Ben Sharpsteen and Hamilton Luske
First Italian edition
Alberto Liberati and Roberto de Leonardis
Fono Roma with the participation of CDC
Walt Disney’s version of Collodi’s famous novel despite being one of the most successful ones, has always been treated with coolness by our critics and although it was popular with the public it never displaced the original story, something which happened with other classics of the studio. In fact Disney took a few liberties and in order to fully appreciate the result one must distance oneself from Collodi’s settings and atmosphere. Collodi’s “Il Pinocchio” is a young ten year old rebellious, disrespectful, short-tempered rascal who’s not really very nice. The miserable life which Collodi’s characters lead and the bleak setting of the book can’t have appeared very attractive to Disney for a cartoon so he decided on a complete re-reading and re-setting of the story, transferred it to a Tyrolean alpine village and centred it on four principle episodes: the birth of the puppet, the Fire-eater’s little theatre (a character depicted as totally evil, an angry human being who doesn’t hesitate to transform his puppets into wood for burning when he no longer needs them), the Toy Land (where the Postiglione character is just as terrifying as that of the Fire-eater and the transformation of Lucignolo into a donkey, seen through the shadows of the wall, is shocking) and finally the finding of Geppetto in the stomach of a huge whale instead of the shark invented by Collodi, all in an increasing rhythm. The scene in which Geppetto, transformed from being a miserable carpenter into a refined toy-maker and builder of cuckoo clocks, creates Pinocchio is really lovely, enhanced by two splendid little animals: Figaro the house-cat as capricious as a child and Cleo the charming little goldfish with odalisque-like movements.
After a lot of rethinking and a first attempt at creating the Pinocchio figure as a caricature, the version which was chosen was one which would give the image of a puppet as near as possible to a child of about 7 years of age, totally naive and with a dialogue based on “whys?”; furthermore the puppet was devoid of any initiative of his own, as one can see in the scene in which Gideon the Cat and Foulfellow the Fox, a splendid couple worthy of the Marx brothers, in order to get him to change his mind, just turn him around so that his body faces the opposite direction. In contrast, Jiminy Cricket is transformed from a boring, cautionary figure hammered to death, to a travel companion maybe a bit heavy going but ever so nice. The cricket acts as narrator for the whole story and also sings the loveliest songs of the film - When you wish upon a star and Give a little whistle, composed by Ned Washington with music by Leigh Harline. The figure of the Blue Fairy is beautiful, maintaining the function of deus ex machina given in the book, and although she appears only in two scenes, she is blessed with an impressive scenic presence and perfect animation: it’s like seeing an actress to whom some special effects have been bestowed creating a particular aspect to the film. From the technical point of view the film is even more incredible than Snow White. The Multiplane Camera superbly uses the depth of field, the procession of shots, starting from the Star of wishes (desires) in the sky reaching Geppetto’s workshop, is marvellous.
Technicolor renders the oil-painted scenery colours magnificent. The superb music and songs complete and enrichen the work: Leigh Harline, Ned Washington and Paul Smith have created a music score which ably underlines situations and states of mind of the characters, often resuming the themes of the songs: in all, five: apart from the already mentioned When you wish upon a star, awarded with an Oscar and Give a little whistle we have Little wooden head, sung by Geppetto whilst he makes Pinocchio dance on strings, Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee sung by the fox whilst he leads Pinocchio to Fire-eater and finally I’ve got no strings, a very particular anthem to freedom by Pinocchio, sung during the puppet show. The songs are all composed by Harline and Washington who also wrote other motifs which were not used or used only in an orchestral form, like Turn on the old music box, danced by Pinocchio and Geppetto in the workshop.
The fascinating and torturous story of the Italian version.
Pinocchio should have been released in Italy during 1941: there’s a thick paper documentation of what was announced to be a real and proper event. In that year, the Editing company Suvini-Zerboni published the music scores with the songs of the film and the Italian lyrics of Lario, a popular writer of songs; in January 1941, the first edition of the periodical I GRANDI FILMI (sic!) ILLUSTRATI appeared in newspaper stands, edited in Milan in the Galleria del Corso (probably the editor was the same Suvini-Zerboni) which began its publication precisely with Pinocchio, proposing in its 64 illustrated, coloured pages, the complete account of the theme of the film, many illustrations taken from the scenes and the lyrics to all the songs; the Italian names of the characters were also indicated, amongst whom “Gimmi” the name of Jiminy Cricket and “Mostro”, the name of the threatening whale. It’s likely therefore that a first dubbing of the film had been prepared and that everything was ready. Unfortunately, the United States’ entry into the Second World War probably put a spoke in the wheels. It is impossible to screen any American film in Italy from that date and “Pinocchio” ends up in a sort of limbo. It seems though that Mussolini had a private viewing of the film together with the film “Fantasia”. When in 1945/46 American films began once again to arrive on our shores, the Italian adventure of Pinocchio is ready to begin again. Walt Disney did not lose popularity in Italy, his first films to arrive after the war are “Saludos Amigos” and “Fantasia” which both needed little dubbing, only an off-screen narration, carried out in the Italian language directly in the USA with the voice of Josè Oliveira. In 1946 the RKO re-edited “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, which was an enormous success. But the Italians wait to see “their” favourite fairytale interpreted by Disney and curiosity is tantamount.
The publications of previous years and Collodi’s same novel reprinted by Bemporad-Marzocco with the Disney illustrations tickle the imagination. The Italian dubbers have only just founded the CDC in studios like the Fono Roma and work was picking up in a big way. Stars of the calibre like Cigoli, Panicali and Simoneschi had just finished dubbing a masterpiece of fairytales, Alexander Korda’s “The Thief of Bagdad” (1940), the most Disney-like film not produced by Disney. They start almost immediately to adapt Pinocchio. Alberto Liberati, head office editor of the RKO, distributor of the film, recreates in Italian the lovely scenography of the film, trying whenever possible to inspire a certain Collodi spirit to the dialogues. Roberto de Leonardis collaborates with the script. Here is where its decided not to call the cricket Gimmi (Jiminy Cricket) but to simply call him Grillo Parlante (talking cricket); Strangely the Fairy (who is blonde in the Disney film) is not called Fata Turchina (Blue Fairy), as foreseen in the 1941 booklet but “Fata Azzurra”; The Fire-eater, which in Disney is called Stromboli (a name which recalls both the volcanic nature of the character and his Italian origin) returns to having the name given to him by Collodi – “Stromboli better known as “Mangiafuoco”, as the Fox reading the name on the poster specifies -; the same Cat and Fox who in the original are called Gideon and Honest John, in the Italian script are simply called “Il gatto e la volpe” (the Cat and the Fox). The name “Mostro” disappears and the whale is called generically whale.
As far as the adaptation is concerned, it’s been done in an excellent way and often, comparing the Italian version with the original lines, one can note references to Collodi. An example is found in the scene in which the Fairy frees Pinocchio from the Fire-eater’s cage/den and comments the fact that the puppet’s nose has grown due to telling lies. In the original, she explains: «A lie keeps growing and growing until it’s as plain as the nose on your face»; the Italian adaptation of the line is faithful to the spirit of the original and a Collodi reference is inserted: «Vi sono due specie di bugie: alcune hanno le gambe corte, altre il naso lungo!» (There are two types of lies: some have short legs, others have long noses!”). The rhyming translation of the Fairy’s sentences is superb, like «A boy who won’t be good might just as well be made of wood» which becomes «Se del perdono non sarai degno, per tutta la vita sarai di legno». Pinocchio is not only one of Disney’s most beautiful films from an animation and character point of view but also from a dialogue and original voices point of view which are almost of a touching beauty. It’s difficult not to be moved before characterisations like those of Dickie Jones (Pinocchio), Evelyn Venable (the Fairy), Cliff Edwards (the fabulous Jiminy Cricket), Christian Rub (Geppetto) and Charles Judels (a Fire-eater of intense anger, the postiglione/carriage attendant).
To repeat such perfection might have seemed impossible but in Italy the very best of the best worked side by side: Lydia Simoneschi is a romantic Blue Fairy, sweet but with slight intonations of severity perceptible in the characterisation of a character who functions also as a cautionary conscience figure for Pinocchio; on Jiminy Cricket by Carlo Romano we can’t say other than that it’s a perfect characterisation: comical, fearless, hot-tempered, resigned, decisive: the role has all the aspects and Romano catches them all perfectly, equalling if not overtaking the original version. Mario Corte, famous character-actor voice is perfect for the Disney Geppetto, a dreamer, soft and romantic. Mario Besesti amplifies, if such is possible, the anger of the original Fire-eater with accents and explosions of ire which often make you jump in your seat. A pleasant surprise is Rosetta Calavetta, who dubs the singing parts of all the puppets in the Fire-eater’s theatre with irresistible consequences. A delight for more refined palates.
Lets go to curiosities and to “unconfirmed rumours” of the Italian version of Pinocchio.
It’s often been said that the Italian voice of the puppet, loud but heavy-going, belongs to Corrado Pani; likewise the Fox’s pompous high-sounding voice has been attributed to the actor Giulio Stival; there are contrasting views regarding this. Can a reader once and for all solve this mystery?
Another small mystery regards the famous song “When you wish upon a star” authentic symbol of the world of Disney and sung during the film credits by Jiminy Cricket. Whilst all the songs are sung directly by the dubbers, at the time, due to the vocal difficulties of this particular song a different voice was chosen. That’s how Riccardo Billi was chosen to make Jiminy Cricket sing in Italian but only for this song. The interlude sung by the chorus group was left however in the original language.
When in 1962, the “Carosello” began to publish the famous LPs with the story and the songs from Disney films taped from the original optical song-track of the film, “Pinocchio” is the first but…surprise! The song “When you wish upon a star” is missing from the record, one can hear only the little “repeat” of the song at the end of the film.
In 1963, “Pinocchio” is re-edited for Christmas: it’s decided to re-dub the songs of the titles (perhaps also to finally translate the choral part); this is entrusted to Roberto de Leonardis who slightly revises the original Italian text, adapts the choral part and entrusts the whole task to the maestro Carapellucci who chooses, as a soloist, the young Bruno Filippini. Excellent job, fine, but on the records, the fragment of Billi’s version remains, whilst a “single” comes out, edited by Disneyland with the song reinterpreted by an anonymous member of the choir who sings the verses published by Curci on the edited scores of 1963, different verses to those sung in the film….
Many years pass and “Pinocchio” is re-edited once again in 1977… Surprise! Those who go to the cinema find that all the copies have the film credits cut and, of the film’s symbolic song only the last part can be heard, that sung by Jiminy Cricket as he makes his entrance on screen. The titles are reduced to the three initial notices, those in which only music is heard …What happened to When you wish upon a star? Simple: at the time the pieces of negatives with the Italian titles and the notices of the film are kept apart and re-printed when necessary to be joined to the various single copies. In 1977 someone must have mixed up the films and printed the old beginning of the film and general film credits with the voice of Riccardo Billi and the rest of the song with the voice of Bruno Filippini… How can that be amended? Simple! The titles are cut as soon as Billi starts to sing so it seems that Filippini simply sings a “short” version of the song. The whole thing is even more obvious in the finale, in which first Filippini begins to sing and then suddenly at the appearance of the Italian “Fine” (End) the voice returns to being Billi’s. The confusion was put right with the subsequent re-edition of 1984: the re-dubbed Italian titles being completely lost, the only solution was to print a completely new negative from an American copy, leaving the titles in the original language and using the song recorded by Filippini. Then from 1994, for the restored VHS, the original Italian credits/soundtrack having been completely restored, a return to the titles with the voice of Riccardo Billi was chosen.
[original review in Italian by Nunziante Valoroso]