|Pooh's Heffalump Movie is one of the more fortunate Disney produced features that found its way into the theaters before making the journey to the lucrative Disney Video Market. The Pooh universe being as profitable as it is and the Disney video world being as equally an impressive money-maker all but ensures this film will make the Disney accountants very happy. But in one of their smarter moves, the Disney folks have decided to give this film a shot on the big screen. And unlike some other animated films specifically created with the video market in mind, Heffalump bounces across the screen for every one of its fluffy sixty-eight minutes.|
Perhaps it's something about that gravelly Pooh voice or perhaps it's his jolly addiction to honey, but anyone willing to spend a few minutes in the Hundred Acre Wood should find themselves immediately charmed. It's probably a stretch to declare this movie a theatrical experience that would be enjoyed by absolutely any moviegoer, but fans of Pooh should be particularly enthused. As the latest in a line of what has apparently become a burgeoning series, Heffalump carries the torch well.
But a distinction should be made between the new generation of "Pooh" films and the ones produced in past decades. The current batch of Pooh films aren't necessarily a lesser product, but they are a different sort of creation. Nearly all of the animated features that are currently coming out of the Disney factory (that don't carry the tagline, "in association with Pixar Animation Studios") seem like they were created with the idea of the shallow end of the kiddie pool in mind, rather than something that would find favor over a wide audience demographic.
Pooh's Heffalump Movie is unequivocally made for the youngest of audiences and it is only the adult viewer's childhood love of the characters that will make the experience something impressively fuzzy. If one were to compare Heffalump and other recent Pooh escapades such as The Tigger Movie and Piglet's Big Movie, a subtle difference would be apparent between these films and the short films of the past (such as "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" from 1968). The films of the present are not so much an inferior product as they are a different one.
Regarding production values and the artistry of the animation, Heffalump cannot eclipse or really meet the level of two-dimensional "depth" of other larger-budget Disney animated films of recent past such as Mulan or Atlantis: The Lost Empire. This film is much closer in appearance to such films as Cinderella II and Teacher's Pet. For all the warmth its characters project, this film is still very much of the visual caliber one might expect from a direct-to-video romp.
And it is only the inherent joy-factor present in the entire library of Pooh films that makes the not-quite-spiffy production values a lesser fault. If one were to consider Disney's financial investment for the budget of this film (twenty million) versus the budget of Lilo & Stitch (eighty million), a film boasting a similar "shallow" two-dimensional feel, one could hardly fault Disney for deciding to distribute this feature theatrically. It's all but certain to make back its production budget in ticket sales and when it arrives on video, its financial take will be all that much sweeter.
So if you happen to be a fan of Winnie and his friends, this lightly charming and enthusiastic film should be a satisfying experience, perhaps more so because of its extremely tidy running-length. And for those viewers looking for an entertaining yet subtle learning experience for their child, the theme of accepting other people (or in this case, heffalumps) despite their differences is a worthy "lesson," and might even be an idea worth showing some older members of the audience. One is never too old for a Disney Lesson. And even if you've seen this particular lesson in more than one film carrying the made by Disney tag, the Mouse House is the undisputed leader in presenting this kind of entertainment with a lesson attached.
Ultimately, the audiences best served by Heffalump is the viewer with a prior attachment to the characters. Extremely young viewers are all but assured an enthralling experience, with the sixty-eight minutes trotting by at a swift gate for parents obliged to accompany their children. As an addition to the world of Pooh, this Heffalump is a worthy addition to the gang and does gentle justice to the time honored characters he joins. The Pooh films created in the past few years are one of the better examples of Disney's recent spate of ferocious direct-to-video style animated film production.
Review by Kelsey Wyatt.