Even these tapes cost something

  The Adventures of Pinocchio
1984 | Harmony Gold U.S.A.
The Adventures of Pinocchio kids cartoon collection

Remember the days when all the supermarkets would have cash-in versions of the new Disney hit? You know like "The Legend of Mu-Lan" or "The Adventures of Aladdin"?  Well this one was 40 yrs late.

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Despite an early career as a political satirist Italian writer Carlo Collodi became best known as a children's writer, first venturing into the realm translating Mother Goose stories, and particularly as the author of Le Avventure di Pinocchio.

Originally published in 1881 in weekly serial in a children's newspaper, The Adventures of Pinocchio told of a living puppet, his penny less father, the woodcarver Geppetto, and the lessons he learns as a naive and mischievous wooden boy. The original serialisation had a far darker tone to the novelised continuation which contained many of the elements most recognised by modern audiences.

The novel was first translated into English in 1892, two years after the author's death, at it was at this point that its popularity grew.

The famous tale has been adapted for screen numerous times, from the earliest, an unfinished Italian animation, to the most famous: the 1940 animated musical Pinocchio from Walt Disney.

Pinocchio's first anime adaptation came from Tatsunoko Productions in 1972. In what would become famed artist Yoshitaka Amano's (Gatchaman, Vampire Hunter D, Angel's Egg) first character design credit, the literary classic was loosely worked into a 52 episode TV series titled Kashi no ki Mokku (Mokku of the Oak Tree) for Fuji Television.

The series followed the many trials of Mokku, a blue haired living puppet carved from a branch of an enchanted Oak tree. Mokku's dreams of becoming a real boy but first he must learn to be a decent person before this wish can be realised. So, each week he finds himself in a difficult situation, often choosing the wrong course of action and so is made to suffer so that he will never make that mistake again. Reoccurring characters included Cricket, Mokku's insect guide, who he killed with spite in the first episode who now appears to him as a ghost, and three devious animals, a mouse, a fox and a weasel, who live in the forest and are always causing trouble for the living puppet.

Shown in a 7.00pm time slot, Kashi no ki Mokku ran from April to December.

The 1970s also saw another anime Pinocchio, the unrelated 1976 Piccolino no Boken from Nippon Animation.

Mokku of the Oak Tree made his first appearance outside of Japan on the Italian Super 3 station in 1980, nearly ten years after his Japanese debut. The series, re-titled The New Adventures of Pinocchio, ran for the full and unedited 52 episodes with an Italian dub.

It would be a further four years before Mokku would have his first arrival in the English speaking territories. Joining Time Bokan, another 1970's Tatsunoko production, and a number of other anime properties; a selection of Kashi no ki Mokku episodes were edited into a single 90 minute feature by Force Five creator Jim Terry. Although the feature was distributed internationally by Harmony Gold the dubbing was handled by Terry's company American Way using his usual cast of vocal talent. The original score is replaced by a new series of songs and instrumentals by Mark Mercury's distinctive outfit Bullets.

Named The Adventures of Pinocchio the feature was first shown on cable TV before being released on video by Celebrity's Just For Kids.

In the UK received this edited feature in 1987 from Kids Cartoon Collection and then three years later with a re-release by Pickwick Video. In 2003 the film ended up in the hands of Warner Bros who released it, complete with suspiciously Disney-style artwork featuring a black haired Pinocchio, on VHS & DVD.

It took twenty years for Tatsunoko's Pinocchio to gain real recognition in the west; in 1992 the prolific production company Saban brought the complete series of Kashi no ki Mokku to American and English TV screens. Creating a completely new dub and score the series was titled Saban's Adventures of Pinocchio and shown weekdays mornings on HBO in the U.S. and afternoons on BBC 1 in the UK.

The show received numerous edits to remove scenes that were considered troubling for a juvenile audience including, in the opening episode, sight of a cruelly treated puppet being burnt "alive" in a stove.

Saban were no strangers to Japanese entertainment having adapted many anime shows during the 80's including Macron 1, Noozles and Ox Tales as well as famously brining Sentai to the west with the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers and V.R. Troopers.

Japanese VHS Pinocchio   Warner Bros DVD Mokku
Japanese VHS covers
UK re-release cover
Warner's misleading DVD
Japanese toy

One stormy night a howling gale tears a thick branch from a mighty oak tree. The next morning an old man collects the branch and carries it back to his cottage in the forest. It is here that he leads the lifestyle of "that creepy old guy who lives in the cottage in the forest". Hidden in the branch is Timothy the cricket who, by an unusual quirk of genetics, can talk. He also appears to carry a fencing foil with him, which no one ever brings up. Despite his innocent looks and 'aww shucks' voice he must have a real nasty rep.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

Anyway, Timothy acts as the narrator for the length of the movie - every character in this thing has an unbearable voice so it makes no odds, and even he comments on how irregular Geppetto's set up is, and he's one of the cast!

The old man begins to carve his big new wood, moping on the whole time. Moping about how good things will be when his new creation is finished. "Even if you are just a puppet I'll treat you like a son. I'll always love you, and take good care of you. I know you're not real but you'll be the son I never had." Yeah... I don't think all that time away from the human race has done Geppetto many favours. Even the cricket is ripping on him "I don't know about this guy... I don't think he is playing with a full deck!" Congratulations, you just got jipped by a bug.

The creepy old fella gives one last long speech wishing Pinocchio was alive so he could have a real son and then leaves for bed. However, you'd never believe it but the Oak tree was magic and without so much as a background check the Oak Fairy casts a spell and grants the old man's wish.

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As narrator, Timothy informs the audience that time has passed and Geppetto and Pinocchio have settled into their unusual existence together. He mentions in passing that the Oak Fairy also turned him into a magic Cricket so he could be around whenever the wooden boy needed him. That's "magic" as in "ghost-like".

It is a school day and so Geppetto sets his wooden son up for the day ahead. During breakfast we meet Rudy. "Meet" as in "appears on screen without introduction". His character background is "he is a mouse".

On his way to the school house Pinocchio becomes distracted as he passes by a Circus tent. Some shady looking wise-guy kid sidles up to him and recommends he sell his books to buy a ticket and the gullible puppet readily agrees. Inside the pawn shop Tim the Magic Ghost appears to prevent Pinocchio from carrying out this selfish act, but not to warn him that he is about to be jumped by the shady mook and sold to the evil Circus owner.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

The terrified puppet is thrown onto the stage almost immediately and is forced to perform in front of the baying crowd. Locked up that night, Pinocchio is informed by the standard, non-mobile, puppets that make up the circus master's usual act, that Zampino is an evil man who will never let him return home.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

At their advice he waits until Zampino gets totally wasted and then steals the front door key from his pocket. He also attempts to drag the other puppets to freedom but, when their clanking wakes the evil slave master, he turns them instead into obstacles to slow the enraged brute and secure his own escape. Zampino chases the blue haired boy through the snowy streets and eventually onto a frozen lake where his vastly greater weight causes the ice to crack and he falls into the freezing water. Pinocchio makes no attempt to rescue the rogue and leaves him to his agonizingly slow and painful death. Pinocchio returns home safely.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

Day two. Geppetto hands his wooden son a gold coin and instructs him to go buy food from the market. Rudy the mouse overhears this and sells him out to a couple of sleazy looking characters called Sly and Slick. (One I think is supposed to be a fox the other... dunno, some kind of giant squirrel?) All three want his coin but need a plan. A really long and convoluted plan. One that takes up most of the day. One that makes you wonder why sly has to "work with his brains and his muscle" when, if he'd done things the other way round, they could have already lost the coin at the dog track and been doing something else by now.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

Anyhow, they tell Pinocchio that they know where there's a rare plant that grows gold coins but they need his help in getting it. He agrees to assist so they trek for miles, across a perilous rope-bridge and through ancient roman ruins to a volcano. There, they have him dig up some dangerously located and randomly chosen nondescript weed. Eventually he returns from the difficult and dangerous trial unharmed so they have him plant it in the ground. Next, the clever part, he must bury his coin with it as the secret ingredient. Finally, Pinocchio is instructed to fetch water to feed the plant. Once he is out of sight they dig the coin up and at last it's theirs. And all it took was just half a day to swipe a single coin.

While Pinocchio waters the plant the Oak Fairy appears to scold him for loosing Geppetto's coin, her chastising makes Pinocchio angry. That night Sly's lie really does come true and the plant grows gold coins. All the villagers, attracted by the glow, hurry over and snatch the gold greedily. But when they hack the tall plant down (to reach the coins at the top) it dies and all their magical loot turns back into leaves. There's probably a lesson in all that somewhere. Pinocchio goes home.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

Day three. The puppet leaves for school and meets Dominos Lord of the Forest whose out hunting. He is instantly besotted with the boy (as a potential heir, you understand) and goes to his home to make Geppetto a generous offer. The old man turns him down so the rich land owner becomes nasty and demands them off of his property. Pinocchio makes the difficult decision to become Dominos' wife heir to save the family shack.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

The living puppet acclimatises quickly to the decadent and cruel ways of nobility. Soon he is treating the servants like dirt and chasing peasants around the stately grounds on horseback, cackling at their terror with glee. Sickened by his actions, Timothy visits Pinocchio one night to demand he return home to his papa but Pinocchio talks back rudely and crushes him. (Fortunately Timothy is 'magic' and can't be killed twice er, I mean - can't be killed).

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While on one of his numerous peasant trampling adventures Pinocchio catches sight of his papa and decides that he does want to go home. That evening it's Oak Fairy's turn to visit but she's in a teaching mood, not a helping mood. Teaching the hard way, that is. She casts a spell on the wooden boy that will slowly turn him into a tree.

The Lord is disgusted when he sees his 'son' with a branch growing out of his face and has him cast from the castle, laughing at him as he begs to stay. Cowering in the barren forest outside the castle grounds the deformed Pinocchio is seen crying, naked, and battered. Later that night a re-clothed Pinocchio cries out to a passing woodcutter for help. His mutation has become so bad that he is rooted to the ground, both his arms developing into branches. Surely this man will show some kindness? "A valuable plant!" he smirks and within seconds Pinocchio is being sold to a wicked man for the entertainment of his spoilt family and their dinner guests. Tree-boy is forced to sing for the rich folk and, impressively, the mournful words he improvises not only rhyme but fit the music too.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

That night, just as a tease, the Oak Fairy visits to inform Pinocchio that he has experienced "cruelty" and then, despite his desperate pleas, leaves again. Oh well, at least he knows the word for it, now.

Things go from worse to, well, equally as bad when, within the space of a transition, the mutated marionette is sold to an 'evil captain', along with some kidnapped children, to be sold for riches overseas. Luck, well, sort-of-luck prevails and the ship carrying them to the Nike factory is caught in a storm and sinks. Pinocchio does his best to save the kids but is left adrift when a passing boat takes the children to safety. Well, I'm assuming it's safety...

Finally satisfied that the wooden boy has learnt his lesson - it's been so long I'd be surprised if she can remember what that lesson was - Oak Fairy does a Moses and creates a safe passage for the ship wrecked puppet to travel to land. By shear luck woody washes up on the exact beach that Geppetto happens to be searching. The two are reunited for a second time.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

Day four. Pinocchio rushes out the house to play outside. While running, he apparently trips and tumbles down the bank and, no doubt through some skillful editing, down a rock face and through a canopy of trees, into the middle of a deep forest. By the same stroke of chance that reunited him with his papa only hours earlier, Zampino - alive and well after his icy dunking - just happens to be passing that very spot. As you'd guess he is delighted to see the very animated marionette that left him for dead.

Not far away Sly and Slick are caught by Zampino's bear trap, consigning them to a future at the road kill diner. For reasons entirely lost on me Pinocchio begs for their lives and the ogre relents, allowing them all to join his new enterprise - a traveling circus. Well, it makes sense - he would be crazy to kill two human sized animals which had mastered the skill to talk and walk upright when he owns a circus.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

Realising that, once again, it looks like Pinocchio isn't coming home, old man Geppetto leaves on a search for him, something he must be getting good at by now. He should really install a tracker. Meanwhile his Oak-based son is getting on well at the circus. People turn up in their droves to see a vaguely wooden boy ride a zebra but don't bat an eyelid at the Doberman playing a bugle on their way in. He's standing upright for godsakes!

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

That night, after the performance and at the request of the captive animals, Pinocchio has a meeting with Zampino to demand their freedom. He comes out joint partner in the circus. Some union boss he is. At practice the next day Zampino unveils his new crowd puller - the ring of fire. The performers aren't at all ok with the level of potential death involved but the boss makes some vague threats so they've gotta do it. Pinocchio volunteers to go first ignoring Sly's advice that he is "highly flammable". Even though he succeeds Zampino still demands they all do it.

Having formulated a plan, the cast put it into action during the afternoon performance. It's a little messy but basically breaks down to soaking the cruel ringmaster in rum and then setting fire to the bigtop. Despite numerous close calls Zampino avoids burning to death but is arrested and thrown in prison "for a long time" for crimes unknown. The animals are free to go back to their old lives and Pinocchio runs home to his worried papa.

Day five. Barely worth even mentioning. Pinocchio rescues a mermaid from a traveling show but is not allowed to stay in her enchanted home because he wants to bring his dad. He runs all the way home crying, proving once and for all that wood-based lifeforms CAN produce tears.

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

Day six. Papa buys Pinocchio a brand new suit and them tells him to go outside and play in it. What, is he doing home trials for some new detergent or something? "Powerful enough to remove grass stains and sap". While out playing he meets and befriends Mirell the daughter of a local rich business man. He goes back to her mansion to play but receives an angry lecture from Timothy the Magic-Ghost who is not happy at all that Pinocchio has allowed the girl to believe he is human. That is a lie and lies are bad.

How anyone could believe Pinocchio is human is beyond me. Really he should be praised for sparing the unobservant girl's feelings.

Things finally reach an awkward stage when, at her birthday party, Mirell declares that she wants to marry him when they grow up and invites him to kiss her. Timothy demands Pinocchio take off his gloves right now and show her who he really is. That's all it takes to hide Pinocchio's inanimate origins? A pair of gloves? Like how, in the Ninja Turtles, people would accept an amphibian as one of us simply because it was dressed in a trench coat and hat. Just ignore the fact it's green! Things wind up with Pinocchio confessing all and loosing his girl. Maybe when he's a real boy...

kashi ki no mokku the adventures of pinocchio sabans adventures of pinocchio

Day seven. It's Pinocchio's first Christmas. What better way to spend it than watching some crazy commies destroy all the dolls in the village in a war against the festival. Being an animated talking doll, Pinocchio is pretty much the Holy Grail to them and finds himself in serious trouble. Hiding from General Meanio's soldiers he meets a group of orphans one of whom is gravely ill. The only thing that will save her is a rare herb that grows on Devil's Mountain. The wooden lad takes it upon himself to retrieve it. And after an uneventful journey, he does.

Back in the village the happy children dance around a decorated tree and sing a sappy song about how great friends are. Finally, something worked out well for Pinocchio. Oh, wait. Without warning the soldiers re-appear and open fire together on the puppet, kinda like a children's nativity Robocop.

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But unlike Alex Murphy all it takes to bring him back is a little Oak Fairy Magic not millions of dollars of cybernetics research. It is truly a christmas miracle; Pinocchio is alive again and he is now a real boy! Unfortunately he still has that unhinged grin.

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Don't know what happened to those crazy soldiers though... probably bunkered down in their compound in the wilderness re-arming for in time for easter.

Missing videos Missing videos

The Best of Bullets: Vol. 2
A collection of the wonder-bands songs
from this video

Pinocchio Sells Out
The living doll becomes a rich man's heir but lets the good life go to his head

Nowhere near as sappy as expected!
Better pacing than the average Terry hack-up
Ugly characters & cheap animation
Tacky voice acting
Unnecessary pop songs
Once the suffer stops, the boredom begins!

The inlay states "an hour of cartoon fun" well, if your idea of fun is a little wooden boy being tourmented for an hour, you've come to the right place (and that can't have been said very often). It starts out like some after school special or true life drama - Pinocchio: A Childhood of Abuse - aside from Pinocchio's papa, there isn't a single sympathetic character for the first 50 minutes of the story. Everyone is just out to trick, exploit, harm and torture the young puppet. A cheerful children's tale of unrelenting cruelty and sadness.

By the halfway mark the tone picks up, probably reflecting the same shift in the series story arc. So it changes from distress to boredom as uneventful filler replaces ongoing story. For me it was a bad omen that the cassette was halfway through when I opened the case.

On the plus side though, this has to be the best Jim Terry edit I've seen so far. The pacing is far more even, probably thanks to the original having story arcs that spanned several episodes rather than the usual 25 minute beginning-middle-and-ends that made tapes like Time Fighters and Ninja the Wonder Boy drag. The songs of Bullets seem shoe horned into this one, background music was all that was really needed.

With ugly character designs and a heavy going story, this is not one I would recommend. Existing fans should stick with Saban's censored TV show. I'd advise everyone else to give this anime a miss entirely.