Search This Blog


favourite Posts


Creepy Cartoons: A Disney Halloween (1983)

I remember getting cable TV early on when I was young.  I can even remember when there were maybe 15 channels... 20 at most.  This was also when many other kids in my school didn't have cable yet.  My parents were at the forefront of technology in the 90s.  We even had internet in our house in 1991 or 1992 thanks to Prodigy, our Ambra computer, and a painfully slow dial-up connection.  That might not seem impressive in 2023, but in 1992, I was the only kid in second grade with an email address.

When I was even younger than that, we had The Disney Channel at home.  This was during the era when The Disney Channel was a premium station you had to pay extra for, like HBO.  When reflecting upon this, I found it highly unlikely my parents would be willing to pay extra, and perhaps I was remembering an extended free-preview weekend and thinking it was long-term.

Then again, as kids, my Brother and I were very big into classic Disney movies.  My parents enjoyed taking us to Disney World pretty often, too, so, it was possible Mom was willing to pay the extra money to keep the two of us occupied.   When I asked her, she didn't remember paying for the channel but knew for sure that we were watching Disney during the 80s.  At least my memory was correct (this time) because it wasn't until 1992 that The Disney Channel became a part of regular cable packages, and it didn't fully transition away from premium until 1995.   

While the Disney Channel was a premium station (launched on my birthday, by the way), there were no commercial interruptions.  The channel was chock full of in-depth updates on the expanding Florida theme parks and a programming schedule full of shows and movies you'd have to spend thousands of dollars to watch at home via VHS.  There were also terrific holiday specials to put you in the mood for the season.  

One of the more beloved specials that would frequently air this time of year was an extended version of a Walt Disney Home Video VHS tape released in 1982.  "A Disney Halloween" premiered on The Disney Channel during the 1983 inaugural year and would become a holiday tradition for over a decade.  

"A Disney Halloween" included portions from "Disney's Halloween Treat" (1982) and "Disney's Greatest Villains" (1977), featuring classic short cartoons and excerpts of various villains from Disney features to form a 90-minute Halloween special.  

"A Disney Halloween" aired on October 1, 1983, just six months after The Disney Channel debuted, and would air nearly every year after that until 1993.  It aired once in 1999 and was aired one final time on Toon Disney in 2000.  This special, which most of us still remember, was an updated version of 1982's "Disney's Halloween Treat."  "Disney's Halloween Treat" aired on October 30, 1982. 

Since 1954, Disney has produced an anthology series primarily for ABC but would later move networks to NBC and currently on Disney Plus.  This series began as "Walt Disney's Disneyland" to advertise different features of Walt's new theme park.  Later, the show became "Walt Disney Presents" in 1958, and even later, "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" in 1961.  The show would change multiple times over the years as the titles morphed into "The Wonderful World of Disney," "The Disney Sunday Movie," or "The Magical World of Disney."  The common thread between all of these shows was that alongside whatever material it presented, they also included pre-produced material from the Disney brand, such as scenes from Disney films or movies or television episodes shown in their entirety.  

On May 15, 1977, during the days of "The Wonderful World of Disney" (1969-1979), an episode titled "Disney's Greatest Villains" aired.  It, in itself, was an updated version of 1956's "Our Unsung Villains."  In this episode, the Magic Mirror from "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" speaks of the importance of villains to a story, as demonstrated through various classic antagonists in Disney films.  

Later, in 1981, when the anthology show had been renamed simply "Walt Disney," a version of the villain show was aired, titled "Disney's Halloween Treat."  This featured a variety of clips from Disney shorts, all narrated by a talking, animated Jack-O-Lantern voiced by Hal Douglas.  

Most episodes of the Disney anthology series were approximately thirty minutes long, so to achieve the ninety-minute length of "A Disney Halloween," they edited together "Disney's Halloween Treat" and "Disney's Greatest Villains" with some shorter interstitial scenes.  

Over the years, there was some confusion about the title of these specials.  Then-CEO Michael Eisner once called the episode A Disney Halloween "a Disney Halloween treat."  He intended to say the special was "a treat for the viewer created by Disney," but instead, what he said sounded close to the original 1981 "A Disney's Treat."  

The distinctive feature that separated "A Disney Halloween" from its two predecessors was the introductory scene featuring Michael Eisner.  He introduces himself to the home audience as he's joined by the theme park's costumed characters, Mickey and Minnie Mouse (Wayne Allwine and Russi Taylor's voices, respectively), dressed up in sparkly cowboy costumes for Halloween.  Mickey tells Eisner that Goofy is on his way because he's been busy working on his Halloween costume, and when the door opens, Goofy enters in a "Michael Eisner" costume.  Goofy's voice (Bill Farmer) is dubbed over Eisner's.  

After this cute little scene, we immediately head into the "Disney's Halloween Treat" opening sequence, which features the Silly Symphonies classic cartoon "Skeleton Dance."  For this special, the skeletons were tinted green, a change from their original white.  

After the Night on Bald Mountain scene from "Fantasia," we're treated to the Wizard's duel from "Sword in the Stone," which is more fun than scary.  Among some of the more iconic scenes in this special, we see "Donald Duck and the Gorilla," where Donald and his nephews pull pranks on each other in a gorilla suit... until an actual gorilla shows up.  The Heffalumps and Woozles scene from "Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day" is a psychedelic, trippy nightmare scene that will likely scare children.  There's also a scene from "Pluto's Judgment Day" where there is a scene with a very hell-like setting that makes you think, "Something like this would never be shown to children today."  

The second half of the special focuses on the Disney villains.  The main narrator passes the torch to the Magic Mirror, who makes the sales pitch for the need for bad guys like themself in any story.  The Mirror introduces us to scenes with legendary villains such as Captain Hook, the giant from Jack in the Beanstalk, Edgar from "The Aristocats," and Kaa from "The Jungle Book."  The Evil Queen, Queen of Hearts, Cruella De Vil, and Maleficent round out the cast of villains from the Badlands.

The special ends with two classic Disney short films, "Lonesome Ghosts" and "Trick or Treat."  

While most of the content showcased in this Halloween special may be close to 75 years old, I think showing kids this special is a great idea.  It has a very child-friendly version of "scary."  It's not too scary, and the vast majority of "spooky" action is just silly Dinsey hijinks performed by mostly harmless Disney characters.  It's also an opportunity to show your children several classic Disney characters and scenes in one sitting.   

As a child of the 90s, I could think of scenes and villains from iconic Disney films from the "Renaissance" period, like The Lion King, The Little Mermaid, or Beauty and the Beast, but they obviously were produced after 1983.  I'd love an updated version, perhaps as a Disney Plus special.  

The entire 1983 special is hosted on Archive.Org for your enjoyment.  If you want to get into the Halloween spirit, please consider checking out the video HERE!