****/**** Image A Sound A- Extras A
story adaptation Ted Sears, Otto Englander, Webb Smith, William Cottrell, Joseph Sabo, Erdman Penner, Aurelius Battaglia
supervising directors Ben Sharpsteen, Hamilton Luske
by Bill Chambers Bambi was supposed to be Walt Disney's second feature film, but the phenomenal success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs1 had thrown his fledgling empire into such chaos--most of it created by Walt's manic spending and multitasking--that it got swapped out for Pinocchio, ostensibly the easier to animate as well as the more commercial of the two. It's not that Disney was playing it safe, it's that he thought he could bank some time and audience good will for experimentation in the years ahead. But before Pinocchio even opened, Disney was apologizing for falling into a sophomore slump, and the film wound up being a box-office disappointment, grossing less than Bambi eventually would.2 It's interesting to try to watch Pinocchio from a contemporary perspective and determine what's lacking (the crude sentimentality of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, for starters), having grown up with it as a brand classic. Is it possible this idiosyncratic motion picture--more of a dry run for Fantasia than Walt maybe realized or intended--was ahead of its time, and time caught up? It's possible, though Pinocchio undoubtedly benefited from Disney's practice of cyclically reissuing their animated features: people started to appreciate that it had in abundance what modern Disney movies lacked, chiefly, personality, inspiration, and ambition.