Halloweentown (1998)

he film begins with 13-year-old Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown) and her mother, Gwen (Judith Hoag), arguing over why she and her younger siblings 12-year-old Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) and 7-year-old Sophie (Emily Roeske) can never go out for Halloween. Marnie cannot go to a friend’s costume party, and her mother offers no clear explanation. Gwen’s (Judith Hoag) mother Agatha, or “Aggie” (Debbie Reynolds) shows up for her annual Halloween visit. The children are happier to see Aggie than Gwen is, as Aggie openly encourages the children to get more involved in Halloween. Aggie and Gwen are secretly witches.

Despite objections from Gwen, Aggie is intent on training Marnie as a witch. Before heading home, Aggie reads the children a bedtime story called “Halloweentown,” about a mystical place where witches, vampires and monsters of all sorts live in peace. Sophie points out a drawing of a witch in the book that resembles Marnie; Aggie does nothing to stop Marnie from imagining such a thing. After putting the children to bed, Gwen and Aggie get into an argument, with Marnie, who has sneaked downstairs, eavesdropping. Gwen is angry that her mother encourages the children to enjoy Halloween, and insists Marnie will be raised as a mortal, like her father was, and not a witch. Aggie doesn’t understand why Gwen wants to live without magic, and wants to train Marnie before she turns 13, as at this point without training, she would lose her powers. Aggie then asks Gwen for help. Citizens of Halloweentown have been disappearing, and while Gwen doesn’t take this seriously and says it is possible that the missing have simply moved, Aggie believes that foul play is involved.

When Aggie leaves to return home, Marnie and Dylan covertly follow her. They see Aggie getting onto a magical bus, and sneak onto it through the back door. When they arrive in Halloweentown, Aggie does not see Marnie and Dylan getting off the bus, and the children lose sight of her. At the same time, Marnie and Dylan realize that Sophie has sneaked onto the bus with them. They begin looking for Aggie, and are approached by Kalabar (Robin Thomas), the mayor of Halloweentown. He whistles for a cab driven by Benny (Rino Romano), a skeleton with a bad sense of humor. The children find their grandmother’s mansion, and against her better judgment, Aggie decides not to take them back to their home immediately. She says she will start Marnie’s witch training, but has to take care of “the bad thing” first. She shows her grandchildren what she is talking about: in her cauldron, a vision of a hooded figure appears, laughing maniacally. She says she must activate Merlin’s talisman with a spell and potion to defeat the evil creature.

After trying, and failing, to light the talisman with “instant” potion, Aggie takes the children back to town to shop for the right ingredients. The family is introduced to Luke (Phillip Van Dyke), a goblin who was made handsome by a shadow demon. He makes a clumsy pass at Marnie which she turns down on the spot. Gwen, who had noticed her children were missing and immediately blamed Aggie, arrives in Halloweentown to retrieve them, much to Marnie’s objections. Gwen tells the children to say goodbye to Aggie, then takes them to the bus station, but cannot find another bus back to the mortal world according to a two-headed ticket vendor and decides to see if the mayor can do anything to help. She is shocked to see that the mayor is Kalabar, an ex-boyfriend of hers. After Kalabar briefly leaves to handle another problem, Gwen and her children see Aggie walking somewhere with Luke. Sensing Aggie might be in trouble, they follow Luke and her to an abandoned movie theater.

Aggie meets the hooded demon in the theater, where the missing Halloweentown citizens have been frozen in time. Aggie declines to give the talisman to the demon. Gwen and the children enter the theater as Luke rushes out in fear. The demon freezes Gwen and Aggie. The children escape, and obtain the necessary ingredients–the hair of a werewolf, the sweat of a ghost, and a vampire’s fang–to make the potion that will activate the talisman. They then realize they must place the talisman in the large jack-o’-lantern in the center of the town to defeat the demon.

When they arrive to install it, the demon suddenly appears and reveals himself to be Kalabar, who is bitter that Gwen (whom he used to date when she was a teenager) chose to marry a human instead of him. He starts talking to the townspeople and tries to persuade them to join him and take over the mortal world. With the help of Luke, Marnie slips past Kalabar long enough to climb up onto the jack-o’-lantern and try to place the talisman inside. Kalabar, noticing this, casts a spell to freeze her. As she is about to pass out, Marnie drops the talisman inside the jack-o’-lantern, which causes it to illuminate. This unfreezes her and everyone trapped inside the theater, and severely weakens Kalabar. Gwen, Aggie, and the children confront Kalabar and use their combined powers to defeat him. Luke is restored to his goblin appearance.

The film ends with the family getting on the bus and blasting off to the mortal world. Gwen and Aggie decide to train Marnie as a witch and Aggie decides to stay in the mortal world to spend more time with her grandchildren.

So the first of the four part series introduces us to Marnie, Sophie and Dylan as well as their grandmother Aggie. I don’t know how anyone can’t love this film. It is fun, not too scary and makes you wish Halloweentown was a real place and I mean not just where it was filmed. Any who, I highly recommend it for kids of all ages. Perfect for the whole family. The cool thing is that as I watched, I figured out more links in the Disney Pixar Connection, so stay tuned for the Halloween article shortly. Signing off with my favorite scene.

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