To: (Multiple email addresses may be specified by separating them with a comma)
BY STEVEN D. GREYDANUS
Pinocchio (1940) - Pick
Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels (1939) - Pass
Chicken Run (2000) - Pick
This week, a
pair of venerable animated allegories from animation archrivals Disney and Max
Fleischer celebrate 70th anniversaries with new DVD editions and Blu-ray debuts
— even though one is celebrating a year early.
That would be Disney’s Pinocchio
— and early or not, the new DVD/Blu-ray release is certainly worth
celebrating. (Disney plays fast and loose with anniversary dates: A few weeks
ago, the 1988 Oliver & Company got a belated “20th anniversary”
The film itself is one of Disney’s
towering early masterpieces, along with Snow White, Fantasia
and Bambi, and it may be the best —
emotionally resonant, visually dazzling, imaginatively captivating,
Based on the 1883 children’s story
by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio is in
spirit a classical European fairy tale, full of wonder and terror, implacable
moralism and providential hope.
The story of a little wooden boy,
loved by his father, Geppetto, guided by a cricket for a conscience, and aided
by an angelic fairy, offers a cornucopia of moral themes: the necessity of
becoming “real” through moral effort; the disfiguring, insidious effects of
lying and other “asinine” forms of misbehavior; the moral dangers of worldly
influences and peer pressure; even the necessity of grace.
In a canny marketing move, the
two-disc Blu-ray edition includes a standard DVD disc, so even if you have no
immediate plans to get a Blu-ray player, it still makes sense to buy the
Blu-ray. Bonus features include an audio commentary featuring Leonard Maltin, a
making-of featurette, deleted scenes and more.
Max Fleischer’s Gulliver’s Travels,
also returning to DVD and debuting on Blu-ray, really is 70 years old — but
alas, it’s no classic. I’m calling it a borderline “pass,” though to be fair,
children may enjoy it, and serious animation buffs may appreciate it
Gulliver isn’t bad
work, but it lacks artistic distinction and the inspiration of the best Disney.
The Fleischers were pioneers and produced some great shorts, but they were weak
on storytelling fundamentals like characterization and drama, as well as
Gulliver is blandly
genial, the Lilliputian Gabby is annoying, and no one else is much better.
Mostly unmemorable songs, and there’s little left — though the Fleischers’ love
of process and technical problem-solving enlivens some sequences, notably the
binding of Gulliver.
Finally, Aardman’s charming Chicken
Run also debuts on Blu-ray this week. A delightful stop-motion
animation from the Wallace & Gromit
folks, Chicken Run spoofs World War II POW-escape
movies in a wacky tale of chickens trying to escape from an English chicken
farm. Mel Gibson gives a self-kidding performance as a circus rooster, and
Julia Sawalha (“Absolutely Fabulous”) is the plucky (sorry) heroine. Great fun.
CONTENT ADVISORY: Pinocchio: Fairy-tale scariness and frightening images. Might
frighten sensitive youngsters. Gulliver’s Travels:
Nothing problematic. Okay family viewing. Chicken Run: Menace to chickens; fleeting mild innuendo. Fine family viewing.