If you’re like me, you’re sadly not spending the holiday at Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party in Magic Kingdom. If you’re like me, you’re not even going out, and intend to spend the evening sitting on the couch watching movies.
Being like me is apparently pretty boring, but at least there are some spooky Disney movies to watch.
First up is the animated classic, The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Released in 1949, the movie is actually made up of two unrelated short films: The Wind in the Willows, adapted from the Kenneth Grahame story, and The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving. On Halloween, of course, our focus is on the latter. The Legend of Sleepy Hollow tells the classic tale of Ichabod Crane. Arriving in Sleepy Hollow to be the small town’s new schoolteacher, the gangly man becomes smitten with the beautiful Katrina van Tassel, and as a result manages to get on the bad side of her other suitor, Brom Bones. Eventually, at the Halloween celebration thrown by Katrina’s father, Brom Bones uses the tale of the Headless Horseman to terrify the superstitious Crane. The party scene is great and features Bing Crosby singing “Headless Horseman”, the standout song of the film. Eventually, of course, the Headless Horseman himself makes an appearance as Ichabod heads home. This is one of my personal faves, as I’m a big fan of the original story and I really think that Disney did a good job with this rendition. At a little over a half hour, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is a fun way to get a spooky Halloween movie night started.
Another option for a Disney Halloween movie night is Hocus Pocus. This live-action film follows the Sanderson sisters, three witches who live in Salem in the late 1600s. They’re all about stealing the life force of children to keep themselves young, a practice that catches up to them when they get caught and hung by angry townsfolk. A few centuries later the sisters are resurrected, they resume their evil ways, and it’s up to three kids to stop them again. Throw in a zombie (the ex-boyfriend of one of the witches), a song-and-dance number, and a talking cat, and you’ve got a weird movie that’s definitely more campy than scary. This movie wasn’t well-received when it first got released, but since then has drawn a huge cult following and is a very popular for Halloween (or any time) viewing.
Next up is Something Wicked This Way Comes, a horror movie based on the book by Ray Bradbury. This movie tells the tale of two young boys living in a small Midwestern town where one day is very much like the next. One Autumn night, though, a mysterious carnival appears. There are wonders, and terror, and it’s up to the boys to fight back and save the town. Something Wicked This Way Comes was Disney’s attempt to create a darker movie, and the end result is creepy and very well done. It has its cheesy bits, but for the most part the story is tight and it has some pretty scary moments. This is another one of my favorite Disney movies (we were asked to name our favorite Disney film during cast member orientation, and this was what I went with) in general and one of my favorite Halloween movies in particular. It’s never gory and rarely falls back on “jump out” scares but instead it’s spooky and tells a great story.
Then we have The Haunted Mansion. It’s… well, it’s a movie. I don’t think I can really call it a ‘good’ movie, though, and this comes from someone who loves pretty much ANYTHING to do with the attraction it’s based on. I have seen the movie several times, and I do own a copy, but your own enjoyment of this one depends a lot on your ability to look past its many (many, many) cheesy moments and just have fun with it. It stars Eddie Murphy as a realtor who ends up taking his family to what he thinks is just another property to sell, which turns out to be (of course) a haunted mansion. There are plenty of references to the ride, including the floating-head-in-a-crystal-ball Madame Leota and the singing cemetery busts, and there are some really fun parts to the movie even if it fails to really capture the magic of the ride. If you’re looking for something sorta silly and sorta dumb (but has ghosts), though, or you just need to see anything that has to do with the Haunted Mansion like I do, it could work as a part of a Disney Halloween movie marathon.
Of course, you could always pop in Fantasia and jump to the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment. Demons, ghosts, skeletons… everything you need for Halloween night.
And last, but definitely not least, is The Nightmare Before Christmas. One of my all-time favorite movies (and soundtracks), this one is a Halloween classic. Or a Christmas classic, depending on your point of view. Created by Tim Burton and done entirely in stop-motion, the film tells the story of Jack Skellington. He’s a well-dressed skeleton and the king of Halloweentown, a place devoted to bringing the world a spooky Halloween holiday each and every year. Jack is bored, though, and ends up finding Christmastown. He thinks he likes that one better, and ultimately he and his spooky cohorts attempt to take over Christmas. Hijinks ensue. It’s got a fun story, great music, and neat characters and now I want to stop writing about it and go watch it again for my hundredth time.
This is by no means a complete list of good Disney movies for Halloween night. I haven’t seen The Watcher in the Woods, a live-action Disney movie, but I’ve heard that it’s really creepy. I just recently learned about The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh, a three-part TV series that was aired by Walt Disney in 1963. It saw a limited rerelease as Dr. Syn, Alias the Scarecrow years later, but copies run upwards of $400 online so I don’t see myself acquiring one in the near future. If you loved The Haunted Mansion, you may want to check out Tower of Terror. Based on the ride of the same name (the one with the rapidly falling elevator) it stars Steve Guttenberg as he deals with ghosts and witches in an abandoned hotel. If you want a more recent release, Frankenweenie is a fun stop-motion animated film from Tim Burton that retells the story of Frankenstein with a suburban dog. It has a lot of nods to monster movies and it’s pretty entertaining.
There are some great animated Disney classics out there that would fit well for Halloween viewing, too: The Lonesome Ghosts, Mickey Mouse: The Haunted House, and Silly Symphonies: Skeleton Dance can probably be found online and are all a lot of fun.
So if you’re looking for a Disney movie for Halloween night, check any (or all) of these out.
Happy Halloween, everyone!