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Dancing Pumpkin, The

Other // Unrated // August 29, 2006
List Price: $9.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by David Cornelius | posted October 22, 2006 | E-mail the Author
I know what you're thinking: how, exactly, does a pumpkin dance? Sure, assuming some sort of gourdian sentience*, it could probably wobble, or, if next to a hill, get a good roll going. But dance? Why, they'd have to inexplicably grow arms and legs made of vines for them to -- what's that? Oh, dear.

The makers of the direct-to-video Halloween special "The Dancing Pumpkin" seem to have worked their way into a corner by coming up with a cute title and then, slowly but depressingly, realize that pumpkins are round and limbless, not counting that little stem on their tops. And so they quickly threw on some wobbly vine arms and vine legs with the shrug of a "yeah, that'll do, I guess." Hey, if you're willing to buy the notion of talking, dancing pumpkins being perfectly happy with their lives despite having their insides scooped out and massive decorative holes carved into their fronts, I suppose vine limbs are just part of the package.

The idea behind "The Dancing Pumpkin" is that pumpkins spring to life to defend people's houses from Halloween monsters; if a pumpkin bites a monster in the leg, the monster shrinks to the size of a pumpkin seed and spends the rest of its miserable life hiding from hungry birds. That's pretty demented by itself, and it helps the movie lead up to something I never even imagined I would get to see in an entire lifetime of insanity: the vision of a pumpkin, wearing a top hat, gnawing rabidly into the leg of a zombie.

And that's not even the nuttiest thing in this reasonably short (a scant 45 minutes) story, which also contains chatty Irish skeletons; a greasy old witch demanding to be married to a grade school boy; a flying snake who is covered in feathers and who speaks with a Spanish accent yet is named Hans; a festival in which pumpkins breakdance; and massive jack-o-lanterns called "thunderbellies" who carry you around by tossing you inside them. Yeah, a zombie-biting pumpkin is the least of this movie's weirdness.

The dancing pumpkin of the title is a wild, friendly fella who loves to tap dance, so much so that he stops to do a little step-ball-change despite, say, being in hurry to rescue a friend from the clutches of an evil ogre. This is important; throughout the entire story, the dancing pumpkin is always stopping to partake in massive time-wasting activities, never mind the emergency. After introducing himself to four kids who seem pretty cool with the notion of meeting a singing, dancing, talking pumpkin with vine limbs and a top hat (who convinces them to help him defeat a violent ogre), one of the kids winds up kidnapped by a witch. So off they go to rescue him, except first, hey, let's go to the Pumpkin Ball! (Even better: the whole thing wraps up with a message of "don't give up, and you can do anything." Yes. Don't give up… but constant stalling and repeatedly losing track of your mission doesn't count.)

Accenting of all is the sheer horribleness of the animation. Here is CG cartooning that redefines cheap, with most of the shots looking like work that hasn't been rendered yet. Colors are off, lines are jagged, vine limbs don't always connect the way they should. The whole thing looks like a blooper reel of animation that's been programmed incorrectly, leaving a parade of accidents instead of actual images.

"The Dancing Pumpkin" is labeled as "award-winning family entertainment," proudly boasting being the recipient of a Telly Award. Further research indicates that a Telly Award is something given to local programmers and small time direct-to-video developers. How do you win one? Apparently by asking for one. The idea is that they give you the honor of being an "award winner" (so you can use the term to improve your standing in the industry), and you return the favor by buying a statuette from them. Genius.



Awful. Just downright awful. It's most likely the result of bad animation than a bad transfer. On top of all the other problems, the whole thing is simply too dark - the pumpkin winds up a murkish orange-brown, while other characters are so darkly rendered that they disappear completely against the black sky.

Timeless Video kicks off the disc with a disclaimer about the problems of the archival source material. I assumed this to relate to the bonus features, considering it's tough to call a brand new cartoon "archival," but looking back, maybe they were apologizing for the crappy look of the main feature as well.

Presented in a 1.33:1 full frame format.


Dolby stereo, which decently captures the movie's obnoxious synthesizer score. No subtitles are included.


Three bonus Halloween-themed cartoons are included: "A-Haunting We Will Go" and "Boo Moon," both starring Casper the Friendly Ghost, and "Cobweb Hotel," Dave Fleischer's spider-and-fly musical that continues to freak me out even in adulthood. All three are in mediocre shape, considering their age, and all three can be found in several dollar-bin DVD compilations of public domain cartoon shorts.

Final Thoughts

"The Dancing Pumpkin" is too boring for older kids, too creepy for younger ones, and too awful for anyone else. It's another one of those what-is-this? titles that spring up every October in grocery stores and Halloween specialty shops, in the hopes that parents will blindly buy anything holiday-related as long as it's inexpensive. But even at the most discounted of prices, there's absolutely nothing here to make this one worth it. I've seen a lot of low-rent children's cartoon videos in my life, but "The Dancing Pumpkin" has to be among the very worst. Skip It, and maybe even egg its house after it's gone to sleep.

* Re: "gourdian." Yeah, well, it's a word now.
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