Wish Upon a Star: The Art of Pinocchio

Disney’s Pinocchio turns 77-years-old this year. Since I am far from 77 and it was part of my childhood, I think it’s safe to say that many generations have fallen in love with Pinocchio and friends. It’s exciting to be back for a new generation to love. 

With the release of Pinocchio Signature Collection on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco created a special exhibit that I had the opportunity to visit. The Pinocchio-themed exhibit gave a look into the making of the classic with more than 300 objects—including original hand-drawn artwork, character model sheets, cels, maquettes, paintings, conceptual artwork, artifacts, flipbooks, and film clips; the Wish Upon a Star showcases the intricate, labor-intensive processes of traditional hand-made animation as developed at the Studios.

This never-before-seen exhibition created by the museum allows visitors to discover the artistic process and step behind-the-scenes to explore how one of the most influential animated films in history was produced: Walt Disney’s 1940 feature-length masterpiece Pinocchio.


Wish Upon a Star: The Art of Pinocchio

The Walt Disney Family Museum is pleased to present Wish Upon a Star: The Art of Pinocchio. This never- before-seen exhibition ended this week, and it was a treat to visit. It gave visitors a chance to discover the artistic process and step behind-the-scenes to explore how one of the most influential animated films in history was produced: Walt Disney’s 1940 feature-length masterpiece Pinocchio.

Guest-curated by John Canemaker—an Academy Award®, Emmy Award, and Peabody Award-winning independent animator, animation historian, teacher, and author—this immersive exhibition invites the visitor to experience the production processes of the pre- digital era, providing a glimpse into how legendary animators worked and thought. In addition to examining the phases of production, the exhibition reveals how this innovative classic built on the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) to create a cinema masterpiece of unsurpassed quality. Pinocchio inspired advances in character development and three- dimensional design, and the exhibition allows guests to enjoy the art created by the animators and designers of The Walt Disney Studios to create the stunning work featured in the film.

The story of Pinocchio’s creation is presented in six sections: story, design, production, art direction, character development, and animation.

Photography of Vladimir Tytla; collection of the Walt Disney Family Foundation, © Disney

Published as an illustrated serial in Italy, the original story of Pinocchio by Carlo Lorenzini, better known by his pen name Carlo Collodi, (1826–1890) presented Walt Disney with the challenge of adapting a rambling novella into a succinct story. In order to keep the film’s characters and narrative consistent, the artists relied on an improved method of storyboarding—a technique of pinning sketches to a corkboard in comic strip fashion—which became a method of storytelling that is used throughout the film industry to this day. Numerous sequential story sketches are displayed in the exhibition.

Also showcased is a model of a horizontal Multiplane Camera, another tool developed and perfected by The Walt Disney Studios in the 1930s. This innovative camera setup allows various planes in a scene—each painted on separate panes of glass—to be filmed simultaneously, creating a perception of depth previously unattainable in conventional 2D animation. During the creation of Pinocchio, this method was refined and used extensively in such memorable scenes as the “Hi-Diddle-Dee-Dee” sequence when Pinocchio is taken to Stromboli’s Caravan.

In addition to the presentation of these tangible innovations and mechanical and photographic visual effects, the exhibition also takes a closer look at the settings, color, mood, character relationships, and style of this remarkable film, which has dazzled audiences for over 75 years.

Wish Upon a Star: The Art of Pinocchio is organized by The Walt Disney Family Museum and is being presented in the Diane Disney Miller Exhibition Hall from May 18, 2016, through January 9, 2017.


From the mid-1930s to the mid-1940s, The Walt Disney Studios created five cinematic classics that explored new possibilities and redefined the art of animation: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). Produced at the end of the Depression in the late-1930s, Pinocchio brilliantly deployed state-of-the-art hand-crafted drawings and various technical breakthroughs—such as the Multiplane Camera— to tell an epic story. Touted by many as the crowning achievement of the extraordinary Golden Age of Walt Disney’s early studio, this groundbreaking film pioneered cutting-edge animation and sound technologies and firmly established a blueprint for Disney filmmaking that remains intact today. It became the first animated feature film to win a competitive Academy Award®— in fact it won two—and is now considered one of the finest films ever made.



John Canemaker is an Academy Award®, Emmy Award, and Peabody Award-winning animation director and designer; his twenty-eight-minute film The Moon and the Son: An Imagined Conversation, won the 2005 Oscar® for Best Animated Short. More than twenty of his films— and their original art—are in the permanent collection of The Museum of Modern Art in New York. In addition to being a tenured professor and the director of the animation program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Canemaker has authored twelve books on animation history. His publications include Winsor McCay: His Life and Art, Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men and the Art of Animation, as well as the Walt Disney Family Foundation Press publications MAGIC, COLOR, FLAIR: the world of Mary Blair and The Lost Notebook: Herman Schultheis and the Secrets of Walt Disney’s Movie Magic. Wish Upon a Star: The Art of Pinocchio is the third exhibition Canemaker has curated for The Walt Disney Family Museum.

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PINOCCHIO releases on Digital HD today and on Blu-ray January 31st

I was invited by Disney to experience the Pinocchio exhibit to share my experiences with my readers. All opinions are my own.
Trippin with Tara
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