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Western Animation / Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night

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A 1987 animated feature released by New World Pictures, made by Filmation.

One year after becoming a real boy, Geppetto feels Pinocchio's ready to take on some responsibility, and so entrusts him 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, shiny (fake) ruby. Geppetto, when he finds out, is somewhat less than pleased.

That night, a guilt-ridden Pinocchio runs away from home to join the mysterious carnival that sprung up overnight. It's run by a totally upright, trustworthy, not-creepy-in-the-least puppetmaster (named Puppetino) who tempts Pinocchio into a dance with Twinkle, "The Most Beautiful Puppet In The World"... if he shows him what he can do first. What follows can only be described as an exercise in creepy, as Pinocchio is forced to dance as he watches himself turn back into a puppet.


If the viewer hasn't been scared into shutting the movie off yet, the Blue Fairy comes in and makes everything better, after a brief but stern reminder about "The Power Of Choice" and an amusing callback to the original tale as he tries to explain just how he got into that predicament in the first place. Pinocchio, now flesh-and-blood again, immediately decides to prove his newfound sense of responsibility... by going out to get the jewel box back.

A series of hijinks later, Pinocchio finds himself in the ominous Empire of the Night, being tempted onto a gondola ride by a mysterious figure. Again, Pinocchio's excellent judgment shines through as he decides to make a pit stop in "The Land Where Dreams Come True," which plays out like a Disney Acid Sequence, heavy on the acid. Despite the strangeness of the place, Pinocchio finds all his wishes are granted... the opportunity to have fun with no rules, an unlimited supply of toys, and fame and fortune.


But if you've been paying attention, you know there's a price...

The movie was designed to be a sequel to the classic tale, but audiences felt more like they were watching a Re-Tread of the Disney version. It hit a lot of similar notes, including but not limited to: Funny Animal con artists, a Jiminy Cricket-esque conscience figure, a sadistic, cruel puppetmaster, a place where kids are free to do whatever they like, and a titanic battle on the high seas. Disney sued Filmation for copyright infringement and lost, as the original Pinocchio story was written by Carlo Collodi, and was out of copyright.

Possibly due to these similarities, the film was a commercial failure, costing $8 to $10 million to make, but only earning $3.3 million domestically. However, it retains a small but loyal cult following; fans of the movie will illustrate the many differences between the two films, one of which is this film's Aesop about the power of choice, and the theme of temptation as a form of captivity. They'll also cite the Darker and Edgier nature of the opposition; in particular, Puppetino's transformation of Pinocchio and the appearance of the eponymous Emperor of the Night are unique, impressive, and terrifying to this day.

Reviewed here. See also Happily Ever After, another Filmation effort that served as a sequel to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear:
    • Listen to the scene where Puppetino turns Pinnochio back into a puppet with your eyes closed - Up to Eleven.
    • 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?
    • A parent gets up the morning after an argument with their child to find that the child has run away from home.
  • 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 trapped inside her now puppet body and aware of what's happening.
  • Award-Bait Song: "Love Is a Light (Inside Your Heart)".
  • 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 for the first half of the film, The Emperor of the Night for the second.
  • Big Good: The Blue Fairy, naturally.
  • Big "WHAT?!": "You did what?!" from Geppetto when Pinnochio 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.
  • 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: Many of the film's characters for characters from the original book/Disney film. Gee Willikers is Jiminy Cricket given Pinocchio's origin, 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.
  • Circus of Fear: Very much shades of Something Wicked This Way Comes.
  • Contrived Coincidence. When Igor and Sallawag 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 alchohol. he turns out to be the Emperor in disguise.
  • 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 friend's 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • Everything's Better With Monkeys: Igor.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Evil sounds like James Earl Jones.
  • Exposition Fairy: Gee Whillikers, taking the Jiminy Cricket role for this movie.
  • Expy: It's painfully obvious that Scalawag and Igor are meant to be stand-ins for Foulfellow and Gideon. However, because raccoons are cute, chubby, and cuddly, and Everything's Better with Monkeys, 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 Jiminy Cricket Gee Willikers, a small insect named after an interjection who tries to keep Pinocchio on the straight and narrow, and a painfully obvious expy of Lampwick in the Pleasure Island Neon Cabaret scene. And like Monstro, the Emperor's ship swallows their boat whole and provides the backdrop for Pinocchio's final battle.
    • Also, let's be honest with ourselves here: "Emperor of the Night" is a fancy way of saying "Satan" without parents losing their shit — because, clearly, by any logical criteria, the Emperor is Satan.
  • Four-Fingered Hands: It's painfully obvious that most of the characters have this. 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.
  • Grotesque Gallery
  • Heel–Face Turn: Scalawag and Igor, though they were fairly Lovable Rogues in the first place.
  • 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 or Empire of the Night can stand up to Pinocchio's display of free-will, love and sacrifice for his loved ones.
  • Honest John's Dealership: Scalawag and Igor's carnival game.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Pinocchio, again.
  • Humanoid Abomination: The Emperor of the Night is monstrosity, lacking a whole body and seems to part 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.
  • 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.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Scalawag, in the end. (Natch, considering his VA.)
  • Jump Scare: The Emperor gives a particularly nasty one to the younger viewer, 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.
  • 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.
  • Lions And Tigers And Humans -- Oh, My!
  • Lotus-Eater Machine: The "Land Where Dreams Come True."
  • Malignant Plot Tumor: Gee Willikers and Lieutenant Bumblebee 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 release, but scrapped due to L'Oreal disposing of the company 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 up-beat song, only to be followed by a scene of Nightmare Fuel.
  • 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.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Twinkle exists pretty much to tempt Pinocchio and be a living MacGuffin for the second half of the movie.
  • That Reminds Me of a Song: The set-up for the Award-Bait Song listed above probably qualifies as this, particularly since it existed solely to show off the talents of Rickie Lee Jones. However, the song in question was 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. Anvilicious, perhaps, 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.
  • 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 one of these.
  • Wacky Wayside Tribe: Bugzburg.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Scalawag and Igor, as a distraction to snap Pinocchio out of his fame-and-fortune illusion.


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