It’s a timeless tale, the story of a lonesome toymaker carving a puppet that is brought to life by a wish upon a star. “Pinocchio” was penned in the 19th century by Italian author Carlo Collodi and was famously adapted into the critically-acclaimed Disney animated film in 1940.
While the story is as classic as ever, there is something that feels off about this adaptation.
“Pinocchio” is an amalgamation of photo-real CGI-animation and live-action performances, in the vein of Disney’s recent “live-action” adaptations of their animated films.
While both animation and live-action filmmaking are part of the same world of cinema, both art forms have different ranges of stylization. The classic animated films of the past are beloved to this day because of their artistry. With their beautiful hand drawn animation, you can feel the brush stroke of the artist in every scene. The sequences they draw and animate seem impossible to achieve, eliciting a great sense of wonder from the audience. While a similar effect can be achieved in live-action, audiences are amazed in different ways. Live-action films have the sense of realism on their side, constructing massive sets that transport viewers into new worlds. Live-action fantasy films of the past, like 1971’s “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” have a sense of charm with their articulately crafted sets. Though the sets are retrospectively imperfect, their realism still remains.
“Pinocchio” and other recent Disney adaptations do not have either of those aforementioned qualities. They lack the wonder of the hand-drawn animated style and lack the charm of older live-action fantasy films.
“Pinocchio” is a combination of two different art styles, resulting in an incongruous final product that simply does not recapture the aura of early animation. With a dampened color palette and more grounded animation, in pursuit of photo-real imagery, “Pinocchio” does not ever transcend into that wondrous territory. Every set, prop and element appears to be computer-generated, eliminating that sense of charm.
By the end you are left wondering, who is this pastiche of cinematic elements made for?
It is definitely not children, as they do not care about hyper-realism, nor adults as they are not the main audience for a PG “Pinocchio” adaptation.
While the story is still strong, the pacing of the adaptation could be much improved. The film is 105 minutes, and could easily be 15 minutes shorter. The beginning does drag on a bit, and while it does give Tom Hanks a chance to chew up scenery, the film takes too long to get going.
The CGI, while impressive in parts, is also quite problematic. Particularly in areas where a live-action character interacts with a computer-generated character, there are some clear compositing problems. Being a Disney+ release, it appears the production cut a few corners once a theatrical-release was out the window, saving money in the process.
The film simply would have been better as a fully live-action adaptation. Every time a sense of charm is elicited, it is undercut by a CGI element. Perhaps that was recently done by Matteo Garrone and Roberto Benigni’s 2019 “Pinocchio” but Disney could have provided such an adaptation with Tom Hanks at the helm.
“Pinocchio” is a story that is supposed to fill you with wonder. Unfortunately, this adaptation leaves you wondering why it was ever made.