Okay, I said that I wouldn’t include any of the many instantly-forgettable made-for-DVD movies. But this “Children’s Classics” adaptation is memorable, if only for crediting the story to “the classic tale by Carlos [sic.] Lorenzini”. There is no director’s credit, as though nobody wanted to take responsibility for this version.
It was a made-for-video-tape release, but its 49-minute running time suggests that Golden Films & Goodtimes Entertainment (or their American Film Investment Corporation owner) hoped to also sell it as a one-hour TV special. This is one of the few non-Italian productions to base the design of Pinocchio on the 1911 book illustrations by Attilio Mussino. This says that Gepetto names the puppet Pinocchio after “the luckiest man I know”. In Collodi’s version, Pinocchio is “the stupidest man I know”. There are other points of interest for Pinocchio fans.
Pinocchio 3000, directed by Daniel Robichaud. 79 minutes. February 9, 2004.
This was a s-f futurization with Pinocchio as a young-boy robot; a French-Spanish co-production. Unfortunately, Collodi’s original story works as a new fairy tale that is supposed to be filled with irrational fantasy and magic. In a science-fictional frame where the story should be strictly logical, this obviously isn’t.
In the year 3000, where apparently (almost) everything has been built over robotically, Gepetto, an old inventor, is creating Pinocchio to be his robot young son. (Why he wants a robot son is unclear since he lives in a robot house, has a robot penguin majordomo named Spencer, and presumably has all the robots he could want. Is he lonely? How will having another robot cure this?)
Cut to Zach and Cynthia, two children going to school. Suddenly Cynthia sees a robot worker about to build over a flower. Zach risks his life to stop it by jamming a brick into it, despite a robot policeman warning him that he’s trespassing. (1) This doesn’t make much sense since we soon see that this city has enough greenery & flowers that they aren’t endangered; (2) it makes the city’s robotics look very shoddy; and (3) it implies that children can ignore the police with impunity.
But the villain, Scamboli, is instantly aware of it. Scamboli has built this ultra-mechanized metropolis, named Scamboville, where he’s the mayor. He has two comic-relief goofy robots, Cabby and Rodo, as assistants/henchmen, illustrating Lex Luthor’s (Gene Hackman’s) exasperated question in the 1978 Superman movie again: why do the most brilliant villains always have the most inept help? Scamboli has apparently singlehanded built this ultra-metropolis, and there is no sign that any adults are unhappy with him; but he is frustrated that the children make fun of him and he can’t make them obey his laws. He hates all children except his daughter Marlene, who complains that there is nowhere in Scamboville for children to have fun. Scamboli realizes that she’s right and instantly builds a giant amusement park, Scamboland, for the kids.
Scamboli prepares to hold the Grand Opening of Scamboland just as Gepetto and Spencer the robot penguin prepare to bring Pinocchio to life. This requires diverting Scamboville’s electricity, so the Grand Opening is a big flop. The children laugh at Scamboli and leave. He is super-frustrated. (Frankly, at this point, my sympathy was with him.)
Pinocchio comes to life, and Gepetto and Spencer are delighted. Suddenly Cyberina, the Fairy Godmother appears. (1) A Fairy Godmother in a s-f setting really doesn’t work. (2) I’d assumed that this was just an American dub of a French-Spanish feature, but Cyberina is such an obvious caricature of Whoopi Goldberg, her American voice actress, that it makes the whole movie look intended for an American release. Cyberina programs Pinocchio’s nose to grow long or short, to teach him the difference between right and wrong.
Gepetto wants Pinocchio to be a “real boy”, so he has to go to school rather than having knowledge directly programmed into him. (?) The next day Spencer takes Pinocchio to school. They meet Zack, Cynthia, and Marlene; also Cabby & Rodo unsuccessfully offering the schoolchildren free tickets to Scamboland. Dialogue between Spencer and Scambo’s henchrobots implies that Gepetto and Scamboli are old enemies. Zack and Cynthia think that Pinocchio is a marvelous invention, but Marlene scoffs that no robot can have a human’s imagination. She challenges him to an imagination contest, and he leaves with her, ignoring Spencer’s calls to go to school. The Imagination Game is emceed by Cyberina, who rules that Marlene has won; but Pinocchio thinks that his creations are better and he snatches the winner’s medal. Marlene leaves angrily. Cyberina explains to Pinocchio about being a good loser and deferring to a judge, but he isn’t convinced. When Pinocchio leaves with the winner’s medal, Cabby & Robo think that he won, proving the superiority of robots. They take him to Scamboli, who praises the virtues of robots to Pinocchio. This gives Scamboli the idea of making Pinocchio the star performer of Scamboland to attract the children there, and lead them onto the “Whale of a Change” funhouse ride where they will be turned into Scambobots under Scamboli’s control. Scamboli captures Gepetto and turns him into a robot through the same process.
Marlene is about to go on the ride last, when Pinocchio gives her the Imagination Contest medal. This leads to his becoming “the first friend I’ve ever had”. They get into the last ride cupola, but Scramboli sees them and hurries to close the ride down and prevent his daughter from being turned into a robot. He also reveals his true feelings, firing Pinocchio and ordering Marlene not to associate with robots. Marlene refuses to obey such an arbitrary order (isn’t her father’s closest associates two comedy-relief robots?) and her & Pinocchio’s friendship advances into (puppy) love, in Marlene’s garden. Marlene goes to sleep under the stars.
The next morning, Marlene awakens and is horrified to find the Scambobots destroying her garden, with Pinocchio watching approvingly. He is a robot, and he prefers metal. Marlene angrily returns the medal to him and stomps off. Pinocchio is confused by her attitude, and horrified when Cabby & Rodo reveal that the Scambobots are the transformed children. Pinocchio takes the henchrobots’ shuttle and races home to get Gepetto, but his reckless flying brings Scambocop #12 after him. At Gepetto’s home, Spencer tells Pinocchio that Gepetto went to Scamboland the previous night to watch his debut as the star. Pinocchio and Spencer race to Scamboland to find Gepetto, while Marlene goes to Scamboli’s headquarters to berate him for destroying her garden, and is horrified when Scamboli boasts that the Scambobots are the children transformed. He leaves for Scamboland to take control of them.
At Scamboland, Pinocchio begs the Scambobots to tell him where Gepetto is. Scamboli appears to order them to seize Pinocchio and hold him while the Gepettobot disassembles him. But Spencer seizes the Scambobots’ handheld remote control from Scamboli, throws it away, and he & Pinocchio flee into the Tunnel of Danger. Scamboli tries to program it to kill them, but Marlene takes the other control to save them. Scamboli cheats by disconnecting her, and is abut to destroy Pinocchio & Spencer with lasers when Pinocchio uses the Imagination medal to deflect the beam. Marlene orders Scamboli to turn the Scambobots back into children, but he refuses and returns with his henchrobots to the Scambobots. Cabby gives the remote to the Gepettobot, who orders the Scambobots to seize Scamboli. He grabs his henchrobots’ shuttle and flies recklessly off, where Scambocop #12 knocks him out of the air into the Whale of a Change ride.
Pinocchio, Spencer, & Marlene take the remote and return Gepetto’s free will to him. He programs the Whale of a Change ride to reverse its process, and Pinocchio commands the Scambobots to reenter the ride’s cupolas at their end. The ride turns the Scambobots back to children. Pinocchio and Marlene send the Gepettobot through the reversed ride to turn him human again, but Scramboli inside the ride stops it partway through. Pinocchio enters the ride to find the problem, and Scamboli attacks him. Pinocchio deliberately tells lies about how handsome Scamboli is, and his nose grow long enough to switch the ride back on and knock Scamboli into it.
Cyberina reappears, tells Pinocchio that he now knows the difference between right & wrong, and uses her magic to put Pinocchio into the same cupola as the Gepettobot and turn them both into real people. Marlene and the other children in Scamboland see that Scamboli is now a robot. Cyberina appears to everyone and uses Cynthia’s “Funbrella” to shower pixie dust over all Scamboville to turn it into a green ecological paradise.
I am not sure what the worst thing about Pinocchio 3000 is, but the super-ugly character designs of Cyberina and Scamboli are major contenders. Does anyone else think that Scamboli looks like a fat, bad parody of Mickey Mouse, with a black shirt, red trunks, and great big (robotic) ears?
Pinocchio as a futuristic robot? Osamu Tezuka did it much earlier and much better with Astro Boy!