‘Pinocchio’ Gets a Second Bite at Oscar After Winning in 1940

The Oscars’ animated feature category turns voting age this year, which means none of the genre’s masterpieces dating back to the 1930s ever competed for the coveted prize. And that means one of this year’s competitors for the prize, “Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio,” represents something of a fresh chance for a story that worked so well for Walt Disney back in 1940 that it still garnered two Oscars — for song and score — and the kind of praise filmmakers of all genres and stripes can only dream of.

Variety’s review of Walt Disney’s masterpiece was typical of the ecstatic mood that greeted the film’s release back in early 1940: “Technically an improvement on ‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,’ and in many ways quite as captivating in imaginative fantasy, Walt Disney’s ‘Pinocchio’ (Pin-oak-io) is the finest piece of feature length animation yet created.

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“ ‘Pinocchio’ has all the fascinating elements … lifelike movement and effects both in color and drawing seem miracles of artistry and further expounds the peculiar appeal of the medium. Refinements in technique over previous animation is particularly notable in the use of illumination and the intricacies achieved in the submarine sequence … there are many figures in ‘Pinocchio’ also which completely beguile and bespeak the Disney creative genius.”

The co-winner of “Pinocchio’s” two Oscars, composer Leigh Harline, captured the last of his eight nominations exactly 60 years ago for his work on the score of “The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm,” a colorful and pioneering Cinerama release from famed and innovative producer George Pal, one of the few Hollywood creatives capable of giving Uncle Walt a run for his money when it came to making daring and groundbreaking fantasy fare.

It should be noted that two of that film’s stars, TV icon Barbara Eden and legendary musical star Russ Tamblyn, will certainly be watching this year’s Oscars to see which of their peers have wished upon the right stars.

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