The much-loved Disney film Pinocchio, surprisingly the most critically acclaimed animated film ever made, saw its premiere in New York on this day in 1940. It was originally a box-office failure and was panned by critics due to its dark nature, and it is thought that the use of multiple villains in the film is a representation of the complexity of the Great Depression. It is also thought that the dark nature of the film comes from the sources of the story itself in Europe, with the author coming from Italy, and the setting and scenery of the film taking its roots in German Expressionism.
It has also been argued that, considering the film was released at the height of World War Two, the character of Jiminy Crickett can be seen almost as a ‘forgotten man’. He is introduced in the film as a beggar with shoes that are falling apart, looking for a place to call home. Given the role of Pinocchio’s consciousness, it is as if the poor and downtrodden of the world can help to guide the innocent and help them to live better lives in a society wrought with conflict.
The character of Stromboli has sometimes been interpreted as a Jewish Gypsy. Stromboli’s preoccupation with money and his anger when someone throws a metal slug on stage instead of legal tender certainly plays to the stereotype of Jewish men as misers focused on money, loans, and wealth.
The New York Times gave favourable reviews for the film, claiming “We can report confidently this morning that Mr. Disney’s Pinocchio is the happiest event since the war…”