John Canemaker talking about the legacy of "Pinocchio."
Story and photo by Thomas K. Pendergast
Walt Disney and his crew of animation artists faced a big challenge in 1938, the year after their first blockbuster hit, "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," made his studio a household name.
Their sophomore effort had to be as good or better, if their future as a studio were to become brighter.
They had a very popular story in mind because it would help if everyone already knew it. Snow White was a charming and attractive character, however, the protagonist in the new story was a mean, rude little prankster boy named Pinocchio.
“People know the story but they don’t like the character,” Disney told his crew when discussing the project early on. He ended up scrapping the first animation entirely, so his writers and artists spent months reworking the personality and design of the lead character, which in turn profoundly affected the film’s story.
“This was a major problem for Disney because they had to transfer this and visualize this rambling story,” said John Canemaker, an award-winning animation artist, professor at New York University, and animation-history author. “The problem with Pinocchio in the book is that he’s a monster. He’s a brat. He’s cruel. In fact he takes a mallet and he kills the cricket, the unnamed cricket in the book, within the first few pages of the book. So, what kind of a character is this and who’s going to love this character?”
A new exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum shows just how they went about transforming this puppet-boy from a rotten trickster to the adorable, innocent and above all, lovable little boy that is known today.
Wish Upon A Star: The Art of Pinocchio is on view from May 18 to January 9, 2017, at the Walt Disney Family Museum in the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall, and features more than 300 objects.