Saturday, 26 October 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Disney's Halloween Treat

As we creep up on Halloween, I was thinking of assembling a playlist of spooky and ooky cartoOOOOons to help set the mood for Tootsie Roll shopping. Then I started to think...1) kids who still enjoy Tootsie Rolls are weird, and 2) the ultimate Halloween playlist already exists! It's in a television special entitled Disney's Halloween Treat. Are you old enough to remember the great opening?

If you're (old) like me, you probably watched numerous versions of this TV special without even knowing it. The original Disney's Halloween Treat aired on ABC in 1982, as part of Sunday suppertime's The Wonderful World Of Disney. Then the following year, it was retitled to the far more generic-sounding A Disney Halloween (1983). Nobody noticed because the theme song remained the same, and much of the content was a rehash of Disney's Halloween Treat, except now there was more footage added, which expanded the special from an hour-long program to 90 minutes. But the 90-minute version also reused footage from a different Disney special altogether, called Disney's Greatest Villains

Other differences between the two...

Disney's Halloween Treat was hosted by a goofy foam pumpkin. 

A Disney Halloween was hosted by this creepy Magic Mirror.

The skeletons in the opening of Disney's Halloween Treat are orange.

The skeletons in the opening of A Disney Halloween are green.

Michael Eisner introduced some versions. I think Roger Rabbit made it into another. The content kept changing to reflect the current characters and CEO's.

But the best part of these specials has always been the cartoons they kept replaying year after year. Not the villain clips from feature films, but the cartoon shorts they'd (almost) showcase in their entirety. These are the funniest and most fun cartoons you'll watch this Halloween.

Let's go back to those weirdly coloured skeletons. Though they never showed the cartoon in its entirety, that footage always set the tone, didn't it? It comes from an amazing 1929 black-and-white Silly Symphony classic directed by animation legend, Ub Iwerks, called 'The Skeleton Dance'.

Ub reused some of this skeleton footage in a Mickey Mouse short called 'Haunted House'. This cartoon was never included in any of the Halloween specials either, probably due to its lack of colour.

1937 Silly Symphony 'The Old Mill' wasn't included on the original Disney's Halloween Treat, but A Disney Halloween showed some of it. This complex and cutting-edge cartoon by Wilfred Jackson helped to pave the way for the realistic, cinematic animation that Disney would become renowned for. Pay particular attention to that cool ripple effect at the 6:25 mark! And remember, this was done over 75 years ago!

One of the weirdest and most consistent additions to the TV specials was 1944's 'Donald Duck And The Gorilla'. It's not what you consider traditional Halloween content, but it's still always fun to watch that arsehole, Uncle Donald, rile up his nephews like that. As any responsible caregiver would do, Donald leads by example - with an axe.

Donald also neglected his nephews in a more seasonal outing - 1952's 'Trick Or Treat', which was also a recurring staple of the holiday specials. That crazy Witch Hazel proved to be a far better role-model for the boys than Donald ever was, which always warmed the cockles of my black heart.

Donald proves equally inept in handling spirits and spectres in 1937's 'Lonesome Ghosts'. Mind you, Mickey and Goofy are no better. I used to watch a silent and shorter version of this all the time on my cool, state-of-the-art, Fisher-Price movie viewer! Back in my day, YouTube (or should I say, BOOO Tube) had a hand-crank, sonny!

Pluto's appearances in these Halloween specials were cobbled together from various cartoons. But the wildest and weirdest was 'Pluto's Judgement Day' from 1935, where Pluto experiences his own purr-sonal hell.

Now, the Top 2 and 3 (runners-up only to 'It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown') Halloween cartoons of all time! 

I know I indicated earlier that feature film clips wouldn't count, but the Chernabog sequence from 1940's Fantasia is such a stunner! When you're a kid, this is seriously eerie! Some of these images (like the dancing devils and skinless horses of the apocalypse, no less) must be very startling to youngsters! And of course, Mussorgsky's music from 'Night On Bald Mountain' makes it all the more unnerving.

Then there's 1949's 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'. My newfangled (or should I say, BOOOO-fangled) Internet machine shows it as existing later than that, but it was originally released in 1949 as part of a feature film called The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Sleepy Hollow was the latter half of the motion picture, but was later released on its own to theatres and television in the 1950's. Apparently some of the earliest TV versions (on a show called Disneyland) had an animated prologue about the life and times of Sleepy Hollow author, Washington Irving, which was never released to home video.

Production of 'The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow' began in 1946. It wasn't considered long or "event" enough to be a feature film, which is why they put it into a "package" alongside their adaptation of 'The Wind And The Willows', and later released it as The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad.

This to me is some of Disney's finest animation. A lot of funny character detail goes into the opening, followed by some of the scariest sequences (and backgrounds) in cartoon history. It's the perfect date cartoon, because it delivers thrills and chills, but at the same time, sets-up very funny, slapstick comic relief at the end in the squash-and-stretch animation of lanky loser (or should I say, BOOOO-ser), Ichabod Crane.

Enjoy, IF YOU DARE!!! Muah-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

Coming SooOOOOOoon (just in time for Christmas): The SCARIEST cartoons of all time! Here's a sneak previeEEEEEWWw...

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