Bentornato Pinocchio (Welcome Back Pinocchio), directed by Orlando Corradi. 91 minutes. November 9, 2007.
This was produced by Mondo TV, which was created by Corradi. The two were also responsible for the notorious The Legend of the Titanic and In Search of the Titanic. Bentornato Pinocchio had an Italian theatrical release, but the critics – who savaged it – accused it of being primarily for DVD sales, and of emphasizing a “cute” anime look. The emphasis on Santa Claus marks this as a Christmas-season release. The animation studio was SEK (Scientific Educational Korea) in Pyongyang.
This is another sequel that returns to the events in Collodi’s classic. Gepetto (presented as a carpenter as in Collodi, not as a toymaker or clockmaker; but with Tolstoy’s huge colored nose) is happy with Pinocchio as a real boy, but he also reminisces fondly about the days when Pinocchio was a live puppet. He is accosted by a matchmaking woman who wants him to marry her cousin – after all, it’s not natural for an unmarried man to live alone with a young son.
Gepetto is visited by a fairy. I’m not sure whether this is the same Blue Fairy (or the Fairy With Turquoise Hair) seen later because she has brown hair and a red dress in this scene. Anyhow, she warns Gepetto that she has to go on a journey, so she can’t protect Pinocchio from the evil magic of the Little Man of Butter.
This is intriguing. The Little Man of Butter is the villain usually called the Coachman, who takes children to Toyland/Pleasure Isle where they turn into donkeys. In Collodi’s original, he is particularly brutal to the donkey-boys. Wikipedia’s translation of Collodi’s description is, “Picture for yourselves a little man, broader than he is tall, tender and greasy like a ball of butter, with a rosy face, a small, constantly laughing mouth and a thin, adorable voice of a cat wishing all the best to its master.” In both Collodi and Disney, he is just a cruel man who takes advantage of the land’s transforming power. Here, he commands evil magic and he is Pinocchio’s enemy in particular. But in Italian, “Man of Butter” is “Omino di Burro”; and you can easily see a connection between the Italian “burro” and the “burros” that the boys turn into.
Pinocchio is seen in school; a real boy but a poor student. The movie cuts to the Cat and the Fox, now at loose ends in a dismal swamp. (One of the Italian movie reviews asked sarcastically, “A swamp? In Tuscany?”) They meet the Harlequin (a grotesque green man who looks more like a zombie, in an old-fashioned policeman’s uniform) and the Robot, creatures of The Little Man of Butter, who take them to him. He sends the four to the North Pole (quite a trip from Tuscany) to overpower Santa Claus and his elf workers, steal Santa’s flying sleigh, and return to Pinocchio’s village as part of his plot against Pinocchio. (At this point I’m tempted to say, “You can’t just make this stuff up!”, but obviously Corradi could.)
Pinocchio has been shown as distraught by the plight of the poor, who are miserable in the village’s soup kitchens. The Robot, disguised as Santa Claus, persuades Pinocchio that it’s his duty to steal the school director’s cash box and give it to “Santa” to buy the poor some warm food (or something – I don’t speak Italian). This naïveté returns Pinocchio to puppethood. He and Winner, a French poodle puppy, run to the mansion of the Blue Fairy (she has a mansion?) for help, but neither she nor the Cricket are there.
(Incidentally, this movie calls attention to the fact that Disney’s 1940 version was careful to not show Pinocchio as a live puppet to any people except Stromboli who planned to make a fortune with him as a live puppet, plus the Coachman and the foolish children. One wonders how the ordinary villagers would have reacted to a live puppet, or what Gepetto was thinking sending him to school as a living puppet? Collodi got away with it because his story was a fairy tale. Here, it looks strange to see nobody reacting to a live puppet in their midst.)
Pinocchio (who has apparently forgotten about Gepetto, or to worry about becoming a puppet) and Winner meet a friendly gypsy named Gypsy who invites them to help him at a traveling fair. Pinocchio sells balloons at the fair. He asks a fortune teller to find the Blue Fairy for him; she can’t but she does see a menacing Little Man of Butter in her crystal ball. She tries to warn Pinocchio, but he doesn’t listen. A coach driven by The Little Man of Butter, who has been collecting children at the fair, offers to take Pinocchio and Winner with them to Toyland. Pinocchio accepts after The Little Man of Butter assures him that the Blue Fairy is there.
In Toyland, Pinocchio forgets about looking for the Blue Fairy and enjoys himself. All the children turn into donkeys. The Little Man of Butter herds them into a corral for sale as draft animals. Winner, who can now talk (rather, Pinocchio can now understand animal language since he’s a donkey), and Pinocchio help the donkey-boys escape. Pinocchio-as-donkey and Winner, wondering what to do next, come to the seashore and meet again the friendly tuna who helped Pinocchio and Gepetto escape from the belly of the Terrible Dogfish/shark (in Collodi’s novel). The fish tells them about The Little Man of Butter’s minions capturing Santa Claus. Pinocchio and Winner resolve to go to the North Pole to rescue him.
They are instantly plodding through snow-covered wintry lands. Suddenly the Talking Cricket catches up and joins them. They are rescued by the Knight of the Lost Principles on a quest. (Okay, I admit that I’m flummoxed. I don’t remember any “Cavaliere dei Principi Perduli” anywhere in Collodi or anywhere else.) His horse Baba is tired, so the Knight loads his heavy bags onto Pinocchio. When they are attacked that evening by bandits, Pinocchio-as-donkey jumps in front of the Knight to save him from a bullet. This act of selflessness results in Pinocchio turning back into a puppet after the Knight leaves them on his quest. The puppet, the cricket, and Winner continue walking, when Pinocchio sees a flight of storks. He persuades two friendly storks to airlift the three the rest of the way to the North Pole.
The three are looking for Santa Claus’ house when they hear a mother polar bear calling for help. Her cub has fallen into a crevasse. They rescue the cub, and the two polar bears join them. They find Santa’s house and see that the Little Man of Butter has joined them, and the Harlequin has tied up Santa’s elves as well. The mother polar bear calls a polar bear army. The bears and two donkey-boys rescue Santa and the elves, for which the donkeys turn back into boys. The Little Man of Butter and his four minions try to escape in Santa’s flying sleigh, but the Blue Fairy (now blonde and dressed in blue) appears, turning the Fox, Cat, Harlequin, and Robot into donkeys and the Little Man into a cube of butter.
In a long epilogue, a seaside fishing town makes a huge catch of fish. The fox and cat, turned into donkeys, help pull the fishing nets ashore. At the North Pole, Santa calls his flying reindeer and sleigh back home. There is a meeting of Santa, his elves, the polar bears, the three, the two boys, and the Blue Fairy; it’s not shown but presumably Santa takes the three and the two boys to the village in his sleigh. The kindly village priest takes charge of the cat-&-fox-as-donkeys and integrates them into the nativity pageant. Apparently the fox & cat-donkeys are relieved to relax as honest farm animals for awhile. At a big Christmas carnival, Pinocchio, the Blue Fairy, and Gepetto are in the audience while an animal trainer makes the Harlequin-&-Robot-as-donkeys perform. The animal trainer is cruel and Pinocchio rescues the two, earning his transformation from a puppet back into a real boy.
An adaptation that is so faithful to Collodi’s novel that a separate summary isn’t needed. Lush art design by Lorenzo Mattotti, the winner of several comic-art awards.
A co-production of four animation studios; the first listed of which is 2d3D Animations in Angoulême, which has an impressive resumé including Miniscule – la Vallée des Fourmis Perdues, the winner of the 2015 César Award (the French equivalent of the Oscars) in the Best Animated Film category.
If a cinematic animated feature adaptation of Pinocchio has to be recommended, it would be hard to decide between Disney’s 1940 version and D’Alò’s 2013 version.
That is about it. There may or may not be a “dark” Pinocchio with stop-motion animation, co-directed by Guillermo del Toro and Adam Parrish King, developed with the Jim Henson Company since 2008 and with impressive concept art by Gris Grimly. In January 2013 it was announced that this production was on indefinite hold. But if anything is certain, it is that there will be future animated versions of Pinocchio, whether this is ever one or not.
To close, look fast for this ultra-brief appearance of Gepetto and Pinocchio at 6’24” in the new Disney 2015 Mickey Mouse short, Wonders of the Deep.
Next week: Something entirely new.