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Western Animation / Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night

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Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night is an animated feature film produced by Filmation, distributed by New World Pictures, and released on Christmas Day, 1987.

One year after becoming a real boy, Pinocchio is entrusted by Geppetto with a delivery job: take a hand-crafted jewel box to the Mayor. Unfortunately, he instead trades the box away to a pair of con artists he meets on the road, in exchange for a big, shinyand fakeruby. Geppetto, upon finding out, is somewhat less than pleased.

That night, a guilt-ridden Pinocchio runs away from home. What follows is a series of hijinks including a mysterious carnival run by a creepy puppetmaster who transforms Pinocchio back into a lifeless puppet, "The Land Where Dreams Come True" that offers freedom and toys but at a terrible price, and a Wacky Wayside Tribe for Pinocchio's sidekick Gee Willikers.

The movie is ostensibly a sequel to the classic tale, but it draws a lot from the Disney version: it has Funny Animal con artists, a conscience figure in the style of Jiminy Cricket, a sadistic puppetmaster, a place that tempts children and then punishes them, a titanic battle on the high seas, and a few musical numbers. Disney noticed and sued Filmation for copyright infringement; they lost, as the original is public domain.

See also two sister Filmation productions: Journey Back to Oz, a sequel to The Wizard of Oz, and Happily Ever After, a sequel to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs produced at the same time as this film (and which Disney had more success in driving into obscurity).

Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Aesop Amnesia: The movie pretty much runs off this, in regards to Pinocchio forgetting every single lesson he learned in the original story!
  • And I Must Scream: While Pinocchio is being turned back into a puppet, the camera cuts several times to closeups of Twinkle watching, implying that her original human self is still conscious, but trapped inside her now-puppet body — and she's aware of what's happening.
  • Animation Bump: While the animation is noticeably above the usual effort put forth by Filmation, there's instances where the animation is far more fluid and expressive than others, such as the musical numbers and the Emperor's death.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Pinocchio, of all people. He doesn't actually throw any punches, but he still gets surprisingly badass during the film's climax.
  • Big Bad: Puppetino seems to be this for the first half of the film, but then the Emperor of the Night comes in for the second.
  • Big "WHAT?!": "You did what?!" from Geppetto when Pinocchio tells him he traded away the jewel box for a ruby that turned out to be fake.
  • Blatant Lies: Pinocchio's explanation to the Good Fairy for how he came to be Puppetino's prisoner. Invoked later on when he deliberately tells lies in order to make his nose longer so he can use it to open a very high lock. He also discovers that Brutal Honesty will make his nose shrink again.
  • Brick Joke: In Scalawag and Igor's introductory scene and Establishing Character Moment, Scalawag yells out that the sky is falling to distract their customers from the con. During the climax, as the Emperor of the Night's dimension starts crumbling around them, Scalawag yells out that the sky is falling again. This time, Igor points out that it's no trick.
  • Captain Ersatz: Most of the film's characters for characters from the original book, especially as they were presented in the Disney adaptation. Gee Willikers is Jiminy Cricket given Pinocchio's origin story, Scalawag and Igor are Honest John and Gideon with redeeming characteristics, Puppetino is Stromboli with magical powers, and the Emperor of the Night is an even scarier version of the Coachman. The giant ship turning out to have a magical underworld within it combines the Pleasure Island locale and Monstro the whale.
  • Cigar-Fuse Lighting: When trying to escape from the circus grounds via cannon, Scalawag snatches a sleeping strongman's cigar and uses it to light the cannon's fuse (along with briefly hacking and wheezing from puffing on the cigar).
  • Contrived Coincidence. When Igor and Scalawag shoot themselves out of the cannon to escape the angry mob, they just happen to crash into Pinocchio. The plot ensues.
  • Creepy Child: The kid in the cowboy hat that encourages Pinocchio to drink what's implied to be alcohol. He turns out to be one of the Emperor's disguised forms.
  • Dance Party Ending: Well, at least Geppetto, Twinkle, and Pinocchio dance before heading off into the sunrise. Comes this close to being a "YEAH!" Shot ending.
  • Deal with the Devil: The Emperor tries this on Pinocchio, and it nearly works as he willingly forfeits his free-will over to guarantee his family and friends' safety. But the Emperor screws up, as he fails to live up to his end of the deal, triggering Pinocchio's wrath -- and vow to leave by force.
  • Dirty Coward: When the Emperor's ship starts breaking apart, Puppetino tries to make a run for it along with everyone else. The enraged Emperor instantly strikes him down.
    Emperor of the Night: You worthless coward!
  • Disney Owns This Trope: Disney certainly thought so, and sued Filmation for copyright infringement. A judge disagreed, on the grounds that Carlo Collodi's original Pinocchio story was out of copyright, and Disney lost the suit.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything? A more subtle form, but listen very closely to the song "Do What Makes You Happy", which sings about the joys or abandoning home to pursue the life of a rule-snubbing vagabond. How many kids and teenagers have ran away from loving homes just for a taste of freedom? And how many have later come to regret it? "No one to scold you/No one to hold you"...
  • The Dragon: Puppetino, it turns out. While very effective at first, particularly in using temptation to get Pinocchio to make his Deal with the Devil, by the end he proves to be next to useless, cowering like a random Mook, and when the shit hits the fan is a Dirty Coward. Even his powers seem to be a gift from the Emperor, if his ultimate fate also implies a stripping of those powers, thus rendering even his earlier crowning moments rather lackluster in retrospect. His fear of his boss, however, was likely due to fear of You Have Failed Me (and he was right to worry).
  • Evil Puppeteer: Puppetino fits this role to a T. He has the power to turn Pinocchio back into a puppet, and has already done that with Twinkle before him. Which makes you wonder if his other puppets are also children and people he transformed.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Emperor of the Night, who is the main antagonist, has a deep voice due to being played by James Earl Jones.
  • Expy:
    • It's obvious that Scalawag and Igor are meant to be stand-ins for Foulfellow and Gideon. However, because raccoons are cute, chubby, and cuddly, and these two end up proving their inner heroism by swallowing their cowardice, doing a Heel–Face Turn, and helping Pinocchio out in the end—if only by getting him to the empire and then standing by him when it counted.
    • Besides those two, we have Gee Willikers, a small insect named after an interjection who tries to keep Pinocchio on the straight and narrow, much like Jiminy Cricket; evil puppet master Puppetino (Stromboli) who imprisons Pinocchio; and a painfully obvious expy of Lampwick in the Neon Cabaret scene. And like Monstro, the Emperor's ship swallows their boat whole and provides the backdrop for Pinocchio's final battle.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: Most of the characters have only four fingers on each hand. The only exception is the Emperor of the Night himself.
  • Friend-or-Idol Decision: The Emperor of the Night pulls one of these on Pinocchio, trying to make him choose between Geppetto, Twinkle, and his friends on the one hand versus his freedom. Pinocchio decides to Take a Third Option. Things end poorly for the villain.
  • Glamour Failure: The glowing red eyes on all of the Emperor's various incarnations.
  • Good Hurts Evil: Or at least, the purity of Pinocchio's Heroic Sacrifice and The Power of Love does. Both lampshaded and foreshadowed by the Blue Fairy's pep-talk Aesop song.
  • Heel Realization: Scalawag's moment in prison, when he realizes that all of them had succumbed to the power of their own dark desires, which allowed the Emperor to manipulate, corrupt, and ultimately ensnare them.
  • Hidden Depths: From Scalawag and Igor no less, who give a Balance Between Good and Evil explanation to Pinocchio, about the Emperor's and Blue Fairy's diametrically opposed motives and goals concerning free will.
  • Holy Burns Evil: Neither Emperor nor Empire of the Night can stand up to Pinocchio's display of free will, love and sacrifice for his loved ones.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Emperor of the Night is a monstrosity; he has four arms but lacks a whole body, seeming to be part-darkness.
  • Idiot Hero: Almost all of the bad things that happen in the film are the direct result of Pinocchio not only completely disregarding common sense, but ignoring the shrieking bug telling him that what he's doing is a bad idea.
  • I Lied: The Emperor pulls this trope after Pinocchio agrees to give away his freedom in exchange for Geppetto, Twinkle, Scalawag, and Igor being released. Big mistake.
  • Incredible Shrinking Man: The Emperor shrinks Geppetto so small he can fit into the jewel box.
  • Irony: The Emperor wants Pinocchio to have no choice, this ends up going badly for him as Pinocchio, having no choice, sacrifices himself to save his father.
  • Jump Scare: The Emperor gives a particularly nasty one to the younger viewers, when his fingers transform into screeching demons, emphasizing that his empire can suddenly switch without warning from a dream to a nightmare.
  • Karma Houdini: Technically, everything that happens in the movie is the fault of Scalawag and Igor for taking the music box from Pinocchio, yet because in the end they change sides and stand by him, they're given free passes, everyone walks off as friends, and this is never really brought up again. Justified, perhaps, in that unlike Foulfellow and Gideon, they were thieves and con men for fun and profit, not out of malice, they clearly regretted their mistakes, and they genuinely do redeem themselves. In fact, they even offer to take Pinocchio's place as lifeless puppets (though the Emperor of the Night isn't interested).
  • Large Ham: James Earl Jones as the Emperor lingers over every syllable of every line here, clearly having a blast with the role.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Puppetino's fate. What isn't clear is whether this is just the Emperor inflicting a particularly delicious and ironic punishment, or if he was restoring him to what he used to be.
  • Malignant Plot Tumor: Gee Willikers and Lieutenant Grumblebee enlist the aid of bugs everywhere by visiting "Bugzburg" and fight off... a frog. The side-story has little consequence, consumes a lot of time, and nearly derails the plot of the entire movie! Considering the film was supposed to get a spin-off based around the town (which came very close to a Fall 1989 debut, but scrapped due to L'Oreal disposing of the studio with their purchase of it), it comes off more as a poorly disguised Backdoor Pilot than anything else.
  • Mood Whiplash: It happens several times in this film - a charming moment plays out with a upbeat song, only to be followed by a nightmarish scene.
  • Not Using the "Z" Word: It's pretty obvious that the Satan-esque Emperor wants to take Pinocchio's soul, as he has done with countless others. Despite this, the word "soul" is never used. Instead, the Emperor turns people into puppets so he can take away their "freedom".
  • Puppet Permutation: What Puppetino dishes out to Pinocchio (and before him, Twinkle and countless others), and what the Emperor of the Night in turn does to him.
  • Quintessential British Gentleman: Lieutenant Grumblebee is an anthropomorphic animal version of this. He has an I Am Very British accent and is something of an Upper-Class Twit in his pomposity, and is also the bug world's equivalent of a World War I or II fighter pilot (i.e. the character of Biggles).
  • Satanic Archetype: Let's be honest with ourselves here: "Emperor of the Night" is a fancy way of saying "Satan" without Moral Guardians getting upset; the Emperor is a demonic entity of darkness who rules over a realm called "the Empire of the Night", to say nothing of how he tempts people into sin and makes deals in exchange for people's "freedom", complete with contracts. At the very least, however, his design is unique and not a Big Red Devil like most would expect.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Twinkle exists pretty much to tempt Pinocchio and be a Living MacGuffin for the second half of the movie.
  • Shapeshifter Showoff Session: The eponymous Emperor reveals himself to Pinocchio with this, transforming into all the various forms he's held while Puppetino was guiding the boy through his evil little wonderland before finally assuming his fearsome true form.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: The set-up for "Love Is a Light (Inside Your Heart)" probably qualifies as this, particularly since it existed solely to show off the talents of Rickie Lee Jones. However, the song in question is crucial to the Aesop as well as the climax of the film, and while never mentioned explicitly again an instrumental version of it does play as part of the soundtrack during said climax. Lacking in subtlety, but still effective.
  • This Is Something He's Got to Do Himself: Pinocchio's determination to get the jewel box back and thus prove his responsibility and trustworthiness, whatever the cost. He means well, but it does come across as a bit of Lawful Stupid behavior.
  • Those Two Guys: Scalawag and Igor are always together when they appear in the movie.
  • Toy Transmutation: The Emperor of the Night does that to kids as a Deal with the Devil to strengthen himself and weaken the Blue Fairy. His main goal is to do that to Pinocchio himself, since turning back the only doll to ever become human is bound to shift the balance in his favor a lot.
  • Vaudeville Hook: Scalawag and Igor attempt to dance on stage to snap Pinocchio out of his fame-and-fortune illusion, but they end up getting yanked offstage by a hook.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Scalawag and Igor, as a distraction to snap Pinocchio out of his fame-and-fortune illusion.