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70th Anniversary
Platinum Edition

Snow White was groundbreaking, "Walt's Folly" as outsiders had it before its release. But with Pinocchio, Disney really started being magical. So for me, it's appropriate that last week's Platinum Edition would be the one that also pushes me to upgrade to Blu-ray. Thanks to Pinocchio and its illusion of life, I get it.

Digitally remastered, and good-looking on regular DVD because of it, Pinocchio becomes nothing short of lush on Blu-ray. Beautiful background details and subtleties in the Tivolian matte paintings pop out. Seventy years after its initial release, the film suddenly looks as fresh as any release today - fresher perhaps, because few animated films can afford to go for the detail Walt insisted upon then.

To help lay the groundwork for my creating another generation of deep, deep Disney fans, this release comes with some great background pieces. Digging into the vaults, Disney has come up with storyboards for deleted scenes and even an alternate, more compact, ending. Of course, Walt Disney was right to delete them and go where he did, but it provides an interesting look into the process.

That experience gets furthered by a short piece on "The Sweatbox," the screening room where Disney and his crew obsessively ran over story beats and tested things out on each other. Though they've used the effect before, it's still eerie hearing a pitch-perfect impersonation of Disney himself, in this case recreating what it was like to spend a few moments in a screening with him.

Historians gather for what will have to stand as the ultimate commentary, which Blu-ray lets us experience in three different ways. It can be done strictly as voice-over, or with film footage of the conversation - and excerpts from earlier interviews with such Disney giants as Ward Kimball - edited right in as a video overlay. If that's a little too distracting, trivia bits will just pop up at the bottom of the screen.

Those pop-ups cover some of the visual information, as Pinocchio was filmed in 1:33 to 1 aspect ratio. To help adjust, the Blu-ray does offer special painted "frames" to fill in the sides of your HDTV, but isn't this all starting to sound like building a wall to keep people out, then a window so you can see out, then curtains so no one can see in? (Thank you, Wayne Cotter, wherever you are.)

For those not destined to be complete Disney geeks, there's still plenty of fun. Pleasure Island offers an arcade to help free Pinocchio, Lampwick and the rest. Here the strength of Blu-ray lifts these games above the usual regular DVD set top stuff, but if you're already on Blu-ray, you know that.

There's also a sing-a-long option, well worth it considering how strong this score is. I found the now standard video/RadioDisney star remix of "When You Wish Upon a Star" pretty pointless, but I have a feeling that those younger than 12 will eat it up. (The disc also includes a lost song, "Honest John," a demo cut in 1947 for sheet music sales.)

All of that stands behind one of the best films ever made. Pinocchio lifts from a charming but at times mean-spirited children's book, and becomes a heart-rending and at times bravely terrifying story of honor and love. The Disney reputation rests on this film - one that fires on all cylinders to be a truly engrossing story for all ages.

Derek McCaw

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