criticism without language of wood

Pinocchio comes back to life at Disney. Does Disney+’s New Live-Action Remake Send Wood? Critical.

Disney + recycles its animation classics at all costs. From Lion King at Aladdin Passing by The beauty and the Beast, no princess or character of her license escapes it. It was only a matter of time before the big-eared firm tackled its most iconic work. It is all the same to her that the studios owe their opening.

The approach, quite cynical to tell the truth, is rather easy to understand. Rather than investing in the development of new projects, at the risk of encountering commercial failure, Disney is betting on a recipe that was already working. The result is there, The Lion King For example, amassed more than a billion dollars at the box office in 2019.

The exact copy of the adventures of Simba met with success, while others having tried to free themselves more widely from its basic material did not convince the spectators. This is the case of Mulan, which was inspired by the tale and legends surrounding the warrior and thus abandoned the songs and the character of Mushu. The film had at least the merit of taking a little risk.

The first trailer for Pinocchio confirmed that it was rather the first strategy that was adopted. Despite the presence of Robert Zemeckis in the production, our fears were numerous. We could easily say that the footage would do in repetition. Did he make us lie? Critical.

Will he leave us unmoved? (Credits: Disney+)

Not of the same wood

Geppetto is a solitary old man who finds his happiness in making objects of all kinds. Mourning, he will build a small wooden puppet to replace the child he has lost. This is a new approach to filmmaking proposed by Robert Zemeckis, mourning had not been mentioned until now.

When it comes to life, the puppet must learn to become a human like the others to hope one day to be made of flesh and bone. He then embarks on a dangerous adventure where he will learn lessons from each of his encounters.

Before being a Disney studio cartoon, Pinocchio is above all an Italian tale by Carlo Collodi. The journalist and writer wanted, through the adventures of the hard-headed little boy, to approach the moral values ​​of Italian rurality. The story, in the hands of Disney, will be watered down to stick to a younger audience.

With this Pinocchio 2.0, Disney takes up the story of the film released in 1940 with a few minor details. The minor changes aim to make it more contemporary, such as when the cigarettes smoked by children disappear in favor of sweets. The narration does not hesitate either to summon more contemporary references. The song “The Artist’s Life” sounds like a warning to cherubim who dream of being stars of social networks, influencers… Can we exist if we are not famous?

Tom Hanks
Credits: Disney+

The footage has a commendable approach, but never gets to the bottom of its endeavor. The reading tracks are numerous, but the narration never devotes enough time to them. The frantic pace of the initiatory journey does not allow it to find resonance among young and old spectators.

This is somewhat the observation that can be applied to all new products. The presence of a ballerina, and her puppeteer who dreams of a prima ballerina is interesting. She will be confined to the role of escape companion. Moreover, the whole part on the traveling circus sounds like a real mess, as the possibilities of developing the character through his encounters were numerous.

Good storytelling ideas Pinocchio is not deprived of it for as much, in particular in its way of concluding this adventure with a voluntarily open end. On the other hand, we note a barely disguised plagiarism of Rapunzel. It is undoubtedly a way for Zemeckis, who participated in the writing of the screenplay, to highlight the power of love, as Huey Lewis and the News sang for Back to the future.

Visual effects that scratch the floor

For many, Pinocchio is a marvel of nostalgia in animation. The pencil strokes of directors Hamilton Luske and Ben Sharspteen have left their mark on the imagination of spectators, especially in the way the characters have been thought out. They undoubtedly helped make the 1940 film one of Walt Disney Studios’ most iconic films.

Adapting this story in live action is therefore quite a challenge. Who other than Robert Zemeckis to achieve this feat? The filmmaker takes hold of this highly calibrated universe to bring a certain personal touch. It also pays homage to the work from which it draws its inspiration by reworking certain shots down to the last detail. One thinks in particular of the subjective camera used to introduce Geppetto’s little house. The director also freed himself from the limits of 1940s animation to rethink the entire structure of his work.

Credits: Disney+

Jiminy Cricket acts as narrator, and Zemeckis’ camera thus plays with the notions of foreground and background to support this choice. He often breaks the fourth wall and acts as a guide in this teeming universe. But beyond these few biases, Pinocchio is sorely lacking in inventiveness.

A veritable orgy of VFX, the Disney film never manages to arouse wonder in the viewer. We had the opportunity to discover it on the big screen, and this format cannot forgive its poor visual effects. Pinocchio is also the first victim of what looks a lot like an economic strategy for Disney.

The little wooden puppet, although very faithful to the animated version, never manages to come to life. He remains prisoner of his 3D envelope, and it is not his extended nose that will be able to pull him out of this impasse. We can at least give him some jokes that made us smile on several occasions.

The same goes for certain sets, such as the enchanted island yet so characteristic in the cartoon. This place where children can give free rein to their destructive impulses. The aesthetics of this island of pleasures, however, does not manage to turn into real enchantment. It’s hardly a good place to hang out.

Blinding lights and CGI beers, the total absence of real scenery is felt even in the way the characters are lit. Children’s eyes could forgive this cardboard aesthetic, for adults, it’s more complicated. And then at certain times, we get caught up in the game, like when a music machine appears on the screen or when two feline mobsters put on a show to convince the innocent of Pinocchio to choose the path to stardom.

Pinocchio lets go of the ramp
(Credits: Disney+)

For the rest of the cast, it should be noted that even Tom Hanks does not really know what he is doing there, the poor guy is a bit alone on board this ship which is heading towards sinking. The original songs are on the other hand rather successful, in particular that sung by the ballerina. The young girl is doing quite well with her score.

Disney had a hollow nose

In the Disney + catalog, there are films that we would have liked to discover at the cinema. Especially at Pixar, deprived of dark rooms since the pandemic, a number of feature films have convinced us to the point of regretting not having been able to live the experience on the big screen. Pinocchiois also a Disney + addition that will not be entitled to a cinema release.

The platform is an immense strike force for the firm, which allows it to avoid the blows of distribution in the cinema and to keep control of these films from start to finish. To attract many new subscribers, the SVOD service therefore multiplies the releases of all franchises. It is also a way of avoiding failures at the box office, when success is not assured. In view of the first critical feedback, we will say that Disney had the hollow nose.

Disney nevertheless still has many such projects in its pipeline, starting with re-readings of Snow White and The little Mermaid. Will the public eventually get tired of such recycling or will the firm succeed in sculpting a new trend? Only time will tell.

Discover Pinocchio on Disney+

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