AFI Catalog of Feature Films
Movie Detail
Name Occurs Before Title Offscreen Credit Print Viewed By AFI
Director: Ben Sharpsteen () (Supv dir)
Release Date:   23 Feb 1940
Premiere Information:   World premiere in New York: 7 Feb 1940; Los Angeles opening: 9 Feb 1940
Duration (in mins):   87
Duration (in reels):   10
Print this page
Display Movie Summary

Cast:   Dickie Jones (Voice of Pinocchio)  
    Cliff Edwards (Voice of Jiminy Cricket)  
    Christian Rub (Voice of Geppetto)  
    Walter Catlett (Voice of J. Worthington Foulfellow, also known as "Honest John")  
    Evelyn Venable (Voice of The Blue Fairy)  
    Frankie Darro (Voice of Lampwick)  
    Charles Judels (Voice of Stromboli and The Coachman)  
    Don Brodie (Voice of The Barker)  

Summary: Geppetto, a kindly old woodcarver, creates a little puppet boy of pine and names him Pinocchio. Because the old man, who has been generous and good all of his life, loves children and has none of his own, the Blue Fairy brings the marionette to life to be a son to him. She tells Pinocchio, however, that he must earn his right to become a real boy by exhibiting the virtues of truth, courage and selflessness. To aid him in his task, she makes Jiminy, a vagabond cricket who has snuck into Geppetto's workshop to spend the night, Pinocchio's conscience, dubbing him the "Lord High Keeper of the Knowledge of Right and Wrong." Pinocchio's first test comes the next morning, when, on his way to school, he is accosted by J. Worthington Foulfellow, a wily fox also known as "Honest John." Along with his daffy companion Gideon, Foulfellow convinces Pinocchio that he should become an actor in the puppet show belonging to Stromboli, a tyrannical puppeteer. Jiminy's protests that Pinocchio must go to school fall on deaf ears, and the little puppet is soon a big hit with Stromboli's audience. Seeing that Pinocchio is doing well, Jiminy decides that a successful actor does not need a conscience and leaves. All is not well, however, for the cruel Stromboli locks Pinocchio in a bird cage when he tries to leave after the show. After deciding to say goodbye to "Pinoc," Jiminy returns to Stromboli's wagon, where he is horrified to discover the puppet's predicament. Jiminy's efforts to pick the lock do not succeed, and as the companions despair, they are astonished to see the Blue Fairy, who questions Pinocchio about why he did not go to school. The flustered Pinocchio tells lie after lie, and his nose grows with each falsehood. The Blue Fairy rebukes Pinocchio, explaining that "a lie grows and grows until it's as plain as the nose on your face." After Pinocchio promises to reform, the beautiful fairy sets him free, and Pinocchio hastens with Jiminy toward home. Pinocchio is stopped again by Foulfellow, who tempts him to go to Pleasure Island, a magical place where boys can do anything they want. Pinocchio joins the other boys on the coach driven by a mysterious coachman, and soon is indulging in the cigars, beer and billiards offered at Pleasure Island. As Pinocchio plays with his new friend Lampwick, Jiminy discovers that the boys on the island transform into donkeys, which are then sold by the coachman. He then returns to the terrified Pinocchio, who has just seen Lampwick turn into a donkey. Pinocchio sprouts ears and a tail, but escapes with Jiminy before his transformation is complete. Upon their return home, they discover that Geppetto, Figaro, the kitten, and Cleo, the goldfish, have been swallowed by Monstro, a gigantic whale. With no thought for his own safety, Pinocchio voyages to the bottom of the sea, where he finds Geppetto, Cleo and Figaro alive in the whale's belly. After a joyful reunion with his father, Pinocchio hits upon the idea of making Monstro sneeze. After setting Geppetto's boat on fire, the little group escape on a raft when the smoke causes Monstro to sneeze. The irritated whale chases his former captives, and Pinocchio bravely rescues Geppetto at the cost of his own life. Geppetto, Figaro, Cleo and Jiminy sorrowfully return home, and as they are mourning, the Blue Fairy appears and turns Pinocchio into a real boy as a reward for his actions. She also gives Jiminy a gold badge for his services as Pinocchio's conscience, and as Geppetto and his son celebrate, Jiminy sings that "when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true." 

Production Company: Walt Disney Productions  
Production Text: A Walt Disney Production
Distribution Company: RKO Radio Pictures, Inc.  
Director: Ben Sharpsteen (Supv dir)
  Hamilton Luske (Supv dir)
  David Hand (Supv dir)
  Bill Roberts (Seq dir)
  Jack Kinney (Seq dir)
  Norman Ferguson (Seq dir)
  Wilfred Jackson (Seq dir)
  T. Hee (Seq dir)
  Jim Handley (Asst dir)
  Graham Heid (Asst dir)
  Ford Beebe (Asst dir)
  Larry Lansburgh (Asst dir)
  Lou Debney (Asst dir)
  Mike Holoboff (Asst dir)
Producer: Walt Disney (Pres)
Writer: Ted Sears (Story adpt)
  Webb Smith (Story adpt)
  Joseph Sabo (Story adpt)
  Otto Englander (Story adpt)
  William Cottrell (Story adpt)
  Erdman Penner (Story adpt)
  Aurelius Battaglia (Story adpt)
Art Direction: Charles Philippi (Art dir)
  Hugh Hennesy (Art dir)
  Dick Kelsey (Art dir)
  Terrell Stapp (Art dir)
  John Hubley (Art dir)
  Kenneth Anderson (Art dir)
  Kendall O'Connor (Art dir)
  Thor Putnam (Art dir)
  McLaren Stewart (Art dir)
  Al Zinnen (Art dir)
  Charles Payzant (Art dir)
  Arthur Heinemann (Art dir)
  Bruce Bushman (Art dir)
Music: Paul J. Smith (Mus)
Production Misc: Val Stanton (Model for "Jiminy Cricket")
  Christian Rub (Model for "Geppetto")
  Walter Catlett (Model for "J. Worthington Foulfellow")
  Don Barclay (Model for "Gideon")
  Marjorie Bell (Model for "The Blue Fairy")
  Kay Clark (Secy)
  Mary Whitney (Secy)
Animation: Fred Moore (Animation dir ["Lampwick"])
  Milton Kahl (Animation dir ["Pinocchio"])
  Ward Kimball (Animation dir ["Jiminy Cricket"])
  Eric Larson (Animation dir ["Cleo" and "Figaro"])
  Franklin Thomas (Animation dir ["Pinocchio"])
  Vladimir Tytla (Animation dir ["Stromboli" and "Monstro"])
  Arthur Babbitt (Animation dir ["Geppetto"])
  Woolie Reitherman (Animation dir ["Jiminy Cricket" and "Monstro"])
  Joe Grant (Char des)
  Albert Hurter (Char des)
  Campbell Grant (Char des)
  John P. Miller (Char des)
  Martin Provensen (Char des)
  John Walbridge (Char des)
  Claude Coats (Backgrounds)
  Ed Starr (Backgrounds)
  Merle Cox (Backgrounds)
  Ray Huffine (Backgrounds)
  Arthur Riley (Backgrounds)
  W. Richard Anthony (Backgrounds)
  Eric Hansen (Backgrounds)
  Mique Nelson (Backgrounds)
  Oliver M. Johnston (Animation ["Pinocchio"])
  Les Clark (Animation ["Pinocchio"])
  Marvin Woodward (Animation ["Pinocchio"])
  Philip Duncan (Animation, "Pinocchio")
  Harvey Toombs (Animation, "Pinocchio")
  Don Towsley (Animation ["Jiminy Cricket"])
  Berny Wolf (Animation ["Jiminy Cricket"])
  John Elliotte (Animation ["Jiminy Cricket"])
  Paul Busch (Animation, "Jiminy Cricket")
  John Lounsbery (Animation ["J. Worthington Foulfellow," "Gideon" and "The Coachman"])
  Hugh Fraser (Animation ["J. Worthington Foulfellow," "Gideon" and "The Coachman"])
  Preston Blair (Animation ["J. Worthington Foulfellow," "Gideon" and "The Coachman"])
  Norman Tate (Animation ["J. Worthington Foulfellow," "Gideon" and "The Coachman"])
  Charles Nichols (Animation ["J. Worthington Foulfellow," "Gideon" and "The Coachman"])
  Sam Cobean (Animation, "J. Worthington Foulfellow," "Gideon" and "The Coachman")
  Norman Ferguson (Animation, "J. Worthington Foulfellow," "Gideon" and "The Coachman")
  Jack Campbell (Animation ["The Blue Fairy"])
  Don Lusk (Animation ["Cleo" and "Figaro"])
  Jack Bradbury (Animation ["Cleo" and "Figaro"])
  Lynn Karp (Animation ["Cleo" and "Figaro"])
  Joshua Meador (Animation [Spec animation eff])
  George Rowley (Animation [Spec animation eff])
  Art Palmer (Animation [Spec animation eff])
  Don Tobin (Animation [Spec animation eff])
  Robert Martsch (Animation [Spec animation eff])
  Cornett Wood (Spec animation eff)
  Sandy Strother (Spec animation eff)
  Ed Aardal (Spec animation eff)
  Ugo D'Orsi (Spec animation eff)
  John McManus (Animation)
  Don Patterson (Animation)
  Richard McDermott (Animation)
  Joseph Gayek (Animation)
  Tom Oreb (Animation)
  Jim Will (Animation)
  Murray McClellan (Animation)
  George De Beeson (Animation)
  Lars Calonius (Animation)
  Andy Engman (Animation)
  Bill Shull (Animation)
  Walt Kelly (Animation)
  Arthur Fitzpatrick (Animation)
  Lester Novros (Animation)
  Kenneth O'Brien (Animation)
  Robert W. Youngquist (Animation)
  John Reed (Animation)
  Brad Case (Animation)
  C. F. Otterstrom (Animation)
  Howard Smith (Animation)
  Robert W. Carlson Jr. (Animation)
  Bob McCrea (Animation)
  Walter Clinton (Animation)
  Noel Tucker (Animation)
  Harry Hamsel (Animation)
  Milt Neil (Animation)
  Paul B. Kossoff (Animation)
  Franklin Grundeen (Animation)
Country: United States

Songs: "When You Wish Upon a Star," "Turn on the Old Music Box," "Give a Little Whistle," "I've Got No Strings," "Little Wooden Head," "Three Cheers for Anything" and "Hi Diddle Dee Dee, an Actor's Life for Me," music by Leigh Harline, lyrics by Ned Washington.
Composer: Leigh Harline
  Ned Washington
Source Text: Based on the novel L'avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (Rome, 1882).
Authors: Carlo Collodi

Copyright Claimant Copyright Date Copyright Number
Walt Disney Productions 3/1/1940 dd/mm/yyyy LP9415

PCA NO: 4646
Physical Properties: col: Technicolor
  Sd: RCA Sound Recording

Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre: Animation
  with songs
Subjects (Major): Conscience
  Fathers and sons
Subjects (Minor): Billiards and billiard parlors
  Stagecoach drivers
  Whales and whaling

Note: According to material contained in the production file for this film at the AMPAS Library, the original Carlo Collodi story was written in installments for an Italian weekly magazine. Although the onscreen credits do not specify which animators worked on which characters, these credits were obtained from a 4 Mar 1940 ad in HR , in which producer Walt Disney thanks his staff. It is possible that animators credited with work on specific characters also worked on other animation for the film. The onscreen credits list Leigh Harline, Ned Washington and Paul J. Smith as writing the music and lyrics, although contemporary sources indicate that Harline and Washington collaborated on the songs while Smith wrote the film's score.

       According to contemporary sources, work on Pinocchio , which was Disney's second feature-length cartoon, began while Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was being completed in 1937. A 6 Mar 1938 NYT article noted that Pinocchio had been "held up by story difficulties," and therefore Bambi , which was also in production, would probably be released first. ( Bambi was ultimately not released until 1942, due partially to the difficulty of drawing the animals realistically.) A 12 Jun 1938 NYT article reported that Disney "had just discarded 2,300 feet of Pinocchio because it had missed the feeling he had in mind." According to a modern source, this footage was the result of at least five months of work. Another modern source asserts that this footage was supervised by David Hand, who did not receive onscreen credit but is credited in the HR ad mentioned above. According to contemporary sources, a large part of the problem was the characterization and "look" of Pinocchio, who in the original stories was not a very appealing hero. Disney and his staff gave the puppet a more sympathetic personality, and the depiction of him progressed from an angular stick-like figure to a more rounded, "cute" shape. One NYT article stated that when they first began work on the production, Disney artists used the drawings of Attilio Massino, which accompanied Collodi's story, as a basis for Pinocchio. According to modern sources, children's book illustrator Gustaf Tenggren drew the initial sketches and paintings that inspired the picture's "European storybook flavor." Tenggren left the project before it was completed, however, and did not receive onscreen credit for his work. A 20 May 1938 HR news item noted that the studio had created a new department to design and manufacture character models, and that Disney had placed Bob Jones in charge of the department. According to the 1985 reminiscences of Jones, located in the Disney Archives, "at least 12 Disney artists struggled over an 18 month period--each contributing their own ideas--before the design [for Pinocchio] was finalized." Jones states that Joe Grant was in charge of the character model department, which produced models of all of the characters and "scenic 'props' such as unusual furniture, tools, toys, clock, and other items for Geppetto's workshop and anything else that needed designing." In addition to the character designers and animators listed above, Jones states that the following people helped to create the designs and models: Charles Cristadoro, Teddy Kline, Helen McIntosh, Shirley Sodaholm, Duke Russell and Wah Ming Chang.

       As Pinocchio's features were refined, Disney decided to include the cricket character from Collodi's story (although in Collodi's version, the puppet kills the cricket). Naming him Jiminy, Disney asked his artists to create a cricket who looked "like a human being" and "talked and wore clothes." Also according to a NYT article, Cliff Edwards, who provided the voice of Jiminy, was originally tested for the voice of Pinocchio, "but Disney had turned him down because there was a 'drop of adult' in his voice." According to a 11 Mar 1940 Life article, the "voice actors" worked intermittently for nineteen months "projecting dialogue and song into a microfone [sic] for transfer to a sound track. When this track was broken down into charts allotting footage for every vowel, consonant and syllable, Disney animators drew pictures to fit." According to a 1984 LAT article on Dick Jones, who was the voice of Pinocchio, "the facial expressions and lip movements of Jones and the other actors were shot on 8-millimeter film as a reference for the animators." Jones also dressed as the character and acted out various scenes. A 7 Apr 1940 NYT article on sequence director T. (Thornton) Hee, reported that Hee "donned a Stromboli costume, got up in front of Walt [Disney] and the other story men, spoke the dialogue and acted exactly as Stromboli would." Other contemporary sources also note that the animators often acted out scenes for each other for visual references on expressions and movements. Marjorie Bell, who was also known as Marge Belcher and Marge Champion, was the model for Snow White as well as The Blue Fairy, and was married to animation director Art Babbitt at the time of production. A 25 Feb 1940 NYT article noted that although Walter Catlett provided the voice of J. Worthington Foulfellow, "the characterization was based upon a couple of famous actor brothers whose last name begins with B." It is likely that the article is referring to Lionel and John Barrymore.

       A contemporary study guide for the picture stated that 2,000,000 drawings were created, of which 300,000 were used in the final film. The studio's use of the multiplane camera helped create the realism and detail lauded in contemporary reviews. The multiplane camera was first used in the 1937 Disney short The Old Mill , and Disney's first feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs . According to Life and NYT , the picture cost $2.5 million, and modern sources note that much of this cost went into the scenes filmed by the multiplane camera, single sequences of which cost up to $48,000. According to a 1940 NYT article written by Disney, the cameras were much improved from those used previously. Disney stated: "Among the most important [new development] is a type of universal camera crane, a development whereby instead of using a vertical method of shooting, as on the original Disney multiplane camera, the camera dollies into a scene or away from it, on the same principle as motion-picture photography in a live action studio. The backgrounds which we were able to use on this camera for Pinocchio were twice as big as those which fitted into the original multiplane set-up used in Snow White ." For more information on the multiplane camera, please see the entry below for Snow White . Another advance Disney describes in the NYT article is "the blend," a "technique which gives roundness and dimensions to the characters." "The blend" was accomplished by twelve ink and paint "girls," who would use a variety of special paints and rouge to add depth, roundness and highlights to the scenes. The example Disney gives is the scene in which Geppetto, thinking that someone has broken into his workshop, looks around while holding a candle. The highlights on his turning head and body as reflected by the candle are a result of "the blend."

       The film had its world premiere in New York at the Center theatre on 7 Feb 1940. A HR news item noted that the picture had "one of the biggest and most widespread exploitation and merchandising campaigns seen in years." According to the news item, stories and pictures about Pinocchio had appeared in sixty-three national magazines and hundreds of newspapers. A 10 Feb 1940 MPH article reported that "The Pinocchio opening...received one of the largest foreign coverages in motion picture history. Sixty-seven representatives of foreign publications, news syndicates and wire services, covering thirty-eight countries with a total population of more than one billion attended. The notices by the foreign writers are expected to be read by over one million persons in seventeen different languages." MPH also reported that "art shows have been arranged in three New York galleries, including a special exhibit of three Walt Disney originals at the Brooklyn Museum. A comprehensive display showing a Disney film in the various stages of production is on view at the New York Museum of Science and Industry in Radio City. Two hundred original paintings from Pinocchio are displayed inside the Center theatre." The day after the premiere, HR reported: "One of the greatest ovations ever accorded a motion picture was given Walt Disney's Pinocchio ....At least ten times during the running of the picture the audience broke into applause, and the close was cheered for several minutes."

       According to articles in MPH , publicity stunts for the picture included mayors in Los Angeles, Buffalo and Niagara Falls proclaiming the opening day of the film "Pinocchio Day," and in numerous cities, leading citizens bought theater tickets for underprivileged and handicapped children to attend the show. RCA Victor released a three-record set of songs and selected scenes from the film, which were recorded "exactly as in the picture." According to information in the film's file at the AMPAS Library, Paolo Lorenzini, author Collodi's nephew, asked the Italian ministry of popular culture to sue Disney because he distorted the character of Pinocchio to make him seem more American. Lorenzini stated that "Pinocchio's adventures are an Italian work of art and must not be distorted to make it American." No indication that action was taken on his complaint has been found. A modern source states that the character of Gideon, who is mute in the film, was originally conceived as a chatterbox, and that Mel Blanc recorded his dialogue. After Gideon's personality was changed, all that remained in the finished film of Blanc's work was two hiccups.

       In a 3 Nov 1940 NYT article, Disney "dismissed as 'false rumor' the report that he suffered a severe financial jolt because Pinocchio was a dud." Contemporary sources noted that the picture did not gross as much money as did Snow White , only because of war conditions ( NYT stated that "Disney's European market fell 80 percent with the start of the war"), and that Pinocchio was only translated into two foreign languages, Spanish and Portuguese, whereas the earlier film had been translated into many more. Although some modern sources state that the film did not make a profit in its initial release, others say that it made a profit of approximately $1,000,000. According to a modern source, RKO, which distributed the picture, actually lost $94,000, but was nonetheless pleased because the quality of the product enhanced RKO's standing with exhibitors. The picture won an Academy Award for Best Original Score, and Leigh Harline and Ned Washington won an Academy Award for their song "When You Wish Upon a Star," which has since become a signature Disney song. John Garfield performed in a version of Pinocchio , inspired by the yet-to-be released Disney film, for the Lux Radio Theatre , broadcast on 25 Dec 1939. The film was re-issued in Oct 1945, Feb 1954, Jan 1962, Jul 1971, Dec 1978, Dec 1984 and Jun 1992. It was released on video in Jul 1985, and appeared on cable television on The Disney Channel Sep--Oct 1986. According to modern sources, a 16-millimeter extract from the picture, entitled Pinocchio: A Lesson in Honesty , was released for use in schools. Modern sources also note that Jiminy Cricket is one of the few characters from Disney feature films to be used repeatedly in later Disney projects, such as the I'm No Fool series of shorts. He also appeared in the 1947 Disney feature film entitled Fun and Fancy Free . In the later film, Jiminy (Cliff Edwards) sings "I'm a Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow," which according to a modern source, was originally written and recorded for inclusion in Pinocchio .

       Among the many filmed versions of Collodi's story are a feature-length color cartoon made in Italy and distributed in the U.S. in 1936; a 1938 feature-length 16-millimeter picture produced in the U.S. by Jerry Bresler; a 1965 color Swallow Ltd.-Belvision cartoon directed by Ray Goossens entitled Pinocchio in Outer Space ; a 1974 X-rated live-action version, directed by Corey Allen and starring Alex Roman and Karen Smith; and a 1987 Filmation Studios animated feature entitled Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night , which featured the voices of Edward Asner, Tom Bosley and James Earl Jones. Television productions of Pinocchio include a 13 Oct 1957 NBC live-action broadcast, directed by Paul Bogart and starring Mickey Rooney and Walter Slezak; an animated series, entitled The New Adventures of Pinocchio , produced by Arthur Rankin, Jr., which ran for 130 episodes beginning 25 Sep 1961; and a live-action Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation on 8 Dec 1968 that was directed by Sid Smith and starred Burl Ives and Peter Noone. 

Bibliographic Sources:   Date   Page
Daily Variety   29 Jan 40   p. 3.
Film Daily   30 Jan 40   p. 6.
Hollywood Reporter   21 Mar 36   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   20 May 38   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   29 Jun 38   p. 1, 3
Hollywood Reporter   30 Jan 40   p. 3.
Hollywood Reporter   7 Feb 40   p. 4.
Hollywood Reporter   8 Feb 40   p. 5.
Hollywood Reporter   12 Feb 40   p. 2.
Los Angeles Times   9 Feb 40   p. 23.
Los Angeles Times   10 Feb 40   p. 12.
Life   25 Dec 39   pp. 29-33.
Life   11 Mar 40   pp. 65-68.
Motion Picture Daily   30 Jan 40   p. 1, 7
Motion Picture Herald   3 Feb 40   p. 42.
Motion Picture Herald   10 Feb 40   pp. 31-32.
Motion Picture Herald   17 Feb 40   p. 53.
Motion Picture Herald   9 Mar 40   p. 77.
Motion Picture Herald   16 Mar 40   p. 59.
Motion Picture Herald   20 Apr 40   p. 57.
Motion Picture Herald   25 May 40   p. 71.
New York Times   6 Mar 1938.   
New York Times   12 Jun 1938.   
New York Times   7 Aug 1938.   
New York Times   1 Oct 1939.   
New York Times   21 Jan 1940.   
New York Times   4 Feb 1940.   
New York Times   8 Feb 40   p. 18.
New York Times   11 Feb 40   p. 5.
New York Times   25 Feb 1940.   
New York Times   17 Mar 1940.   
New York Times   24 Mar 40   p. 5.
New York Times   7 Apr 1940.   
New York Times   21 Jul 1940.   
New York Times   3 Nov 1940.   
Variety   31 Jan 40   p. 14.

Display Movie Summary
Advanced Search
Support our efforts to preserve hisotory of film
Help AFI Preserve Film History

© 2017 American Film Institute.
All rights reserved.
Terms of use.