|Fun fact: There are no ghosts in this movie. This cover is a big fat lie.|
But yeah, long story short, I think this blog post is going to be something my parents dug up from a bargain bin. Hooray!
Anyways, like Fluppy Dogs, I watched this a couple times as a kid, the VHS wore out, and a good portion of my life was spent recalling weird images of a bear cub and a fox kit having appropriately cute woodland fun even though I couldn't recall the name or much of the plot points. It's that feeling you get where you watch something, you remember liking it, but all you can dreg up is just that vague feeling that you watched something alright. It's sort of like recalling elevator music, really.
But unlike Fluppy Dogs, which was a standalone film, not only did this film exist, but there were multiple films and there was a TV series in the late 90's based off of this concept, with this entire franchise branded as "The Chucklewood Critters". I don't know about you, but when the Internet told me this, my jaw hit the floor and I spent a good ten minutes going "Holy crap! That thing! That thing that I watched! It had sequels!". It took all of my willpower to avoid just running out and buying the other VHSes, but mostly because Youtube happens to still exist at the time I write this.
...that being said, it's actually rather sad that even though Buttons and Rusty starred in like six specials and an entire cartoon that lasted two seasons, the only time I had even heard of any of these things is because I happened to punch in the name into an Internet search engine. Considering I frequent quite a few cartoon sites and talk to people who were raised on 90's cartoons, that's saying a lot. I mean, geez, even Project GeeKeR is mentioned more than the Chucklewood Critters. I have to wonder what the hell the animators did in order to earn such bad luck on their product.
With the introduction out of the way, I'm going to dive right into a giant lake of obscurity and fish up some animation that I'm sure only a handful of people has ever seen. If I don't make any blog posts after this one, it's probably because the VHS of this thing happened to be haunted and I was devoured by the creepy fox corpse that came out of my television screen.
Availability: On VHS/DVD
After some charmingly sparse title screens that really don't give me much hopes about the budget of this thing, I find myself getting narrated to by some guy who just loves Fall and lets us know that this is the last day of October. Course, he says so while dictating that I'm not just looking at some run-of-the-mill forest covered mountains that are no doubt teeming with sentient animals that walk on two legs, but HIS mountains. So wait, he's able to legally claim ownership on all of this land when he's just a park ranger, even when the animals here can talk and interact with him? What does that make Buttons and Rusty? Are their families just renting from him and pay him a flat rate in twigs and berries every month?
The fact that his first appearance in this cartoon is him wielding a knife and saying he knows where millions of little children are going to be after sundown doesn't make me feel any better either. Hidden underneath that silly polka-dotted apron is the nutsack of someone who has the entire authority of an entire park filled with talking bears. Think of the manpower he has to employ in order to extort money from something that could disembowel him pretty effortlessly.
|"Hello, I'm Ranger Jones, and if I don't get my money, I'll bust your kneecaps."|
Also, they're obviously being voiced by voice actors 30 years older than they are. The little girl (who is wearing a dress way too short for this kind of weather, might I add) suffers especially from this. At some points, her voice morphs from "annoying falsetto" to "twenty year old woman" inbetween lines, making her the creepiest character in this entire cartoon. If she keeps doing this, I'm going to have to refer to her as "Baby Doll" for the rest of this blog post.
|Man, they've really dumbed down the Wizard of Oz for modern audiences.|
Of course they side with the children because the shop owner is a grouch, which kind of makes me feel bad, because I myself am siding with Ugly Witch Lady on account those kids nearly sent a frisbee sailing through her window. This really isn't reflecting well on my age.
Also, here's another thing that doesn't reflect well on my age. Even without the VHS proudly telling me who animated this, I can tell that the head animators used to work on Hannah Barbara. I've been watching too many cartoons.
|So this is what people did before reality TV was invented.|
Also, don't get curious about Sam's personality. Even though he looks like Peter Griffin, he's the equivalent of a blank slate. Poor guy's too fat to be an interesting character.
|"Sam, release the flying monkeys."|
...wait a second. Foxes can't climb trees! How the hell did Rusty get up there?
|I sure hope his fox parents have a good dental plan.|
Why, they sic their dog on them, of course. See, this is why I sided with the lady earlier. Because at least her first thought isn't to try to murder a bear cub simply for falling out of a tree and being curious in a plastic toy that could easily be replaced at any drug store.
|"Look, Rusty! Pic-a-nic baskets!"|
|"Stop mocking me, Jones. You may have the power of the bureaucracy on your side, but |
wait until my coven hears about this!"
|"I know people have complained about the overhunting here, but a hunting license is a hunting license."|
Also, just wondering, Ranger Jones, but what sort of psychic energy are you using to make sure that even the carnivores wouldn't harm a fly? And please stop staring at me. It's making me very uncomfortable.
|"Children. Children are what we require."|
Also, holy cow, just look at this background for this forest. There's so much pollution is in this alternate universe that it's rendered our nation's forests discolored and barren of foliage!
|Boy, look at all those trees! Sure is a forest alright!|
...why is there an axe and a chopping block in the background? Jones, you madman! What do you do in your spare time!?
|Little does Ranger Jones know is that they're going for his liver. |
Have fun identifying the mangled remains, county police!
...yeah. Way to simplify a very complicated sociological concept in a way to make humanity out to be the bad guys, Ranger Jones. I always hated it when forest films trotted out this kind of issue because, if you've seen Ferngully or Once Upon a Forest, it's never done right. This film, what its doing, is basically punching you in the face and going "Look at these cute animals! Stay in the polluted city, you filthy human scum, because you're making this fox and bear sad!". Yeah, go to hell, cartoon. If I want a guilt trip disguised as an animated feature, I can watch Captain Planet.
And wait. All of the animals are pretty sentient in this cartoon. Why is this even up for debate if a squirrel can just walk up to the humans and go "Hey, asshole! You're chopping down MY tree!". This world makes no sense!
|"Ranger Jones, why am I complaining about overpopulation when my species isn't at all endangered |
and can easily live in urban areas alongside human habitation?"
|I love how the characters simply have to raise a hand in the air in order to talk.|
Furthermore, since I have nowhere else to put this, I just want to point out that I really love the color palette this cartoon uses. None of the colors are screaming bright and there's a certain harmony to the colors that makes it honestly feel like a Fall special. It doesn't save the writing, but clearly someone on board took color theory.
|"Sam, could you roll those children in some bread crumbs? My oven's still preheating.'"|
Luckily, my prayers get answered pretty quickly. We get some actual villains, and they happen to live in a beaten up old bus in the middle of the trailer park, making me wonder if this cartoon is going to go all the way and have some honest to god evil rednecks in this cartoon. I just freaking adore this hideout and how scummy and horrible it looks, if only because if you look closely, you can actually spot which window is the one next to the icebox on account of all of the discarded beer bottles on the ground. I haven't even seen who lives here yet, but already I want them to be regulars for this forgotten franchise.
|The Magic School Bus's crack-addicted brother.|
Actually, to be honest, they never say what they're going to do, but considering they laugh at lot and rub their hands together, I assume it could be anything from stealing to mail fraud. Their home is such a tease too, because from what little you see scattered on the floor, it's clearly a den of sinners. I want to see the trainwreck that is their living quarters at their fullest, cartoon!
|Man, those two are into some kinky stuff.|
Their living arrangement just raises a lot of questions from me, like how the hell does someone find a fox the size of a bear, how they manage to get propane (the female bear is cooking over a stove) in their cave, and just how high is the rent in this area that even the animals have to share a residence. Man, that Ranger Jones is downright ruthless.
Anyways, before I got off topic, as you can guess, the two bears are Buttons's parents and the two foxes are Rusty's parents, because if the cartoon can state the obvious, so will I. I love how out of all of them, the only one actually wearing clothes happens to be the big grizzly dad. Fox Mom is knitting a sock anyways, because it's a girl hobby or something.
|"Did you hear, George? One of the skunks from next door just got hit by a semi two days ago."|
"Yes, dear. Mmhmm. Just reading the stock exchange even though I'm a fox and shouldn't know how to read."
|"I didn't want to say it in front of the girls but that's not how you wear overalls. You look like trailer trash."|
|I am so tempted to photoshop rings, some badniks, and a lives counter into this.|
Anyways, he goes into a big description over what Halloween is, cementing this film's role as something little kids watch before they actually do the deed and start dressing up with their older siblings. Yep, underneath all of these talking animals is some sort of instruction video. They just lured you in with the catchy title, even though the VHS says "Halloween Party" for some stupid reason.
...for a movie called Which Witch is Which, there certainly haven't been that many witches besides Mabel, who had a bit part, and the criminal lady, who will never share the same screen as Mabel. I dig that this Halloween special is more down to earth and doesn't kid around with supernatural bullcrap, but can they at least throw in some bats or something?
|"That's right, kids! Witches and monsters don't exist, but talking foxes that stand on two legs do!"|
And here's a gross moment. While Jonesy is playing the role as Mr. Exposition, Rusty sticks his whole arm into the apple bobbing barrel in an attempt to grab an apple for himself. Now, remember, he's a wild animal that likes to run around in the woods, his body scraping against poison oak and other animals' feces, and is probably crawling in parasites. While you're remembering that, now remember that little kids are going to be sticking their faces in that water. Hooray for diseases!
|"Time to give some of those baby humans some hepatitis!"|
I like how the only residence we see in this place is this trashed, scummy-looking bus with the boarded up windows, with the rest of the living quarters only hinted at in the backgrounds. That kind of sets the standards for what kind of lives I'm expecting these children to be living. Poor dears are probably hopelessly inbred and illiterate.
|Yeah, kids! Approach the abandoned bus with the broken windows and the scattered beer bottles! |
There's no way this could go wrong!
By the way, his wife? She just shuts the hell out of the door to their bus home and ignores the whole incident, even though her husband is about to get ripped apart by one of America's deadliest predators. Truly this is a relationship full of romance!
|"It's a fursuiter! Get him!"|
|I'm pretty sure a fox that tall would make anyone crap their pants in sheer fear.|
Although, from their perspective, some bear suddenly removed his face, revealing that a short human had skinned a bear the same age as Buttons alive and was wearing his crudely sewn corpse as a makeshift article of clothing. That would give anyone nightmares.
Finally, 7:30 arrives, and we get to see the depths of Ranger Jones's psychosis as he once again addresses the voices in his head and hopelessly shatters the forth wall beyond repair by explaining to us why Buttons and Rusty couldn't go to the party. See, even though they're his friends, he wouldn't mix a bunch of kids with wild animals.
...kind of goes without saying, Jonesy. Come on, cartoon. You didn't need to actually have a character turn and address me just to point out something as obvious as this! It's also hard to get the whole "don't play with wild animals" moral you're trying to feed us when the wild animals we've seen live in a cave outfitted with sofas, wear clothing, and speak English. Those are wild animals, alright!
|"Hi, kids! I'm going to point out the obvious because I'm assuming you're all dumbasses!"|
But then Rusty has a great idea. They can go trick-or-treating! Who needs people, he even says. Because hey, the only thing better than being late for home, missing dinner completely, and making your parents worry is to stay out all night too! Such geniuses!
...as you can probably guess, Buttons and Rusty never really have a clear motive, instead choosing to drift endlessly between different trains of thought. Their previous plan to just go straight home is quickly discarded in favor of parties without so much as a warning. It's mind-boggling, but it's pretty accurate considering little kids. Even if Rusty sounds like a full-grown woman.
Wait a doggone minute, is Rusty even a boy? I'm confused.
|"Hey, Buttons. How did that Care Bears audition go?"|
"About as well as your Animals of Farthing Wood audition."
At least the whatever the hell that thing is has a really nice nightgown and sleeping cap combination. You know, even though he lives in a goddamn tree and most of the other animals are fine being completely nude. What a strange world they live in.
|No seriously, what is that? Gopher? Squirrel? Cat? What am I looking at!?|
And apparently that weird grey thing must be some sort of tree-climbing rodent, since his (or her, since the voice they use can apply to either gender) solution to getting rid of a fox or bear is to dump their entire store of nuts on them. Hey, great idea! Now you're going to starve to death when the winter hits.
|Insert nuts joke here.|
And sure enough, the bash kicks off when a brightly colored van full of kids pull up at Ranger Jones's house, where the contents promptly empty into his den the moment they hear that he's serving hot dogs.
...why did I get chills all of a sudden?
|The parents should be deeply worried.|
Geez, I wonder if he does this all the time and this is why Ranger Smith told him to stop working at Jellystone National Park.
|"Just to remind the kiddies back home, Buttons is a bear and Rusty is a fox. And my clothes are green!"|
...although now I have a good question. Why don't they go and find the kids? Dinner's been served (and we thankfully don't get to see what rodents they slaughtered to make that stew) and Fox Mom can put down her sewing needles long enough to save her child. Go kick some ass, ladies!
|"Look at you, George! While you're sitting on your ass, jobless and penniless, your brother Todd is |
out there living the good life on Disney's salary! Go out and provide for your family!"
|I too like to keep vast quantities of rare, expensive jewelry just shoved in a random drawer in my house.|
Oh, and somewhere along the way, Lulu stole a fancy fur coat. Somehow this makes her look like a fox to random bystanders. Just go with it, because the cartoon really wants you to buy that she somehow looks like Rusty when they could've just, oh I don't know, made her dress up in a fox costume, maybe?
|Oh yeah, that thing on the left is definitely a fox!|
|I'm pretty sure the only reason they're not in jail is because the cops find their stupidity endearing.|
Think this cartoon is going to use this plot point? Hell no! It just feels like wasting our time because whoever wrote this climax is unfamiliar with the word "coherence". If I sound grouchy, it probably because I'm getting irrationally angry at this cartoon taking a sudden swerve into Stupidsville.
...although I'm probably expecting way too much from a cartoon where a fox child and a bear child are friends and regularly talk to some old man who needed to be in a Skilled Nursing Facility like five years ago.
|A bear within a bear? Bearception!|
But don't worry, people. Considering how incompetent these thieves are, they're probably going to make it two miles until the van spontaneously combusts.
|Geez, Buttons, just take that mask off. I can't take this scene seriously.|
|This vampire makes the potato vampire in Darkwing Duck look downright dignified.|
|Boy, look at all of those people! No wonder the trailer park is deserted! |
This party was clearly a vital part of those thieves' plan!
That, and this song is actually really good. It makes no sense (it asks which witch is the good witch, when obviously both witches are evil), but once you listen to its catchy little tale, it's going to be pretty hard to forget it. The singers certainly give way more of a damn about their craft than the animators, that's for sure!
Although one thing bugs me. Why the everliving hell is the entire movie named after a song that doesn't even apply to the plot? Just because there's a criminal in a witch costume doesn't mean it's a witch cartoon! Way to lie, Ed Love!
|"Hell yeah! Stirring boiling liquid is so much fun!"|
...well, you know what? To me, it's still a cauldron full of gumballs. And you can't tell me otherwise because I'm going to reject your reality and substitute my own.
The song quickly concludes, and I miss it already, because it just fades into a geriatric ranger on a jeep chasing after a runaway truck under the belief that somehow Buttons and Rusty stole it. You know, because Lulu and Lenny are dressed like a bear and a fox. What is wrong with this world?
George and Abner had stowed away in the back, the jeep chases after the van, and they use the same chase music that's been used in five other scenes in this movie, but the chase sequence is just so bland and boring that I just want to forget the whole thing. This is the animation at its absolute worst. Instead of giving us anything new, it just kind of cycles through the same three panning backgrounds and the two vehicles on the road just kind of coast around the screen with only the vaguest sense of any actual animation. There's no danger, there's no action, and the highlight of the entire chase is when the van crashes into a tree off-screen.
In short, even though the witch song had no bearing on the plot and this scene was the climax, somehow this is the scene that felt like it was wasting my time. There has to be a special prize given to a cartoon that somehow makes a car chase involving a giant bear and a giant fox boring.
|Whoa, look at this car chase! They're almost hitting the speed limit!|
...also, wait. In addition to owning several bags full of silver and gold, Mabel owns her own van that looks more like a transport vehicle designed to store huge stores of goods rather than a recreational van. Clearly she's leading a second life behind the scenes. It's up to you to fill in the blanks.
|He would've gotten away with it too.|
It didn't even get to answer the question of Which Witch is Which. The nerve of this cartoon!
The Moral of this Cartoon
Trick-or-treating should remain a human only activity, because animals really crap it up.
Yeah, this was a lot dumber than I remember it being.
I mean, sure, the music is really good and there are times when I really like the Hannah Barbara-esque designs in the animation, but it's not a very exciting movie. The plot with the criminals isn't as engaging as it should be, the main characters sort of amble from place to place without a set goal in mind, and all around I just found myself just not caring. It's really sad when a charming little musical that has nothing to do with your plot is funner to watch than the actual cartoon and yet here we go.
Basically, it didn't age well. This was made before cartoons started to get good budgets and it really shows. That isn't saying its completely horrible; it's just a little underwhelming. Like a worn out VHS, the plot kind of falls apart within the final act and I find myself wishing that there was a little bit more. Course, to be fair, this feels like it was aimed at younger kids, so part of it means that it just isn't for me. But still, the fact that it talks down to the viewers kind of rubs me the wrong way.
All in all, I can't see myself recommending this as a Halloween special you should watch. I was pelt with extreme nostalgia rays watching this, but that doesn't mean it's good.
In short, watch it just for the animation, but you'll be hard pressed to find anything exciting from it.