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Twin Films Phenomenon: Pinocchio (2022)

Three Pinnochio movies came out in 2022, after three years without a film adaptation of the story. This strange occurrence is far from the first time that oddly similar films have been released back-to-back, in fact, there exists an entire catalog of these “twin films”. 

The phenomenon of “twin films” refers to two ostensibly similar films, such as "Pinnochio", "Pinocchio: A True Story", and "Pinnochio", released within a short time frame either because of coincidence or because one creator having knowledge of another film in progress.

The phenomenon is separate from a “mockbuster”, which is when a film is created with the intention of riding on the coattails of a larger film. Often the mockbuster is created faster and cheaper than the original film, and has similarities in title or art to confuse viewers into assuming that the mockbuster is the larger, better-known film. On the other hand, “twin films” can be created by chance and are not intended to deceive audiences.

Sometimes, the phenomenon occurs when one event inspires multiple films or shows, such as the COVID-19 outbreak inspiring many shows to have a pandemic-themed episode or season. This would be multiple discovery, the phenomenon where people have the same idea simultaneously, without interference from each other. 

Booms in material based on public domain material often happen when a work loses its intellectual property rights, such as the large amount of Great Gatsby content that came out when the novel entered the public domain earlier this year. 

Nostalgia cycles can contribute to a large amount of similar content. Usually described as a 30 year 30-year cycle where content consumers who were children in a certain era become content creators, this cycle has been used to explain the a large amount of content taking place in the 1980s or banking on 80s nostalgia (Stranger Things, a Top Gun sequel) in the 2010s, thirty years later. 

Often, the “twin films” phenomenon occurs because of studio members or actors moving around and sharing ideas. Actors or producers might hear an idea and create a similar film, either because of cryptomnesia (forgetting the source of an idea and mistakenly assuming it is original), or a deliberate attempt to copy the film-in-progress. An example would be the film “Jezebel'', which was practically being made for Bette Davis after she was rejected for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind”. 

“Twin films” can benefit from each other, such as smaller films relying on bigger films to spread interest in the topic, but sometimes if the two are released in theaters at the exact same time the two can lead to one film having a larger profit, with audiences choosing one over the other based on quality. 

Because of that risk, “twin films” are unlikely, with one film usually being scrapped or having a delayed risk, such as in the case of the film “Who Do You Love” being delayed because of “Cadillac Records”. 

Sometimes companies will fast-track the release of a “twin film” to get their film out first. An example would be the early release of Hulu’s “Fyre Fraud”, released days before Netflix’s documentary “Fyre”, both about the Fyre festival. The Hulu documentary was released prior to the Netflix documentary, according to Entertainment Weekly, because documentarians believed the film would provide more context for the Netflix documentary. 

Streaming services have changed the consequences of the “twin films” phenomenon, as audiences no longer have to plan to see a film, or choose at the box office. It makes comparing films easier, as critics can watch all three in one night, and examine them with the film fresh in their minds. 

Creators only released Disney’s "Pinnochio" on the company’s streaming platform Disney+, part of their trend of releasing direct-to-streaming movies rather than risking box office bombs, and critics generally panned it. "Pinocchio: A True Story", made $661,144 internationally, according to The Numbers and received generally low ratings on critic sites. Disney's "Pinnochio" was only released on the company's streaming platform Disney+, continuing the company's trend of releasing direct-to-stream movies rather than risking box office bombs, and critics generally panned it. According to The Numbers, "Pinocchio: A True Story" grossed $661,144 internationally, but received generally negative reviews from critics. Guillermo Del Toro’s "Pinnochio" has only been released in the Netherlands and Portugal so far but has made $71,614, according to The Numbers, and received favorable reviews.  

Both the Disney and Del Toro films have ties to the Jim Henson Company. Puppeteer Jim Henson had expressed interest in a remake of the Disney classic in the 1980s, but after the idea was scrapped he ended up collaborating with director Steve Barron to make the 1996 film "The Adventures of Pinocchio", which received generally poor reviews. The Jim Henson Company helped produce the Del Toro film, along with Del Toro himself. 

In 2008, Del Toro began developing an idea for an adaptation of the story at his studio, Del Toro’s "Pinocchio" took over two years to film, due to the difficulties of stop-motion. Reports of a Disney live action Pinocchio had been circulating since the 1980s, but the scriptwriting began in 2015.The idea for a Disney live-action Pinocchio film had been floating around since the 1980s, but it wasn't written until 2015.

There has been little information available on director Vasiliy Rovenskiy’s motivation for creating a Pinocchio film. Guillermo Del Toro, in an interview with Distractify, cited a lifelong love of the character Pinocchio. Disney’s film is one in a series of live-action remakes, reimagining the animated works from different perspectives or addressing parts of the story unaddressed in the animated films. 

Much of the discussion surrounding the films concerns comparison, ranking the three or discussing what they have in common. This often occurs with the phenomenon, however, what usually occurs is that only one stands the test of time. 

In the same year that “Gone With the Wind” was released, another film about a Southern woman was released, “Jezebel”, discussed far less. “Back to the Future” was released in the same year as “Peggy Sue Got Married”, a film with a similar plot, but rarely is the second discussed. While it is difficult to compare box office numbers, since one was released only for streaming, only Del Toro’s film has achieved general critical acclaim.

The three Pinocchios are one example of a large phenomenon that has been happening since the birth of Hollywood, and whether by coincidence or insider knowledge it will continue to occur. What remains to see is which adaptation of Pinocchio will stand the test of time, and which will be seen as its “twin film”.


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