Amanda is a huge Halloween fan! Every October she spends her time building monsters and planning family-friendly fun for the season.
October plus Disney Channel used to equal a whole month full of Halloween movies and TV specials. As a kid I watched them all faithfully, every year. The celebration, most recently going by the name "Monstober", is still a Disney Channel Halloween tradition. However nowadays as my little sister watches this same channel throughout the 31 days of October I notice that increasingly more nights and hours are filled with regular programming that features nothing to do with the holiday in question.
Many of the Disney Channel Original movies have been dropped from the lineup, which is especially a shame considering Disney doesn't have all that many new Halloween movies within the last several years. Maybe one day this kid favorite TV station will again embrace pumpkins and witches to the full extent.
Until then, some of those old classic children's Halloween movies still find their way onto our screen. Others are watched on DVD (if we're lucky) and remembered fondly. Here's the countdown of my personal top five best Disney Channel Original Movies for Halloween time:
5) Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge
It goes without saying that this sequel doesn't have quite the charm of the original Halloweentown, but Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge is still a sweet treat. It manages to capture the magic of Halloween night while telling a good story. It is also noticeably darker than the first movie in the series.
Two years have passed since Marnie and family first visited Halloweentown. Since then, Grandma Aggie has been living with them in the mortal world, training Marnie to become a practicing witch. But once again the balance between the worlds is threatened, turning our favorite Halloweentown characters into dull mortals and the mortals into monsters. Marnie must return to Halloweentown and save not just one world, but two.
For every kid, teen, or even adult (or child-turned-adult nowadays, as the case may be) who lived vicariously through Marnie - imagining that one night your life is changed for the better beyond anything you could imagine, magic powers and a whimsical hidden town included - the sequel to Halloweentown let us stretch the story and our imaginations a little further. The first in the Halloweentown series may hold a special place in a lot of hearts for the very fact that it invited us into this world to begin with; but an older (and only slightly wiser) Marnie fighting against the destruction of weird and wonderful and individuality - Halloween at its core, at least in these films - will never get old. Because always remember:
Being normal is vastly overrated!
4) Under Wraps
Under Wraps is the oldest Disney Channel Halloween movie, having premiered in 1997. The plot is straightforward initially: three kids accidentally discover a mummy. A walking, sort-of-talking mummy. While scared at first, the children quickly discover he's friendly - as well as clumsy, misunderstood, and out of time. After learning their new buddy is far from the traditional horror movie monster, the kids must take care of him and help him to get back to his coffin before midnight on Halloween - lest he be lost forever.
This Disney Halloween film is a mix of humor, suspense, and drama as the main character realizes that underneath the mummy's wraps is a broken heart, missing his soul mate from back in Ancient Egyptian times and thus adding a dash of romance into the bag of genres.
While Disney's Under Wraps was eventually released to DVD it will cost you a pretty penny to purchase, having become a coveted collectible! And sadly you're not likely to catch this flick on at any normal hour. But search your television provider's guides or check Disney Channel's online schedule during the month of October. Under Wraps may well be playing at any random time of the day or night, likely during the week.
3) Mom's Got a Date With a Vampire
It wouldn't be Halloween without vampires. Even Disney Channel agrees! But way back before My Babysitter's a Vampire, Disney gave us Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire (though they seem to have taken back their gift in recent years; more below).
When two grounded teens come up with a plan to get their mom out of the house (thereby allowing the kids a chance to sneak out for a night of fun themselves!) by setting her up on a date with a suave, debonair man whom they find in a want ad, it can't end well. But they never could have guessed he was one of the undead - and currently searching for his new queen.
I remember biting my nails as a child during the scene in which Adam and Chelsea try to smuggle the coffin out of the house and into the water, the two siblings and the audience both painfully aware of vampire Dimitri's imminent return - and what it would mean to be discovered in such an act. It was just enough suspense without actually being a scary movie. Which is no surprise, given that Disney Channel Original movies are meant to be easily enjoyed by children and approved by parents. This Disney movie was funny, sweet, and appropriately Halloween themed with just a hint of fear to match the season. Really, what more could be asked for?
Though I would like to ask for an annual showing (maybe even two or three!) of Mom's Got a Date with a Vampire in October on Disney. Of all the movies on this list, I personally have the most difficulty finding a way to watch this one! Not even during the witching hour have I come across an airing, but I keep my fingers crossed every season!
2) Don't Look Under the Bed
Scared by a Disney movie? Really, truly scared? Nah! As stated, these movies are made for young kids. You'd have to be a wimp to let one give you nightmares, right? Not with Don't Look Under the Bed. A genuine Disney horror film, this Halloween special premiered in 1999. It was rated TV-PG due to scary scenes and it certainly deserved the rating, my childhood memories say.
Don't Look Under the Bed tackles a classic monster that almost every American child fears at some point in their life: the boogeyman. In the film, a teenage girl must team up with her brother's imaginary friend when she realizes the mischievous things happening around town, which she is being framed for, are the work of a boogeyman with a personal vendetta against her.
Unfortunately, the fun was ruined for everyone as some parents decided they did not, in fact, "approve." They complained to Disney Channel about their children seeing a scary movie, so goes the story, and Disney eventually gave in and removed Don't Look Under the Bed from their prime-time October movie schedule. It can occasionally be found on in the late hours of the night.
Teenage Marnie Cromwell has always felt different from other kids her age. She loves anything spooky or paranormal or weird, but her mom absolutely forbids all things of that nature -- including Halloween. When Marnie overhears a revealing conversation between Mom and Grandma Aggie one night, her life is forever changed. She secretly follows her grandmother back to her home, a land called Halloweentown. But the unique, wonderful, magical sanctuary it seems to be has a darkness lurking in it, waiting to strike. Marnie must use her new belief and powers to save Halloweentown and the mortal world worth it.
Ah, the nostalgia. Not just because Disney's Halloweentown is a movie I've been watching annually since I was a child, but also due to the way it so captures the mystique of Halloween night to a kid. Anything can happen. It's a night for more than candy and spookiness; mystery and adventure fill the cool, crisp dark air as well.
Of course I loved this story; I dreamed of being Marnie. I'd keep my own mom and family, thanks, but discovering I was secretly a witch and that this whole magical world existed? Yes, please. It wasn't just about riding brooms and casting spells. It was about possibility. I didn't want to give up the things deemed by "the grown-ups" to be too immature or unreal.
Well, I never did get any magic powers; but every October when I watch Halloweentown on Disney Channel I become a kid again and I remember to see how special Halloween is thanks to this classic Disney Halloween movie.
Which Disney Channel "Original" Halloween movie is your favorite? Share what you love about it and why it's a must-watch on your Halloween viewing schedule in the comments!