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Pinocchio In Outer Space
(1964)
 

Director: Ray Goossens


There's a question that has been plaguing me about Pinocchio for years, ever since I first saw the movie as a child. That question is: What did Pinocchio die from during the climatic escape from Monstro the whale? I mean, look at it; it couldn't have been from drowning, because we had seen him walking around unharmed on the bottom of the ocean floor several minutes earlier. It couldn't have been from the tail smash, because Geppetto survived that (and he was an old man!) As a kid, I used my 8mm Fisher Price hand Astro the whale flees from the onslaught coming from lovers of quality animation cranked movie player to play that sequence from the movie over and over, for any sign of a clue (occasionally watching it backwards for humorous effect - I loved the subsequent effect of seeing Geppetto lying on the beach and getting swept away to sea by the tide.) To this day, I still don't have any idea what made Pinocchio die. At least there is an explanation for Pinocchio's death in Pinocchio In Outer Space. In the climax of this family movie, Pinocchio gets roasted alive from a flaming jet coming out of a big spout, and we see him die before our eyes. True, it is strange that his body and clothing isn't blackened and burned in the least (probably the director was afraid of traumatizing children more than they should be), but it's at least clear why Pinocchio dies this time around.

If this sequence sounds a bit out of place for a kiddie movie, wait until you see every scene in Pinocchio In Outer Space, an utter bastardization of the classic Carlo Collodi tale. There are so many ways in which this movie goes wrong, but the biggest mistake the people behind this movie made was to view the original classic tale as not being "hip" or "with it". This is the kind of thinking that's given us t-shirts with Bugs Bunny dressed in gangbanger clothing, or having the Muppets After having left a "log" on the floor, Geppetto teaches Pinocchio about toilets singing "Brick House". Not only are such sights ridiculous to our eyes, but they show the people behind the characters having no confidence with the original material that has managed to entertain millions without any kind of enhancement. This sequel not only gets a massive update it, but it twists it around so perversely that you can't take your eyes off the mess happening in front of you. At the end, you are exhausted, and can't immediately put into words about what you have just seen, except that Collodi must be spinning around in his grave.

This new adventure for Pinocchio takes place not that long after his original adventures. So you think Pinocchio and Geppetto lived happily ever after? Wrong, buster. Seems that after Pinocchio's dream of becoming a real boy became true, he soon went off the wagon and started to revert to his mischievous ways, including stealing cookies and smashing children's heads together with great force. So as a punishment, the Blue Fairy turned him back to being more wooden than Al Gore. Humbled, Pinocchio resolves to work at becoming good enough in the Blue Fairy's eyes so that he may be turned into a real boy once again.

Okay...that setup is not so bad. But as Geppetto says shortly, "Strange times, Pinocchio - a whale in space!" Yes, you read that right. As Pinocchio gets ready to go to school, there's an announcement on the workshop's TV. Yes, a TV. Maybe it wasn't that long ago in time when the original adventure happened after all. Anyway, the TV report is about "Astro, The RogueWe're hip! We're cool! Groovy! Whale From Outer Space!" Seems Astro came out of nowhere, and has put a serious crimp into the space program, because he keeps smashing up all the satellites up there. Pinocchio gets it in his head that this must be the key to becoming a real boy - stopping Astro! Geppetto condescendingly tells Pinocchio, "You'll probably see interplanetary travel in your lifetime!" sending him off to school before starting work on carving a spaceship out of a log (for, you see, kids of these days would never be satisfied with a simple horse or something just as equally unexciting.)

Pinocchio leaves home for school, and starts singing one of the three songs of the movie, It's A Goody Good Morning (Lyrics excerpt: "It's a goody good morning / And a goody good day / It's a happy dappy dippy dappy lolla dappy doozy all the way"), and one can't help but notice that all the woodland animals hearing Pinocchio don't, for once, dance around the singing hero, but instead run away from "I'm not a parrot! I'm not a turtle! I'm a TWURTLE!" him. Soon Pinocchio bumps into some old acquaintances of his - or are they? You remember that in the Disney version, the two dishonest fellows went by the names J. Worthington Foulfellow and Gideon. But here the fox is named "B. Sharp", and his feline sidekick not only is named "Mr. Groovy" ("L-l-l-l-l-ike groovy, man!"), he's also a beatnik! Once again, they con our wooden friend, getting him to buy a hypnotism book so he can hypnotize Astro the whale. But how will Pinoc get up into space? Well, it so happens an alien named Nurtle (voiced by Arnold Stang) lands his spaceship a few minutes later, and after explaining to Pinocchio that he's a Twurtle and not a turtle, invites Pinocchio to go out into space with him to explore Mars and look for Astro at the same time and -

(Note: I paused several minutes after writing all the above in order to regain my sanity, until realizing that what I had written was, in fact, what happened in the movie.)

Pinocchio In Outer Space is a terrible movie in so many ways. The story isn't just awful in its updating, but in its refusal to find a constant tone. Though it panders to the kiddies, at the same time the screenplay actually tries to educate the kiddies in an incredibly contrived manner. So out of the blue, Nurtle will spout out a scientific fact such as, "Mars is smaller t"Now THAT'S a turtle, buddy!"han Earth, so the horizon is shorter. And there's far less gravity!" Many of these facts will go over the heads of kids, and even adults will eventually be fed up by how obsessively the movie attempts to hit the audience over its head with education. But what is worse about the story is that between taking off from earth and encountering Astro the whale, there is an incredibly long jaunt on Mars that ends up not affecting the Astro section in any possible way. All the Mars section seems to be for is to pad up the short running time of this feature with scientific facts and monstrous visuals of mutant sandcrabs and other ghastly creatures that will probably freak out the younger kiddies.

The animation comes Wholesome family entertainment!across as if it was done by an unespecially talented European member of Hanna-Barbera's TV animation unit of the time. The three songs the movie boast are the pits, with high-pitched notes there and elsewhere in the  movie that will shatter the lenses in your glasses. The...well, everything is just plain bad in this movie, right down to the shoddy print and video transfer used for the actual video itself. This movie does the impossible, by managing to totally bungle every possible thing it tries to do. This is the kind of bad that even kids won't forgive. I'm afraid if I go on describing every failure, I'll just sound like a whiner. Really, this movie is just plain bad. No extra synonyms have to be used, just "bad" will describe the entire movie. Let's end it here and go onto the next movie.


UPDATE: Philippe Capart sent this along:

"I just stumbled on the review for the film Pinocchio in Outer Space. It's very sharp!, I am a Belgian animator/director and am actually doing a documentary on the Belgian studio Belvision (The studio who worked on the film). The director of the film Ray Goossens had just finished working on the Tintin TV-Series (1959) (created from the base of a two pilots made by Larry Harmon (at Hanna-Barbara?) when he started on Pinocchio (1961-62). 

"There were only two animators for this film! (and about 8-9 inbetweeners and cleaners) and Willy Lateste (the second animator) was "formed" by Goossens. This was the first feature length film for this studio. The film was designed for TV, Norman Prescott and Fred Ladd (the Americans at the base of this film) tried to find a studio abroad to make this "sequel", they tried Yugoslavia, didn't work out and they found "Belvision" in Brussels. Belvision was a sister company of the Le Lombard, the publisher of the once famous European "Tintin" magazine. With little budget, they tried to take a piece of the TV-Market.

"Pinocchio started out as a TV-feature film but the work was so great (sic) that they decided to make it a theatre hit. After this film, Ray Goossens tried to work on The Flintstones for Hanna and Barbara with his Belvision team (they knew Charles Shows, a script writer who worked for Hanna and helped on the adaptation of the Tintin series). They made a pilot episode (with French (Belgian) accents!) but it didn't go further.

"I have seen the first version of the story-board done by an American named Freund, it was great work and much funnier than the finished version; something went wrong...

"Well, I thought maybe this would be of some interest to the person having written the review (it might give you some information on why it's so ...well not that great!)"

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See also: Jimmy The Boy Wonder, The Last Unicorn, Willy McBean

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