It’s time to look at a fresh take on Pinocchio. This one is by the Rankin/Bass guys and doubles as both an origin as well as a Christmas special. It’s an interesting version for sure, but it’s fairly short and once again this feels like it ends too soon. I also think the film didn’t work hard enough to make Pinocchio a sympathetic character and by the end you’ll be left unsatisfied with the whole thing.
The film starts with Geppetto looking to get Pinocchio a present. He decides to get the one thing he’s sure the kid always wanted, an arithmetic book. From the start you can tell that Geppetto means well but he is seriously out of touch. Pinocchio immediately sells the book and looks to buy something for his old friend. That’s when his other friends Fox and Cat show up. They tell Pinocchio about magical seeds he can buy. After suckering Pinocchio out of his money he becomes desperate for more options. He joins a travelling circus and even gets kidnapped at one point. What’s a puppet to do?
The problem with Pinocchio is that he’s never particularly sorry about what he does. The lies come very naturally to him here, even more than in other versions. Of course by the end he basically gets over his lying ways, but it took a lot of effort. He even chased out Jiminy cricket early on. Also, Pinocchio is extremely gullible in this version. Fox and Cat trick him numerous times yet he somehow doesn’t ever find out that they aren’t his friends. You’d think that after a while he would put the pieces together, but it would seem that he is simply too trusting. It becomes annoying by the end though as you’d like those characters to have met some kind of justice.
Geppetto also doesn’t look good here. When Pinocchio is lost he starts looking around town, but can’t even recognize Pinocchio through a simple disguise. So much for their strong bond right? He is very old so I guess his eyesight is going a bit, but I think it’s reasonable to assume that he should still be able to do a little better than this. Cat makes for a terrible villain with how she keeps sabotaging Fox, but Fox was reasonable. I think the voice actor had a lot of fun with this role. He was pretty over the top but in an intentional way that just worked well. If you gotta have a villain to mess with Pinocchio, you want someone like this.
As always, I do have to say that the animation style isn’t quite my thing. It’s not terrible but not as smooth as the traditional hand drawn animation we’ve all come to love. I’m also pretty mixed on Pinocchio’s design. It just doesn’t look right as I’m so used to the old one. It’s not a bad design though, it’ll just take some time getting used to it and the special isn’t really long enough for that to happen. There isn’t much of a soundtrack, but the writing is decent. Nothing special, but nothing bad. It’s just around.
Overall, Pinocchio’s Christmas is a decent special, but I wouldn’t call it the most interesting or enjoyable. It’s not a bad time and I don’t think you’ll regret the 40 minutes it took to watch this one, but it just feels bland. The writers grabbed the story of Pinocchio but didn’t actually do anything with it. Switch around the characters with other iconic figures and the plot really wouldn’t change almost at all. That’s always a bad sign. Still, if you want to watch some adventures it’s a reasonable flick to check out. Otherwise, I’d stick to the classic tale. At least in the full movie him turning into a donkey was pure hype.