto bursts in and just happens to be looking for a piece of wood to make a puppet. Apparently, Geppetto was known for hating children. He hated them so much, in fact, that he wanted to make a wooden version of one. Your guess is as good as mine. Master Antonio sees his chance and offers the log to Geppetto.

Geppetto is incredibly poor and decides that the best use of his time is to make puppets and sell them. Geppetto begins to carve the block of wood, whom he names Pinocchio, into a puppet. As soon as he finishes Pinocchio's nose, it begins to grow. This doesn't seem to phase Geppetto, and he continues to carve this puppet. It is revealed that Pinocchio, unlike the Disney version, is extremely mischievous. So mischievous in fact, that when Geppetto finishes Pinocchio's legs, Pinocchio begins to kick Geppetto incessantly. Geppetto finishes the puppet, even though it's clearly possessed, and teaches it to walk. Pinocchio thanks him by running out of the house and out onto the town. Pinocchio is quickly picked up by the Italian version of a policeman, a Carabiniere. The policeman remembers that Geppetto hates children, so he assumes that Geppetto had been smacking Pinocchio around, which he should of been doing, and goes back to Geppetto's house and arrests him. Geppetto is thrown in jail. Pinocchio, feeling little to no shame for getting Geppetto thrown in jail, goes back to Geppetto's house to eat all his food. When he arrives, a talking cricket, who isn't given a name in this version, tells Pinocchio that boys that do not obey their parents turn into donkeys. Pinocchio decides that he's not going to take that from a cricket and throws a hammer at him. Pinocchio throws it much more accurately than he thought and accidentally kills the cricket. That's right, Pinocchio smashes Jiminy Cricket with a hammer. Don't worry, it gets better.

After committing pesticide, Pinocchio remembers that he has the munchies. He can't find anything in Geppetto's house, so he goes next door to beg for food. The neighbor is annoyed by this talking puppet because...well, it's an annoying talking puppet. The neighbor dumps a huge basin of water onto Pinocchio to get rid of him. Pinocchio runs back home to warm up, making the smartest decision he's ever made; he puts his legs on the stove, then falls asleep. When he wakes up, he finds that his legs have been burnt off. At this point, it's obvious that Pinocchio is a few prongs short of a galaxy. Geppetto returns home from jail, since in Italy they give people who abuse children one night in the pen. Geppetto makes Pinocchio new feet and feeds him the pears he bought on the way. I just realized....why does a puppet need to eat food? I mean, seriously. Anyway, to thank Geppetto, Pinocchio promises to go to school. Geppetto doesn't have money for school books so he sells his only coat.

Pinocchio heads off to school but notices a crowd gathering nearby. He looks to see what's going on and finds that their is a marionette performance going on in a theater. Pinocchio is so curious about the show that he sells his school books to get a ticket. If you already didn't hate Pinocchio, you probably do now. The puppets on stage are performing until they see Pinocchio. They get all excited an exclaim, "It's our brother, Pinocchio!" The crowd becomes upset and the "puppet wrangler" as I will refer to him, comes out to see what is going on. He becomes angry that Pinocchio ruined his show and decides to use him as firewood to cook his lamb dinner. Pinocchio pleads for his life. The puppet wrangler decides to spare Pinocchio, but then chooses to use one of the other puppets to cook his lamb. Pinocchio pleads for the puppet's life. The puppet wrangler gives up and learns of Pinocchio's poor father. He gives Pinocchio five gold pieces to give to Geppetto. I wish I could ruin somebody's show and have them give me money in the end.

Pinocchio runs home to give the money to Geppetto, when he comes across a cat and a fox. Pretending to be blind and lame, they tell Pinocchio that if he buries his money in the field of miracles, outside the city of Catchfools, they will grow into a tree with a thousand gold coins. Pinocchio is also naive in this version. He believes them and they all go off to the city of Catchfools. They stop at a tavern where the cat and fox gorge themselves on food at Pinocchio's expense and then leave Pinocchio in the night. The innkeeper wakes Pinocchio and tells him that the cat and fox had to leave in an emergency and would meet Pinocchio in Catchfools. Pinocchio sets off and is confronted by the ghost of the cricket. The ghost cricket tells Pinocchio to go back home and give Geppetto the money. Pinocchio ignores the cricket and is visibly frustrated that he doesn't have a hammer to throw at him. The cat and fox disguise themselves as bandits and jump out at Pinocchio, trying to rob him. Pinocchio sticks the coins in his mouth and climbs up a tree. The "bandits" start a fire under the tree and Pinocchio is forced to jump down. They try to pry Pinocchio's mouth open but Pinocchio bites the cat's hand off and escapes into the forest. Yeah, that's right. He bites off the cat's hand. That guy that faced Mike Tyson had it easy. You mess with Pinocchio, you're gonna lose a hand. The fox and cat catch up with Pinocchio, however, and hang him from a tree. The End. I'm serious. This was the original ending to Pinocchio. Pinocchio gets hung. Though if a puppet bit off my hand, I'd probably want to hang him too. Collodi's editor took one look at the ending and told him to rewrite it. He said it was too depressing and needed to have a happy ending. Collodi did rewrite the end, but basically wrote another half of the story instead of a new ending.

The second half of that story comes another day!