Disney's Forgotten Halloween Television Treatsby Jim Korkis, contributing writer
I am already in the Halloween mood and have already eaten a full bag of Halloween candy because my latest book has just been released, Vault of Walt Volume 9: Halloween Edition.
It is packed with chapters about Disney-related Halloween animation, movies, park stories (after all, the Tower of Terror was struck by that eerie lightning on October 31, 1939) and all sorts of miscellaneous stuff like all the Halloween comic book stories written and drawn by the legendary Carl Barks.
So this column is my way as that great showman Orson Welles said at the end of his 1938 CBS radio broadcast of War of the Worlds, "of dressing up in a sheet and jumping out of a bush and saying Boo!"
I see that Freeform has already started its 31 days of Halloween movies, this time including a few from their recently purchased Fox acquisitions. However, as I spent the last two years researching my book, I stumbled across a lot of Disney television shows and movies that were specifically set at Halloween.
From October 2005 until 2011, the Disney Channel ran a nightly marathon of Halloween-related movies and television series episodes themed to Halloween (like Suite Life, Hannah Montana, Dog With a Blog, Jessie and many more) called Hauntober Fest and then Monstober.
One Halloween animated episode that most people seem to forget was The Yzma That Stole Kuzcoween that first aired October 14, 2006 as an episode of the half-hour animated series The Emperor's New School. Jealous Yzma can't stand that Kuzco is the star of the popular Kuzcoween festival, so she decides to ruin it in hopes of turning it into Yzmaween.
Over the decades, there have been several Disney Halloween television specials but they all seemed to include the exact same clips.
Disney's Halloween Treat was an hour-long Halloween-themed clip show which first aired on The Wonderful World of Disney on October 30, 1982 and featured a compilation of Disney animated shorts and feature films involving spooky or supernatural themes.
The special was narrated by a Jack O' Lantern puppet (voiced by Hal Douglas), which was also used in an eight minute educational short to talk about Halloween safety called Disney's Haunted Halloween where Hal Smith is the voice of the pumpkin puppet explaining the history of the holiday and stranger danger to Goofy.
DTV Monsters Hits aired on October 30, 1987. DTV was Disney making music videos (inspired by MTV) taking hit songs and pairing them with clips of Disney animation. The individual videos ran on the Disney Channel as filler between shows but three specials were put together for NBC. Jeffrey Jones voiced the Magic Mirror as the narrator host with Gary Owens as the announcer.
Voice actress June Foray recorded new lines for the character of Witch Hazel: "My favorite night is once a year, when spirits come from far and near to scare and terrify… any poor soul who happens by. I'd never been scared, never known fright, 'til I went trick-or-treating one Halloween night."
Here are a few others you might have forgotten:
Spooks and Magic: Mouse Factory (1972)
A syndicated television series entitled The Mouse Factory that was produced and directed by Disney Legend Ward Kimball debuted in January 1972. It was a half hour show that included clips of Disney cartoons interspersed with live action comedy with a guest host who was always billed as "Mickey's Friend".
The rotating hosts included Annette Funicello, Kurt Russell, Don Knotts, Jonathan Winters and others. It was intended to be a zany, fast-paced show in the spirit of the popular Laugh-In. It ran for almost two seasons from 1972 to 1973.
The animated closing sequence during season one featured Mickey Mouse in a biplane getting swallowed by King Kong who is hanging on to the outside of the Empire State Building.
The fourth episode that ran the week of February 16, 1972 was titled Spooks and Magic and featured comedienne Phyllis Diller as the host. Diller is a wacky witch who is celebrating Halloween at her house. Perhaps it was delayed for some reason from an October airing which is why it popped up in mid-season long after the holiday was over.
Diller used her well-known comedic shtick (even mentioning her husband "Fang") to play the affable "Ghost Host." She claimed her favorite relative was her "Auntie Mim" (Madam Mim) from whom she inherited her hair. She wore a purple dress with white stars and a pointed purple hat with white stars while holding her long cigarette holder (but no cigarette). When she entertained her guests, she wore a long red sparkly dress.
The episode gave viewers brief glimpses inside Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, which stood in as Diller's Midnight Manor, that Diller describes as "a rooming house for worn-out witches, ghosts, goblins, and similar 'death of the party' types where every night is Halloween!"
At the end of the cartoon Lonesome Ghosts (1937) Diller frightens live-action Mickey, Donald and Goofy costumed as their characters from the animated short. The show included Trick or Treat (1952), as well as the Wizard's Duel from The Sword in the Stone (1963).
For the Wizard's Duel sequence, live-action costume characters, Goofy as Count Goofula and Donald Duck as Duckenstein, make a brief appearance as Diller's friends joining The Big Bad Wolf (the Wolfman) and Brer Bear (the Hunchback) to watch television on a crystal ball with rabbit ears.
The show was written by Jack Hanrahan, Tom Dagenais and Ted Berman. Associate producer was Lou Debney and Music supervisor was George Bruns. Set decoration was done by John A. Kuri with costumes by Chuck Keehne. Assistant director was Michael Messinger.
The closing of the episode has a live costumed Snow White show up at the door as a trick-or-treater. Diller offers her a shiny red apple as a treat but Snow White wisely refuses. Diller then says she will give her a trick by turning her into a toad, but when she points her wand at the young princess it changes her into Donald Duck, Goofy, King Louie, Witch Hazel and, finally, Mickey Mouse.
Diller taps the "wigged out wand" on her arm and changes into Snow White and laughs in an echoey voice "That's better!"
This silly installment had some unexpected treats, including a costumed Witch Hazel stirring a cauldron in Diller's kitchen and quips by Diller that in the old days witches were tossed into water to see if they would sink (proving their innocence) or float: "If they didn't sink, they were still sunk. Some test."
Halloween Hall o' Fame: The Wonderful World of Disney (1977)
Halloween Hall o' Fame is a 1977 60-minute Halloween themed episode of The Wonderful World of Disney, which originally aired on October 30, 1977. Directed by Arthur J. Viarelli and written by George Petlowany.
Comedian Jonathan Winters stars as a night watchman working late doing his rounds on Halloween night at the Disney Studios. He is accompanied by his dog, Peanuts, who is a beagle so this is probably a clever reference to Charlie Brown and his beagle Snoopy.
The watchman isn't happy about working on Halloween. When he checks the inside of the prop room, in the type of comedy he was famous for, Winters begins doing prop comedy with some of the items.
He gives an award trophy to a tiny baseball team whose players are the same size as the trophy. Finding a basket, he becomes an Indian fakir who charms the snake, gets bitten and then bites the snake. A small town fire chief rallies his crew to put out a doghouse fire. As a doctor he chides a hanging skeleton for not eating enough vegetables.
He finds an object covered by a cloth and when he removes it, he finds a crystal ball and inside the spirit of John O'Lantern better known by the nickname Jack O'Lantern.
That talking pumpkin head is also played by Winters. It is a highly effective transformation by Disney's make-up team. Unlike some actors, Winters claimed to Time magazine (October 3,1977) that he loved being in the elaborate make-up, "I was secure with my head. I knew I was a pumpkin mentally. There's a lot of seeds up there; some gone." Publicity photos show him smiling during the extensive process.
Jack O'Lantern is hiding out from Halloween because it's no longer scary like it was back in "the olden days". He complains, "The only thing scary about Halloween these days is the cavities the kids are going to get from eatin' all that candy."
He threatens to "turn the place into a vacant lot" if Winters doesn't let him hide out until midnight when Halloween will be over. The jack-o-lantern claims that Halloween is "just the dumbest thing I ever saw…there's nothin' scary about it." In the old days, he claims, they had REAL ghosts and goblins.
The night watchman disagrees and feels that Jack should be ashamed of himself for hiding out on Halloween. While the two debate the situation, there are clips shown in the crystal ball from the following Disney cartoons: Trick or Treat (1952), Lonesome Ghosts (1937), Pluto's Judgement Day (1935) and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949).
The watchman provokes Jack to come out of hiding and he does so by switching heads with the watchman. He is going to use the body to go out and mix with the trick-or-treaters since he doesn't have one of his own.
The watchman is actually happy because he gets the night off and got Jack to enjoy the celebration. He tells the viewers that if they see "Mr. Pumpkin Head" on their block to remind him he has to get back to the prop room before midnight or else.
Winters ends by saying, "And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Halloween well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, Happy Halloween, Every One!"
The TV Guide ad said, "Jonathan Winters in a pumpkin head. Disney's Halloween Fright Night. The madcap master of make-believe presents zany comedy and classic cartoons!"
Donald's Halloween Scare: House of Mouse (2000)
While most of us are pretty familiar with The Scariest Story Ever: A Mickey Mouse Halloween Spooktacular! that was a roughly half hour animated Halloween special that premiered on November 15, 2017 and later released on DVD, there was another Halloween cartoon with Mickey, Minnie, Donald and Goofy that today you can only find on YouTube.
Donald's Halloween Scare is a seven-minute short cartoon made by Walt Disney Television Animation and originally aired May 20, 2000 as an episode of Mickey Mouse Works. It was later shown as part of in the House of Mouse episode Halloween With Hades (October 2003).
It was also used in the direct-to-video feature Mickey's House of Villains (September 2002) that opened with "Oooo, it's a Houseketeer Halloween! So grab your garlic and get set for America's most haunted. He's Count Mickey Mouse."
On Halloween, Huey, Dewey and Louie go trick-or-treating in similar devil costumes but each in a different solid color (red, blue, green). They get treats from Minnie Mouse disguised as a witch stirring a cauldron who is with her black cat Figaro. Next they go to Mickey Mouse pretending to be a vampire laying in a candy-filled coffin. Finally, they meet Goofy dressed as the Easter Bunny giving them colored eggs. He thinks it is Easter and his house is decorated appropriately for that holiday. The nephews tell him it is time for candy not eggs which puzzles Goofy.
When they visit Uncle Donald's house, they peer inside and think they see him sitting watching television. However they are confronted with a figure in a hockey mask and with a huge hook for a hand and they drop their bags of candy and run away in terror to hide behind a tree.
They soon discover that it was Donald disguised as the menacing figure. He had propped up a dummy on the chair in his house and scared the nephews so he could get their candy and gorge himself on all of it. They sneak into his house with the background music playing Hall of the Mountain King and put glue inside his mask and hook glove.
When Donald hears another knock at the door, thinking it is more kids he can frighten, he puts back on the mask and hook. However, at the door it is Police Chief O'Hara with a wanted poster for a person dressed exactly the same as Donald's costume who is wanted since "three young duck have gone a-missing." Donald struggles to remove his mask or hook but can't so runs away.
It turns out it was really Huey, Dewey and Louie standing on each other's shoulders and wearing a rubber mask and raincoat pretending to be the police officer. Donald runs into Mickey, Minnie and Goofy who believe he is really the culprit since they have copies of the fake wanted poster and try to capture or attack him.
Sight gags ensue until Donald hides in Minnie's cauldron and is rolled into a graveyard where a tombstone shatters his mask.
He sees three tombstones with his nephews' names on them and Huey, Dewey and Louie crawl out of their graves as zombies. They tell him that he scared them to death. They chase him across the graveyard and he falls into a grave where it looks like they will bury him alive.
A tearful and very scared Donald promises to get all their candy back. They make him wear a costume of their own making as they go trick-or-treating. At one house, a shadowy figure appears at the door with apparently a hook for a hand and they all run away terrified. It is Goofy now dressed as Santa Claus holding a hooked candy cane in his hand. He laughs and licks the cane.
The two creative forces behind Mickey's Mouse Works were Tony Craig and Robert Gannaway. Their goal was to create Disney cartoon shorts for a new generation with the popular characters while honoring the spirit of the classic shorts. When the show was replaced by Disney's House of Mouse in January 2001, most of the Mouse Works segments were repeated there.
And as one last treat, there was a Disney Halloween special never seen in the United States but only released in the United Kingdom:
Once Upon a Halloween (2005)
Once Upon a Halloween is a 53-minute 2005 direct-to video film made by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment only released in the U.K. It features The Wicked Witch from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and features clips from Disney animated movies of classic Disney villains as well as shorts and songs.
On the night before Halloween, the Evil Queen in her persona as the Wicked Witch plans to conquer Halloween so she peers into her magic cauldron to have it show her several villains who might be able to help her with her plan which prompts clips from various Disney animated films.
Those villains include Pete (from Officer Duck), Ursula (The Little Mermaid), Captain Hook (Peter Pan), Yzma (The Emperor's New Groove), Ratigan and Fidget (The Great Mouse Detective), Alameda Slim and the Willie Brothers (Home on the Range) and Judge Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
The cauldron explains its origins and The Horned King (The Black Cauldron) to affirm it is not the cauldron from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs but the mystical Black Cauldron from the the 1985 film of the same name.
"I am but one of many magic cauldrons, all forged in hate, by the witches of Morva. The villains you seek may be summoned from within my depths, O Queen. For it is within me that all dark things reside."
Susanne Blakeslee provides the voice for the Evil Queen and Corey Burton voices the cauldron. The two banter back and forth during the bridging sequences:
The Evil Queen: Is there anything more laughable than great suffering, cauldron?
Cauldron: [muttering] Your plans, dear queen.
The Evil Queen: What?
Cauldron: Oh - nothing.
While the box cover art shows the Evil Queen, only the Wicked Witch appears in the video and only as a threatening shadow. The bridging animation between clips was all done in CGI.
The Disney description was: "Every heroic story must have a villain, and Disney villains are the best to ever appear on the screen. Join the evil queen from Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs as she scares up some of the most memorable villains and villainous moments in Disney history – including Ursula from The Little Mermaid, Yzma from The Emperor's New Groove, Cruella DeVil from 101 Dalmatians and Captain Hook from Peter Pan.
"This special collection features clips from your favorite Disney movies plus shorts, songs and interactive games. It's frightful fun for the whole family that only Disney can conjure up."
A game in the DVD allows the player to go into the Evil Queen's Castle searching for three villains. Players can visit the Magic Mirror room, a unknown area with a useful carpet, some containers and a door as well as the queen's laboratory with her potions, dungeons, a garden and a swampy forest area where she floated away to find Snow White.
Ursula, voiced by Pat Carroll, who provided the character's voice in the original film, sings Sidekicks and Henchmen by Marty Panzer and Dan Grady.
"As you sit on the bomb, who sounds the first alarm and rescues you from harm? Sidekicks and henchmen."
At the end, the cauldron turns against the Evil Queen and makes her vanish into nothingness, foiling her plans to take over Halloween.
Cauldron: "But where these villains all reside, for all eternity, is such a place as you've never seen, would never wish to be. For when you live your sorry life as if evil were your friend, you soon enough learn a final truth: all bad things must come to an end."