Halloween 13: Witch’s Night Out (1978)
[EDITOR'S NOTE: Seeing as how this Halloween falls in the year 2013 the crew at SKC decided to invite 13 of our blogging brethren for a monster-sized countdown, weekdays now until Halloween day, celebrating each person's favorite Halloween movie or animated special.]
I had a routine every Halloween. But then again, I’m a routine kind of guy, so that only made sense. This usually involved “helping” to decorate the house for the soon to be calling trick-or-treaters, making certain to outdo last year’s choice of costume, setting up an in-house “ghost walk” that only I and my friends ever experienced, finding the latest “spooky sounds” tape at the department store for my evening listening pleasure, and making certain to catch my favorite Halloween TV specials by taking note of times and dates in the TV Guide.
I only ever set aside time to watch the specials that I had already deemed worthy of my time in prior years. But, occasionally, I would stick around after my preferred programming had finished. One night in particular, my interest was piqued by a special that had actually been around for quite some time, yet I had never even heard of or read about. That special was Witch’s Night Out.
I think what initially caught my attention was the peculiar design of the characters and their interactions. At first, it seemed extremely silly and cheesy. Almost like I was not actually watching a TV special, but a commercial for some Halloween themed product that was just about to pop up on the screen. After all, the special did not begin with an actual introduction to the characters or their surroundings. Instead, I was treated with a bit of a “music video” presentation, with clips from the coming special edited together. The song that played as the images flashed before me was very catchy. VERY catchy. It was a sort of discoesque tune titled “Witch Magic”. This hooked me in for the long haul, and I got comfortable in preparation for the next 25 minutes of the show.
Witch’s Night Out centered on the escapades of two children (Small and Tender) and their babysitter for Halloween night (Bazooey) as they encountered the devious workings of a washed up old witch. A whole new world of characters was introduced to me, something a bit unusual for a holiday special. Most specials I enjoyed up to that point simply brought Halloween into the world of existing characters and their worlds (Peanuts, Mickey Mouse, Casper, etc.). But here I was being asked to invest in a story of characters I had previously never had any awareness of. Even so, the world was so rich in oddly unique and diverse beings in situations that we could all relate to, that it was simply irresistible.
Rounding out this peculiar group of personalities was a troublemaking duo looking to enjoy Halloween in their own sinister way (the recalcitrant Malicious and her cohort Rotten), a pair of community leaders hoping to make this the best Halloween the town has yet enjoyed (the savvy Goodly and soft spoken Nicely), and the townsfolk who looked to these characters for leadership.
As I previously mentioned, the design of this cast of characters was unlike anything seen before or since. Each character had his or her own comically humanoid look, sporting (in most cases) a single color. That’s right, these characters were almost entirely monochrome. Goodly, for example, was entirely blue. Nicely was entirely pink. In fact, the only key character who seemed to have been designed in a more traditional manner was the witch. This was, at first, hard to overlook. The animation itself left a bit to be desired, even by 70’s standards. But in the end, these seemingly injurious aspects of the special came to make it all the more intriguing.
Voicing the characters of the special were some of Canada’s top talent at the time. The great comedienne Gilda Radner supplied the voice of the antagonistic witch. Also providing voices were Catherine O’Hara and Fiona Reid. Each of the characters voices were so distinct (with the exception of the children) that I could not help but feel as though it made them each all the more fascinating. Bazooey spoke in a cheery, inviting manner. Goodly was loud, forceful, and commanding. Malicious was screechy and annoying. This wide variety of exaggerated voice direction made this production all the more endearing.
I came to discover that the children of the story felt disappointed that their Halloween costumes did not frighten anybody. This provided an opening for the washed up old witch to come out of a semi-retirement and begin making Halloween into an event she deemed worthy. But the townsfolk were none too happy about it when things got out of hand. And soon the children, Bazooey, and the witch found themselves on the receiving end of the town’s wrath. But the special concluded with a Halloween celebration that everyone could enjoy, and left me with a pleasantly satisfied feeling.
After watching through to the closing credits, I realized I had just witnessed one of the most unique and captivating specials I had seen in my youth. It would become a staple of Halloween to me in the coming years. I would make certain to find it alongside my other Halloween favorites in my TV Guide from then on. Unfortunately, this special would eventually disappear from the network Halloween schedules. And, as time passed, I forgot it almost entirely. Only bits and pieces of it remained in my memory, and I only knew it was something I had once enjoyed but could now not even recall the name of. Thankfully, the internet age came to be.
If you have memories of a Halloween special that left you strangely fascinated, but you just can’t remember much else… this is likely it. It’s quite possibly the most underrated Halloween cartoon special ever developed for network television. I highly recommend you add it to your list of annual specials if you haven’t already. To quote it directly, Witch’s Night Out is “a dazzling display of magical monstrosity!”
*Witch’s Night Out poster artwork by 4gottenlore
This article is part of the Countdown to Halloween blogathon, a month-long blogging marathon dedicated to honoring the Halloween season. For more information and a full list of participating sites, please visit www.countdowntohalloween.com.