The highlights of this sequence are Bill Tytla's Stromboli and Frank Thomas's Pinocchio. Tytla gets ownership over Stromboli in a way that few animators get control of characters in this film. The few Stromboli shots that Tytla didn't animate are handled by his assistant Bill Shull.
W.C. Fields was reported to have said at the premiere of the film that Stromboli moved too much. There's something to be said for that. Stromboli is a broader character than anyone else in the film. He changes emotions almost instantly and Tytla's animation successfully portrays Stromboli's volatility. My problem with Stromboli, for all his animated flair, is that his emotions are simple and shallow. There's no subtext to the character. It's possible that Tytla got carried away by style over substance or that he hoped to disguise Stromboli's lack of complexity with some extremely complex animation. There are very severe shape changes, fast timing and strong lines of action in the animation
It's interesting that Stromboli is conducting an orchestra, yet the only part of it that is shown is the bell of a tuba. While Pinocchio is famous for its elaborateness, the filmmakers also have the ability to suggest something with great economy.
Frank Thomas doesn't get as much control of Pinocchio as Tytla does Stromboli, but he makes a strong impression with his scenes. He balances out Pinocchio's bravado, clumsiness and cluelessness as Pinocchio starts out cocky and then finds himself barely able to keep up with the other puppets. Thomas gets strong appeal out of making Pinocchio knock-kneed. We empathize with a character who is clearly in over his head.
One of the interesting things about Frank Thomas's Pinocchio is how Thomas handles lip synch. Pinocchio has no teeth but does have a tongue. However, it's been added to supply some depth to the mouth. Thomas does not animate it to help form sounds; he leaves it on the bottom of the mouth. As a result, if you watch Pinocchio's mouth closely, the synch is hardly exact. Scene 16 contains several obvious examples.
Ollie Johnston continues with Pinocchio struggling to keep up until the tone changes with Woolie Reitherman's scenes. Reitherman's animation needs to be praised in this sequence. We know from his work on Goofy that he has a flair for broad comedy. The Russian puppets (referred to as "bomb throwers" in the draft!) are hilarious when they're kicking themselves in the heads and Pinocchio is every bit as funny booting himself in the rear. Reitherman gets the climax of the sequence with the Russian puppets whirling around and Pinocchio getting caught up in the chaos.
It's odd that animators like Babbitt and Larson are used on puppets in this sequence. Since they were in charge of Geppetto and Figaro respectively, why not use them to do more scenes on those characters? I can only assume that the two animators needed work at the time these shots were ready.
This sequence has strong echoes of Chaplin's The Circus, where the Tramp causes audience laughter without ever really understanding why. What happens in that film and this sequence by accident is funnier than anything the characters plan.
From a story standpoint, Pinocchio's success surprises Jiminy and causes him to question his opinions and his role as Pinocchio's conscience. That has repercussions in the near future. Now that we're reaching the first of the film's three traps, I'm going to interrupt the mosaics with an article I wrote in 1989 about morality and how it affects the story structure of this film. Look for it in the next day or two.