So... Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie? Are you fucking with me? That's not a title, that's just nouns being crammed together inelegantly in a row, like a German compound word. Even Pooh's Halloween Heffalump Movie would be an improvement; the grammar would be more coherent. But alas, Pooh's Heffalump Halloween Movie it is, and in all that rattletrap ugliness one can plainly see the shrill literal-mindedness of Disney marketing at its most shameless.

Also shameless: nearly a third of Heffalump Halloween consists of the 1996 TV special Winnie the Pooh: Boo to You Too!, not redressed in any way but simply plopped right in the middle, as a story being told by Roo (Jimmy Bennett) to Lumpy the heffalump (Kyle Stanger), in an attempt to make the latter less frightened of the dreadful Gobloon. The Gobloon being, in the finest Winnie the Pooh tradition, a monster invented by compulsive liar Tigger (Jim Cummings) in his zestful attempt to demonstrate how wonderfully spooky Halloween can be. There's one brief cutaway back from the short to the framework narrative, just in case the audience is getting too restless - or pissed off that Disney has repackaged a nine-year-old TV cartoon as an "all-new movie" - and this is also done in the ploppiest way possible, at no particular moment in the story; not even at the original spot of the commercial break. Which, yes, the fade-out for the commercial break from 1996 has been left intact, because that's how goddamn much they cared.

It's kind of amazing how much one can learn from these Pooh films. In this case, I learned that you cannot overestimate how crass Disney is actually capable of being.

In the 40+ minutes that aren't recycled bullshit, Heffalump Halloween tells the story of the first Halloween ever celebrated by Lumpy after his introduction to the Hundred Acre Wood (events depicted earlier in 2005 in Pooh's Heffalump Movie; the character would never again appear in any Pooh vehicle of interest to anyone but particularly morbid Pooh completists), an evening enthusiastically pre-sold by his new best friend Roo. Everything seems to be fitting together: Rabbit's (Ken Sansom) crippling control issues and OCD have worked to the best in this one instance, as he's prepared a perfect scheme to maximise everybody's candy-distributing and candy-receiving fun, and Tigger's outsized love of adventure and mischief has him setting the mood for everybody. And then Pooh (Cummings), in an act that's astonishingly greedy and not charmingly self-centered, because these movies are not terribly invested in Pooh's decades-established personality, devours all of the candy Rabbit painstakingly assembled, all of the candy in the Hundred Acre Wood.

Roo and Lumpy, taking to heart Tigger's story of the Gobloon - who will turn any unsuspecting animal into a Jaggedy Lantern if he catches them, but is compelled to grant any wish if he is instead caught - decide to go on a hunt for the beast, to wish back all their candy. Along the way, Lumpy starts to grow terrified of the unfamiliar, spooky corner of the wood that he and Roo find themselves in, and in order to cheer him up, Roo tells in flashback - making a point of clarifying that the flashback is to a period before he'd set up residence in the area - of the previous Halloween when the neurotic Piglet (John Fiedler, whose performance in the wraparound narrative was his final performance of the character he created; he did not, in fact, live to see the release of this video) learned how not to be scared of the things that go bump and the general aura of delightfully creepy fun on Halloween night. Having thus burned through 20 minutes, Roo and Lumpy continue on their hunt, getting separated as dusk creeps on, and eventually learning how to face their fears individually, as well as together.

I certainly resent Heffalump Halloween more than it deserves; it's plainly not a good movie by any means, but it's also not going to give little children cancer of the soul. I mean, I don't think. It gave me a little bit of soul-cancer, but my soul was already so malformed and battered that it didn't take as much to push it over. But it's still a particularly vile iteration of Disney's longstanding misappropriation of A.A. Milne's characters: I am a forthright and earnest defender of the original shorts compiled in the 1977 package feature The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, and there are scattered moments in Disney's exploitation of the property that I can get behind (Piglet's Big Movie leaps to mind), but the deeper we go into Disney's Pooh films, the more ridiculous it gets, and Heffalump Halloween is just a god damn wreck. Untrue to the characters (especially poor old Pooh Bear), indifferent in its storytelling, unbelievably tasteless in its crude insertion of Boo to You Too! right in the middle, an obvious and desperate attempt to jack the running time up long enough to charge full price. And, just like they did in Pooh's Heffalump Movie, Disney put all its chips on Lumpy, who is now given a pirate hat to make him even cuter and more marketable (best way to extend the longevity of a plush toy: stitch a felt hat on, and make it a completely different plush toy!), but sadly not given a new and more stable personality. So the thing is, once again, a story about two little boys getting into a scrape and then getting out without too very much stress, and once again it's damn near impossible for an adult Pooh fan to latch onto any of this, as it jettisons the respect for childhood innocence and charm that typify good Pooh movies, replacing it with a calculated attempt to pander to children. Boychildren especially. Dumb boychildren.

It's undoubtedly mean to expect a 66-minute film to have a complex, shaded narrative, but I really can't figure out why Heffalump Halloween is bothering to tell its story. From an artistic standpoint, I mean. The conflict is feeble to the point of non-existence, the message redundant and belabored (don't be afraid of things that aren't scary). Other than the somewhat amusing sight of Pooh dressed as a honey pot, the Halloween connection isn't explored at all - Springtime with Roo managed to be a better Easter movie than this is a Halloween movie. Obviously, the holiday element is a marketing hook; the whole project is a marketing hook, more obviously than anything else DisneyToon Studios ever created.

The general contempt for the Pooh property theoretically being celebrated here extends, and is indeed compounded, by the animation. Even the 1996 TV short, animated at a time when Disney Television Animation was at a low ebb, doesn't stand out as especially weak, and at least it's on-model most of the time. The new material in Heffalump Halloween is alarmingly bad-looking: Tigger and Rabbit especially look only vaguely like themselves, about at the level that a moderately talented high schooler would be able to copy, if they weren't pushing themselves very hard. Poor Tigger and Rabbit. They always get the worst of it in these shitty Pooh videos.

The whole thing's an ugly, boring, tacky ruin, telling a story not the least bit interesting, about characters who range from boring in their own right to mere shells of their glorious original forms. I should, by now, have learned not to make sweeping claims like "this is the nadir of Disney's Pooh franchise", so let me instead say that I hope it is the nadir of same, and register my immense pleasure that I have no more of them to watch.