Cultural Revisiting: Disney Releases ‘Pinocchio,’ Featuring a Real Boy!

Walt Disney's Pinocchio 1940

On this day in 1940, Disney introduced us to a little Italian puppet with a big dream of becoming a real boy.

February 7, 1940: Disney’s original and definitive ‘Pinocchio’ was released.

If you followed last year’s film releases, you might have noticed not one, not two, but three adaptations of the classic Italian tale ‘Pinocchio.’ There was the remarkable stop-motion musical by Mexican director Guillermo del Toro, a somewhat quirky Russian direct-to-DVD version, and a lackluster Disney remake. Disney’s 2022 ‘Pinocchio,’ directed by Robert Zemeckis, followed the company’s trend of remaking beloved classics shot-for-shot while draining away their original magic. It premiered exclusively on Disney+.

Unfortunately, the 2022 Disney film didn’t receive a warm reception. Part of it was due to the vastly superior del Toro adaptation released the same year, but mostly because it lacked the charm of the 1940 original.

Adapted from Italian author Carlo Collodi’s 1883 children’s novel ‘The Adventures of Pinocchio,’ ‘Pinocchio’ was Disney’s second animated feature film, following the success of 1937’s ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’ Walt Disney was drawn to the idea of bringing Collodi’s book to life.


Originally planned as the company’s third feature film, production issues delayed ‘Bambi’ until its 1942 release. The writers transformed the main character from a rude and ungrateful brat into the gentle-hearted version we see in the final film.

During animation, Milt Kahl proposed animating a regular boy and later adding wooden features. This approach added humanity to Pinocchio, as previous tests had raised concerns about audiences empathizing with a wooden puppet.

Released on this day in 1940, ‘Pinocchio’ received critical acclaim, considered an improvement over ‘Snow White’ in both animation quality and storytelling depth. However, due to World War II, European and Asian distribution markets were severely affected.

Nonetheless, the film earned two Oscars for Best Original Score and Best Original Song for ‘When You Wish Upon a Star.’ ‘Pinocchio’ has been re-released by Disney multiple times and remains a significant part of the company’s cinematic legacy.

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