The earliest movie that I can remember seeing was Walt Disney’s Pinocchio, in its October 1945 re-release when I was 4 years old. So I have always had an interest in animated versions of Collodi’s 1881-’83 children’s classic. It was written as an Italian newspaper’s weekly children’s supplement, so the story wandered widely; but its main events have been included in most of the live-action and animated movies, TV productions, stage plays and musicals, a grand opera, etc. Pinocchio has clearly become one of the most frequently adapted literary works in animation, including all of its cinematic sequels and variations like Pinocchio in Outer Space.
The first cinematic adaptation of Pinocchio was a December 1911 live-action movie directed by Giulio Antamoro, released as a Christmas extravaganza in Austria-Hungary, France, Germany, Spain, and the U.K. – but not in Italy, where it was made. Pinocchio was also intended to be the first Italian animated feature in 1936, Le avventure di Pinocchio, but it was never finished.
Many animated adaptations, especially the Italian, have followed the illustrations by Attilio Mussino for the 1911 book collection of the newspaper serialization. Many adaptations have also followed Collodi’s depiction of the wooden puppet as a thorough brat rather than the innocent boy as in Disney’s version. Still others are adaptations of the 1936 Russian-Soviet version by Aleksei Tolstoy, or are a mixture of Collodi’s and Tolstoy’s versions.
Pinocchio, directed by Noburo Ōfuji. December 1932.
A lost film. All that is known about it today is that it was in stop-motion, was in production from 1929 to 1932, had 52 animators, and was described both as the first animated feature and as the longest animated film at the time. Even assuming that the writers did not know about Cristiani’s Argentine 1917 El Apóstol, it must have been at least 30 minutes long. A 1960 Italian description was: “Strange to say, the first attempt to design an animated Pinocchio was an Oriental Pinocchio with almond eyes, a Mongol Gepetto, a Fairy With Turquoise Hair who resembled a sweet geisha, and a green fisherman who looked more like a bearded samuraj (written with a j)”. This Pinocchio was divided into three parts, some of which included tinting. (The “green fisherman” was presumably actually green.)
The story of Walt Disney’s second animated feature needs no repeating here. In fact, I highly recommend you read J.B. Kaufman’s recent authoritative history of the film. As I’ve said, I consider it to be the earliest movie that I saw based on its first re-release in October 1945, despite my mother insisting that it was Bambi because she took me as a babe in arms when she saw it during its August 1942 release. I was less than 2 years old then and I don’t remember it at all. I probably was taken by my parents to other, adult live-action movies before October 1945, but Pinocchio is the earliest movie that made an impression on me.
Its next re-release was in February 1954. I was just 13, and our grandmother took me and my two younger sisters to see it at the Mesa Theater, about a mile from home. I liked it so much that when it was over and we prepared to leave, I argued successfully to be allowed to stay and see it again, and to walk home alone afterward.
Some confusion over the movie’s title has been due to the title in its trailer as “Walt Disney’s Pinocchio“, but in the movie itself, it’s just Pinocchio.
This is “based on a tale by A. Tolstoy”, but with a woodcarver, a live puppet, a talking cricket, a fox and a cat, the use of Italian names, etc., you can tell where it’s coming from.
Soyuzmultfilm’s feature is quite charming, nevertheless. There are differences; for instance, Buratino has a long and sharp nose because it’s carved that way, not because it grows with lying.
This film is a traditionally drawn animated remake of a Russian live action (with occasional stop-motion animated puppets) feature The Little Golden Key (1939).
Co-director Ivan Ivanov-Vano was one of Russia’s most celebrated directors of animation. His 1947 feature The Little Humpbacked Horse (aka The Magic Pony) has become an international classic.
The New Adventures of Pinocchio, directed by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. 130 5-minute episodes. 1960 to 1961.
The credits said that Arthur Rankin and Jules Bass were the directors (also producers), but they should have listed Tadahito Mochinaga as a director as well. This was the first “Animagic” production of Rankin & Bass’ Videocraft International Ltd. in the U.S. and Dentsu Studios in Japan; actually produced in stop-motion puppetry by Mochinaga at his MOM Productions in Tokyo.
The series consisted of 130 5-minute episodes, that could be combined into 5-chapter 25-minute episodes if the TV station preferred. Since the program was syndicated, it appeared in different cities during 1960 to 1961 and did not have a specific release date; it was considered as in reruns after 1961. It avoided comparisons with Disney’s Pinocchio as much as possible, and was presented as Gepetto’s telling of Pinocchio’s and (no name) Cricket’s all-new adventures while looking for the Blue Fairy. The only other regular characters were Foxy Q. Fibble, the con-man fox; Cool S. Cat, a beatnik cat; Pedro Pistol, a private eye, and Simoro, Pistol’s English bloodhound.
Pinocchio in Outer Space, directed by Ray Goossens. 71 minutes. December 22, 1965.
Pinocchio in Outer Space was mentioned in my columns on French-language animation. It was produced by Brussels’ Belvision Studio, and it was released in Belgium and France, but it was financed and produced primarily by Fred Ladd and Norm Prescott for the American release. It was made to take advantage of the current interest in rockets, artificial satellites, space, and secret agents. It may be most important for leading to Ladd’s adaptation of Japan’s Tetsuwan Atom TV series for America and the rest of the world as Astro Boy, who was a sort of robot Pinocchio of the future. (Pinocchio in Outer Space itself was quickly forgotten.)
The Blue Fairy lives with her mother near the Moon, where they are bothered by Earth’s artificial satellites whizzing around them. She tells her mother that Pinocchio went back to acting so badly as a boy that she turned him back into a puppet. Pinocchio still lives with Gepetto, who now has a dog named Fedora. They see a newscast on television that Astro, a space whale, has been destroying Earth’s rockets and satellites. NASA has offered a reward for his capture. Next day Pinocchio, walking to school, wishes that he could capture the whale and give the reward to Gepetto. The fox and cat, now beatniks named Sharp and Groovy, fast-talk him into buying with his lunch quarter a “how to hypnotize your friends” booklet to catch Astro, without describing how he’s to get into space to do this. Next a UFO conveniently lands right by Pinocchio with Nurtle the Turtle (voiced by Arnold Stang), although he complains that he’s really a space being called a “twertle” from the planet Twertledee (near Twertledum). He’s also a secret agent sent to investigate strange radiation coming from lifeless Mars – he landed on Earth by mistake. Pinocchio warns him about Astro as a space hazard, and offers to hypnotize Astro if the whale attacks him, if Nurtle will take him to Mars.
The movie gets very educational with explanations by Nurtle to Pinocchio about solar flares, Mars’ lighter gravity, two moons, etc. Amidst this is the point that Pinocchio, being a puppet, does not need a space helmet to breathe like Nurtle does. On Mars they are menaced by giant mutant sand crabs, and discover the ruins of a city, with a newer but still dead city beneath it. More giant lizards, scorpions, etc. attack them, including whalelike fish from an underground river. Nurtle theorizes that the Martians were mutating animals into giants for warfare, and that one of the whale-fish grew so large that it escaped into space and returned to destroy the city so all the air escaped. A giant marsquake and sandstorm end sand into a nuclear reactor, and Pinocchio and Nurtle escape into space just as the reactor explodes.
They are returning to Earth when Astro appears and swallows them. They escape through Astro’s blowhole, but the UFO’s stabilizer is bent. Astro attacks again, but the bent stabilizer makes the UFO wobble so much that Astro is hypnotized. They take him back to Earth, but realize too late that they will burn up when they enter Earth’s atmosphere. The UFO escapes, but Astro seems doomed until Pinocchio, who does not need a spaceship, sacrifices himself to save the whale. The Blue Fairy brings Pinocchio back to life and turns him into a real boy again to reward him. The movie ends with a big celebration at which Pinocchio and Nurtle are given awards, and Astro is now friendly.
Next Week: Pinocchio in Animation – Part 2.