Disney channel wasn’t just a continuous loop of “Hannah Montana,” “The Suite Life of Zack and Cody,” and other innocuous tween garbage? I remember those blessed days when the Disney channel actually showed quality programming.
Shortly before Michael Eisner’s reign of terror, a Halloween special aired on the Disney channel. “Disney’s Halloween Treat” is a 50 minute special that is essentially a collection of classic Disney moments (from cartoons or animated features) weaved together. Featuring a catchy opening song and a pumpkin narrator, “Treat” is appropriately Halloweenish. The first segment of the show features an extended clip of the wizard’s duel from “The Sword in the Stone,” one of my favorite scenes. A short clip from “Night on Bald Mountain” from Fantasia follows. When I was a kid, I always stopped the VHS copy of “Fantasia” we owned before it could get to the end to play “Night on Bald Mountain,” because it was just plain terrifying! Luckily, I’m past that now. The special features some great cartoon moments with Donald and his nephews, Huey, Dewey and Louie, including the episode where an escaped gorilla breaks into their house. There’s also a classic Pluto cartoon that used to freak me out. It’s a very dark cartoon in which Pluto chases a cat right into what I can only assume is the mouth of hell. The cartoon manages to enforce that age-old idea that cat’s are evil, which is wrong of course. The special also features extended scenes from “Peter Pan,” mostly centering on Captain Hook. One of the most horrible, narcissistic Disney villains also receives screen time-the evil queen from “Snow White.”
When you’ve finished relishing the nostalgia that is “Disney’s Halloween Treat,” (you can find it on YouTube!) why not turn on the TV and experience true horror-just switch to the Disney channel for some of their regular programming, now THAT’S scary!
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985)
Garfield has had some great holiday specials over the years. Though my favorite is probably the Christmas special on the farm, this one also ranks highly. In fact, in 1986, it received an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. Following in the footsteps of the Peanuts gang, the Garfield comic strip was able to translate very well onto the small screen. In this Halloween special, which features catchy music by Lou Rawls, Garfield and Odie embark on a search for candy, and end up in a haunted house, awaiting the return of pirate ghosts. Honestly, nothing super spectacular happens in this special, but it manages to capture the spirit of Halloween very well, while also highlighting the glib wit and wisdom of Garfield.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)
I love this timeless Disney classic, as I’m sure a lot of you do! Maybe it’s the narration and songs, provided by Bing Crosby, or it could be the autumn mood that the animators invoke through color, light and shadow, but Disney’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” is definitely something I have to watch every Halloween. This is available from Amazon.com, and is paired with another fall favorite, “The Wind in the Willows.” The story comes from Washington Irving’s work, which may have been based on a folktale. “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” is the story of Ichabod Crane, the New England schoolteacher, built like a beanpole, who has a strong yen for Katrina Van Tassel. Brom Bones, Ichabod’s opponent in the competition for Katrina’s hand, also features prominently in the story. What I like most about this Disney version is the combination of music, composed by Oliver Wallace, a prominent Disney composer, and the gorgeous animation of the New England countryside. As the story progresses, it becomes clear that Brom is not going to be shown up by the schoolmaster, and that’s where the “headless horseman” comes in. I really love the music and lyrics of this animated feature. One of the best moments occurs at the party when Brom Bones (voiced by Bing Crosby, along with all the other male characters) sings a spooky song about a horseman who rides through the countryside without a head. The message may be that nice guys indeed do finish last, but that’s not really true either, because in the Disney version at least, Ichabod Crane manages to find a happy ending.
The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror IV (1993)
This is definitely my favorite Treehouse of Horror. I really enjoy the older Simpsons episodes, maybe because Conan O’ Brien was one of the featured writers of the show, and I love his comedic sensibilities. This Halloween special features three different scary tales, “The Devil and Homer Simpson,” “Terror at 5 ½ feet,” and “Bart Simpson’s Dracula.” One of the great things about the Treehouse episodes are the credits at the beginning and end. Each person involved in the show gets their own spooky name for Halloween, such as “James Hell Brooks,” “Matt ‘Count Chocula’ Groening,” and “Sam ‘Sayonara’ Simon.” In the first segment of the show, Homer sells his soul to the devil (played by an unlikely Ned Flanders) for a donut, a la “The Devil and Daniel Webster.” In the second story, “Terror at 5 ½ feet,” the Simpsons pays homage to the classic “Twilight Zone” series episode, “Nightmare at 20,000 feet,” featuring William Shatner. In the Simpson’s version, Bart experiences a terrifying bus ride in which “there’s a monster on the side of the bus.” Finally, “Bart Simpson’s Dracula” features a vampire Mr. Burns who invites the Simpsons over to his house in scary, Pennsylvania. The ending of this episode is classic. Overall, this is a great Treehouse of Horror episode that definitely deserves a view.
It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966)
This Halloween special is probably the most famous of all television Halloween specials. The combination of Charles M. Schulz quirky, everyman characters, along with Vince Guaraldi’s music is what makes the Peanuts specials so likeable. There’s something to relate to with each of the characters. Charlie Brown can’t catch a break, Linus is an idealist, Lucy is an opportunist. There’s really something for everyone here! The plot of the special revolves around Linus’ desire to see the Great Pumpkin arrive on Halloween night, that supposedly rises into the air and delivers toys to children. After being ridiculed by mostly everyone, Linus quips, “There are three things I’ve decided to never discuss with people, religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.” This Halloween special is sweet and has a really good message in the end.