THE ADVENTURES OF PINOCCHIO
The idea of a live-action version of Pinocchio (1940) appears to have been a hot property around the same time. This version managed to narrowly beat out by another remake planned around the same time by Francis Ford Coppola. The Coppola Pinocchio sounded a bizarrely fascinating project Coppola wanted to locate the story in Nazi-occupied France and would have played the part of Gepetto himself. The Coppola Pinocchio ended up in the headlines in 1995 when Coppola filed a lawsuit against Warner Brothers, claiming they had sabotaged the project and refused to allow him, despite an unsigned contract, to shop the project around to other studios. Coppola won an $80 million settlement (something that was nearly the proposed budget of the entire film) but this was later thrown out on appeal.
There is the sense that this version is attempting to take the story closer to the original 1881 Carlos Collodi book. Thus the film shoots period and travels on location in Yugoslavia to represent Mediaeval Italy. Out goes all the Disney-ifications that people have become used to Jiminy Crickett now becomes Pepe the cricket; Monstro the whale becomes an anonymous sea-monster; and out altogether has gone the Blue Fairy (which was a creation of Disney). The original Carlos Collodi book was published as a series of self-contained stories and in following its structure, the film here tends to become somewhat episodic.
One did not expect that much of The Adventures of Pinocchio, but in fact it ends up pleasantly surprising. Pinocchio is a dazzling blend of CGI and puppet animatronics. The Adventures of Pinocchio was the first time that digital film technologies were asked to create the central character on screen. And they proved more than up to the task. Director Steve Barron captures a genuine sense of magic in Pinocchios childs eye innocent view of the world. One is able to completely suspend their disbelief and accept Pinocchio as a living, heart-renderingly innocent character for the duration. On the other hand, the same cannot be said for Pepe the Cricket, of whom it is never less than evident that he is a CGI character. While David Doyles voicing job is lively enough, the characters spouting of modern anachronisms takes it close to the genie character that ruined Disneys Aladdin (1992).
Martin Landau makes an effective Gepetto, although fails to demonstrate any of the acting stretches that have made him the darling of the awards crowds in recent years. Similarly, Bebe Neuwirth, a talented actress who is well due major recognition, is slinky but doesnt get to do much more than that. Genevieve Bujold presents an appealing solid-headed wisdom as the love interest.
Director Michael Anderson made a dreary sequel The New Adventures of Pinocchio (1999), which featured both Martin Landau and Udo Kier reprising their roles here.
Steve Barron is a director of some genre association. He also made the computer romance Electric Dreams (1984), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990), Coneheads (1993) and Rat (2000) about a man who turns into a rat, as well as the Hallmark tv mini-series Merlin (1998), Arabian Nights (2000) and Dreamkeeper (2003). Barron also founded Canadas Mainframe Entertainment, the worlds first commercial computer animation company and the producers of tv series such as Reboot (1994-2001) and Beast Wars: Transformers (1996-9).