Mediocre: Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night

Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night (1987)
Directed by Hal Sutherland
Written by Robby London, Barry O’Brien, Dennis O’Flaherty
Produced by Lou Scheimer, Erika Scheimer, Robby London, John Grusd
Starring Scott Grimes, Jonathan Harris, Don Knotts, Edward Asner, Frank Welker, William Windom, Tom Bosley, Rickie Lee Jones, Lana Beeson, James Earl Jones, Linda Gary
Flush with lucre in its twilight years for successful, crudely animated adaptations of He-Man, She-Ra and all those other Masters of the Universe, Filmation leapt late upon Disney’s coattails to exploit Carlo Collodi’s classic juvenile novel; as one might expect, the results are at best pedestrian, and at worst as shoddy as a theatrical cartoon comes. On his first human birthday, the transmuted tot (Grimes) offers to deliver a jeweled box crafted by Geppetto (Bosley) for a mayoral commission that represents the modest acme of the craftsman’s career; he’s fleeced forthwith of the handicraft by a procyonine diddler (Asner) and his fezzed, primate secondary (Welker), and during misadventures largely consequent of his many betises, the guileless stripling finds himself twice relignified by a ghoulishly sorcerous puppeteer (Windom) and his satanic master (Jones), despite the subvention of the foregoing finaglers, an arrogant, apian aviator (Harris) and a wooden glowworm (Knotts). Co-founder Sutherland concluded his directorial career with this apparently well-intentioned feature, which is but a slight qualitative cut above Filmation’s usual fare: uninspired character design and low framerates are partially counterbalanced by prettily painted backgrounds and foregrounds, and some fair photic effects, a few of which are imaginatively rotoscoped. Alas, this movie’s overplus of unfunny comic relief padding its runtime by temporization is likely only to amuse the smallest kids, who might well be traumatized by some of its nightmarish scenes. Charmlessly cloying but inoffensive, its vocal dream cast is the most notable distinction of a product marketed to kids who couldn’t be bothered to care.

Instead, watch Unico in the Island of Magic.