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October 5th, 2011


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12:37 pm - 31 Days of Halloween: Witch's Night Out
So remember how I said that I had weekly obligations on a couple of nights? Wednesday is the other night. And though the Tuesday night movie crew has agreed to watch Halloween fare through October, that's not going to be an option on Wednesdays. Since my free time on Wednesday nights is going to be seriously truncated, I thought I'd squeeze in some short subjects. Specifically, TV specials from my childhood. And that's what we're discussing today.

Witch's Night Out is an animated, half-hour Canadian special which premiered on NBC in 1978 and was a staple of October programming through the mid-'90s. I saw it a handful of times as a child in the '80s, but I had completely forgotten about it. Then a few days ago, I ran into it on a website and recognized the characters, so I tracked down a copy. It hasn't been legitimately available since it was released on VHS in 1995, but it's not hard to find.

I can't figure out when I last saw Witch's Night Out. I couldn't even remember the plot, but Wikipedia says I probably saw it on The Disney Channel. It's a very obvious product of it's time; the slightly sloppy cell animation, the synth-heavy soundtrack, and the character designs all scream late '70s, not to mention "Witch Magic," the disco song that bookends the film.

The plot: The grownups in town -- who all have names like Goodly and Nicely and Malicious (Catherine O'Hara!) and Rotten -- are all pretty disgusted with Halloween. Goodly, the local know-it-all, declares that they should have a Halloween party to give the adults something to do, and he and Rotten (the town misanthrope) go scouting for locations. They settle on the empty, delapidated house on the edge of town, which, unbeknownst to them, is home to a witch (Gilda Radner). She's been depressed of late because nobody's inviting her to any parties, and this seems like a godsend.

Meanwhile, Small and Tender are a brother and sister who have dressed up as a werewolf and a ghost for Halloween. Much to their dismay, their costumes are received as cute, not scary. That night, their babysitter Bazooey tells them a bedtime story which prompts them to wish for a fairy godmother to help them better enjoy the holiday. The witch answers their call and turns Small and Tender into a real werewolf and ghost, and Bazooey into Frankenstein's Monster.

Then they crash the party at the witch's house and have a great time scaring the hell out of everybody and changing the hors d'oeuvres into spiders, but the witch loses her wand in the fray. The kids are forced to spend the night as monsters, which isn't much fun when there's an angry mob stalking the streets. Eventually there's a confrontation, and the witch gets her wand back, convinces everybody that she's cool (or at least harmless), and the townspeople take turns letting her transform them into different monsters.

Sometimes I find these things to be great, nostalgic fun, and other times I find them tedious and boring, and I'm honestly having a hard time deciding which side I fall on re: Witch's Night Out. The internet really loves this one (boy howdy, do they ever), but I dunno... it's predictable and formulaic, the animation is ugly, and that damned disco song... Kids might enjoy it, though, and as I said, it's a nostalgia piece for people my age. Perhaps I was in the wrong mood for it. This makes me wary about watching other animated specials from my childhood, but I've a feeling that Disney's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown probably still hold up.

Apparently you can watch it on Veoh.com.

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31 Days of Halloween: Witch's Night Out - Garmonbozia for the soul.

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