I don’t want to sound like an old crank like Maz, but Halloween is crap now. It is, right? Entertainment-wise? What happened? In the 80s we had these guys:
Michael Myers, Jason “Lark” Voorhees, Freddie Krueger
Granted, 80s slasher flicks weren’t the pinnacle of American cinema, and they eventually became parodies of themselves, with Freddie delivering one-liners along with his killing blows, and Jason becoming a cyborg in space for some reason. But so far, the new millennium brought us the annual torture porn of the 7 Saw movies, followed by the annual 84 minutes of people being boring and 2 minutes of questionably scary stuff of the 4 Paranormal Activity movies. We’ve gone from undying serial killers to a puppet on a tricycle and home movies. Oh, and remakes of the 80s guys, each with their own sequels. (Halloween II came out n 2009, while the second installments of Friday the 13th and A Nightmare on Elm Street are slated for release next year) Expect the gritty Freddy Vs. Jason reboot in 2029.
All this has happened before, and all this will happen again.
Then there’s television. Look, I know that part of being an adult is complaining about how things now are and romanticizing the past. And I know that kids these days, with their iPads and their Snuggies, are probably too sophisticated for the likes of admittedly hokey holiday specials like The Worst Witch (starring Fairuza Balk, Tim Curry, and Mrs. Garrett) or The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t ( starring Judd Hirsch Dracula saying “Teeny tiny bat teeny tiny bat teeny tiny bat!) I also know something like Witches Night Out is so rooted in the 70s, it would be out of place today (even though I saw it in the early 90s.) I get all that, but what took their place? What does this generation have? Do they make Halloween specials longer than 22 minutes any more?
Clocking in at 90 minutes, the 1983 ABC special A Disney Halloween was an annual tradition at our house. It basically combined two earlier specials; Disney’s Halloween Treat from the year before, and 1977’s Disney’s Greatest Villains, forming an epic Disney Voltron of greatest hits. Finally, all your favorites in one collection: The Old Mill, Night on Bald Mountain, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow…but one of the best parts of A Disney Halloween wast also the oldest, The Skeleton Dance. One of the most iconic cartoons of all time, The Skeleton Dance was released in 1929 as the very first Silly Simphony, and drawn by the creator of Mickey Mouse and chief animator of Steamboat Willie himself…Ub Iwerks.
He also invented the Human Centipede.
So why have you never heard of this guy? I guess Iwerksland doesn’t have the same ring to it as Disneyland. Maybe The Oatmeal can get to work on that after the Tesla Museum is finished. Anyway, on with the show. Take it away, mirror!
Your wish is granted. Love live Jambi.
“So tonight I’ll present for your hisses and boos, a cavalcade of characters who always must lose. The villains.” Yes, the second half of the special, narrated by the Wicked Queen’s Magic Mirror, was dedicated to Disney villains. The villains up to that point anyway, which meant the “newest” one was the vaguely Carol-Burnett-looking Madame Medusa from The Rescuers. Even in the 80s, that meant no Horned King. No Professor Rattigan. No Ursula. I used to wonder why they never updated it to include newer villains, but Hans Conried, who played the Mirror (as well as Captain Hook), died in 1982. Not that he was the original Mirror, (or “The Slave in the Magic Mirror“, as the imprisoned spirit from Snow White and Seven Dwarfs is formally known) that was character actor Moroni Olsen. And he wasn’t the last; the late Tony Jay voiced the mirror for Disney’s Fantasmic! light show, and Corey Burton replaced him. As great as those guys were, their Mirrors were far more serious and cold. Conried’s Mirror, all green face paint and snark, was singularly suited for advocating the under-appreciated villains. For me, to this day, he’s definitely the most memorable Magic Mirror. Well, him and Paul Winfield.
A Disney Halloween aired on the Disney Channel until the late nineties. These days, you can only find it on Youtube (until Disney’s poopypants lawyers remove it). Same goes for Mr. Boogedy and Bride of Boogedy. Again, it’s not so much that they’re not showing the stuff I grew up with; it’s that nothing came along to take their place. That’s lame.
At least Halloween episodes of your favorite TV shows are still a thing. The undisputed kings of Halloween episodes were Roseanne and The Simpsons. The Connor family went all-out for Halloween, setting up elaborate haunted houses and costumes. And the Treehouse of Horror episodes of The Simpsons were must-see TV, especially when they started showing marathons. Of course, ever since FOX got the rights to air the World Series, The Simpsons Halloween special has frequently been pushed back to November; as late as the seventh, or as early as October seventh, 24 days before Halloween, like it was this year.
Not that it matters. The Simpsons is awful and sad now. Even when the show started it’s decline (The moment the name “Armin Tamzarian” was uttered, or if you’re impossibly generous, the moment they retconned Homer and Marge’s first date from the 1970s to the 1990s. Ugh.) the annual Halloween episodes offered a brief glimmer of the show’s former greatness. But eventually even they sucked eggs, opting to spoof any old movie instead of sticking with the horror theme. A.I. and Avatar are not horror movies. Neither is Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Really, Simpsons “writers”? There’s tons of horror movies out there. Don’t you guys have Netflix?
I guess the only saving grace for modern Halloween is that ABC still shows It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, if only to prevent the Great Pumpkin himself from rising from the Pumpkin Patch and beating television programming executives to death with their own spines. But where’s Garfield’s Halloween Adventure? Replaced by Scared Shrekless. In twenty years, will someone be complaining about how they don’t show “classics” like Scared Shrekless anymore? Is that the future we’re doomed to? Now that’s scary.