Pinocchio has been a real boy for a year. So his creator, Geppetto makes him a cake to celebrate. After a visit from the Pinocchio's Fairy Godmother (who had turned Pinocchio into a real boy), Geppetto realizes that he must deliver a precious Jewel box to the Mayor. Pinocchio persuades Geppetto to allow to take the box and makes his way to the Mayor's house. Pinocchio also takes with him his hand-make glow worm, which magically becomes real when Pincoccho gets distracted by a Carnival that has come to town. Pinocchio names his glow worm Willikers and decides to take a peek at the Carnival, despite Geppetto telling him not to go anywhere near it. Nearby, Scalawag and his colleague Igor advertise a three-shell game which cheats people out of their money, leading to Scalawag's and Igor's escape by using a cannon to get away from the angry mob. Scalawag meets Pinocchio and trades the Jewel box a ruby, which turns out to be a fake when Pinocchio gets home, which angers Geppetto. Pinocchio ... Written by
The Waltzing Walkman
Shirley Jones, the actress well known for playing the mother on The Partridge Family (among many others projects) originally played the Fairy Godmother. Partway through recording she pulled out of the project. Due to her departure mid-production, there was a rush to find a new voice for the character. After several actresses/singers turned down the role, pop singer Ricky Lee Jones took the role. See more »
At the carnival, Pinocchio's left hand turns to wood when he says that he's a pretty fair dancer. The colour of his wooden hand matches his skin. Two shots later, his hand is a different shade of brown. See more »
Still holds up even by my present jaded standards...
I think that when all of us were kids we had one or two movies that we loved so much that we sat down and watched them dozens of times. For me one of those movies was Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night, which is definitely a lesser known animated feature but all the same still holds up today. After ordering a copy from Amazon.com and watching it again all these years later, I was pleasantly surprised that Emperor entertained me even at my usually cynical age.
Sure, you could nitpick that the animation is inconsistent, with some scenes appearing less detailed while others are excessively so, and that certain backgrounds are obviously repeated during chase scenes ala The Flintstones (it's even more pronounced here due to the visible line in the visuals), but frankly those didn't hamper my enjoyment of the film. The animation is usually quite vibrant and expressive, and the story takes the usual Pinocchio antics in a different direction by providing an actual villain in the uber-creepy Emperor (voiced by that staple of movie villains, James Earl Jones). In fact, much of the movie is downright dark, from the opening sequence where a demented carnival seems to set itself up to Pinocchio's transformation back into a puppet. I'm not saying any of this will scare kids today, as they've probably seen much worse, but it does give a good balance to the otherwise cheerful imagery.
I can't get through this review without mentioning the handful of songs which are peppered throughout Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night. I can't get enough of "Love Is The Light Inside Your Heart," which is just a beautiful little pop ballad that I can't get out of my head because it's so memorable. True, the Fairy Godmother may sound like she's doped up during her speaking lines, but the song is great. "Neon Cabaret" is more of a background song than "Love," but it still has a nice little jazz beat that goes well with its scene, a night club where children basically throw back green alcohol (come on ya know it was alcohol) and go nuts. Finally there's "Your A Star," which while not a phenomenal song once again fits with the visuals of the sequence. Like I said before, much of the visuals of the movie are extremely well done and give the movie a vintage '80s feel I couldn't help but like.
Now this is coming from a guy who's reviewed countless animated movie, but I think it's safe to say that young kids could still get a kick out of this movie. It's got everything the modern animated flicks have, but without the crass marketing. And the sidekicks aren't half as tiresome or irritating, with the only ones being a glow worm voiced by Don Knotts and a bee named Grumblebee. Some sections of the film may seem like filler, like the scene involving a toad and a city of insects which lasts a bit too long, but other than that I give Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night an enthusiastic recommendation. 3/4 stars
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