The Halloween Tree (film)
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|The Halloween Tree|
1996 VHS Release Cover
|Based on||The Halloween Tree
by Ray Bradbury
|Written by||Ray Bradbury|
|Directed by||Mario Piluso|
|Voices of||Leonard Nimoy
|Narrated by||Ray Bradbury|
|Country of origin||United States|
|Executive producer(s)||David Kirschner
|Running time||69 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Hanna Barbera Productions|
|Original release||October 1993|
The Halloween Tree is a Daytime Emmy Award-winning 1993 feature-length animated fantasy-drama television movie produced by Hanna-Barbera based on Ray Bradbury's 1972 fantasy novel of the same name. The film tells the story of a group of trick-or-treating children who learn about the origins and influences of Halloween when one of their friends is spirited away by mysterious forces. The Halloween Tree stars Ray Bradbury as the narrator and Leonard Nimoy as the children's guide, Mr. Moundshroud. Bradbury also wrote the film's Emmy Award winning screenplay.
The movie is often featured on Cartoon Network during the Halloween season. The film changes the novel's group of night travelers from eight boys to three boys and a girl. A longer limited edition "author's preferred text" of the novel was published in 2005, which included the screenplay.
The film opens to the voice of a narrator (Ray Bradbury) describing one small town's preparations for Halloween night. Four friends are shown at their respective homes donning costumes excitedly: Jenny as a witch, Ralph as a mummy; Wally as a monster; and finally Tom Skelton as a skeleton. They all hurry so as not be late meeting up with each other and their best friend, Pip, who is described as "the greatest boy who ever lived". Jenny, Wally, Ralph and Tom meet up, but Pip is absent. Believing it a trick, as Pip would never miss his favorite holiday, the four head to Pip's home at the edge of town.
When they arrive, Pip's house is bare of decoration, with no pumpkins or bowls of candy set out on the porch, and Pip is being loaded into an ambulance. Pip has written a note pinned to the front door that explains that he is being rushed off for an emergency but that he does not want to spoil their Halloween but has to go to the hospital due to "something about his appendix" (implying that he is in severe or life-threatening need of an appendectomy). Pip ends the note telling his friends to continue without him and using his catch phrase, "Ready, set, go!". The four friends feel they cannot start Halloween without him, so they follow the ambulance to visit him at the hospital. Tom suggests they take a short-cut through the woods, known to be a frightening place, and Wally reminds him it would take them through a dark and eerie ravine.
As they approach it, they see what looks like Pip running through the path which cuts through the ravine. Wally thinks he can see right through Pip, but Ralph shrugs it off. Tom, convinced that Pip has designed this elaborate hoax for his friends, leads them on. The group races after Pip through the mysterious and twisting forest path, going deeper into the shadowy ravine. Falling behind Pip along the way, they wind up outside a towering and darkened mansion.
After knocking on the door they meet a man named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud. Moundshroud expresses disappointment that none of the children know what their costumes symbolize. Moundshroud reveals that he is after the ghost of Pip, whom the children followed to the house. Pip is after a pumpkin with his face carved into it and he escapes with it. Tom begs Moundshroud to let them come and help bring back Pip. Though Moundshroud initially refuses, as they know nothing of the true origins of Halloween, he relents — if they can keep up with him before dawn, then they might just be able to retrieve the pumpkin and get Pip back, while also going on a scavenger hunt of sorts to learn why they are dressed as they are and where Halloween comes from. Moundshroud fashions a giant kite from hundreds of posters from the side of an abandoned barn (with the children serving as the tail) and they begin their pursuit. Pip uses the magic of the pumpkin to travel back over 4,000 Halloweens ago, and the group follows.
This children travel to Halloweens past, learning the significance of and history and tradition behind their costumes. First, they travel to Egypt to learn of the first ever celebration of Halloween called 'The Feast of Ghosts' where family members actually ate dinner with deceased relatives and left food on doorsteps with lanterns to feed the spirits that had no families, which the children think resembles trick-or-treat traditions. Following Pip's spirit to a tomb, they learn about the significance of mummification. Ralph, pretending to be a re-animated mummy, scares away the priests trying to embalm Pip whose sarcophagus has a baseball, a glove, and a bat on it instead of the traditional rods and serpents. Ralph begs Pip to come back, whispering that Pip is the only one never to make fun of his glasses, but Pip assures him that he never needs to worry about being made fun of, before suddenly disappearing again.
Next, they witness old rituals carried out by Celtic druids and average citizens of the old Celtic world. They also come across a field of straw being harvested and made into brooms before encountering a coven of witches who are chanting and celebrating the new year as well; here they learn the origin and myths of witches. Jenny helps the others escape a mob of angry anti-witch villagers by making some of the brooms fly and it is revealed that she fears heights, but the spirit of Pip briefly appears to her as she fears she is going to fall and reminds her that he once talked her down from an apple tree and that she is very brave, braver than she knows, before he disappears in the direction of France.
They travel next to an unfinished Notre Dame Cathedral (which they finish in a matter of minutes with Moundshroud's magic) to learn of the Cathedral's use of gargoyles and demons to ward off evil spirits on the Middle-European celebration of All Soul's Night. Pip speaks to Wally who climbs to reach a Pip-shaped gargoyle holding his pumpkin. It is revealed that Gargoyles can only speak when wind and water move over their mouths and Wally begs Pip to come with them, reminding Pip that he has been very kind to Wally about his being so awkward, to which Pip reassures him that he is a great friend and not awkward at all; then Pip tells him that he is starting to feel too weak. Pip's spirit then suddenly departs and the group follows southward.
They finally arrive in Mexico, where the significance of 'calacas' or skeletons is revealed. The children see people selling skeleton dolls in costumes, selling toy funeral processions, and going from door to door to get special cookies, sugar candy skulls, and other treats while picnics and hordes of flowers are taken by happy families to the cemeteries where their families are and candles are lit to allow celebrating all night. They learn that this is called the Day of the Dead. After eating a sugar skull with each of their names on it, the children are told by Mr. Moundshroud that the celebration focuses on being "Glad, oh so glad that you are alive!", and is celebrated as a means of overcoming one's fear of death thereby causing it to lose its power over them in life.
They finally follow Pip, who is growing weak into an old tomb in Mexico, but they are afraid that they are too late to save him. Being brave enough to enter the tomb as the skeletons come to life, Tom makes it out of the tomb without being overtaken by the skeletons which then fell apart. Tom apologized to Pip, admitting that he feels guilty for the whole ordeal because he wanted to lead the group for once. Pip smiles and forgives him promising to let him lead anytime he wants as Tom grabs his hand. But then, Pip's spirit crumbles into the dust and is gone, much to the horror of his friends.
Moundshroud, holding Pip's pumpkin, tells the children they did not make it in time and Pip is now his property, symbolized by Pip's pumpkin. The children, eager to have their friend back, offer a year from each of their lives in exchange for Pip's. Moundshroud accepts the deal and takes a sugar skull with Pip's name on it, breaking it into four pieces, and has each of them eat it to seal the bargain. Pip's spirit is then revived as quickly as possible, and he snatches his pumpkin back from Moundshroud's arms and flies out of the tomb. The group is then immediately teleported home.
The children rush to Pip's house once more to see if the entire ordeal was in fact real, and are delighted to see their friend back from the hospital. He recounts the journey as a dream he experienced during surgery. The movie ends with Moundshroud disappearing into a pumpkin shaped like him after he blew out its "one last candle", while the Halloween Tree is assaulted by strong winds, blowing all the pumpkins away into the sky— all except for Pip's pumpkin, which remains on his porch.
- Ray Bradbury - Narrator
- Leonard Nimoy - Mr. Moundshroud
- Annie Barker - Jenny
- Darleen Carr - Additional Voices (voice)
- Lindsay Crouse - Additional Voices (voice)
- Alex Greenwald - Ralph
- Edan Gross - Tom
- Andrew Keegan - Wally
- Kevin Smets - Pip (as Kevin Michaels)
- Mark L. Taylor - Additional Voices (voice)
- Gordon Hunt - Recording Director
- Jill Ziegenhagen - Talent Coordinator
- Kris Zimmerman - Recording Director, Animation Casting Director
- David Kirschner - Executive Producer
- Mark Young - Co-Executive Producer
Home media releases
The Halloween Tree was released on VHS by Turner Home Entertainment in the 1990s. The first release on September 14, 1994 and its re-release in 1995 (in the 1994 print) featured a Yogi Bear short Bewitched Bear, which is shown before the movie. Both the 1994 and 1995 releases also included a free book that came out with VHS tape copies. The movie was also released on LaserDisc with audio commentary by Ray Bradbury included. Turner re-released the film on VHS in 1996 as part of the Cartoon Network Video series, and Warner Home Video issued the reprint in 1999. On August 28, 2012, Warner Archive released the movie on DVD as part of the Hanna-Barbera Classics Collection series. Warner Home Video will re-release the movie on DVD on September 27, 2016.
VHS release dates
- September 14, 1994 (Turner Home Entertainment)
- August 29, 1995 (Turner Home Entertainment)
- September 10, 1996 (Turner Home Entertainment/Cartoon Network Video)
- August 10, 1999 (Turner Home Entertainment/Cartoon Network Video/Warner Home Video)
- August 22, 2000 (Turner Home Entertainment/Cartoon Network Video/Warner Home Video)
DVD release date
- August 28, 2012 (Warner Home Video/Warner Archive)
- September 27, 2016 (Warner Home Video)