Monday, July 26, 2010

Pinocchio Imperiled by Termite - Jiminy Cricket Part almost went to an Ant

From the original 1940 press package, produced by Walt Disney Productions' publicity department.

Jiminy Cricket, one of the stars of Pinocchio, Walt Disney's second full-length production now playing to large audiences, was cast in the role of his life by the skin of his teeth. The part, one of the most prized plums of the year, almost went to an ant. 

When Disney and his staff first plotted out their version of the famed story of the little marionette who comes to life, they didn't think of even having a cricket, or an ant, in the picture. Then, one of the boys suggested that it might be good to have some sort of a tiny animal or insect around to bother Pinocchio, whenever the little puppet started getting into mischief. 

Because Pinocchio was supposedly made of wood, everybody yelled in a chorus that a termite would be the best source of irritation. At this point, a member of the Pinocchio crew reminded his colleagues that in the original story by C. Collodi, there was a cricket who warned Pinocchio against trouble in one instance. Pinocchio killed the cricket, but the insect's voice continued with him on his travels, acting, in a way, as a conscience from time to time. As long as this cricket appeared in the original story, it was decided to build up a cricket character in the Disney version. 

The character model department set to work drawing and making little models of a cricket. When the sketches and models were given to Walt for an okay, he decided the cricket should be more like a human being. He decreed that it should be a cricket who talked and wore clothes. Back went the character to the model department where a wardrobe was sketched for him. Word was sent to the casting department to find a voice for the cricket. It was Walt Disney's wish that the character be a pompous but good-hearted soul who mixed his axioms in his tongue-twisting efforts at flowery speech.

When time came to name the new cricket character, everybody around the studio sent in names like Abner or Marmaduke or Cedric, but Disney said one day: "Why not name him Jiminy? Everybody knows that expression, "Jiminy Cricket." The name was a natural, of course, and stuck from that minute on.

Thus, Jiminy was created, and is destined undoubtedly for immortality in the cinema. He shares almost equal footage with Pinocchio himself, as he tags along with him through all of the puppet's exciting adventures.

Toy Instruments Used in Music Box Sequences
for New Disney Feature
One of the delicious bits in Walt Disney's second full-length production, Pinocchio, is the music box orchestra.

In the feature, now playing an extended run at the ��.. Theatre, there is a sequence in which the music boxes of Geppetto, the kindly old woodcarver, tinkle out their gay little tunes.

When Geppetto winds one particular music box, the orchestra of small carved figures goes through the motions of playing. The bushy-haired leader raises his baton and the men in the orchestra render sprightly little melodies.

The studio was almost stymied when it came time to reproduce the proper tones and tinkling sound of the music boxes. The toy shops were swooped down upon by the men in the sound department. Salespeople stood wide-eyed as these men tooted away on toy instruments. It was not only a question of finding the exact instruments, but once an instrument was found they had to get one that had a true tone.

Success finally crowned their efforts, and in Pinocchio, an RKO Radio Release, the toy orchestra consists of a trombone, clarinet, xylophone and small bells—but toy in the sense that it is composed of miniature instruments, as the tones are true.

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