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Old 09-15-2013, 06:29 PM   #1
DVD-fanatic-9
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Disney Animated Marathon, 2013


(1982)



So... Halloween, as you can imagine, means a lot to me. But it's also one of the few traditions to have hooked me within the actual 80's itself. I was alive for 7 full years during the decade (my first year of school was 1988) and this is perhaps the only thing I actually remember from it. That and going to Disney World in December, 1989. Sometime around then, my family started paying for The Disney Channel. (Anyone remember when that was a pay channel?) And, sometime around 1990-91, Disney re-aired this special. And... yes, from the intro, I nearly melted. I already had a thing for The Wizard of Oz, decorations, costumes, I loved Halloween and became enamored with dark things. But this special truly marked a turning point in my life- it sparked my obsession with creepy, spooky movies.

Thanks to people like Michael Eisner, it was hard to get your hands on a lot of Disney's movies unless your local library had a copy of - for example - The Cat from Outer Space (ours did). And when I saw this special, I wanted to see all the films and shorts in it. You can imagine how that crusade went. So, I wound up putting Disney on the back burner sometime around 1993 when I got brave and wanted to begin watching trash. And I was an extremely naive kid too, so while I kept what I was watching to myself- it never really occurred to me that low budget production values were something people resented. Or that horror was a bit of an under-the-table popular genre. Which is ridiculous- it's every bit as nerdy or strange to rave on for 25 minutes about cyborg assassins, intergalactic space alien battles, bloodthirsty rogue cops, prairie-prowling lone-wolf antiheroes and suave secret agents who treat women like objects to conquer, and extra-terrestrials who live off Coca-Cola and have breakdance parties at McDonalds'. But mention one little movie where a guy in a hockey mask butchers a dozen people- then they look at you funny.


Yes, Disney is responsible for my love of horror. Not alone- I don't think any one source is ever responsible for that. But the more of their films I watched, the more my specific taste was formed. Classic Disney themselves are fundamentally rooted in heady tone and atmosphere. And this compilation paired with the fact that The Disney Channel began acquiring Halloween-themed specials they didn't produce (most dear to my heart: The Worst Witch, fuck you if you don't love that movie) helped in making horror this larger-than-life mythical genre I was convinced was tailor-made for me before I was able to start sinking my teeth into the real thing. It also caused me to place Disney themselves on a pedestal. At this point, my roots with Disney were actually in the live-action canon. After re-watching a good 30 of those this year, hoping for a major rush of magic and fond memories... I can tell you there's a very good reason Disney are typically associated with their animated output: the live-action films suck. There are precious few exceptions (The Love Bug and, in my opinion, The Moon Spinners, Return from Witch Mountain, and The Gnome-Mobile) and all are subject to The Nostalgia Rule. (Which, of course, is that one is likely to mean more to you than the others because it was Your First or your father loved it or similar.) Even Mary Poppins, which everyone knows is the best live-action film.


So, it's always been something that makes me a little proud- that Disney actually care about Halloween. Sure, one could argue that's because it's another cash cow they love to milk. But, as Roseanne proved (another defining moment of my youth...that show's Halloween themed episodes), Halloween is something people care about. Well, it used to be. Until our culture got all Matrix'd and Harry Potter'd and Lord of the Rings'd. It also doesn't help that the horror genre has been pushing for gritty realism since about the time of The Blair Witch Project. Pity they almost never achieve it and cop out to non-characterization, pitifully bad writing, and much self-aggrandizement (among other things). But, we still cared about it in the 90's.


Disney's Halloween Treat isn't the first of the major Disney Halloween specials (there are at least 3 more) but it's the most memorable thanks to an insanely catchy theme song (try getting it out of your head for a week afterward) and title. It also has the wonderful novelty of being hosted by a talking pumpkin on a Van Tassel-like table of party refreshments. That thing spooked me pretty good as a child and became a legend in my memory- I was sure I'd seen it but couldn't prove it to myself. You didn't always see the things you remember (sometimes they're from dreams). But, then, I found this on YouTube and the rest is history. Access to A Disney Halloween is difficult from time to time due to Disney of course removing so much of their shorts that are uploaded to the site. The major difference is that the latter half of the program is hosted by Hans Conried (the voice of Captain Hook from Peter Pan) as the Magic Mirror from Snow White. That's awesome. The structure of the program consists of about 3-4 clips every 10 minutes. Objectively speaking, this special as a whole leaves more than a little to be desired. Some of the most essential clips (such as the Huey, Duey, and Luey short, Trick or Treat) are relegated to filler for the theme song intro. As are The Skeleton Dance and Lonesome Ghosts, although the latter isn't as good as you remember (Trick or Treat, on the other hand, is). The animated films get the most attention, although even there they completely glanced over the scariest villain in their canon- Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. If Madam Mim gets a slot here, I see no reason why Alice in Wonderland is ignored entirely. And what about the "Pink Elephants on Parade" sequence from Dumbo? Or the (lovely and awesome) rip-off "Heffalumps and Woozles" sequence from Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day? Or Kaa's skin-crawling "Trust in Me" number from The Jungle Book? Or, the boys turned donkeys in Pinocchio; or Monstro for that matter?


I wouldn't "love" to see the running time eaten up by clips- after all, I could just watch the movies myself but... you know, they had a thing going and they could have done more with it. What I've always wanted to see was more original content interspersed with the clips. There's a ton of stuff the scary pumpkin could have done. They could have treated it like an actual party and had guests- either from Disney productions or from other famous spooky movies. Like, what if Tippi Hedren and Janet Leigh dropped by? Or Anthony Perkins and Vincent Price? Or costumed characters from the theme parks? I know the tradition was that Walt interacted with the animated characters but, barring that, it was a far better idea to do the same with celebrities instead of... what eventually happened: Michael Eisner himself pretending to be "a new" Walt and having skits with the characters. The ego on that sonofabitch. And I'm not even a Walt apologist. This is violating the legacy of the company and the memories of the people who loved the films, shorts, and television shows as much as it's an insult to Walt personally. And just the kind of thing that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.


As a full 35-40 minute special, the nostalgic fun is going to fit and start: the film clips are best viewed on the Platinum, Anniversary, Diamond, Gold Collection, and Special Edition DVD's, clips from the short cartoons are nice additions if you haven't seen them nearly as many times as 101 Dalmatians or Peter Pan, depending on which you wore out on VHS as a child, but the fun stuff is the hosted segments. And that's sadly fragmented to the point of being jarring when the pumpkin's voice comes back. Also, he narrates over Bing Crosby's narration without the volume being adequately regulated. This is a good idea for a compilation jumping off point but if you know these films as well as I do, you probably want something new. And I love cheese and cheap 80's direct-to-video / direct-to-cable shows, so, the Pumpkin Party was a real missed opportunity.

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