Full disclosure–I love It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. But after 36ish times through, I get it. It gets old. I love the sequences with the kids, but why do we need to sit through the WWI Flying Ace crap? Snoopy is by far the least interesting part of Peanuts, and it’s especially true when he’s in his fantasy world. No, Snoopy. Bad dog.
So what’s a person to do when they want to peep something with the kiddies that doesn’t involve a dog with delusions of past conflicts with Germany? We’ll take a look at a few alternatives to freezing in a pumpkin patch.
DTV Monster Hits
Remember DTV? It was like MTV, but it was on the Disney Channel, and it featured pop hits synced up with Disney cartoons. One of my favorites was the Halloween special, because (if I recall correctly), they’d show it right before or after The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Before the days of YouTube, you had to rely on TV programmers to show the things you wanted to see if you hadn’t recorded them. (What a weird statement, but it was totally true.)
Fun trivia about this one: It’s totally ’80s, and Jeffrey Jones plays the Magic Mirror host. You may remember Jones as Ferris Bueller’s foe, principal Ed Rooney.
The Worst Witch
Oh, boy. This one is bittersweet for me. It’s awful and cheesy, but I love it so much. See, when I was a kid, witch was my costume of choice. I rooted for the Wicked Witch of the West. I loved the pointy hat and cauldron. So when HBO (I think it was HBO) showed this movie, I was in love. It featured the ever gorgeous Diana Rigg, Charlotte Rae (Mrs. Garrett from Facts of Life), Fairuza Balk, and Tim Curry. This film was released in 1986, and Fairuza and Tim were coming off a successful 1985, she with Return to Oz and he with Clue (the ONLY movie based on a board game that wasn’t abysmal). So I guess they both decided to top that off with a weird movie for kids about a witches’ school. Balk plays Mildred, the titular worst witch, who is trying to adjust at Miss Cackle’s Witch Academy.
I recommend watching this movie at least once in your life, but if you just want to skip to the good part, it has to be this performance by Tim Curry, who plays the Grand Wizard.
This was featured on a Sunday night Disney’s Wonderful World of Color in 1986. I remember watching it when I was little. It is a classic haunted house story, only this one features the likes of David Faustino, Benji Gregory (Brian Tanner from ALF), and Kristy Swanson (the original Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Oh, and John Astin, because that guy was in everything. It’s a cute, scary movie for kids with a ghost that more than slightly looks like Freddy Krueger. (The bonus is the video I linked above looks like it came from an old VHS recording. It’s like it’s the ’80s all over again!)
Totally random sidenote, but does anybody remember the horror movie Kristy Swanson was in with the killer robot? That was weird. IMDB tells me it was called Deadly Friend and was a Wes Craven movie. (Here’s a cool scene where Kristy Swanson kills Ma Fratelli with a basketball.)
Apparently, they made a sequel called Bride of Boogedy, too.
Bunnicula, the Vampire Rabbit
Did you read the Bunnicula books as a kid? I did. The Celery Stalks at Midnight was by far my favorite. I loved the cute animals juxtaposed with a classic horror story, plus veggie puns! I’ve never seen this special, but I plan to rectify that soon. If it’s like the books, it’s good.
Vincent Price’s Appearance on The Muppet Show
I don’t know if you’d technically call this a Halloween special, but it’s definitely a good one for the season. Vincent Price appearing in anything gets an instant like from me. He’s adorable, and so are the Muppets.
Scary Godmother Halloween Spooktacular
This is a newer entry, but it’s based on one of my favorite comics, Jill Thompson’s Scary Godmother. Scary Godmother lives in a house where it’s Halloween all year. She has skull doorknobs. SKULL. DOORKNOBS. And one of her “broommates” is a literal skeleton in a closet. She is the coolest.
The story is cute, and it does a good job of capturing the look and feel of Scary Godmother. It’s definitely friendly for boys and ghouls of all ages and a great introduction to Jill Thompson’s whimsical and gorgeous art style.
The Real Ghostbusters, “When Halloween was Forever”
Again, this isn’t a special, but it’s definitely perfect for Halloween. This is where I first learned of Samhain, the embodiment of the original celebration on which Halloween is based. It’s my favorite episode of the series because it’s a little creepy and also fun. (It still jars me that Lorenzo Music is both Garfield and Peter Venkman.)
Speaking of Garfield…
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure
Here’s everyone’s favorite original grumpy cat on his Halloween adventure. It’s ridiculously adorable and such a good memory for me. Just watch it.
Fun note–I still chant “Candycandycandycandy” on Halloween because of Garfield.
Paul Lynde Halloween Special
…Look, it’s funny. It’s bizarre. Just trust me.
Elvira’s MTV Halloween Special
This one is for after the kiddies go to bed, but some dear person has put this special in its almost entirety on YouTube. I say “almost” because they were clever enough not to put the entire music video for any song on this video but provided links. It’s a fun way to see Elvira, old commercials, and watch an old VHS tape on YouTube. Plus, new Halloween playlist circa 1986!
Wow, that’s a lot of videos for your viewing pleasure, but what better way to spend the weekend before Halloween than falling down a YouTube hole?