Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Buttons and Rusty in Which Witch is Which

While I'm on the topic of Halloween specials, it's time for me to talk about a movie that somehow was a big part of my childhood even though it took me a lot of google-fu in order to remember the name of the stupid thing, partly because the VHS isn't even correctly labelled. Buttons and Rusty, everyone!

Fun fact: There are no ghosts in this movie. This cover is a big fat lie.
Everyone has one of these films. An obscure film that just makes it into your video library when you're a kid even though you have no idea how the hell it got there. Maybe a relative gave it to you when you were little, maybe your parents spotted it in the bargain bin and mistook it for a Disney film, or maybe your VCR recorded it because your house is haunted and the ghosts in your house happen to be hipsters and hate everything with a recognizable brand name. These movies are never really well-known, but they're everywhere, just waiting to be talked about, waiting to be brought to our attention after they've been passed off in favor of something by Fox Entertainment or Warner Brothers.

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.

Buttons and Rusty in Which Witch is Which


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."
But we can't dwell too long on this sweet and yet subtly sinister old man, we need to look at some kids at a trailer park harassing some poor woman who just happens to look like a witch due to her ugly, misshapen nose and the fact that she really went with the wrong costume choice. Since this is the 80's, the children are seen as in a positive light even though, in the shopkeeper's words, the children are breaking camp rules by not having the dog on a leash. But she's just sooooo mean and those children are just soooo cute! Who would dare leash such a darling puppy that would leave land mines on other people's property?

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.
While this is going on, who else but the eponymous Buttons and Rusty show up! And they cement themselves as peeping toms, because their first appearance is them spying on the trailer park patrons from a tree and commenting on events happening below them even though they themselves are not taking part. Not sure why they're choosing to spy on other people instead of interacting with them, but I guess it has something to do with the fact that most people are uncomfortable with talking with potential rabies carriers.

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.
Since Witch Lady is not in a good mood and is afraid that if she steps outside, the kids will gang up on her and beat her up, she instructs some doughy man made out of fat and subservience named Sam to throw the frisbee instead. I love how she was able to just turn her head to the left and call for someone to appear off-screen. Where the hell was Sam while this was all going on anyways?

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."
Sam is a nice guy and he ends up throwing the frisbee but, since he's apparently a really good shot, manages to somehow hit the fox that happens to be sitting in a tree. It's a good thing this is a family film, because the force of the frisbee combined with the fact that these two are juveniles would've resulted in a broken neck and a dead fox kit tumbling out of the tree, spurting blood all over those two kids.

...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.
The kids finally manage to spot Buttons and Rusty, since Rusty tumbles out of the tree from the force of the frisbee and the little bear cub climbs down and makes sure his friend didn't break every bone in his body. And what are their reactions to seeing a baby fox and a baby bear, two of nature's most beautiful predators?

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!"
Oddly, despite her Wicked Witch of the West looks and the fact that she looks perpetually angry at everything, Mabel Thorne decides to radio in and tell the Don of the Woods that some kids are going to try murdering protected species without a permit. Ranger Jones, who can apparently just guess what people want to talk about over the radio, thinks that she was just calling him about the big Halloween party. Uh, Ranger Jones? Who the hell uses emergency radios for something like that? Also, subtle exposition there.

"Stop mocking me, Jones. You may have the power of the bureaucracy on your side, but
wait until my coven hears about this!"
Mabel tells Ranger Jones that she saw the kids run after a wolf and a grizzly bear and they're in real danger and the ranger, never breaking his smile, says that there hasn't been a wolf or a grizzly bear spotting in his neck of the woods for fifty years. Yeah, wow. I love how blunt he is about the fact that some animals that used to make their home in his reserve have been overhunted to extinction in this area. Way to not give a crap, Jonesy.
"I know people have complained about the overhunting here, but a hunting license is a hunting license."
But then the cartoon takes a turn for the creepy when, after Ranger Jones humors the poor witch lady over the radio, then turns to us, the audience, and says "Now you know and I know that the animals in my forest wouldn't harm a fly" all while maintaining that goddamn smile of his. There are times when this character archetype can be played as a sweet, gentle old man, but the way he keeps reassuring us that this is HIS forest and doesn't even break his grin when he hears that two kids ran off into the woods makes me think that something sinister is at work here. Ranger Jones; he's the ranger that Yogi Bear and Boo Boo see in their nightmares.

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."
He continues to talk to us, switching from mere character to voiceover while Buttons and Rusty run through the woods away from the vicious attack dog, concluding that the animals are more afraid of us than we are of them. Well, of course they would be! Just look at the person they regularly interact with! Jones reminds me way too much of Lotso from Toy Story 3; oh sure, he's sweet when you're following his rules, but there's no negotiating with him once you try to ask for a reprieve.

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!
Never breaking that eternal smile like some sort of possessed doll, Ranger Jones spots our two heroes and beckons them to his side. Instantly, the poor critters are caught up in his spell and are so grateful to see their Undisputed Lord and Master that they start pawing at him and rubbing their faces in his crotch. See, the animation was supposed to display a hug, but since they keep breaking the hug and diving right back in, it looks pretty weird.

...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!
Ranger Dictator, even though he never once expresses any other emotion other than mild amusement, tells them that he told them not to move so close to the trailer park, and even instructs his little furry minions to recite the reasons why they're not allowed to go so close to the humans. It is here that we get some expected environmentalist bullcrap that was making its way into cuddly animal films such as this by having Rusty express frustration that the humans want to "move them away" and if they don't like the animals here, they should just stay in the city. Jones, staying off his meds and choosing to babble in nonsensical tongues, says that the reason people are moving from the city to the forest is because there are too many people in the city.

...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 will say this. Buttons and Rusty's constant probing of this subject is so exhausting that, for once, Ranger Jones actually stops smiling. I know I'm making a big deal about the facial expressions this guy wears, but seeing someone just all giggles and happiness about kids running into the woods and yet getting all flustered over major debates over overpopulation and deforestation makes me wonder whose side he happens to be on. Jones, I know you talk to vulpine and ursine children, but last time I checked, you're still a human being. A pretty scary human being, but human nonetheless.

I love how the characters simply have to raise a hand in the air in order to talk.
Luckily, the debate on whether humans are the spawn of Satan is quickly forgotten as Ranger TreeHugger informs Witch Hazel Mabel that he found the frisbee. Truly this is a discovery worthy of using those emergency radios! The kids arrive, the mood lightens, champagne is cracked open, and the ugly witch woman lets both the children and the audience know that Ranger Jone's Halloween Party is at 7:30. Why, you mean that Halloween Party the VHS box told me about? Houston, we have a plot point!

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.'"
Well, okay, so far the major plot points have been stolen frisbees, a dog chasing after some baby animals, and a shopkeeper who just happens to be cranky on account she has an ugly nose. Clearly the cartoon needs to step it up and throw something bigger at us in order to keep us little tykes interested, because if Ferngully has taught me anything, kids will sit through a movie of animals saying how wrong humans are just as long as there's a cool villain.

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.
But we don't get evil rednecks. We get...Boris and Natasha from Bullwinkle (okay, Lulu and Lenny, but by god, I'm calling them Boris and Natasha because that's just what they are), dressing up as a witch and a bear and plotting an evil scheme involving the Ranger's Halloween Party. Their scheme is simple; while everyone in the trailer park is at Jone's party, they're going to...miss the party.

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.
But we can't dwell on these people for too long, because we need to watch possibly one of the strangest cases of two families sharing the same house in the world of cartoons. There's a cave in the middle of Ranger Jone's forest that not only contains bears but it also contains foxes, and they somehow maintain a peaceful coexistence with one another without the bears just mauling the hell out of their vulpine roommates and eating their remains. They even have furniture, reinforcing the whole "if animals are sentient, why is deforestation such a problem in their universe" beef I have with this universe.

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."
George and Abner (or Fox Dad and Bear Dad, as I like to sometimes address them as) freak out over the fact that Buttons and Rusty haven't come back yet, so they leave the cave in search for them and hopefully eviscerate the humans responsible. Somehow, even though her only son is missing, Bear Mom feels that its more important for her fat husband to stick around and eat dinner than it is to find her missing cub. Geez lady, I know you have to express your femininity by doing something stereotypically girly, but food can wait if your son is MIA.
"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."
So off the two dads run, and they even use the same repeating background (you know, the one that looks like post nuclear fallout) as their sons did when they do their little run cycle. Man, the quality of this animation knows no bounds!
I am so tempted to photoshop rings, some badniks, and a lives counter into this.
Back at la mansiĆ³n de Jones, the helpful ranger is explaining to a fox and a bear what trick-or-treating is and the meaning of Halloween. I just love how casual he is, pulling out pies and lighting Jack-O-Lanterns, as he shares a complex conversation with animals that humans should stay far away from if they ever come across them in the woods. So he's not afraid they're just not going to crap everywhere and start shredding his furniture? What a chill guy.

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!"
I love how the animals question the logic behind going to a Halloween party and eating lots of food after trick-or-treating and acquiring bags full of candy, by the way. Welcome to America, Buttons and Rusty. We've turned overeating into a fine art.

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!"
 After Jones is done flapping his elderly gums, the kids finally head back home, making George and Abner's quest entirely pointless. In fact, just to compound the fact that these two are failures at being parents, we find them trying to find their kids at the trailer park and being spooked by the little kids dressed like monsters. Man, just be thankful we haven't seen anyone with a shotgun yet, because I've seen enough camping-themed horror films to know what happens when a bear's in a trailer park.

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!
Think this doesn't go anywhere? Well, luckily for them, turns out one of the thugs dressed up like a bear and they hilariously think that the asshole is really Buttons. And thus, shenanigans ensue where a full grown grizzly bear and a fox as tall as a human being run out of a bush and charge towards the unsuspecting human. Now I can totally sympathize with Mabel and her fear of wild animals harming the kids because if they weren't talking, I would've assume they caught up with Lenny and mauled him to death.

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!"
This chase sequence goes on for way too long, only existing to add some physical humor into what has been a mostly unexciting venture, and it finally ends with the thug running into a tree and somehow not breaking his neck from the impact. It's a good thing too, because by the time the chase stopped, sheets were involved, as were buckets. Any longer and a beehive would've manifested out of nowhere in order to complete the checklist of cliched cartoon props.

I'm pretty sure a fox that tall would make anyone crap their pants in sheer fear.
 How does this end? By the dirty human scaring away the woodland critters. Hah hah, comedy!

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!"
Course, while he's doing that, we find out that Rusty is really quite pissed off that he can't go to the party on account there's humans. Really, Rusty? After all the complaining you did about humans being in your forest? Geez, kid, why do you want to go to a social event full of the very thing you hate? That'd be like me attending a convention dedicated to dentists, spiders, and that issue of Detective Comics where Batman turns into a giant tree.

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."
 Unfortunately, we see just how well-executed Rusty's little plan is once we see it in action. See, since every human is at Jones's little soiree, Rusty is going to go trick-or-treating in the woods, bugging random woodland creatures for candy. Just think about this for a moment and your brain will make the connection on why this is a horrible, horrible idea. I love how these little furries just plain hate humans for intruding on their property and enforcing their strange, alien beliefs on them, and then they just go around and start bugging other animals with a completely human concept. What hypocrites.

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!?
Since their trick-or-treating isn't so much "trick-or-treating" as it is "waking the neighbors and trespassing on their property", Buttons suggests that they go to the trailer park and watch the humans do it. You know, even though the whole point of them trick-or-treating in the woods is because they wanted to avoid the humans. God, you kids. Just pick a motive and stick with it!

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.
But wait, what about the party? Because I'm just sitting on the edge of my seat wondering about that overhyped, "everyone is going to go" shindig that Ranger Jones is throwing!

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.
Course, once the kids are in his house, instead of providing any adult supervision, Ranger Jones has to once again turn to us, the unseen voices in his head, and say "Now see, this is why Buttons and Rusty couldn't go to my party!". Just keep ramming the point into our skulls, ranger. I'm sure by the time you reiterate your point for the fifth time, I might actually remember it!

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!"
 After that, we get a quick scene involving the Fox Mom and the Bear Mom nagging and complaining to the Fox Dad and the Bear Dad to go get their snot-nosed brats. This scene doesn't last very long, but I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy it. Fox Mom and Bear Mom (whose names are absent in this movie, I've noticed) are probably the most likeable characters in this cartoon, probably because they react to all of the events of this cartoon with negativity. I love that in any character, because you know they're not going to take this crap lying down. Plus there's just something sincere about the two ladies and how they have to corral their lazyass husbands.

...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!"
But anyways, back to people. The two criminals are, in fact, using the famous ranger's party to steal other people's belongings, but they're kind of bad at what they do because they only stop at one house. Luckily, it turns out Mabel's actually pretty loaded, because when we find our two thieves, one's loading a bag full of gold, diamonds, and rare jewelry while the other one is stealing a fur coat that is, in Lenny's words, "worth a fortune". How the hell does that make sense? With that kind of silver and gold just lying around collecting dust, Mabel should be living in Malibu, getting that elegant cucumber-shaped nose tanned. She should've quit her job years ago.
I too like to keep vast quantities of rare, expensive jewelry just shoved in a random drawer in my house.
Their debauchery is interrupted when who else but Sam and all of his doughiness drives back to the store, and he decides to demonstrate just how well he can survive in public by leaving his keys in the van and then walking away to check the shed for a lugwrench. As you can see, they're way too trusting in Ranger Jone's neck of the woods, because this gives the thieves ample time to escape using said van. Sam should be thankful he merely lives in the middle of nowhere instead of in Gotham City. Otherwise he wouldn't just be missing his van.

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!
But then, when Sam comes back, the thieves...run away, leaving all of their jewels behind in the van. Man, something about that fresh mountain air must be lowering everyone's IQ because everyone in this scene keeps on making stupid mistake after stupid mistake. It's like, geez, if you're going to go through the trouble of stealing a duffel bag of silver while dressed like your fursona, the least you should do is make sure you keep the swag.
I'm pretty sure the only reason they're not in jail is because the cops find their stupidity endearing.
Meanwhile, Care Bears Reject and his trusty sidekick Indistinct Fox Brat discover the discarded costume parts and, after placing the costumes on themselves (even though Buttons is already a bear and therefore doesn't need that mask), they come up with a great idea. Since humans dress up like animals, why don't they just go as a bear and a fox?

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!
Through some rather contrived plot points, Buttons and Rusty somehow end up in the van, the van starts to move on its own, the thieves run back to the van, and then we have ourselves an unintended fox and bear-napping as the thieves try to hightail it to New York City. Oh the irony, bringing the wild animals to the place where there's nothing but humans!

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.
Ranger Jones gets called and...oh geez. Look at his costume! Look at it! Just what the hell is he even supposed to be? Who thought that would be a good idea? I love how he felt that the Mardi Gras mask just wasn't enough so he had to slap on a fake Bozo the Clown wig on top of that. Just come out of the closet already, Jonesy. You'll spare us both the agony.

This vampire makes the potato vampire in Darkwing Duck look downright dignified.
Anyways, before I got distracted by that trainwreck that is Ranger Jones's costume, we find that the party is in full swing. And when I say "full swing", I mean that a circle of about four people tops is swaying back and forth with arms extended. Uh, fun?

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!
Count Transvesula leaves, but he decides to crank up the record player and we get what I like to call A Very Pointless Musical Number That Has Nothing To Do With The Plot. Oddly, when I was a kid, I really didn't mind this song at all even though that it was a pretty pointless segway from the real plot and never gets mentioned by the actual characters. Probably because, at this point in the movie, seeing witches and bats and magic brews is infinitely more exciting than two thieves in Halloween costumes kidnapping a fox kid and a bear kid.

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!"
I actually remember this song pretty well even though I haven't seen this movie in a good long time, partly because of the visuals paired with it. Bats are involved, drops of blood that look like pumpkins appear, and it's overall a spooky good time that couldn't be provided by a ranger in a bright red vampire cape. For example, for the longest time, I thought that the witches somehow had a cauldron full of patriotic gumballs. Turns out it's just some really weird bubbling brew that just happens to take on the appearance of candy.

...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!
So yeah, with so little time to spare, the plot is neatly wrapped up into a little Halloween bow. Buttons and Rusty give Mabel her stolen goods, Jones plays Scooby-Doo in that he unmasks the true criminal, and everything is basically hunky dory. I'm not even going to mention the really pointless skunk scene they managed to throw in at the last moment where George and Abner's hard work for running around all day, scared that their children might be injured or dead, is rewarded by getting them both squirted in the face by skunk fumes. This cartoon deserves more dignity than to end on that note.

...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.
And with that, the curtain falls on a piece of cinema that, despite being in my family for years, has been one of the hardest movies for me to remember.

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.

Final Verdict

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.