Pinocchio, the tale of the wooden puppet who aims to be a real boy, debuts on Disney Plus September 8. Robert Zemeckis directs the film, a mix of live action and CGI, and Tom Hanks plays woodcarver Geppetto.
It is the fourth film that Zemeckis and Hanks have worked together on. Zemeckis directed Forrest Gump, Cast Away and The Polar Express, all of which Hanks starred in.
“I got wind that Bob was circling around Pinocchio,” said Hanks in Disney Plus press materials. “And I waited for a while and then asked him, ‘Are you really going to direct Pinocchio?’ He said, ‘Yeah, I’m thinking about it.’ I said, ‘If you don’t have a Geppetto, and you can withstand doing something with me, let me know.’ ”
Benjamin Evan Ainsworth portrays Pinocchio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt is Jiminy Cricket. Cynthia Erivo is the Blue Fairy, Keegan-Michael Key plays “Honest” John, Lorraine Bracco is new character Sofia the Seagull and Luke Evans is The Coachman.
Paul King and Sam Mendes had previously been lined up to direct the movie.
The Disney animated movie Pinocchio came out in 1940. Zemeckis said in Disney Plus press materials, “Walt Disney was really clever. He always looked for stories to make movies of that were pretty much impossible to do as live-action movies. They could be done very wonderfully as animation because he was able to do animated stories about talking animals and puppets, fairies and dwarves and things that would be impossible to do in live action. Pinocchio is one of the most, if not the most beautiful animated features that was ever made. I loved it so much.”
The movie, which was filmed in the U.K., is rated PG. It does not have a theatrical release.
Reviews have been mixed. The New York Times said,, “In place of temptation, the film serves up bizarre plot-fillers. Pinocchio learns about taxes and horse dung, meets a love interest (Kyanne Lamaya) and stares blankly at zingers directed toward the modern enticements of social media. (Pleasure Island now includes Contempt Corner where kids wave placards haranguing each other to shut up.) Joy can be found only in Luke Evans’s scary-fun Coachman (now saddled with unnecessary smoke monster minions) and a line where Jiminy seems to comment on the last decades of Zemeckis’s career: “Sure, there are other ways to make a boy — but I don’t think Geppetto gets out much, and I guess it’s just the best he could do with the tools he’s got.”
The producers are Zemeckis, Andrew Miano, Chris Weitz and Derek Hogue. Zemeckis and Chris Weitz wrote the screenplay.
It is Disney Plus Day, when the streaming network premieres a large batch of TV and movie projects. ■
Broadcasting & Cable Newsletter
The smarter way to stay on top of broadcasting and cable industry. Sign up below
Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.