Among the strangest animated movies of the Eighties, and one of many unlikeliest of sequels, is “Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night,” a product courtesy of Filmation.

Any youngster of the ‘80s price their Mr. T cereal is aware of the Filmation emblem and their intensive output throughout the decade, most notably producing “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” and “She-Ra: Princess of Power” (1985-1987).

Filmation gave a theatrical release to “He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword” (1985), which was actually a combo of televised episodes (in the identical means “The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie” and “Go-Bots: Battle of the Rock Lords” are televised episodes fused collectively).

Directed by Hal Sutherland, the 1987 “Emperor of the Night” is a bizarre affair from prime to backside. When a bee sporting aviator goggles is the least unusual factor right here, you understand what you’re in for.

At least the animation is on the higher finish of the Saturday morning cartoon spectrum. It’s formidable and well-paced, although at all times missing the depth and great thing about Disney.

When we reacquaint ourselves with the primary character, Pinocchio has been an actual boy for an entire 12 months.

Pinocchio is entranced by a magical carnival proper out of Ray Bradbury’s “Something Wicked This Way Comes,” which adjustments him again right into a puppet. The carnival’s Emperor (James Earl Jones) will get his energy from our temptations; the character is clearly the equal of Mr. Dark and is, by far, the movie’s largest spotlight.

There’s a whole lot of silliness and nonsense. To put it mildly, the unique “Pinocchio” is healthier and darker. While the sequel presents some surreal and creepy imagery and a few not-bad songs, it’s all too cheerful.

Of the voice solid, Ricky Lee Jones is The Good Fairy, Scott Grimes of “Critters,” “Party of Five” and “The Orville” performs Pinocchio and Tom Bosley of “Happy Days” and Glad rubbish bag commercials is Gepetto. There’s additionally Ed Asner and Don Knotts as a Jiminy Crickett stand-in.

Jones’ voice cuts deeply, as at all times, and supplies this with a much-needed dramatic weight. Note the way in which Jones makes even this line sound golden: “not even the Good Fairy will be able to save you!”

The Fairy Godmother later counters with, “Freedom of choice is your greatest power!” At one other level, Pinocchio makes use of his nostril as a weapon by both mendacity or telling the reality.

“Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night” isn’t nice, however it’s fascinating, launched throughout that second when Don Bluth and Will Vinton have been trailblazers and Disney’s animated output had seemingly peaked (the next years would put them again on prime).

This was launched the identical 12 months as “The Chipmunk Adventure.” Truth be informed, “The Care Bears Movie” (1985) is definitely edgier than this.

Disney famously misplaced in its try to dam the release of this movie, as a result of character being in public area.

The Eighties was the ultimate decade the place the studio would have an informal perspective in the direction of its inventive property. For instance: the climax of “Gremlins” (1984) options intensive use of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and the dream sequence in “Fletch Lives” (1989) parodies “Song of the South.”

Those elaborate sequences would by no means happen in the present day.


“Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night” would additionally characterize one of many final makes an attempt for its studio at releasing theatrical fare: Aside from “He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword,” the one different theatrical release from Filmation was “Happily Ever After.”

On the opposite hand, Pinocchio is definitely having a busy 2022, regardless of how the character appeared to have taken a nostril dive with the clumsy, live-action “The Adventures of Pinocchio” (1996).

We’ve already seen the broadly unloved live-action Disney remake from Robert Zemeckis and the forthcoming Guillermo Del Toro model premieres Dec. 9 on Netflix.

What is it about Pinocchio that resonates in the present day?

Perhaps the themes of what it means to be really human or having a concentrated effort at sustaining a childlike view of the world.

In different phrases, Pinocchio is a comfortable match for our present obsession with nostalgia. His return comes on the heels of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell’s field workplace reunion and the latest “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” revival.

In the identical vein of ’80s-centric film retrospectives, “Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night,” whereas much more arcane than the likes of “The Little Mermaid” and “The Monster Squad,” is in good firm.

In this age of trying backward, dusting off that E.T. doll and embracing the stranger issues in our childhoods, who’s extra apt a metaphor for our collective unwillingness to develop up than a boy who was as soon as a toy himself and has the slivers to show it?

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