Tuesday, 31 March 2009


Speaking about hatters...

David and I went to a fabulous exhibition recently at the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Hats: An Anthology by Stephen Jones
is a perfect exhibition: packed with fascinating stuff, but not so big and sprawly that you get totally exhausted by walking and looking.

The premise is simple and direct - an exploration of what people have worn on their heads over the years around the world and how those hats - over 300 of them, ranging across many centuries - have inspired modern hatters such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Vivienne Westwood, Christian Dior, John Galliano and, of course, Stephen Jones.

And in telling that story, the exhibition inevitably touches on why people wear hats.

"A hat," says Jones, "makes clothing identifiable, dramatic - and, most importantly, Fashion.... It's the cherry on the cake, the dot on the 'i', the exclamation mark, the fashion ficus. Everyone from showgirls to dictators knows that by wearing a hat they will be the centre of attention."

The co-mingling of helmets, fezzes, turbans, Egyptian Anubis-head masks, Doge's caps and plastic Cinderella tiaras for little Disney princesses, alongside all manner of beautiful and bizarre headgear from the roaring twenties via the swinging sixties to the latest and zaniest creations of Mr Jones and Co is fascinating, informative and fun.

The use of materials is only limited by the confines of the milliner's imagination and ingenuity and the hats on show are made of leather, fur, feathers and flowers, baubles, bangles and beads - not to mention twigs, twisted wire, paper, lollipop sticks, shoes (left, courtesy of Dali) and sheets of heat-twisted plastic that end up looking like the wearer has been hit on the back of the head by a bucket of water...

Here's Stephen Jones talking about his career...

There are many surprises: obviously from the extraordinary scope of 'ideas' (a hat designed to look like a jellyfish with trailing tentacles, a little cap based on the London underground sign); but also from opportunity to scrutinize a number of hats that once adorned famous heads - from Queen Victoria's Bonnet and Prince Albert's topper to hats designed by Cecil Beaton for Julie Andrews and Audrey Hepburn (right) in the stage and film versions of My Fair Lady, a Marlene Dietrich beret and an amazingly exotic concoction worn by Carmen Miranda.

The exhibition also allows the visitor to take a peek into the Aladdin's cave that is the milliner's studio and workshop: a place littered with pins and pencils; tracing paper and cardboard; pots of glue; scissors and shears; blocks for shaping; weird, spiky contraptions for measuring heads and making patterns; sketches; swatches of material; bales of fabric; cascades of ribbons and cornucopias of bells and buttons and bows.

From one such fantastical laboratory, here's a glimpse into the making of a typical (and suitably patriotic) Stephen Jones hat...

So hats off to Mr Jones and the V&A for a diverting exhibition that remains on show at the Victoria and Albert Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 until 31 May; open daily 10.00–17.30, Fridays 21.30.

The exhibition is accompanied by an elegant adornment for every hat-wearer's coffee-table: Hats: An Anthology is a superbly illustrated book offering an intriguing insight into the world of millinery. Drawing on the V&A’s extensive collection of hats, Stephen Jones’s own archive as well as iconic headgear from around the world, the book's various chapters examine the inspiration behind the creation of hats, the history of their construction, the lure of the hat shop and, finally (and I quote), 'the etiquette and occasion of hat wearing for the client'.

So, if you really want to get ahead...

Monday, 30 March 2009


Going through some interviews for a radio series I am working on about musicals, I came across this quote from Tim Rice:

"Most musicals are ten minutes too long... Actually most things in life are ten minutes too long!"

Do you agree?

Sunday, 29 March 2009


Have a look at this...

No! You have to look at it in a Very Particular Way....

Stare at the image of all those cubes until the two squares above the image turn into three squares. If you see four squares, move farther away from the image until you see three squares. If you see one or two squares, start again - or open another bottle!

When you clearly see three squares, hold your gaze and those cubes will (or should) magically become three-dimensional. The longer you look, the clearer the illusion becomes.

Did you get it...?

If you did, that's great! But if you didn't or if it made you even a teensy bit unsettled or anxious, then you probably ought to view the following public service broadcast by John Dredge on behalf of the Stamp Out Cubes Society...

And now either pour yourself another stiff one or else check out more moments of surreal comedy from the unique mind (if that's what it is!) of John Dredge

Saturday, 28 March 2009


Today, is an opportunity to save a few pennies on your electricity bill -- oh, yes, and do a teeny-weeny bit towards helping the environment...

I know it's tokenism, but it's good to be reminded - if only once a year - of what we humans are costing Mother Earth.

Ironically, I'm going to be in a theatre; still, at least the house-lights will be out as will those at home, though I'm not quite sure that counts as active participation...

Check out details of the World Wildlife Fund's Earth Hour here.

Friday, 27 March 2009


Today we'll be attending the funeral of the President of The Magic Circle, Ali Bongo.

Here, for my international readers, is Ali performing ('trilingually') his signature trick featuring the mysterious pom-pom stick or, as Ali's English patter used to call it, 'The Chinese Whatsit' - a cue to ask "Whatsit do?" Well, I'll let Ali show you...

And so, as Ali used to say, "That  answers the question 'Whatsit do?', but that still leaves the question 'Whatsit FOR?'"

Our friend's passing is very much the closing of a chapter in the history of magic, and there's no better way of remembering this zany, lovable, colourful personality than as he was seen on The Paul Daniels Magic Show with all the energy, vigour and eccentric inventiveness of his prime, performing his madcap act -- 'The Shriek of Araby'...

Best Salaams, Ali!

You can read more about Ali Bongo in my obituary to him in The Independent

Thursday, 26 March 2009


Sticking with the Carrollian theme of the last couple of days, here's an alternative Mad Tea - or, rather, Breakfast - Party...

Incidentally, have you ever wondered where Messrs Snap, Crackle and Pop came from? Well, it all started in 1933 when Kellogg's were promoting Rice Krispies with a radio commercial that announced:

Listen to the fairy song of health, the merry chorus sung by Kellogg's
Rice Krispies as they merrily snap, crackle, and pop in a bowl of milk. If you've never heard food talking, now is your chance.

At this point, the American illustrator Vernon Grant enters the story. Grant was well known for creating pictures featuring nursery rhyme characters, gnomes and fairy folk and, inspired by that radio commercial, drew three elves whom he named 'Snap', 'Crackle' and 'Pop'.

Vernon Grant showed his illustrations to Kellogg's who instantly bought the characters and commissioned Grant to create a long-running series of adverts and premiums (give-aways) featuring these three personifications of Rice Krispies' krispiness!

Click on images to enlarge

Curiously - since we've recently been talking about hats and hatters - each of the Rice Krispies kids sports a highly individual type of headgear.

According to Kellogg's mythology, SNAP is the eldest and leader of the group. He is a baker, wears a chef's hat and solves the problems his two brothers create...

is the good-hearted, fun middle child who gets stuck keeping order between his brothers’ personalities and wears a red-and-white-striped stocking cap...

is the mischievous, clumsy younger child who plays jokes, doesn’t take things seriously and wears a band leader's hat.

There was also a fourth (but short-lived) elf named POW who represented the explosive nutritional value of Rice Krispies! Ah, well, three's company, four's a crowd...

Snap, Crackle and Pop have got through various metamorphoses with the passing years, taking on three-dimensional puppet form in the 'forties....

Click on images to enlarge

And in the 'fifties having their own pop (or snap-crackle-and-pop) band...

The explanation for the 'sound' of Rice Krispies is that, as they are toasted, the cooked and dried rice 'berries' puff up to many times their normal size. Since the weight of the rice berry and its material mass remains nearly the same, the rice material is stretched to formthe very thin walls of the Rice Krispies structure. When subjected to a change in heat (such as cold milk being poured onto them), a severe 'stress' is set up and these thin wall fractures - creating the uneven absorption of milk by the cereal bubbles and a resulting SNAP! CRACKLE! POP!

Amazingly, Snap, Crackle and Pop are still busily working for Kellogg's today, and not just in the USA and Britain, but in various other parts of the world, where they are known by other names: in Sweden, for example, they are Piff! Paff! Puff!; in Finland, Poks! Riks! Raks!; in Germany, Knisper! Knasper! Knusper! and in Mexico, Pim! Pum! Pam!

Whether the Rice Krispies in those countries actually make those sounds is, I'd suggest, open to debate!

Wednesday, 25 March 2009


Of course, if you don't like tea...

That's if you'd drink anything offered to you by this party host!

Anyway, today, I'd like to introduce you to a more benign - but no less strange - account of that famous mad tea party from Jonathan Millers' 1966 TV film, Alice in Wonderland...

This avant-garde production was shot in crisp monotone of a nineteenth-century Daguerreotype and was informed by the satirical sensibility of Miller's co-written cult 'sixties revue, Beyond the Fringe. Indeed, the film featured two of Miller's BTF co-stars, Peter Cook and Alan Bennett along with such starry names as Peter Sellers, Michael Redgrave, Finlay Currie, Alison Leggatt and John Gielgud playing Lewis Carroll's Wonderlanders without the aid of fur and whiskers as if they were merely Alice's eccentric Victorian relations.

I still vividly remember the controversy that raged in the press about the production ("Alice strictly for grown-ups...") and the huge excitement that I felt at seeing something that was so radically revisionist.

Wilfred Brambell (the father in Steptoe and Son) was a fiercely intimidating White Rabbit...

Leo McKern (later the eponymous Rumpole of the Bailey) was a boozy Duchess-cum-Nanny...

...and Gielgud as the Mock Turtle, accompanied by an unlikely Gryphon in the person of media pundit, Malcolm Muggeridge, danced a version of 'The Lobster Quadrille' that provided one of the decade's oddest and yet most hauntingly poignant television moments...

Anyway, back to that mad tea-party: here Alice (played by the hitherto unknown Anne-Marie Mallik) spends a bemusing afternoon in the company of the Hatter (Peter Cook), the March Hare (Michael Gough) and the Dormouse (Wilfred Lawson). The music - as is fitting for such a totally 'sixties offering - was by Ravi Shankar...

If you've never seen this extraordinary interpretation of Alice, it's currently available on a DVD issued by the British Film Institute as is Jonathan Miller's other brilliantly directed TV play, Whistle and I'll Come to You, based on the ghost story by M R James and featuring an unforgettable performance by Michael Hordern: two period masterpieces that shouldn't be missed...

Tuesday, 24 March 2009


I'm really fond of a nice cuppa and on a recent visit to Oxford - sometime home of Lewis Carroll and birthplace of 'Alice' - I picked up a rather particular tea-bag...

An odd souvenir, I know, but that's me...

Now, some of you may recall my boring you about this before but there's actually no such character as the MAD HATTER.

Yes, yes, I agree that's what people call him - and the film magazines have recently been carrying photos of Johnny Depp (right) who will be playing the Mad Hatter in Tim Burton's forthcoming film of the book - but Lewis Carroll never calls him the Mad Hatter - not once!

The author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland only ever speaks about him as "the Hatter".

What's more, Carroll never refers to that curious afternoon's entertainment that the Hatter presides over as 'The Mad Hatter's Tea-Party'.

Don't believe me? Check out Chapter Seven and you'll find it's entitled 'A Mad Tea-Party' - no Hatter's.

You'll also find that it was held in the garden of the March Hare's house, so it really, absolutely wasn't the Hatter's tea-party!

Where then does the Hatter's damaging reputation for madness come from? Well, it seems that it's all down to the word of a CAT... What's more, a Cheshire Cat...

'In that direction,' the Cat said, waving its right paw round, 'lives a Hatter: and in that direction,' waving the other paw, 'lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad.'

'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked.

'Oh, you ca'n't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'

'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.

'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'

So, there you are: the only reason we have for calling the Hatter 'Mad' is because we're told he's mad --- and by a character, please note, who not only believes that he's mad himself but that everyone else is mad as well.

There is, of course, a saying (coined long before Lewis Carroll's time): 'As mad as a hatter', the origin of which is somewhat vague...

The felt used in hat-making was 'cured' with the use of mercury and prolonged inhalation of the fumes frequently led to mercury poisoning, resulting in such neurological damage as confused speech and distorted vision. It was a regrettable side-effect of the millinery trade and often brought about an early death.

However, the symptoms of mercury poisoning are 'excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive,' which doesn't sound even remotely like the bombastic bully encountered by Alice.

There is a further theory that Lewis Carroll based the Hatter on Theophilus Carter, a former servitor at Lewis Carroll's college, Christ Church, who invented an alarm clock bed, exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, that tipped out the sleeper at waking-up time!

That certainly sounds pretty mad but his alleged reputation for being referred to in Oxford as 'The Mad Hatter' derives from the fact that he later owned a furniture shop and is said to have been in the habit of standing in the door of his shop wearing a top hat.

Not the maddest behaviour you've ever come across, I'll bet. Nevertheless, legend has it that the illustrator of Alice's Adventures, Sir John Tenniel (right), travelled to Oxford especially to sketch him for his pictures of the Hatter.

This, however, seems amazingly unlikely since when Lewis Carroll's alter-ego - mathematics don Charles Dodgson - suggested a child who might serve as an artist's model for Alice, Tenniel retorted that he no more needed a model to draw a child that Mr Dodgson needed a set of mathematical tables to work out his sums!

So, is it really feasible that Tenniel would have bothered to take the train from London to Oxford simply in order to sketch the local furniture-shop-man? I think not!

Finally, an observation on that price tag of 10/6 (ten-shillings-and-six-pence in British pre-decimal currency) that Carroll never mentioned but which Tenniel added to the Hatter's topper and which virtually all subsequent illustrators (and most filmmakers) have felt obliged to copy...

This sum - half-a guinea - suggests that it was quite an expensive titfer and it has been calculated that if one were able to purchase it today it would cost £72 or $105!

Anyway, Hatters are popping up all over the place just now, blog-friend, Good Dog sent me this cover art by Dustin Nguyen for the DC comic, Batman Detective Comics issue #841, showing the Masked Crusader attending a wacky Wonderland tea-party where the Hatter (inspired by an illustration by Arthur Rackham) sports a topper that, at only 8/11, is a tad cheaper than Tenniel's headgear!

Click image to enlarge

For more information on those tea-bags that got me started on all this, visit The Mad Hatter Tea Company.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


It's Mother's Day, or as my Mum and David's Mum always insisted on calling it...


Unlike Father's Day, Mothering Sunday is a very old custom preceding - by many centuries - the current annual bonanza for choc-makers and florists.

In fact, a religious event celebrating motherhood has existed in Europe since around 250 BCE, when the Romans had a mid-March festival in honour of Cybele (right), the Magna Mater, or mother of the gods.

As the Roman Empire and Europe converted to Christianity, Mothering Sunday celebrations became part of the church's calendar with the fourth Sunday in Lent being set aside to the honouring of the Virgin Mary and 'mother church'. On this day, during the sixteenth century, people used to attend a service in the church where they were baptized and folks who did this were commonly said to have gone 'a-mothering'.

Other names given to this festival include Refreshment Sunday (because, being half way through the 40 days of Lent, the fast was relaxed for a day) and Simnel Sunday, from the custom of baking Simnel cakes.

Simnel cake (the name probably comes from simila, the Latin word for fine, wheaten flour) is a fruit cake, not unlike a Christmas cake, covered in marzipan and, sometimes, with another layer of marzipan or almond paste baked into the middle of the cake. Yummy!

Around the top of the cake are eleven marzipan balls representing the true disciples of Jesus (Judas being excluded) and, in some cases, with single, larger, ball of marzipan placed in the centre of the cake to represent Christ. Today, they will probably also feature a few fluffy chicks and be dotted with mini-chocolate eggs, but there are all kinds of variations on the Simnel cake tradition.

In the 18th and 19th Centuries, Mothering Sunday was the one day in the year when domestic servants were given a day off in order to visit their mothers and families, often taking with them a home-made Simnel cake, baked in their employers' kitchens.

If Valentine's Day is one of the least popular dates in the calendar for the unattached, then, I guess, Mother's Day is the equivalent for the motherless son or daughter.

It's almost ten years since the death of my Mum, Doris.

She was great worrier, my mother - a trait she passed on to me in spades (thanks, Mum!) - so there are some things that I'm glad she didn't survive long enough to worry about, such as seeing me walking with a stick and affected by a similar arthritic disease to the one that so painfully crippled the last years of her life.

But there are many other things that I really wish she had lived to see - like David and I getting legally hitched, because she and my Dad (along with David's parents) not only accepted, but lovingly embraced, our relationship.

And I'm so thankful that she saw me achieve some of my best work and justify the support and encouragement that she and my Dad gave me when I embarked on the career of a freelance.

But -- and, oh, it is such a big 'but' -- even after so many years, I still miss my mother (irritating and frustrating through she could sometimes be - unlike me, of course!), and I'd give anything to be able to pick up the phone to her today and have a chat...

Fortunately, in the years since first I, and then David, were 'orphaned', we've been lucky enough to have a couple of Honorary Mums which is the next best thing.

Today, for instance, our good friend Sophie will be sharing her Mum, Wendy, with us and if I tell you that Wendy makes one of the meanest trifles in Christendom, then you'll see why anyone would be happy to have her as a surrogate mum!

For all Mums everywhere (and to the memory of Mums who are no longer with us) here's is Anita Renfroe's hilarious 'Momsense' song...

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Friday, 20 March 2009


After watching Pinocchio you could haul out the old tool box and have a go at being Geppetto by simply following these not-quite-so-simple instructions, published in Popular Science in February 1940 and written, I notice, by some long-lost relative of mine, Hi Sibley...

Click on each page to enlarge

Good luck! And if you make one and it turns into a real boy, please let us know...

Thursday, 19 March 2009


I was amused to see on the Amazon page advertising the new Platinum Edition DVD of Walt Disney's Pinocchio, the following details...

Pinocchio (2 Disc Platinum Edition) DVD - Mel Blanc

The thing is, to list Mel Blanc as the star of the film is, to say the least, perverse. You see, whilst Blanc - who was famously the voice of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig, Elmer Fudd et al - was indeed hired by Disney to provide the voice of Gideon the Cat, side-kick to that foxy gent, 'Honest' John Worthington Foulfellow, it was subsequently decided that Giddy (as HJWF calls him) should be played - like Dopey in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs - as a mute pantomime character. As a result, all that remains of Mel Blanc's vocal performance - but enough, as far as Amazon are concerned to win him top billing - is an inebriated hiccup!

Anyway, you now know an arcane bit of Disney trivia and won't be too disappointed not to hear Mr Blanc among the film's voice cast.

Now, as long-term readers of this blog will know, I have posted before about my passion for this quite astonishing film...

Click on images to enlarge
...and I had an opportunity to enthuse when, a few months back, I was interviewed for No Strings Attached, the 'Making of...' feature that's included on the new 70th Anniversary DVD release of the film. Just to prove it, here is a screen-grab of me in mid-gab...

Naturally, I watched Pinocchio prior to the interview (although, over the years, I must have seen it close on fifty times) and having now seen it yet again in what is, literally, a sparkling restoration filled with the richest colours and deepest shadows, I am even more certain that this film is not just one of the great masterpieces of animation but also a great movie in any genre.

I first saw Pinocchio from the front row of the circle in the Odeon, Bromley, sometime in the early ‘sixties, when it was already on its umpty-umpth re-release. So entranced was I that I went back to see it again and again - and again!

This, of course, was in the days of 'continuous performances' which meant that I was able to watch Pinocchio eight times in one week!

Teaching myself to write in the dark, I filled an entire notebook with minute observations about the animation, the structure of the storytelling, the set-pieces and effects and the incredible richness of detailing (such as Geppetto's incredible array of carved clocks like the one on the right) that create an intense - almost claustrophobic - atmosphere of fantastical reality that swallows up the viewer as surely as Monstro the Whale has swallowed up Geppetto's boat.

The paintings (left and above) by the Swedish artist, Gustav Tenggren, are two of many pieces of inspirational art which helped create the ornately sumptuous styling of the film that is, essentially, a European picture book come to life.
Pinocchio was released in 1940, just two years after Disney's first animated feature, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and the picture undoubtedly benefited not just from all the lessons learned in animating Snow White, but also from the fact that the huge financial success of that debut outing made it possible for serious money to be spent on developing the studio's second feature. The refinement of craft and increased expenditure can be seen in almost every sequence of Pinocchio.

Nevertheless, he two films could scarcely be more different: the first has freshness, exuberance and a naïve innocence that no Disney feature would ever re-capture; the second is more a more mature and studied piece of film-making, bolder and braver in breaking with the sweet formula of the fairy tale and in creating a cast of characters several of whom have an ambiguous morality.

Then there is the tone and look of the film. Despite the occasional scary moments Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is essentially a light, airy film, whereas Pinocchio is dark and sombre…

It runs for just under an hour and a half and yet less than 15 minutes of that time takes place in daylight: the rest is made up of sinister night sequences and scenes shot underwater and within the gloomy, vaulted, cathedral-like interior of the whale.

There are scenes of menace and sheer out-and-out terror: Pinocchio cowering in a cage as Stromboli the puppet-master tells him that he will make a lot of money and when he is no longer any good he will make excellent firewood - a warning which he demonstrates by hurling a hatchet into the body of a lifeless puppet lying in a basket of wood...

Or, again, the scene in the dingy, smoky interior of the Red Lobster Inn where the Coachman reveals his scheme for abducting naughty little boys and taking them to Pleasure Island, his fat, flabby face transforming into a leering demon that terrifies even the crooked Honest John.

Above all, there is the shocking moment when the tough-kid, Lampwick, begins to transform into a donkey: running amok in the pool hall, kicking over chairs and tables and smashing mirrors with his newly-developed hooves.

True, at the end of the film there is a happy ending for Pinocchio, but not for Lampwick or for the other donkey-boys who have been crated up and sent to the salt mines.

A number of sequences carry a terrible sense of desolation: the ruins of Pleasure Island after the boys have reeked havoc and destruction; and the dusty interior of Geppetto’s deserted workshop after he has gone off to look for his missing boy.

Magically, the film juggles the terrifying with the funny, the harsh with the sentimental. And the forces of malevolence, whilst being an ever-present threat, are always counterpointed by the constancy of Geppetto and the loyalty of the temperamental but big-hearted Jiminy Cricket, who begins the film as a storyteller but then steps into the story itself not just as Pinocchio's conscience but also as the audience's guide and companion.

When Geppetto wishes on the Wishing Star that Pinocchio might become a real boy, Jiminy observes: “A really lovely thought but not all practical…” And when the Blue Fairy does, indeed, endow the puppet with life, he says with genuine astonishment, “What they can’t do these days!”

The Jiminy device (unique to the film since, in the original book by Carlo Collodi, Pinocchio flattens the Talking Cricket with one of Geppetto's mallets!) gives immediacy to the tale so that it appears to be a first hand recollection a true story that really happened.

We ought to wonder about the oddness of it all - a sharp-talking, street-wise American commentator who looks hardly anything like a real cricket and basically is only a cricket because we are told that he's a cricket. But we accept it entirely at face value despite the fact that this spunky little insect-man is providing a commentary on a story that unfolds in a quaint, old-fashioned European world that is less like Collodi's Italy than somewhere on the borders of Switzerland and Germany.

The use of the multiplane camera, that had been employed only sparingly in Snow White, gives Pinocchio great depth as can be seen in the opening pan across the moonlit rooftops and the spectacularly elaborate sequence of the hustle and bustle of the village coming awake to the sound of the school bell: the camera moves among the knotted jumble of streets and squares to reveal children running, laughing and playing at the pump; a mother giving a child's face a final scrub; an old man smoking his pipe; a baker going on his rounds; a goose girl driving her geese...

The animators also made skillful use of visual perspectives as in the shot filmed from Jiminy’s point of view as the camera - along with the cricket - literally hops towards the lighted window of Geppetto's workshop.

As for the special effects, they proliferate and are stunning: fire, smoke, lightning and rain; the Blue Fairy's magic wand; the distorted view of Pinocchio through Cleo’s goldfish bowl; Jiminy floating down on his umbrella reflected on the convex surface of Monstro’s eyeball; and the extraordinary sea scenes: the waves, wind and foam, the uproar of surf churned up by the enraged Monstro and the picturesque underwater landscape filled with reflections, bubbles and swirling shoals of fish...

Pinocchio is a tour de force of economic storytelling: compressing the many exploits in Collodi’s book into a single, compelling narrative, told in part through the music and songs that help delineate character and advance the plot: the fraudulent Honest John's 'Hi-diddly-dee, an Actor's Life for Me'; Pinocchio's 'There Are No Strings On Me', an ironic song of freedom sung just before his imprisonment by Stromboli; and Jiminy Cricket's 'Give a Little Whistle' and the opening and closing ballad, 'When You Wish Upon a Star' (movingly rendered by Jiminy's voice, Cliff Edwards) which became - and remains - the anthem of the Disney studio.

Apart from having restored the film to such pristine brilliance that is difficult to believe one is looking at a film that is seventy years old, the DVD contains a lot of extras.

There are puzzles and sing-alongs for the youngsters and many fascinating bonus items for the animation devotee including deleted scenes, an alternate ending, an abandoned song for Honest John, an art gallery, a feature about toys and toy-making past and present (that manages a not-to-subliminal plug for the unltimate WALL.E toy!) and, as has already been noted, an almost-hour-long feature on the background to the making of the film...

No Strings Attached explores every facet of the film from conception to release with inspirational art, storyboard sketches accompanied by the recollections, anecdotes and comments of animators past and present, sundry 'historians' (moi included!) and Dickie Jones, the original voice of Pinocchio who, it turns out, was a real boy after all!!

As for me, whenever I watch Pinocchio I, too, become a real boy once more...