“Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic” by J.B. Kaufman

I just finished this gem of a book yesterday evening. J.B. Kaufman should be a familiar name for most of us who like reading up on Disney history; he co-authored the definitive book on the Disney studio’s silent era work and his big, beautiful volume on the making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs won great acclaim. On the commentary track for the Blu-ray release of Disney’s second feature Pinocchio, Kaufman announced he had a book on that film in the works as well, which had left me in great anticipation for Pinocchio: The Making of the Disney Epic for about three to four years now.

For fans of the film and the pre-WWII years at the Disney studio, this book is a must-have. Like the earlier tome on Snow White, it’s filled with concept art, stills, and behind-the-scenes photographs, as well as information on the original Collodi novel, and its presence in 19th/20th century popular culture and in the early cinema. The production is described in great detail, particularly the way the filmmakers achieved those marvelous effects and character animation (both of which have rarely been equaled in animation, even to this day), and every scene in the film is analyzed extensively.

To top it all off is an essay from film historian Russell Merritt, which discusses the way the Disney Pinocchio approaches themes of the presence of evil in the world, the painful transformation from youth into adulthood, and spiritual redemption. He even notes an element of melancholy in the otherwise happy finale, one which I have never seen others mention in their analysis. One reviewer on Amazon thought the whole essay was “tedious,” but I found it enlightening and enjoyable. Then again, I’m studying film and literature in graduate school, so your mileage will definitely vary there.

In any case, a great book about a great film.

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