Winnie the Pooh certainly is one of the most charming Disney characters to ever appear. Since his animated debut in 1966, he and his friends in the Hundred Acre Woods have delighted both children and adults for years with their pleasant and simple stories about life in the magical forest. I personally really loved his two main adventures from Walt Disney Animation Studios with "The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh" from 1977 being a delightful animated classic with three great stories and "Winnie the Pooh" from 2011 also being an absolute charmer while having hilarious comedy to back it up. Meanwhile, back in the 2000s, Disney's other animation studio, DisneyToon Studios, decided to also make the theatrical stories with the silly old bear and his friends. The final one from them was "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" from 2005, and unfortunately, it's easily the weakest of the Winnie the Pooh films. It certainly has plenty of charm and I wouldn't call it a bad film, but it doesn't have the magic or strength that the other films had and left me feeling somewhat hollow.
In the Hundred Acre Wood, Winnie the Pooh (Jim Cummings) and his friends are awoken by a mysterious noise. None have heard it before and all of them, except for young Roo (Nikita Hopkins), are terrified by it. After discovering mysterious footprints nearby, Rabbit (Ken Samson) concludes there is a heffalump nearby, an elephant-like creature known for causing mischief and being scary. Hoping to capture it, Pooh, Tigger (also Cummings), Rabbit, Piglet (John Fielder), and Eeyore (Peter Cullen) set off on an expedition into Heffalump Hollow to try to capture it. Wanting to capture one too, Roo secretly also sets off into the hollow and ends up running into a young heffalump named Lumpy (Kyle Stanger). After spending time with Lumpy, Roo realizes that heffalumps aren't so bad and decides to take him to meet the others while the other friends get into crazy mishaps trying to capture the creature.
I don't want to be too hard on this film as it's not a bad animated movie. Though as an honest critic, I will admit to being underwhelmed by this film given that the other Winnie the Pooh films were such a joy to watch. The other Winnie the Pooh films have a nostalgic quality to them and have a sweetness that both children and adults will enjoy while this film is strictly for little children below the age of seven. One reason why I wasn't a huge fan of the film is just the idea of introducing a real heffalump into the story. I always liked the idea of the heffalumps just being made up creatures by Tigger who terrified Pooh in a nightmare alongside the dreadful woozles. This film robs that aspect by claiming that heffalumps are indeed real which robs the mystery and magic surrounding the creatures. I like the idea of mystery a lot more. The story does have its moments, but it's still not entirely strong. There were two halves of the story in the film. The first half revolves around Roo meeting Lumpy and their friendship blooming while the second half is Pooh and his friends trying unsuccessfully to capture the heffalump with every attempt failing. Personally, I preferred the second half much more than the first as the charm of the franchise shined more clearly there. There's a lot of funny jokes in this half with Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, and Piglet trying to plan the capture and yet their attempts all go astray. One funny example is Piglet making a trail of jellybeans so that way they have a trail in case they get lost, however, Pooh ends up accidentally eating the jellybeans which in turn gets them lost. That got a chuckle out of me and moments like those showed the filmmakers did understand the source material perfectly. However, the scenes with Lumpy and Roo I mostly found dull and too cutesy for my taste. While there is a heartwarming scene where Roo tries to comfort Lumpy who is sad that he can't find his mother, most of the scenes revolve around them playing together and they were mostly dull. I also found the climax a little underwhelming as well especially compared to DisneyToon Studios' other Pooh film, "The Tigger Movie". I do like the message though and as a message for little kids, I think it's very good. As far as the animation goes, it's okay. It doesn't have the richness of the original animated films which is to be expected, but it still looks fine for what it is. The character animation still has that xerox look that the original animation has as well as the joy to an extent, though the backgrounds are very stale and bland. They lack the richness of the original painted backgrounds from the other Pooh films and feel rather hollow and artificial. They looked like they were produced on a computer rather than by a brush and it really shows. As far as the characters go, most of them still have their charm. It's hard not to love Pooh, Tigger, Rabbit, Eeyore, and Piglet. They all still have their loveable personalities and charm like they always had and seeing them was always a treat. I was a little dismayed by the lack of Eeyore though who barely has any lines and the writers pretty much forget about until the credits of the film. It was a shame. As far as Roo and Lumpy go though, I mostly found them stale because neither are very interesting characters. Roo mainly got most of his charm hanging with Tigger or his mother Kanga (Kath Soucie) and while Kanga and Roo both do share a heartwarming scene together, he's mostly on his own throughout the film and he's sadly not interesting by himself. Then there's the titular character himself, Lumpy the Heffalump who unfortunately is rather stale and doesn't blend with the other characters. He's mostly a cutesy and happy character that is trying to be a younger Tigger and it didn't work for me. Unsurprisingly, Disney has quietly mostly ignored him since. I also was rather dismayed by the absence of Owl and Christopher Robin. The latter does have a silent credit cameo, but Owl is absent throughout the entire film and I really missed his presence. There are also a couple of songs written by Carly Simon as well. The songs are beautifully written and have a sweet charm to them, but they're unfortunately rather forgettable. They just didn't have the same magic that the Sherman Brothers brought to the previous films and Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez would bring to the 2011 film.
And I feel that the same magic was just missing from "Pooh's Heffalump Movie" as a whole. The story has its charm but mostly feels unimpressive, the animation is okay though not as strong as the other films, and most of the characters still retain their charm while others came off as stale. When it comes to Winnie the Pooh films, I think this is the weakest and I only recommend it specifically for very young children under the age of seven. I'm sure they will love this film and it easily serves its purpose in entertaining them. As far as everyone else goes, there are other Winnie the Pooh stories I'd recommend over this. It's certainly not a bother, but it's just not the nostalgic charmer I'd expect from this franchise.