By now you know it: every studio other than Disney wants the Pixar fortune. Badly!
Cackling like Sidney Whiplash, they twirl their handlebar mustaches and kidnap the Luxo Lamp. They tie the lamp up, shove it into a Xerox machine, press down on the cover as hard as they can and push "copy" repeatedly. Instead, about 99 copies of "Ugly Farting Animals: An Edgy Adventure" slide out. They raise their clenched fists in the air and scream "FOILED AGAIN!!"
I don't know how else you explain so many companies trying to be the next Pixar by making the exact same movie--wacky furry creatures in a fish-out-of-water situation. If you look at Pixar's history....they've never made that movie even once. And there's kind of a reason why.
Pixar has what no other major studio currently has right now: trust. They take the time on their films to craft them just right and make sure they don't blow it. The result is that going to see a new Pixar movie creates a special feeling not unlike your occasional ice cream cone or neighborhood barbecue. You go in knowing you'll have a good time--and you'll pay for it.
Building up a reputation like that isn't easy, and most studios don't even want to try out of fear of risk. The only successful competitor to Pixar has been Dreamworks' Shrek, and Hollywood saw an easy way to riches hidden in that film: they could beat Pixar simply by being edgier than them! And what could be edgier than ugly farting animals?? Right??
I would argue that currently, no one is edgier than Pixar themselves. There was some pretty gutsy stuff in The Incredibles, and Cars was an even bigger risk if you think about it--conventional wisdom is that most kids would rather watch wisecracking autos racing each other than a slow tribute to Route 66, the bulk of the film's middle content. And as far as the moral of the film, which goes against the materialistic culture they make so much of their cash from--the other guys would scream at the thought of such a lesson being taught.
The current trend of trying to be the industry leader by copying the ideas of the most popular and making the copies "hipper" is not only lame, it's not even new. People have tried and failed before in similar situations....like in the non-Disney-produced, non-Collodi-canonical sequel to Pinocchio!
More specifically, it was called "Pinocchio in Outer Space" and it was an attempt by a small French studio (financed by a Belgian company) to out-Walt Walt by sequeling "Pinocchio" with trendier ideas and references---from 1964.
Heh.........you know exactly where this is going, don't you? This is the ice cream feeling I described earlier.
Here's what happened between the Disney movie and its ripoff: Pinocchio proved himself to be virtuous and brave, and the Blue Fairy made him a real boy. That much you know.
But then Pinoke thought, "Ha ha, I'm real and she's gone! I'm off the hook! I can get right back to being a brat again with no consequences!"
"WRONG, short stuff," the Fairy says, who was keeping an eye on him just in case. So she turned him BACK into a puppet and ordered him to prove himself AGAIN. That's where this new story starts off, conveniently reset and able to be retold--mod style!
This time, Gepetto is watching the news on his television (wow, he's got a TELEVISION now!) There's a crisis in space....remember Monstro the Whale? Now there's someone even badder and more with-it.....ASTRO THE SPACE WHALE!!
I know....you can barely see him. This film was made on a shoestring budget, originally for TV. It had a total of 4 animators. (Though, to be fair, there's more movement than in a typical static 1960's children's program.)
Astro's costing NASA a lot of dough; he's up there smashing satellites to bits, some of which aren't Russian. They try to shoot him Missile Command-style in the screenshot's scene, but the missiles do nothing to his thick hide. Seeing this, Pinocchio gains a new purpose. "They just don't know when to quit. As soon as you stop an evil whale, yet another one shows up. And in space! You know, if I kick this one's butt as well, the Blue Fairy will make me a real boy once again! So by golly, I'll do it!"
Gepetto agrees to help Pinocchio, and sets out to carve a wooden rocket. No, really--his carpenting skills had advanced considerably by the sixties. And if not, I guess he can always wish on his star to make that thing work properly.
Meanwhile, Pinocchio heads off to school, singing a wretched song. These are actual lyrics: "It's a goody good morning! And a goody good day! It's a happy dappy dippy dappy lolla dappy doozy all the way!" Then he meets the evil con artist foxes again, and wait'll you see this....
They've been modernized as well; they're BEATNIKS! Their names have even been changed to "Sharp" and "Groovy."
"So heeeey, maaaan, you say you wanna beat the whaaale? That's a wild triiip, maaaan, and we'll sell you the most happenin' way to do the deed....unless you wanna be squaaare like your Daddy-O!"
They sell Pinocchio a book on hypnotism and leave. Not exactly as sinister as sending him to Pleasure Island, but conning little children properly takes work, and work is for squares.
Now the only problem is getting there, but before Gepetto can finish the wood spaceship, a UFO lands before Pinocchio's eyes and out steps....a turtle?
Not exactly. The odds of another planet having turtles are extemely slim. "I'm not a turtle....I'm a TWURTLE!!" He's a Twurtle.
In fact, his name is Nurtle. Nurtle the Twurtle--and he's a secret agent! (1964, remember?) He's a Secret Agent Twurtle!
......Wow, maybe this IS beating Walt's original vision. What do you think?
So now this is the plot: Pinocchio and Nurtle the Secret Agent Twurtle are blasting off to Mars in a UFO to stop the giant celestial aquatic mammal. .....Wait, why are they going to Mars? The whale has already passed Mars and he's on a deadly collision course with Earth! If Pinocchio thinks he has time to sightsee, the Blue Fairy's never going to pardon him this time!
Here's the short-nosed truth: There was a misguided motive behind this next portion of the film. The movie makers thought they could earn a few brownie points with parents by stuffing in a few educational facts about other planets. The entire plot is temporarily abandoned at this point so that Pinoke and Nurtle can walk around Mars and point out that it's farther from the sun, it has less gravity, and its different light refractions produce its red sky (oops....they forgot to make it red).
The impromptu science lesson goes on for a good 20 minutes or more (and this movie is 71 minutes long). It was a major selling point, as evidenced by the narrator's words in the film's beginning: "The adventure you're about to see is based on a true portrayal of outer space, and could actually happen... to a puppet, come alive." That added bit is to cover the fact that they also show a radioactive city populated by giant crabs and scorpions.
Nurtle comes to the conclusion that Astro himself is from the radioactive city, and soon, ALL these mutants will invade and destroy Earth! NOOOOO! Finally realizing the urgency of the situation, the fearsome twosome get their lazy posteriors off Mars and face the film's villain. Now, how many of you will bet dollars to donuts that the hypnosis book doesn't work and that Pinocchio winds up inside the second whale? If so, you win a donut!
What about all those other monsters, you ask? They won't be a problem. Pinocchio blew up Mars.
This movie gets more and more unbelievable with every minute. Yes, he destroyed the entire planet, with the aid of the US's newest and grooviest invention, the H-Bomb! Golly, Oppenheimer, thank you!
At this point Pinocchio and Nurtle hit some pretty nasty bad luck. It turns out the Blue Fairy lives with her mother in the asteroid belt (yes, with her mother...babysitting living puppets isn't a real job). You can bet she's angry. Not only is Pinocchio not in school right now, but he hitched a ride with a total stranger not even of his own species and BLEW UP AN ENTIRE PLANET TO BOOT. There's no way she's gonna let him go easy this time.
And yet she does let him off....maybe she's just stupid. She suddenly changes her mind and says she admires Pinocchio's courage, then tells him he can escape the whale's belly through the blowhole.
Which Pinocchio does. Then Nurtle suggests they try hypnotizing Astro again. This really didn't work the first time, but they come up with a different method on the second turn that does the trick. They fly in a circle around Astro's face, and Astro gets so dizzy watching the spaceship that he's put under their control! Well, whaddya know?
This, however, creates a new problem--they can't get home because now the ship's rudder is busted. Pinocchio volunteers to climb out and fix it, since wood doesn't need to breathe.
Suddenly the ship's engine backfires! Fire shoots out the end, roasting the puppet!
I'm not making that up either. They really killed Pinocchio in this film, onscreen.
Well, that bites. Gepetto is naturally saddened, as is Nurtle. This, of course, is not the TOTAL end of Pinocchio, as the Blue Fairy shows up and reveals she has the power to resurrect dead puppets, as well as the power to make them real. She does both, stating Pinoke earned his boyhood again. (Sucker!)
The final scene is Pinocchio and Nurtle being given awards by the leaders of the world. The same leaders also make Astro the Death Whale an honorary citizen of Earth--wait a minute, what the hey???
Nurtle is made "Ambassador of Earth," but can't stay, as he has other top-secret missions to complete. He blasts off in the spaceship as the grateful residents of Earth wave goodbye.....
The two most responsible for this movie are Norm Prescott (left), who later founded Filmation, and animation director Fred Ladd (right, full name Fred Laderman). If you ever get a chance to talk to Ladd, he actually still BRAGS about Pinocchio in Outer Space and how wonderful it is. One of his most recent comments: "Pinocchio In Outer Space was completed in 1964. It correctly foresaw the occurrence of WATER on Mars--confirmed by NASA in 2004! How's THAT for timing?" Uh, I think water on Mars was confirmed before 2004.....
Pinocchio in Outer Space is already on DVD, and believe it or not, it got a rather respectable home treatment. It's in anamorphic widescreen and includes deleted scenes and a commentary with the producer. One trip to Amazon.com and it's yours....want it?
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