April 14, 1940 [Pinocchio]

I found myself glancing down at my hands, watched them unclench while Lampwick's melted into hooves, the braying jackass lit like a death-row nightmare, glare and shadow and trembling retreat. Pinocchio has a conscience, all right, and Jiminy! it's unyielding. Time and again, the little wooden-head feels the "reiterated strokes" of retribution, the Blue Fairy--cute as Carole Lombard and ever-so-sweet--reminding him what happens to bad little boys. Disney has stirred up the cartoon like Monstro churning the sea, while the Cricket wise-cracks and Pinnoke plugs along, the stone tied to his tail, both ballast and burden.

I think it frightened my children; but it has a dark-hued beauty, from the first moments in the clock-and-toy shop to the devastated Pleasure Island, that I haven't seen since Murnau's Faust. And I know the songs are in there, sweet and lively, and the curious fish scatter like neon confetti, and all ends well--but along the way night falls, and all instead seems lost, even with a wishing-star. I'm not sure this one is for the kiddies.

A little traveling music: Cliff "Ukelele Ike" Edwards (Jiminy Cricket) working blue, singing "I Love Mountain Wimen."


  1. Certainly nowadays it would be considered not for kiddies, in a world where the image of a roaring but clearly vegetarian shark on a Nemo computer game got my day care center bad inspection marks! And the exposure they get to images of danger tends to be stylized martial-arts Power Ranger stuff that touches them no more deeply than playground bumped knees. But I think Disney was on to something in presenting real fear and hurt to children, because the fears and dangers of childhood are very real and emotionally powerful. Am I safe? What happens if I do bad things? Will I always be me? Will the ones I love change? Leave? Stop loving me? Childhood is not always a fluffy kitty and chocolate candy.


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