Pinocchio is the pinnacle. There’s simply no animated movie that can match its obsessively detailed craftsmanship. And maybe that’s why it doesn’t seem at all immodest that Disney Home Video should create such an enormous, Monstro-size box to house a new Pinocchio Exclusive Deluxe Video Edition. It arrives in stores March 26 along with a Pinocchio Videocassette & Activity Kit, which includes a so-so picture book and four small figurines, and a no-frills, movie-only cassette.
Any adult fan of the movie will instantly gravitate to the ”deluxe” set’s 12”-by-16.5” case, whose shrink-wrap label enumerates a trove of extra goodies: a soundtrack CD, a color lithograph, and a making-of videocassette and booklet. How could anything weighing so much not be great? Just open the hinged, Velcro-catch cover, and you’ll find out. These ”exclusive” contents will leave you feeling as rooked as a visitor to the movie’s deceptive playland, Pleasure Island.
It’s not that the feature itself disappoints on tape; in fact, it surpasses all expectations. Long-buried musical detail is resurrected through remastered sound, and the stream of visual speckles and blemishes that marred a now-discontinued 1985 video release have been cleaned up using video-based ”paintbox” technology. The frame-by-frame primping also steadies the image and brings out delicate colors even more seamlessly than the restored prints shown last summer.
Of course, you can savor that same restorative wizardry on the cassette-only edition, widely discounted to about $18. And buying the Pinocchio soundtrack CD separately will cost you only about $13. Even allowing for discounts on the boxed set, that means the balance of its contents will set you back some $60 — and they don’t begin to add up.
The lithograph, which depicts Geppetto painting the finishing touches on his son’s face, is handsome enough. There’s also a fine 27-page souvenir booklet crammed with all sorts of genuinely interesting production details: the staff’s false starts animating unsympathetic character designs, the contributions of particular artists and story people, even details about songs cut from the story (Jiminy Cricket, who becomes Pinocchio’s moral guardian, was to sing an introductory ditty called ”I’m a Happy-Go-Lucky Fellow”). But what should be the package’s heart, a second, 20-minute videocassette called Pinocchio: The Making of a Masterpiece, is completely artless. Barely a minute in, host Robby Benson launches into a series of clips plugging other recent Disney movies, including the video release Beauty and the Beast, for which Benson provided the Beast’s voice. When the program turns again to Pinocchio, it offers little more than extended excerpts of scenes from the movie punctuated by vague, fawning superlatives. Benson hyperenunciates his words, which makes the weak narration even more irksome. ”Each drop on every wave was animated in an elaborate and painstaking process,” he ooh-aahs, but the program never mentions Pinocchio’s groundbreaking ”multiplane” techniques, which put layers of artwork onto separate glass panes set apart at various distances for an illusion of depth.
By all means, don’t miss the spiffed-up new Pinocchio on video. But stick to the movie-only model. If you really long for a first-class keepsake that celebrates Disney’s crowning jewel in style, you’ll just have to wait and hope the company goes back to the drawing board. Exclusive Deluxe Video Edition: C-