Home > Reviews > PINOCCHIO – Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith

PINOCCHIO – Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith


Original Review by Craig Lysy

After reading the novel “The Adventures of Pinocchio” by Carlo Collodi, Walt Disney felt it could be made into a fine Disney animated feature. When he picked up his honorary Oscar for “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, he advised the Academy of his intent to bring Pinocchio to the big screen. The film became a passion project and its budget ballooned from $500,000 to $2.5 million, with several major rewrites. The voice cast included Dickie Jones as Pinocchio and (Alexander the Donkey, Cliff Edwards as Jiminy Cricket, Evelyn Venable as the Blue Fairy), Christian Rub as Geppetto, Walter Catlett as John Worthington Foulfellow the Red Fox, Charles Judels as Stromboli, Frankie Darro as Lampwick and Thurl Ravenscroft as Monstro the Whale. This film offers the classic tale of Geppetto the woodworker, who makes a wooden marionette, whom he names Pinocchio. He has no son and when he goes to bed he makes a wish that Pinocchio become a real boy. His wish is heard, and the Blue Fairy comes during his sleep, and brings Pinocchio to life, but he is not yet fully human. She advises Pinocchio that if he is brave, truthful and unselfish, he will become a real boy. She assigns Jiminy Cricket to be his conscience. Well, after a long adventure, with many struggles along the way, Pinocchio succeeds, becomes a real boy, and he and Geppetto live happily ever after. The film resonated with the public and was a commercial success. It also received critical acclaim and secured two Academy Awards for best Original Score, and Best Song “When You Wish Upon A Star”. This was the first time a film secured these two wins together.

Paul J. Smith was Disney’s go too composer after his sterling success with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, however it was Leigh Harline who scored the vast majority of the score, and so was assigned primary credit. Since the score was to be song rich, lyricist Ned Washington was hired to assist him. Disney was insistent that the quality of the music match the visual splendor of his animation. He also insisted that the songs be singable, have memorable lyrics, and bear melodies that would resonate with the public for years to come. Harline decided early that the songs would assist in driving the story’s narrative, and that they would serve as leitmotifs for both characters, and locals. A multiplicity of fine themes was created, including; Jiminy Cricket’s Theme, where Harline uses the orchestra to provide a bouncing “hippity-hop” rhythm one would associate with a cricket. Since Jiminy is the embodiment of Pinocchio’s conscience, the rhythm of his leitmotif often is woven into Pinocchio’s musical statements. The Blue Fairy Theme is carried by the title song “When You Wish Upon A Star.” While it is only voiced twice in the film, its melody is also woven into Pinocchio’s narrative during times when she is guiding his progress.

The song “Little Wooden Head”, which emotes with a classic old world music box sensibility, carries Geppetto’s Theme. For the titular marionette Pinocchio, he provides a wonderful child like waltz, which abounds with happiness and a wondrous joie de vivre. Figaro’s Theme animates Geppetto’s kitten Figaro. It is a playful, if not silly line carried by bassoon and kindred woodwinds, which perfectly capture the kitten’s on screen persona. Foulfellow’s Theme informs us of John Worthington Foulfellow and his sidekick Gideon the cat. Harline offers repeating phrases by comic woodwinds to support this scheming pair. The Desolation Theme abounds in sadness, its A Phrase carried by oboe, then strings, while the elegant B Phrase stirs us with violins lugubre. Monstro’s Theme is menacing, and powered by dark, low, register orchestral colors led by ominous bass. We feel the behemoth in the notes.

“When You Wish Upon a Star” plays as the film’s opening credits roll. It is a score highlight and one of the most beautiful and iconic songs in film score history. It is sung with heart by Cliff Edwards and supported by the Disney Studio Chorus. The song concludes with a pan in on Jiminy Cricket, who we see singing the song. “Little Wooden Head” is a score highlight, which features interplay of two of Harline’s primary themes. It reveals Jiminy Cricket entering Geppetto’s cottage, and as he strolls to the fireplace to warm himself, Harline introduces his bouncy and delightful Jiminy Cricket Theme. The theme receives an extended expression as Jiminy explores Geppetto’s workshop. As Geppetto enters to put the finishing paint touches on his latest creation, his gentile theme enters on strings with glockenspiel adornment. After a couple comic statements, he decides to name his marionette Pinocchio. He grabs the string controls and as a puppeteer, makes him dance. We see a music box begin playing and a delightful music box rendering of Geppetto’s Theme carries the playful scene. What a nice cue! “Clock Sequence” is a sound effects cue designed to support the images of several of Geppetto’s clocks striking 9 pm.

In “Kitten Theme”, Geppetto asks Figaro to open the window for him and Figaro’s Theme supports his efforts. Geppetto sees a Wishing Star and wishes that Pinocchio could be a real boy. He falls asleep and in “The Blue Fairy” we experience another score highlight. We see through the open window a sparkling blue light descend from the night sky. Ethereal violins support its journey and she materializes in his bedroom with auras of radiant beauty. Strings brillante and chimes carry the moment. She agrees to grant Geppetto’s wish due to all his good deeds, and transforms Pinocchio with her wand, again supported by strings brillante, harp and glistening chimes. As he opens his eyes he realizes he is alive. She advises him that he is not yet fully human, but if he is brave, truthful and unselfish, that he will indeed become a real boy. Harline supports this tender and magical moment with splendid interplay of The Blue Fairy Theme, Geppetto’s Theme and the Jiminy Cricket Theme, as he is asked to be Pinocchio’s conscience. This is wonderful, and a perfect marriage of music and imagery! In “Give A Little Whistle” Jiminy Crickets gives Pinocchio his counsel to whistle if he is unsure of right and wrong. Harline supports this with a playful and happy go lucky song sung by Jiminy Cricket (Cliff Edwards) and Pinocchio (Dickie Jones).

“Old Geppetto” is a delightful cue that abounds with wonder and happiness. A plodding bassoon joins with kindred woodwinds to emote Figaro’s Theme as he and Geppetto cautiously investigate all the noise. Comic woodwinds inform us of Geppetto’s disbelief, yet after he is reconciled that Pinocchio is indeed alive, he becomes ecstatic. Geppetto’s Theme carries the moment as they all join and have a joyous and celebratory dance. “Off to School” is a splendid cue, which features Pinocchio’s and Foulfellow’s Theme playing as an amazing tête-à-tête! We see the village children going off to school with Pinocchio joining as Geppetto and Figaro bid him goodbye. Pinocchio’s Theme, which is rendered as a danza giocosa, carries the blissful scene with a youthful joie de vivre. When John Worthington Foulfellow the fox and Gideon the cat discover this amazing wooden boy, they plot to sell him to Stromboli’s puppet circus, which is in town. Foulfellow’s Theme joins in interplay to support the encounter. They entice Pinocchio with the fame of acting in Stromboli’s show, and they all stroll off together to the song “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me)”, which is a delightful little gem! The song is sung by Foulfellow (Walter Catlett) and unfolds as a wonderful danza giocosa as they happily stroll to see Stromboli.

In “So Sorry“ Jiminy intercepts the group, and as Foulfellow and Gideon engage in buffoonery, he uses the distraction to try to convince Pinocchio to go back to school. He fails and the trio stroll off to Stromboli as intended. Harline supports the comedy with Foulfellow’s comic theme, with interplay of Jiminy’s Theme on strings. “I’ve Got No Strings” is a fun cue! It offers this bouncy and playful song sung by Pinocchio (Dickie Jones), who performs in Stromboli’s show. The song is then reprised by Dutch girl marionettes, then a Russian woman marionette, and finally, dancing Cossacks! A classic accelerando unfolds and we crescendo atop the melody for an exciting orchestral climax! “Sinister Stromboli” offers the score’s first dark cue. It reveals Stromboli imprisoning Pinocchio, relating his plans to use him to earn him gold as they tour the world, and threatening death if he disobeys. Harline supports his menace with dark tremolo strings and sinister woodwinds, which perfectly capture Pinochio’s dire circumstances. Exotic statements allude to the world tour and Stromboli’s danza macabre.

“Sad Reunion” is a fine cue, which features superb writing for strings. Jiminy joins Pinocchio who his held hostage in Stromboli’s wagon. He is unable to free him and they despair. Outside in the rain we see a dejected Geppetto searching to no avail. A hopeful Pinocchio’s Theme sounds as Jiminy enters, yet surrenders to sadness as Jiminy’s efforts fail. Strings and woodwinds dolorosa reveal Geppetto’s plight and Harline perfectly captures the heartache of this scene. We close upon ethereal strings and twinkling glockenspiel as the Blue Fairy returns upon her theme. In “Lesson in Lies”, Pinocchio’s Theme struggles to gain voice as he lies repeatedly to the Blue Fairy about his circumstances. His nose grows longer with each lie, which Harline underscores comically. Jiminy counsels him and he relents, tells the truth, and is forgiven by the Blue Fairy who returns his nose to its proper size and frees him. The Blue Fairy Theme informs us of her forgiveness and Pinocchio’s transformation. In “Turn on the Old Music Box” they escape from Stromboli coach undetected and Harline supports their newfound freedom with delightful interplay of their themes.

“Coach to Pleasure Island” is a wonderful score highlight, where Harline throws in everything, including the kitchen sink! The scene reveals the coachman soliciting Foulfellow and Gideon’s services to bring him little boys who he sells into slavery. We open with classic jazz, which surrenders to Foulfellow’s comic theme as they plot and later intercept Pinocchio. He is again bamboozled and whisked off by the dastardly duo. The Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee Theme is provided an extended orchestral statement, which supports their travels and later the coach ride taking Pinocchio and the other boys to Pleasure Island. A maritime flavor joins, with horn fare informing us of them boarding the ship and sailing to Pleasure Island. The theme shifts to calliope as they reach the island and debark. Harline now unleashes a wonderful medley of sultry jazz and carnival music, which support the boy’s mischief. We close on woodwinds and strings dolorosa as Jiminy arrives in search of Pinocchio. This cue offers just exceptional creative writing! In “Angry Cricket” Jiminy arrives to find Pinocchio sick and dizzy from smoking cigars. Harline uses the orchestra to express dizziness, and comic sickness as Pinocchio reels. Jiminy’s Theme struggles to break free as he tries unsuccessfully to convince Pinocchio to leave.

“Transformation” is a fine cue that features inspired writing of the highest order. We see the island’s dark secret revealed to Jiminy – the boys all turn into donkeys and are then crated for sale. Harline creates dire soundscape full of terror and sharp orchestral spikes to highlight the plight of the boys. As Jiminy comes to Pinocchio’s rescue they flee the island atop energetic flight music. Wow! In “Message from the Blue Fairy” Jiminy reach shore and return home to find Geppetto missing. A luminous dove sent by the Blue Fairy delivers a note, which says Geppetto is alive, but has been swallowed by a whale. Harline provides a warm and romanticized rendering of Geppetto’s Theme to support the scene. In “To the Rescue” Pinocchio races off to save him propelled by his theme. “Deep Ripples” reveals Pinocchio diving into the sea with Jiminy to search for Geppetto. An orchestral descent takes them to the sea bottom and as they walk a playful line of woodwinds, strings and percussion support their journey. “Desolation Theme” offers a beautiful score highlight. We see Monstro sleeping on the sea floor, which Harline supports with Monstro’s Theme – dark, low register orchestral colors, led by ominous bass. As we pass into the belly of the beast we find Geppetto with Figaro and Chloe, fishing off his boat. The Desolation Theme is introduced, and provided an extended statement that includes both phrases, which perfectly captures Geppetto’s sad circumstances. This is just exquisite!

“Monstro Awakens” is a score highlight. A desperate Pinocchio flees with a school of tuna only to be eventually swallowed by Monstro. A starving Geppetto, who is fishing frantically for much needed food, hauls him in, and is joyous at the reunion. The cue features Monstro’s Theme with thrilling chase music that is adorned with comic accents as our hero is at last reunited with his father. Nicely done! In “Whale Chase” the score achieves its apogee, with Harline providing a thrilling tour de force! Pinocchio entreats Geppetto to build a smoky fire on the ship to make Monstro belch so they may gain their freedom. They succeed and all hell breaks loose as we bear witness to exciting hunt and pursuit music with horns bellicoso animating the angry Monstro. Miraculously, they manage to make landfall with Pinocchio saving Geppetto, Figaro and Chloe’s lives! The way Harline supports the film’s imagery is spot on! We conclude our story in style with “A Real Boy”, a final score highlight. We are led to believe that Pinocchio has drowned and Geppetto grieves at his bedside. The Blue Fairy grants his wish and rewards Pinocchio with life as a real boy for being brave, truthful and unselfish. Harline captures the magic and joy of the moment; with a resplendent rendering of Geppetto’s Theme as they all dance in celebratory joy! We close as we began, with Cliff Edwards and the Disney Studio Chorus singing a heartfelt “When You Wish Upon a Star”.

CD two opens with three Lost Chords, all of which are new recordings; “No Strings” sung by Kate Higgins, Cindy Robinson, Randy Crenshaw, Jeff Gunn, “As I Was Sayin’ to the Duchess”, sung by Randy Crenshaw, and “Rolling Along to Pleasure Island”, sung by Kate Higgins, Cindy Robinson, Randy Crenshaw, Jeff Gunn. There’s no explanation of why these songs were not included in the film, but each is delightful and I encourage you to explore them. The final five tracks are bonus cues from segments of ”The Mickey Mouse Club” each featuring Cliff Edwards as the voice of Jiminy Crickett; “You Are a Human Animal”, “Mickey Mouse Club Book Song”, “I’m No Fool On a Bike”, “Safety First/I’m No Fool In Water” and “Stop, Look and Listen/I’m No Fool As a Pedestrian)”.

Please allow me to thank Randy Thornton and Walt Disney Records for this latest release in their Legacy Collection. While the sound does not achieve current 21st century quality standards, the restoration and mastering efforts have never the less succeeded in producing a quality product worthy of your purchase. Now, please be advised that this is not the complete score, as music from the beach scene until the finale is missing. Also, cue two on disc one is an orchestral version, the original song version is not provided. Leigh Harline helped make Disney Studios achieve greatness with this sterling effort. The songs are magical, and versatile in providing leitmotifs, which familiarize us with the characters and unify the film’s narrative. The title song “When You Wish Upon A Star” has passed into legend and earns accolades of one of the finest title songs ever written. Scene after scene, there is a perfect synergy of score, imagery and narrative, a testimony to Harline’s mastery of his craft. I believe this score to be a classic, a Disney Animation standout and one that will bring you enjoyment with every revisit. I highly recommend it for your collection.

Buy the Pinocchio soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • When You Wish Upon a Star (written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, performed by Cliff Edwards and the Disney Studio Chorus) (3:15)
  • Little Wooden Head (5:45)
  • Clock Sequence (0:54)
  • Kitten Theme (0:39)
  • The Blue Fairy (3:27)
  • Give A Little Whistle (written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, performed by Cliff Edwards and Dickie Jones) (1:37)
  • Old Geppetto (4:43)
  • Off to School (4:18)
  • Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee (An Actor’s Life for Me) (written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, performed by Walter Catlett) (1:40)
  • So Sorry (1:36)
  • I’ve Got No Strings (written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, performed by Dickie Jones) (2:22)
  • Sinister Stromboli (2:27)
  • Sad Reunion (3:21)
  • Lesson in Lies (2:31)
  • Turn on the Old Music Box (0:49)
  • Coach to Pleasure Island (4:45)
  • Angry Cricket (1:19)
  • Transformation (3:50)
  • Message from the Blue Fairy (1:30)
  • To the Rescue (0:33)
  • Deep Ripples (1:29)
  • Desolation Theme (1:42)
  • Monstro Awakens (2:03)
  • Whale Chase (3:18)
  • A Real Boy (written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, performed by Cliff Edwards and the Disney Studio Chorus) (1:41)
  • No Strings (written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, performed by Kate Higgins, Cindy Robinson, Randy Crenshaw, Jeff Gunn) (1:02)
  • As I Was Sayin’ to the Duchess (written by Leigh Harline and Ned Washington, performed by Randy Crenshaw) (1:10)
  • Rolling Along to Pleasure Island (written by Leigh Harline, Paul J. Smith and Ned Washington, performed by Kate Higgins, Cindy Robinson, Randy Crenshaw, Jeff Gunn) (1:40)
  • You (Are a Human Animal) (performed by Cliff Edwards) (1:40)
  • Mickey Mouse Club Book Song (performed by Cliff Edwards) (1:37)
  • I’m No Fool (On a Bike) (performed by Cliff Edwards) (1:46)
  • Safety First/I’m No Fool (In Water) (performed by Cliff Edwards) (2:26)
  • Stop, Look and Listen/I’m No Fool (As a Pedestrian) (performed by Cliff Edwards) (2:59)

Running Time: 76 minutes 57 seconds

Walt Disney Legacy Collection D002065992 (1943/2015)

Music composed by Leigh Harline and Paul J. Smith. Conducted by Leigh Harline. Orchestrations by Fredrick Stark and Charles Wolcott. Additional music by Edward Plumb. Score produced by Leigh Harline. Album produced by Randy Thornton.

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