Aug 13, 2013

Pinocchio in Outer Space: Gay Subtext Classic Cartoon

Most of the various renditions of Pinocchio, the Italian puppet who becomes a real live boy, emphasize heteroromance, giving Pinoke or his creator Gepetto a girlfriend.  But the odd film Pinocchio in Outer Space (1965), goes the other way, giving Pinoke a very obvious boyfriend.

It's unusual in other ways, too.  After an intro set in a quaint Medieval century village, it rather jarringly pushes us into the twentieth century when Pinocchio studies space flight, and the Blue Fairy and an older woman, perhaps a goddess, discuss how crowded outer space is getting.

After some medieval adventures, Pinocchio encounters an alien space ship, piloted by an evolved turtle named Nertle (Arnold Stang).

They zoom into space (as the Earth recedes, we see that Pinocchio lives in Massachusetts).  They explore an ancient Martian city, drawn in realistic science fiction style. 

With Gepetto all but absent, Pinocchio and Nertle buddy-bond.  Nertle points out that the two moons of Mars are "perfect for romance."  Then he bats his eyes at Pinocchio.

Later Nertle asks "Have you ever seen anyone so lovable?", and Pinocchio bats his eyes at him.

Apparently the Martians were all killed by Astro, the giant space whale, who is now on his way to devour Earth. Pinocchio sacrifices himself to save the world, and Nertle appears weeping at his deathbed.  Not to worry, he is resurrected by the Blue Fairy, and father, son, and boyfriend rejoice. 

Some internet reviewers have even found some homophobic jokes.  Nertle is a Twertle, pronounced with a lisp like gay stereotypes (in French, his name is Twortu, from tortue, "Turtle"), and he comes from the planet DV-8 ("deviate," get it?). 

Where did this thing come from?

It was produced in Belgium by animator Ray Goosens, who directed a lot of Belgian cartoons, including TinTin and Asterix, and translated into English by Frank Ladd.  It was very popular in Europe, even used to advertise candy.

Pete Lazer, who voiced Pinocchio, was a former child star who was making the rounds of adult tv series, including Mr. Novak and The Defenders.  His last screen credit was a 1967 episode of Felony Squad.

Baby Boomers remember Arnold Stang as the voice of Top Cat.  He had a 60-year old career, specializing in big-talking little guys.

There's no documentary evidence that any of them were gay.