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The mystery of the animated Pinocchio of 1936 and other lost treasures – New observations on early Italian animated film – by Stefano Galeone – – Traslation by Kristen de Joseph

17 Gen


Raffaella Scrimitore’s recent publication, Le origini dell’animazione italiana (Tunué, 2013), with a preface by Giannalberto Bendazzi [1], has shed new light on animated film studies. The work focuses mainly on the period from 1911 to 1949/1950, and marks the first attempt at a complete survey—insofar as it was possible—of the writers, films, techniques and styles of this type of production in Italy.

The films Scrimitore includes are of vital interest, and in Italy their study constitutes a field in itself, distinct from that of “real-life” or live-action film. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, many works were published in this field; nonetheless, they lack any “scientific” value, as they contain no overt references to articles, interviews or other sources. The conclusions of these works may often be disjointed and confused, but they nonetheless constitute the first important attempts in the field. Nowadays, we doubtless have better resources at our disposal.

In recent times, the most relevant contributions have certainly been those of Bendazzi—noted expert on animation, the works of Quirino Cristinai in particular—as well as those of Mario Verger. [2]

Scrimitore’s survey takes account of previous works by Bendazzi, Verger and other experts. Her most significant contribution consists in having reviewed and enumerated the works that survive in some Italian film archives and those that demand immediate restoration (in particular, Spanò’s Barudda è fuggito and Chierchini’s Volpino e la papera ribelle, which are found at the Micheletti Foundation beside works from the Gavioli brothers’ Gamma Film society).



It nonetheless seems that films like Spanò’s Barudda è fuggito and several films of Carlo and Vittorio Cossio or Gustavno Petronio (Arrigo e il suo tigrotto, for example) may also survive elsewhere. As Mario Verger reports:

On more than one occasion, Prof. [Attilio] Giovannini—whose Guida alla pubblicità cinematografica I much enjoyed—filled me in on almost all that happened over 50 years in the world of Italian animation: from his friendship and collaboration with Nino Pagot in the Fratelli Dinamite era; back to stories of war time, like the anecdote about the bomb that had destroyed Pagot Film at that time, which he revealed was actually just a pretext for postponing the release of the short film series Tolomeo, which was then compiled into a feature film; and onward to the first TV ads, the birth of Calimero and very many other unique stores.

In 1991, he invited me to Milan to view some films with the Moviola, ones he had in his personal collection, just before he turned them over to Rai; I recall, in particular, some of Triestine pioneer Gustavo Petronio’s first shorts for his Arrigo e il suo Tigrotto series, Carlo and Vittorio Cossio’s Zibillo e l’orso, Antonio Rubino’s Nel paese dei ranocchi, Umberto Spanò’s Barudda è fuggito and some others that were on TV years ago on Mario Accolti Gil’s show, Le mille e una sera; in the same way, as a guest of Giovannini, I also enjoyed the many celluloids, printed on old, flammable material, from the collection he’d accumulated over 50 years. Unfortunately, it seems that the Rai at present doesn’t “remember” where the “Giovannini Collection” ended up. [3]

Carlo Montanaro confirms that most of Attilio Giovannini’s collection was turned over to Rai, and that many short films that are now believed lost had actually been broadcast on shows like Mille e una sera and Pubblimania. Another part of this archive should be found at the Cineteca de Friuli. [4] Scrimitore’s book, moreover, mentions still other films, both finished and incomplete, that could one day return from oblivion. It is no doubt very useful for every researcher to have such an “updated” list of the films that await rediscovery.

Only seldom does the author refer to films of the period that featured puppets and marionettes. One example of this is the 1936 film I quattro moschettieri, from Modenese director Campogalliani, one of the many marionette films of the time. In fact, this is the only Italian feature film realized entirely with the use of marionettes (except in the brief introduction before the opening credits), hence its vital historic and cinematic interest.

As the author writes in her introduction, her work is intended as a crucial first step that she hopes “will pave the way for new inquiries, clues and revisions”. [5] It is to this end that I hope to make a contribution.

Mario Verger has published an important article about the works of Luigi Libero Pensuti. [6] Both Verger and Scrimitore claim that Crociato ‘900 and La taverna della TBC (or La taverna del tibiccì) are the same film. A recent restoration of some of Pensuti’s works by the Cineteca di Milano—prompted by the acquisition of a film archive from Giulia Ciniselli—has revealed that they are instead two different films.

Perhaps Il bacillo di Koch and Il francobollo benefico could both form part of Crociato ‘900, as the lead characters are precisely this bacillus and stamp, and because the two films date to the same year. Verger’s article elsewhere mentions that Ahi Hitler! and Un idillio a Ginevra are the same film, a view that Scrimitore doesn’t share; Scrimitore dates the first film to 1934 (in fact, it was traced in a Rivista Luce from that time), and the second between 1940 and 1942. It is currently unknown whether they are the same film, and whether the date 1940 to 1942 is an error. Certainly, thanks to the Cineteca’s restauration efforts, today we know of further films that the two experts had not considered: Campane a stormo! (1931), Squilli di vittoria (1938), Colpi d’ariete (1940) and Tappe di vittoria (1940). The restoration also revealed a 1938 film, Il pericolo pubblico n.1 (whereas Verger and Scrimitore refer to a 1932-1934 film called Nemico pubblico numero 1). There is currently no trace of the animated feature films on the theme of tuberculosis that Verger mentions in his article. [7]

The life and works of the Modenese artist Gino (or Luigi?) Parenti are shrouded in mystery. A recent search that Stefano Bulgarelli and I undertook in the vicinity of Modena and Reggio Emilia proved fruitless. There is little information about Gino Parenti’s film La secchia rapita, and all of it is second-hand. On the other hand, we know with certainty that the Cossio brothers tinkered with Tassoni’s poem for their own version of La secchia rapita, many cels of which still exist. The Cossios’ film, produced by SICED with the Gualtierotti system, was mentioned in an article by Filippo Sacchi in the Corriere della Serra, titled “Nei laboratori del cartone animato italiano”. The article also discusses the animated work-in-progress I figli della lupa, with story and illustrations by renowned artist Amerigo Bartoli, as well as an enjoyable SICED cartoon, La meccanica del proietto, that had already been aired. [8]



As for Parenti, we do know for certain that the Modenese illustrator and humorist, who died in the Reggio area, worked on the film Il prode Anselmo in 1936. In the book Bibidi bobidi bu: la musica nei cartoni animati da Betty Boop a Peter Gabriel, the authors write, “With the help of symphonist Daniele Amfiteatroff alone, the humorist Gino Parenti created Il prode Anselmo (1936)”. [9]

Raffaella Scrimitore, however, writes that there is no evidence that Parenti’s La secchia rapita was ever realized, and that Il prode Anselmo dates back to 1941. She credits the music of the two films respectively to Massimo and Alessandro Amfiteatroff (or Amphiteatroff). However, there is no information about the first film in journals from that time, and the date of the second film was confirmed in a La Stampa article from Tuesday, March 16, 1934, which reported that they planned to start production that very day. [10] The hypothesis that Daniele Amfiteatroff (A/K/A Amfitheatrof) composed the music for Parenti’s films would also be more likely (the father, Alessandro, was a writer, and the brother Massimo—whom Zanotto names as the composer—was a cellist).

With respect to the works of Antonio Attanasi—another person of interest—it is worthy of note that his Pulcinella cetrulo d’Acerra is a short feature film, and is currently still extant, while the feature film I picchiatelli (or La montagna tonante) was distributed regionally after its completion, a fact that relatives of the director confirm.

As for Gibba and his oeuvre, it’s interesting to note that Le avventure di Rompicollo (also known as Dan e Pamela) was actually completed. Gibba himself attests that Nino Rota had already composed and even recorded some music for the film; while the production went bankrupt in just a short time, the film would later be taken over and brought to completion by Perogatt (Carlo Peroni) at the invitation of Raniero Materazzi’s new partners. Gibba assured me that he had seen—but not enjoyed—the completed film, as the style of the first half of the film differed substantially from that of the second. The film probably had no distribution. Years later, Peroni told Gibba that he had tracked down the copy of the film. The death of Peroni  leaves us with no solution to the mystery of this film for now.




The story of the 1936 Pinocchio remains the most intriguing, if for no other reason than its being the first Italian animated feature film, and possibly the first ever feature film produced in color by means of traditional animation. There was actually said to be an earlier work, a black-and-white Vita di Mussolini from 1927, by Guido Presepi. The first source to mention this was Zangrando, in his celebrated L’Italia di cartone [Italy Animated] [11], and afterwards also Rondolino [12].

Verger would later offer more information about this in his article:

“Given the experience that he was acquiring, Presepi was the first Italian to attempt an animated feature film, virtually by himself, with 1927’s Vita di Mussolini. Produced by the Lo Spettacolo company, the film, with a total duration of one hour, revealed Presepi’s perhaps too-anarchic mentality; after he completed most of the film, the producers didn’t approve it and halted production. Disappoined by the failed enterprise, within a few years he abandoned animation but continued to busy himself with film and theater.” [13]

Even in this case, however, the facts are often unreliable or incomplete. We don’t know with certainty whether work on the film was ever started or completed. Verger himself has told me Presepi’s relatives were not aware of this project about which rumors accumulated over the years. No documentation of the film’s existence has yet been found.


In his foundational book on animation, “Gec” Gianeri includes many “mysterious” frames connected to the 1936 Pinocchio, which he discusses as if he’s actually seen it; in the book, he mentions an even earlier animated Pinocchio, which the Japanese animator Naburo Ofuji completed in 1932:

“Strange as it seems, the first attempt at an animated Pinocchio was an Oriental Pinocchio with almond eyes, flanked by a Mongolian Geppetto, a Fairy with Turquoise Hair in the style of a refined geisha, a Green Fisherman in the form of a bearded samuraj [sic]. The Cinematografia Nipponica hoped to make its animated debut, in 1932, with a film about the story of the immortal puppet. The yellow Pinocchio was, at its time, the longest film in animation. It was started in 1929, and required three years of assiduous and meticulous work. It was completed only in October 1932, and demanded the efforts of no less than 52 expert animators under the lead of Noburo Ofuji, at the time still a novice himself. Aside from being the first animated feature film, the Japanese Pinocchio is also considered the first color animation; while not the entire film, at least some scenes were vividly colored thanks to a special chemical procedure. The film, which is divided into three parts, debuted to box-office success and critical acclaim in December 1932.” [14]

Until today, not much is known about this film. Some critics of the time praised the film, and even concluded that it was notably superior to the Walt Disney version of 1940. Some experts believe that the film was confiscated by censors [15], and in fact, Bosio’s article in Turin’s La Stampa definitively confirms this theory:

“Last year, none other than a Japanese film company hoped to screen a film about Pinocchio; it seems that this film has been completed, but since the company hadn’t made an agreement on the rights to the book beforehand, and didn’t want to buy the rights afterward, the film was justifiably withdrawn.” [16]

If the censors withdrew the film for copyright reasons, it may still be in some archive. The rights to Pinocchio were probably also a factor in Attanasi’s film from 1935 (which, beset with a lack of collaborators and funds, was likely started but never completed) and almost certainly also in Ugo Amadoro’s short film, whose lead character was described as a “bizarre, elastic puppet, originally funny,” similar to but not explicitly identified with Pinocchio, realized with silhouette animation, and about which we don’t know much more. [17]



Luca Mazzei adds this in his very important study:


“Enrico Bemporad turned over the rights to the cinematic reproduction to Enac, and Enac turned them over to Caesar (Film) on May 3, 1929 for the period until December 31, 1940. Barattolo’s Caesar stated that they would produce two films: Mimì bluette, fiore del mio giardino and Pinocchio itself. To this end, they also organized a competition in the Kines journal for the purpose of selecting the lead actors. This is obvious in the pages of Kines, where the competition was announced in issue 28 (June 1931), and concluded in issue 42 (October 18, 1931) (when the data of the participants was mailed to the company in a parcel). However, it should be noted that, neither in the articles Kines published about its own competition, nor in other articles in the same or previous issues, was there any reference to the films in which the selected actors would play a part, nor to the plans of the production company.” [18]


Today, experts agree that the Caesar Film (or Cesar Film) project was intended to be a live-action production from the start. There is some testimony to the contrary, however. Many past experts (from Gianeri to Savio, to name just a few) have mentioned Caesar in connection with their efforts to create the first Italian animated feature film on Pinocchio; the company is said to have reunited the illustrators of Marc’Aurelio [Marcus Aurelius] under the direction of the much-cited Umberto Spanò (a/k/a Umberto Spano). [14] [19] Gianeri mentions a film very different from the one later attempted by C.A.I.R., a feature film in which “only a few frames should have been in color” and in which “the illustrators strived to distinguish themselves artistically from the famous cliché of Attilio (Mussino).”

The thesis finds confirmation in the words of the animators who took part in this next C.A.I.R. production (such as Ennio Zedda). In an issue of Scenario, Paola Pallottino also mentions Mario Pompei’s set design (“Il Paese dei balocchi” [The Land of Toys]) for an animated Pinocchio in 1931, although the issue contains no explicit references either to an animated feature film nor to Caesar-Film. [20]

Mazzei mentions a work of Maria Jole Minicucci in which she discusses a letter from Bemporad, delivered to MGM’s Rome office on January 26, 1933, in which they write that Caesar can no longer continue the Pinocchio film project; Bosio, in the above-mentioned article, seems to clarify exactly how it went:

 “About four years ago, at the inauguration of the new Caesar-Film, the honorable Barattolo had announced that he would film a live-action Pinocchio, but with intentionally stylized costumes and sets. […] The screenplay, if we’re not mistaken, was by Febo Mari, and they said it was full of enjoyable witticisms. Most of the actors had been cast, and Mario Pompei had designed the set, props and costumes, all in truly excellent taste. However, on the first day, in a theater, we found some sets already assembled, but then, as often befell this company, everything went awry, and the constructed sets—conveniently modified—were used by Amleto Palermi to film some scenes of Emma Gramatica’s first film, La vecchia signora! (released in theaters in 1932).”

Unfortunately, it’s not possible to retrieve any articles or sources from that period which explicitly state that there was such an important and ambitious project as that of animated feature film before that of C.A.I.R., and records from that time describe a Caesar film intended to have “flesh-and-bone actors” in the first place. The idea of an animated feature film “from 1935”, prior to the C.A.I.R. experience, thus seems to be a misconception. In the same article, Bosio correctly describes the role of C.A.I.R. once it succeeded Caesar:

 “So the international copyright on the adventures of this beloved puppet […] had now been purchased by C.A.I.R. […] Barbara took us on to visit their new establishment. We went down an alley beside the university, though an old gate that also led down to the gallery of the Teatro Valle. On the third or fourth floor, we stopped in front of a door with a shiny plaque on which the letters ‘C.A.I.R.’ were clearly written.”

The writer of the article confirms that the Bacchini brothers created the work; he cites two further animated films the brothers completed (Dalla terra alla luna and La morte ubriaca, which had not yet been released in Italy at the time, but had been distributed abroad, where they would have achieved success), mentions Maestro Umberto Giordano’s possible involvement in the musical score (he would later be replaced by Romolo Bacchini, probably due to budget constraints), and names the renowned illustrators that took part in the project.

In October of the same year, a certain M. G. mentioned a production, “almost at the finish line”, that consisted of a 90-minute film to be converted to color with the Catalucci system. He further specified that the film would be a “prelude” to the production of many other short color films with Pinocchio as their star. [21] Agorient seconds this claim in a 1935 article that appeared in L’Italia Marinara.

The same article also mentions “C.A.I.R.’s exclusive right to adapt, represent, condense and portray [Collodi’s] Pinocchio”, as well as the distribution of the film in France, Germany, Spain and the U.S.  Moreover, he tells of a “Pinocchio who impersonates a minstrel and who will gracefully sing a beautiful romanza, while the dance of the martens will be riotously funny.” [22]

In July 1936, the prospects were rosy, and just about every source mentions an imminent release date, probably in the fall of the same year. On July 18, 1936 it was announced that the film would officially be screened in Buenos Aires:

“Under the leadership of Cervini and the technical direction of Tito Sansone, the Latina Film company was established in the capital; the company aimed to distribute Italian films chosen on the merit of their artistic character, and above all which corresponded to the new rhythm of Italian life. Latina Film had close ties to the U.N.P.P., the body established in Rome as a dependency of the Direzione generale della Cinematografia, which allowed them the distribution rights to all Italian productions in South America. They thus represented the following films, among others: Scarpe al sole, Le avventure di Pinocchio, Lorenzo De’ Medici, Ginevra degli Almieri, Ballerine, Re Burlone and L’Africano.” [23]

This doesn’t mean that the film had actually been finished and screened; however, it is abundantly clear that it was in an advanced stage of production. The De Vecchis handled the international distribution, and in the course of the year 1936, in all the film journals of the period, there were film stills and announcements that hailed the film’s upcoming release. By November of that same year, however, enthusiasm seemed already to have waned.

The journal Lo Schermo wrote, “The De Vecchis have been promising a Pinocchio for ages” [24]; La Stampa (among others), which had avidly followed the film’s production, made no mention of it at all in 1937, whereas in 1938 they started to wax enthusiastic about a Walt Disney production that had secured the rights to the work in the meantime. [25] [26] On April 5, 1938, La Stampa’s M. G. put it rather explicitly: “nothing further was known” about our Pinocchio, so it probably was either never finished or distributed.

The same journalist also points to previous, unrelated attempts at an animated feature film, none of which came to fruition. Hopes dwindled even for La Vita di Mussolini and other, similar efforts of the period. [27] In 1939, the journalist refers to a film that had definitively failed:

 “What fault do I and our producers bear, if Collodi is an Italian writer, and yet there is no man in cinema who knows how to competently transfer Collodi’s creatures to the silver screen? If it would have been enough just to want it, to desire it, then all the problems of our industry would be resolved in the blink of an eye; to resolve them, though, there is only one solution: to work hard.” [28]

In a 1992 interview with Mario Verger, Mameli Barbara, one of the film’s most celebrated collaborators, recalled that the production of the film was rather tumultuous, due to a non-existent script and work conditions that were amateurish and “innovative”, to say the least.

 “For example, the album for the overlapping sheets was made of two simple pieces of wood. We had no equipment and the drawings were shot one by one with an ordinary camera, very imprecisely. I never saw the complete film. Every so often we [turned the photographs into] a roll of film, but since it was all so unstable, I refused to see it. At a certain point, the film was halted due to lack of funds.” [29]

Walt Disney, who had been interested in Pinocchio as early as 1934, staked his “claim” with the Motion Picture Producers and Distributors of America, and announced the project to the press in 1935; by the end of 1936, he was already able to compete for the rights to the book, and in 1937 he started work on his film adaptation. [30] [31] A 1936 article states that the rights were “exclusively” in the hands of C.A.I.R., and thus Disney had to abandon the project for some time. [32] The contract was finalized only in June 1938.

From this point on, all traces of this “most Italian” production vanish. In a recent article, Bono cites Don Carlo Gnocchi’s article, “Oltre il cinema”, from the August 1939 issue of Mammina, in which he discusses the Italian film as if it had actually been realized. The other newspapers, however, make no mention of it, and write only about the upcoming release of the Disney film. In the same piece, Bono relates the unfavorable conditions Disney imposed on C.A.I.R. in 1938:

 “C.A.I.R. withdrew from the contract drawn up with Bemporad, which was turned over to Disney; renounced their present and future claims to Pinocchio; and agreed to destroy all the material, illustrated and filmed, produced up to that moment, and to do this in exchange for a compensation of 370,000 lira.” [33]

Unfortunately, this does not contradict the situation that Verger describes, namely, that “Raoul Verdini had made a second attempt to complete the film on his own, endeavoring to color it with the aforesaid Catalucci system, but not succeeding in his aim.” This undertaking would have dated to 1936, the year in which C.A.I.R. found itself not only short of funds but also tied to Bemporad.

The film should thus have been destroyed. However, we can’t exclude the possibility that some “collector” or, more likely, someone financially or artistically involved in the film’s production, charged with liquidating the aforesaid materials, could have preserved that fruit of two years of difficult and ambitious work.

Moreover, there are some clues that the materials could somehow have landed in the hands of Walt Disney; the rumor is not as baseless as it seems. Besides Verger, who probably reported this “hearsay” based on an interview with Mameli Barbara, other sources also corroborate this claim.

Ennio Zedda (1910–1993), who had an active role in the production of the film, confirms in a 1985 interview with Silvia Pompei that the C.A.I.R. film, despite being promoted as a color feature film from the start, was instead filmed in black and white; the issue of how to color it was postponed to a later date. Furthermore, he relates that a film score had to have been composed—since illustrators had specific “musical” instructions [on how to accomodate the score]—and that there was also a screenplay (even if it was probably more of an outline). The first half of the film had been completed, and it had demanded two years of difficult, inconsistent work on the part of the few collaborators (some 30 people). By the time C.A.I.R. shut it down, the first half of the film had already been synchronized with the music and dialogue, and they had begun working on the second half, which Verdini would later try to complete on his own.

The negotiations between Walt Disney and the film’s shadowy sponsors, such as a certain lawyer named Todaro (though other sources mention the lawyers Aldo Alboretti and Giuseppe Busala as mediators) are described in detail:

 “… I don’t know what became of our 50,000 sketches. They demanded the material; it was in the contract. They reimbursed all the lawyer fees, the fees that he always complained about. After the first part of the film, which had been finished, [Todoro] halted all the work. Disney claimed everything. They brought the film cannisters in trunks, and Disney and Disney Studios paid the laywer handsomely, plus they gave him more money.

The lawyer was very pleased [despite the bankruptcy]. They accrued expenses like never before with this film. […] Verdini was told nothing at first. They told Verdini that he would take a break, that the illustrators would take a rest, and that in 15 days he would be back to work. But Verdini went ahead with the scenes. Disney contacted Todaro, the lawyer, directly, and asked who had the rights to the cartoon. He replied that they and Verdini himself had them. Disney made a proposition, and Verdini had no reason to refuse [since, in the meantime, there had been arguments and even a lawsuit with respect to the film’s production]; he was ordered to hand over everything—celluloids, cannisters, down to the last drawing.” [34]

Zedda’s testimony, however, does not rule out that the materials could ultimately have been destroyed. He says only that “the Americans” did away with all the materials, but he too wonders what happened to them.

A 1968 article in La Stampa, on the production of Cenci’s Pinocchio, is less conclusive, and leaves some room for hope:

“The last [Pinocchio] was one started by a group of illustrators who were collaborating on the satirical magazine Marc’Aurelio at the time: Verdini, Attalo and Barbara. They illustrated and animated several sequences, but their styles were too different and the money began to run dry, at which point the work was not only interrupted but handed over to Walt Disney, along with the rights to the film adaptation of the eternal fable, who then created a Pinocchio all his own—that is to say, very American, little Collodi.” [35]

In the end, it can be said that much work has been done, and that the recent contributions of Mario Verger, Raffaella Scrimitore and other experts to the field of early Italian animation are of fundamental importance, however long and full of doubts the road ahead may be.

Many films, even recent ones, have been lost like Titanus’s Mondo animato n.1, with animations from the USSR set to the scores of Morricone, Umiliani, Fidenco and Trovajoli; the UNICEF cartoon series I dieci diritti del bambino (or Dieci per sopravvivere), directed by Cesare Perfetto and Manfredo Manfredi and scored by Morricone, Rota, Bacalov, Macchi and Evangelisti; the part animated, part live-action 200,000 leghe nello spazio, directed by Marcello Baldi for Corona Cinematografica …

Some very recent rediscoveries offer us reason to hope: these include Luigi Liberio Pensuti’s L’igiene di Tombolino (1932–1934) and the animated short Non è più un sogno, whose creators are unknown, but which was commissioned by FIAT in 1932.

As for the works of Italian-born animation pioneer Quirino Cristiani and those produced by his apprentice and collaborator Andrés Ducaud, the hope is that, now or later, Buenos Aires will take an interest in the matter and open the door to further research in this field. Tracking down the relatives of Federico Valle, Guillermo Franchini or even Yrigoyen could perhaps yield some clues. The Savoia family, meanwhile, could possibly shed light on Cristiani’s 1924 short film Humbertito de Garufa, dedicated to Umberto di Savoia, whom the director personally presented with a copy of the film. Even Disney could perhaps have copies of Cristiani’s films. Walt Disney and Cristiani met each other in 1941, well before the two fires that destroyed nearly the entire body of Cristiani’s work, and it’s not impossible that Cristiani could have given Disney some of his works in the hope of future collaboration. [36] [37]

The research has only just begun …


JAcknowledgements (in alphabetical order):

Angelica Attanasi,

Cesare Ballardini (Biblioteca Renzo Renzi di Bologna),

Giannalberto Bendazzi,

Stefano Bulgarelli,

Marco Chiariglione (Biblioteca Civica Centrale di Torino),

Rebecca Cline

Francesco Maurizio Guido (Gibba),

  1. J. B. Kaufman

Paola Pallottino,

Luisa Peroni,

Silvia Pompei,

Raffaella Scrimitore,

Chiara Tognolotti,

Mario Verger



The images from the film and the C.A.I.R. production are courtesy of:

  • Archivio storico de “La Stampa”
  • Lo Schermo. Rassegna mensile di cinematografia (anni 1935 – 1936)
  • Notiziario quindicinale di cinema (5 dicembre 1935)
  • L’Italia marinara. Mensile illustrato della Lega Navale Italiana




[1] Scrimitore R, Le origini dell’animazione italiana: la storia, gli autori e i film animati in Italia 1911-1949. Prefazione di Giannalberto Bendazzi. Tunué, 2013

[2] Verger M, articoli vari. Rapporto Confidenziale: rivista digitale di cultura cinematografica

[3] Verger M, Cartoni d’Italia – Introduzione. Rapporto Confidenziale: rivista digitale di cultura cinematografica 25/03/2011

[4] Montanaro C, C’era una volta l’animazione italiana. Cabiria 177, 23/07/2014

[5] Scrimitore R, op. cit. 9-10

[6] Verger M, Biografie: Luigi Liberio Pensuti. Rapporto Confidenziale: rivista digitale di cultura cinematografica 07/11/2010

[7] Pensuti L L, L’arte della comunicazione: il cinema di animazione di luigi liberio Pensuti (1931-1940). I tesori del MIC in DVD, 2014

[8] Sacchi F, Corriere di cinelandia: nei laboratori del “cartone animato italiano”, Corriere della sera 7 dicembre 1935 –Anno XIV

[9] Michelone G Valenzise G, Bibidi bobidi bu: la musica nei cartoni animati da Betty Boop a Peter Gabriel. Castelvecchi, 1998. 30

[10] Bosio G, Il prode Anselmo. La Stampa 16 ottobre 1934 – Anno XII. Cine-Stampa 6

[11] Zanotto P Zangrando F, L’Italia di cartone. Liviana, Padova, 1973

[12] Rondolino G, Storia del cinema d’animazione: dalla lanterna magica a Walt Disney, da tex Avery a Steven Spielberg. Einaudi, 1974

[13] Verger M, Cartoni d’Italia – Le origini. Rapporto Confidenziale: rivista digitale di cultura cinematografica 25/03/2011

[14] Gianeri E, Storia del cartone animato. Omnia Editrice s.r.l. Centro Grafico Italiano, 1960

[15] Montosi A, Pinocchio di Noburo Ofuji – Sulle tracce di un film perduto. Blog 10 maggio 2014

[16] Bosio G, Pinocchio sullo schermo. La Stampa 12 Febbraio 1935 – Anno XIII. Cine-Stampa 6

[17] Antonini A, Tognolotti C, Burattini animati. Le avventure di Pinocchio nel cinema animato italiano. Studio 23 luglio 2014

[18] Mazzei L, L’italiano di legno (o le straordinarissime avventure di un burattino chiamato Pinocchio all’interno del primo cinema italiano). Studio

[19] Savio F, Ma l’amore no: realismo, formalismo, propaganda e telefoni bianchi nel cinema italiano di regime (1930-1943). Sonzogno, 1975

[20] Pallottino P (a cura di), Mario Pompei scenografo, illustratore e cartellonista 1903 – 1958. Electa, Milano 1993

[21] M. G., Dietro lo schermo – Nuove avventure di Pinocchio. La Stampa 29 Ottobre 1935 – Anno XIV 3

[22] Agorient, Indiscrezioni su “Le avventure di Pinocchio”. L’Italia Marinara 12 Dicembre 1935 – Anno XIV

[23] Pellicole italiane nel Sud-America. La Stampa – Ultime notizie 18 Luglio 1936 – Anno XIV

[24] Bonfiglio F, Topolino ha otto anni. Lo Schermo – rassegna della cinematografia Novembre 1936 – Anno XV

[25] M. G., Dietro lo schermo – Disney sta lavorando a “Pinocchio”. La Stampa 31 Maggio 1938 – Anno XVI 3

[26] M. G., Dietro lo schermo – Il nuovo film di Disney. La Stampa 12 Luglio 1938 – Anno XVI 3

[27] M. G., Dietro lo schermo – Disegni di oggi e di domani. La Stampa 5 Aprile 1938 – Anno XVI 3

[28] M. G., Dietro lo schermo – Riduzioni cinematografiche di opere letterarie. La Stampa 10 Gennaio 1939 – Anno XVII 3

[29] Verger M, Il Pinocchio incompiuto, in Note di tecnica cinematografica, nº 3, Roma, ATIC, luglio-settembre 2001, pp. 34-35.

[30] Kaufman J B, Pinocchio the making of the Disney epic, The Walt Disney Family Foundation Press, 2015

[31 ] M. G., Dietro lo schermo – propositi di Disney. La Stampa 23 Luglio 1935 – Anno XIII 3

[32] M. G., Dietro lo schermo – disegni animati italiani. La Stampa 7 Luglio 1936 – Anno XIV 3

[33] Bono G, Pinocchio storia di un film tanto atteso. Le avventure di Pinocchio, Giunti 2016

[34] Pompei S, Intervista ad Ennio Zedda. Registrazione, Roma 1985

[35] P. Z., Pinocchio ritorna sullo schermo. La Stampa 16 Gennaio 1968 7

[36] Bendazzi G, L’uomo che anticipò Disney. Con uno scritto di John Halas. Tunué, 2007

[37] Zucchelli G, Quirino Cristiani, the mystery behind the first animated movies. Documentario, 2007


Pirati! Briganti da strapazzo, uno stop motion tutto da ridere

15 Apr

Amanti di Wallace and Gromit e dei pupazzi di plastilina creati da Nick Park e animati in stop motion, dimenticate La Maledizione del Coniglio Mannaro, Capitan Pirata e la sua ciurma vi faranno ridere ancora di più, soprattutto se la vostra infanzia è stata riempita con le avventure grafiche di Monkey Island. Pirati! Briganti da strapazzo mischia un po’ di Guybrush Threepwood con un pizzico di Jack Sparrow, ma è un film del tutto originale, ispirato alle avventure scritte da Gideon Defoe (sceneggiatore anche del film), e che mantiene intatta l’eredità di Nick Park, stavolta non coinvolto nel progetto della Aardman Animations.

Capitan Pirata (la voce italiana è di Christian De Sica, quella originale di Hugh Grant) è il leader di una ciurma sgangherata, che passa il tempo a discutere sul fatto che sia meglio «sciabolare» o «saccheggiare», con un pirata albino dall’aspetto malaticcio, che dell’essere pirata ama «la possibilità di beccarsi malattie esotiche», uno che è completamente rattoppato tra gambe di legno, uncino e una protesi nasale che non è altro che un tappo di sughero, un altro che in realtà è “altra”, e soprattutto un pappagallo che in realtà non è un pappagallo.

Una banda così non può che suscitare l’ilarità dei colleghi più sanguinari, tanto più che la povera ciurma non riesce a tirar fuori un doblone dalle navi che saccheggia. Così, il sogno di Capitan Pirata di vincere il premio di “Pirata dell’anno” sembra davvero irrealizzabile. L’incontro con Charles Darwin e la scoperta che il pennuto Polly in realtà è l’ultimo Dodo rimasto sulla terra, cambieranno la storia, portando il galeone sul Tamigi e i pirati fino a un incontro frontale con la regina Vittoria, la più acerrima nemica dei filibustieri.

Il rispetto dei colleghi Capitan Pirata lo guadagnerà solo scoprendo se stesso, con un atto di estremo coraggio per rimediare a un errore compiuto e ricompattare la sua ciurma. In mezzo una serie di gag esilaranti, con qualche punta di umorismo decisamente british, citazioni cinematografiche e letterarie, e una scimmia addestrata da Darwin a portare smoking e monocolo, e comunicare nel linguaggio umano attraverso a dei cartoncini con su scritte le parole necessarie.

Da vedere!

Per Narnia è buona la terza

5 Gen

Un veliero gigantesco che solca mari in tempesta diretto verso i confini del mondo, creature fantastiche terribilmente pericolose, battaglie e duelli con spade e archi. No, non è  I Pirati dei Caraibi, anche se a volte si ha l’impressione che lo sia. Si tratta dell’ultimo capitolo delle Cronache di Narnia, intitolato Il Viaggio del Veliero.

Narnia perde Peter e Susan, troppo grandi e trasferitisi negli Stati Uniti dove vivono col padre in attesa che in Europa la guerra finisca. Lucy e Edmund ci sono ancora, invece, intrappolati nella loro vecchia Inghilterra, condannati a convivere con uno zio assente e un cugino petulante e dispettoso. La mente però pensa a Narnia, e ci pensa così forte che alla fine Narnia si riprende due dei suoi re. Stavolta è un quadro il mezzo di trasporto con cui i Pevensie si spostano da un mondo all’altro, portando con sé, volenti o nolenti, anche il cugino Eustace.

Sarà lui il vero protagonista del film, non Edmund o Lucy, non Aslan o Caspian, ma proprio il piccolo, biondo e tracagnotto Eustace. Un bambino fin troppo realista e razionalista per l’età che ha, scettico come nemmeno Edmund lo era ai tempi di Il Leone, la Strega e l’Armadio, incredulo sull’esistenza della terra mitica di cui parlano i cugino a tal punto da non crederci nemmeno quando ci si ritrova dentro, con tanto di Minotauri parlanti, topi cavalieri parlanti e gabbiani…non parlanti.

Eustace è il protagonista e non potrebbe essere altrimenti, perché Narnia è un’esperienza formativa, che dopo aver portato Peter e Susan all’età adulta saluterà anche Edmund e Lucy per l’ultima volta, ma lascia capire che il percorso del giovane Eustace è appena iniziato. Per farlo crescere e per fargli scoprire il coraggio che ha dentro ci vorranno Aslan (il Leone parlante) e Reepicheep (il coraggiosissimo topo spadaccino), e un’esperienza nei panni e nelle squame di una creatura che a Narnia ancora non avevamo visto. Sarà ancora Eustace il protagonista di La Sedia d’Argento, quello che dovrebbe essere il prossimo capitolo della saga (i libri di C.S. Lewis sono sette e per ora solamente tre sono stati trasportati sullo schermo dalla Disney).

E coi protagonisti si evolve e matura anche tutto l’impianto narrativo e visivo della saga. Il Viaggio del Veliero è un’opera più adulta di Il leone, la Strega e l’Armadio e di Il Principe Caspian. Stavolta elementi fantastici ed elementi più realistici sembrano amalgamarsi meglio e gli effetti speciali sono resi ancor più spettacolari da un 3D che stenta a decollare finché si è in Inghilterra, ma diventa parte integrante del racconto una volta giunti su Narnia.

Resta purtroppo un pesante punto debole. La performance recitativa (ma soprattutto la voce italiana) di Ben Barnes (Il Principe Caspian, Dorian Gray) rimane su livelli medio-bassi. Bastò un film perché in Italia ci si accorgesse che Aslan non poteva avere la voce di Omar Sharif, quanti ce ne vorranno per cambiare anche quella di Caspian?

Ralph Bakshi e il cinema fantasy

23 Ott

Ralph Bakshi è ancora un personaggio pressoché sconosciuto ai più. Il suo talento visivo e la sua fervida immaginazione meriterebbero un po’ più di considerazione. Geniale autore di controversi film come “Fritz il gatto”, “Heavy traffic” e “Coonskin”, dalla fine degli anni ’70 lo vediamo impegnato nella realizzazione di tre pellicole fantasy:

  • “Wizards” realizzato nel 1977 (lo stesso anno di “Guerre stellari”) è un capolavoro. L’eterna lotta tra il bene e il male diventa pretesto per raccontare una divertita guerra tra tecnologia e magia nella quale allegorie, riferimenti biblici e citazioni cinefile si sprecano. In un futuro post-atomico, due fratelli dediti alla magia si contendono il regno. Uno, Blackwolf, si è rifugiato nei meandri ancora radioattivi del pianeta, recuperando tecnologie avariate e lasciandosi sedurre dai filmati di propaganda del Führer. L’altro, Avatar, governa invece la sua porzione di regno popolata da elfi, gnomi e folletti. Il ritmo è spettacolare, le trovate irresistibili e i protagonisti rimangono impressi nella memoria. Anche la colonna sonora dello sconosciuto Andrew Belling è un piccolo gioiellino pop rock. La fusione tra svariate tecniche d’animazione è pressoché perfetta e il risultato complessivo è estremamente genuino e originale. Incredibilmente questo film non è mai stato distribuito in Italia e l’unico modo per vederlo resta l’acquisto del DVD di produzione americana o la visione su canali “alternativi”.
  • Il 1978 è l’anno della prima trasposizione cinematografica de “Il signore degli anelli”, trilogia letteraria di J.R.R.Tolkien. Negli intenti del regista e della produzione si dovevano realizzare due film. L’accoglienza fredda da parte della critica, nonostante un buon sucesso al botteghino, spinse la produzione ad accantonare l’idea di un sequel. Questo spiega perché il film si ferma al primo libro e mezzo. Bakshi realizza una pellicola decisamente cupa e sanguinosa nella quale le atmosfere rispecchiano al meglio gli intenti dell’opera letteraria. Genialmente un gran numero di episodi che, per ragioni di budget e di durata, dovevano essere sacrificati, non vengono omessi bensì trasferiti ai dialoghi. Il “non vedo” è dunque nel film più importante di quello che si vede realmente (fruscii, ombre, leggende e presagi sono gli elementi vincenti che tengono lo spettatore incollato allo schermo).  Realizzato quasi interamente con la tecnica del rotoscope (le scene venivano girate con attori veri i cui movimenti venivano poi ricalcati e modificati a matita), alla lunga può stancare; le ambientazioni, i personaggi, le scene d’azione e l’atmosfera del film compensano però alla grande la “povertà” di questo espediente tecnico. Colonna sonora pseudo dodecafonica molto efficace (che a Bakshi però non piaceva… avrebbe preferito utilizzare musiche dei Pink Floyd). Un film sicuramente migliore della trilogia jacksoniana che, a confronto, pare una versione missina del libro: tutta gloria, patria, valore etc nella quale i protagonisti sembrano venuti fuori da una palestra alla moda e sono troppo pulitini per essere credibili, le megapanoramiche/effettoni speciali tradiscono lo spirito tolkieniano e che appare più un melodrammone ottocentesco di stampo wagneriano che altro.
  • Non si può parlare altrettanto bene invece di “Fire and ice” (1983) , sfortunata collaborazione cinematografica tra Bakshi e Frank Frazetta, uno dei più grandi e geniali illustratori del ventesimo secolo. Si tratta in effetti dell’unica occasione cinematografica di Frazetta qui in veste di sceneggiatore, produttore e di autore dei disegni originali e dei personaggi. L’influenza della letteratura borroughsiana sulla sceneggiatura è evidente. Il film racconta lo scontro tra le due terre del fuoco e del ghiaccio, governate rispettivamente dal leale Jarol e dal perfido Nekron in un contesto primitivo e quasi neandarthaliano. Il ritmo dell’avventura è abbastanza buono e la scena della battaglia finale è realizzata accuratamente. I difetti del film stanno essenzialmente nel riproporre schemi e situazioni già viste e riviste in altri film fantasy del periodo. Non ci sono particolari sorprese nello sviluppo della vicenda e le trovate sono davvero poca cosa. L’animazione inoltre è identica a quella utilizzata in quegli anni dalla Filmation (la stessa della serie “He-Man e i dominatori dell’Universo” per intenderci) e il protagonista in effetti è quasi identico a He-Man. L’ambientazione e lo stile del film sembra poi ricalcare a più riprese “Il signore degli anelli”. Peccato. Reperibile in un doppio DVD statunitense. Difficile invece recuperare la versione italiana. È atteso un remake ad opera di Robert Rodriguez (con il coinvolgimento dello stesso Bakshi).

9 e lode!

1 Ott

“Tu sei come lui. Ti dimentichi di ricordare di aver paura”

Può il destino della terra essere rinchiuso in 9 bambolotti di pezza, grandi quanto un palmo di mano, e con un numero sulla schiena? La risposta è sì, se dentro di loro c’è tutto ciò che resta del bene e del male di cui è capace l’essere umano.

È questo il concetto che sta alla base di 9, lungometraggio animato diretto dal giovane regista Shane Acker e prodotto da Tim Burton, uscito in home video senza essere mai passato dalle sale cinematografiche. Ambientato in uno scenario post-apocalittico simile a quello creato dalla Pixar per Wall•E, il film racconta la storia di 9, il più evoluto della sua specie, il nono dei bambolotti creati da uno scienzato in fin di vita, inventore pentito della macchina che ha cancellato per sempre l’umanità e la civiltà dalla faccia della terra. E proprio l’arrivo di 9, coraggioso fino ai limiti dell’imprudenza, cambierà per sempre la vita del piccolo clan di pupazzi e forse di tutto il pianeta.

Grazie a lui, gli altri otto, scopriranno la loro origine e il loro scopo, combatteranno e vinceranno la battaglia contro le orribili bestie meccaniche che li insidiano dal giorno in cui sono venuti al mondo, vinceranno le proprie paure e impareranno ad essere una sola cosa tutti insieme.

9 ha qualcosa in più rispetto agli altri film d’animazione in CGI: ha l’anima! Sarà forse quel suo restare strettamente legato al cortometraggio originale, girato dallo stesso Acker al termine di un corso universitario di cinema, quelle piccole imperfezioni che restano anche nella versione lunga e high budget. Sarà il suo giocare in equilibrio tra la fantascienza, l’horror fantasy e il film d’azione (forse anche troppa, se gli si vuole trovare un difetto), o più semplicemente la straordinaria fantasia del suo creatore.

Ci voleva uno col fiuto di Tim Burton per scovare il talento di Acker. Un regista di cui sentiremo parlare ancora, c’è da starne certi, e che presto, magari, vedremo anche al cinema.


La più piccola star del cinema

30 Set

Come Alice porta i capelli biondi ed è vestita di bianco e blu. È la più piccola eroina dell’animazione in stop-motion, protagonista di Dot, l’ultimo cortometraggio prodotto dalla Aardman di Nick Park (creatore di Wallace and Gromit e di Shaun the Sheep) e interamente girato con un Nokia N8 e con l’ausilio del Cellscope, una speciale lente di ingrandimento applicata all’obiettivo del cellulare. Una tecnica che potrebbe rappresentare una nuova frontiera del cinema.

Dot vive in un mondo alto 9 millimetri, fatto di lana, foglie secche e trucioli di matita, che le si disfa alle spalle mentre corre disperatamente verso la salvezza. Aiutata da un’ape che la porta in volo sul dorso, Dot cade ed è costretta ad affrontare il mostro che la insegue (molto simile al nulla della Storia Infinita) armata solo di due aghi.

Dura poco più di un minuto e mezzo ed è un piccolo capolavoro dell’animazione in stop-motion. Vedere per credere.