Well, at least the little Pooh-bear doll is cuddly. Disney has re-packaged their 2005 direct-to-DVD sequel, Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie, with an exclusive Pooh plush doll (he's in a cute Tigger costume) for a limited time. As for the film, I know little kids will find it a safely scary outing...provided they don't already own Boo to You Too! Winnie the Pooh, the 1996 television special that's been lifted largely intact and inserted into Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie to pad out its running time. Those kids might come down with a distinct case of déjà vu, but if they're new to both films, they should find this Halloween-themed movie just the ticket for these leafy Fall days.
In Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie, little Roo (voice work of Jimmy Bennet) is very excited about this particular Halloween because his friend Lumpy the Heffalump (Kyle Stanger) will be going trick-or-treating for the very first time. Heading over to Piglet's (John Fiedler) house to practice (because Heffalumps don't celebrate Halloween), Lumpy and Roo aren't bothered a bit when Pooh and Tigger (voice work of Jim Cummings) try and scare them at Piglet's door. However, once inside, Tigger sings a frightening song about Halloween and further terrorizes Lumpy with tales of the monster Gobloon, who lives in the Tree of Terror, at the end of the Slimy Slide and the Creepy Lane, and who turns his victims into jaggedy lanterns. Lumpy, hiding under Piglet's bed, refuses to go trick-or-treating, which makes Roo sad, since he was so looking forward to their first Halloween together. But once Lumpy steels his courage to venture out for the night, Rabbit (Ken Sansom) lets everyone know the bad news: Pooh-bear ate all the candy in the 100 Acre Wood that Rabbit had already gathered. It's Roo's idea, then, to track down the elusive Gobloon, because if one can catch him, a wish can be granted - and everyone wants candy this Halloween. However, the going gets rough for adventurers Lumpy and Roo, who have to discover their own courage before the night is out - aided by a story from Roo about Piglet's own battle with being afraid on Halloween (the Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh segment is inserted here). Will Lumpy take heart from Roo's story and come out from his hollow log hideout...and will Roo find the courage to save Lumpy from the Gobloon?
There's no doubt that Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie is a sweet little film for children. Some of backgrounds for the newer material are quite beautiful, while the Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh segment has a nice pace and flow that surpassed the newer material. The songs are bouncy enough (who doesn't love it when Tigger sings?), and Tigger and Pooh are always fun to watch together (although I must say I don't like Christopher Robin not being included here). But from an adult's perspective, Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie is certainly most noteworthy for its use of the previous 1996 TV special, Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh to pad out its running time - a practice that, despite any good intentions or end results - still somehow feels like a cheat. It's always difficult to review a film such as Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie because one has to keep in mind it is made for children. That doesn't mean it gets a pass if it's boring or if it contains objectionable material or it's poorly made, but still, one should try to see it through a little child's perspective before judging it with adult expectations. I found the transition in the middle of Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie to Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh distracting. Visually, there's quite a bit of difference between the 2005 footage and the 1996 TV special (I'm assuming that earlier footage has been resized and cropped to fit this widescreen presentation), with a generally fuzzier, more washed-out picture with noticeable dirt and scratches in comparison with the razor-sharp, bright 2005 segments. As well, the integration of the two stories seemed arbitrary, with Roo telling the story of Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh to Lumpy to cheer him up, an obvious and inartful way to combine the different segments
Watching Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie with two of my younger children, though, the older of the two understood the transition as Roo tells his story about how Piglet learned to be courageous during Halloween, but the younger one was confused, thinking the two stories were happening at the same time. She kept asking what was happening to Lumpy while Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh was on...and then what happened to Piglet and Tigger when the film switched back to the newer segments again. More importantly, the older one recognized right off the bat that the added footage was the same as our copy of Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh, and a noticeable lack of enthusiasm resulted. By the time the new Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie material came back on after Roo's story, he wasn't nearly as excited about how the movie would turn out. And I suppose that's a pretty good yardstick to judge whether or not you feel the need to purchase this special edition: if you already have Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh, the Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie might not be all that necessary a purchase - a rental might be a better fit. Of course...then you don't get the Pooh-bear plush collectible, do you? And that's just what Disney figured all along, isn't it?
Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie is presented in a razor-sharp 1.78:1, anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer...which is fine for the newer material (which was animated for this ratio), but which unfortunately brings out defects in the older, 1.33:1 full-screen footage from Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh. That older footage appears cropped, and with the slight telecining in, the picture goes a little fuzzy by comparison to the new stuff, with colors slightly washed out and bleeding, along with noticeable grain and screen anomalies like dirt and scratches (couldn't someone have cleaned that up if they wanted the two segments to match?).
The Dolby Digital English 5.1 Surround Sound audio track is quite lively, with separation effects well-executed during some of the more action-filled sequences. It's as crisp as a Fall night, too, with all dialogue heard cleanly. French and Spanish language tracks are available, too, along with close-captions, as well.
First, the doll. It is cute, I have to say. My almost three-year-old daughter squealed and squeezed it do death when I pulled it out of its packaging (which is neatly accomplished with the easy-to-open clear, stiff plastic box containing the doll and disc). And she would not share it with her five-year-old brother, so that's a pretty good indication of its success. Little Pooh is dressed as Tigger (if you don't know that, it says so on his tummy), and you can pull back his hood to reveal Pooh's ears. He measures about 7 inches tall; he's just the right size for small hands to hug.
As for other bonuses, there are a few games and activities included on the Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie disc, but they're strictly for the small fry. Trick or Re-Treat allows you to move Winnie the Pooh's head trough a maze as you try and retrace his steps to find his lost candy (his bag had a hole in it, we're told). It's not much of a game, because you can just move his head right to the spot you want, bypassing the maze...which is exactly what my kid did. Pass the Pumpkin just offers instructions and music so you can play a Halloween version of "Hot Potato" at home. Pooh's Boo! Bingo calls out numbers so you can play Pooh's Halloween version of "Bingo"...but only if you print up those cards from the DVD-ROM menu of the disc. And Heffalump Halloween Party Planner repeats all the instructions for all the activities...in case you didn't understand them the first time. In the DVD-ROM section, you can print up party invitations, decorations and recipes for your own Pooh/Heffalump-themed party. It seems like a busy assembly of extras, but most of those activities happen outside the realm of actually watching the disc.
I know you want to get your hands on that Pooh-bear doll. Well, you're going to have to spring an extra ten bucks for the privilege (that's how much more the Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie with the doll costs since it was released solo four years ago). Disney fanatics who must own everything "Disney" will scoop this up, and you really can't go wrong here if you're looking for a cute gift for a little girl or boy at this time of year. But if you already have Boo to You! Winnie the Pooh, I'd seriously consider a rental first to see if you want to semi-double-dip here. But...then you don't get the doll.... I recommend Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie with the exclusive collectible Pooh plush doll.
Paul Mavis is an internationally published film and television historian, a member of the Online Film Critics Society, and the author of The Espionage Filmography.