Hanna-Barbera, the same cartoon factory that gave the world the Flintstones, Wally Gator, and Top Cat, scored a minor coup with this well-rendered feature that follows Ray Bradbury's phantasmagorical 1972 novel of a Halloween eve adventure quite closely.
On Halloween eve, four costumed kids learn that their leader Joe "Pip" Pipkin is sick and won't be joining them. But they glimpse his phantom form flitting ahead, and follow it to a spooky, isolated mansion, behind which stands a tree hung heavy with jack-o'-lanterns. Pip picks a pumpkin with a
face just like his, then disappears into a whirlwind. The house's sole inhabitant, a grotesque old man named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud (voice of Leonard Nimoy), proposes to help the children retrieve their friend while touring the historical roots of Halloween. The youngsters travel through
time and space, successive destinations dictated by their costumes: a mummy disguise prompts their visit to ancient Egypt; a witch getup, the Dark Ages in Europe; quasi-Quasimodo makeup, Notre Dame Cathedral with its armies of gargoyles; and a skeleton suit, the Day of the Dead in Mexico.
Moundshroud materializes in every setting to point out the macabre rites and folk customs that have enabled humanity through eons to stare down Death. It also becomes apparent that the ever-elusive Pip is indeed gravely ill. When Moundshroud, who turns out to be an angel of death, dooms the lad,
the other children strike a bargain: each in turn surrenders one year from the "far, burned-down candle end" of their lives, in exchange for Pip's survival. Halloween night ends with a satisfied Moundshroud departed for another year, and the heroes back in their hometown greeting a recovered Pip,
who has had a very curious dream in the hospital.
Although Hanna-Barbera's reputation mainly rests on popular cartoon techniques, THE HALLOWEEN TREE is no cut-rate quickie. Background paintings are rich and detailed, and the circus-poster "October kite" that transports the protagonists to distant realms is an outstanding visual. Only the
character animation betrays an assembly-line style, and Pipkin and his pals would look welcome on Saturday morning TV.
Star vocal performer Leonard Nimoy obviously savors his role as Moundshroud, affecting a cackling falsetto similar to the late Hans Conreid's. The character also underscores that THE HALLOWEEN TREE offers something rare indeed in the often hackneyed scripts of cartoon features, a wise and
ambiguous villain who is not defeated in the end, but accommodated.
THE HALLOWEEN TREE would have worked in theaters but instead went to home video. Though not indicated on the cassette box, that same tape carries a bonus just before the feature, a vintage Yogi Bear short "Bewitched Bear." The unexpected juxtaposition testifies to the versatility as well as the
durability of Hanna-Barbera Studios.
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1993
- Rating: G
- Review: Hanna-Barbera, the same cartoon factory that gave the world the Flintstones, Wally Gator, and Top Cat, scored a minor coup with this well-rendered feature that follows Ray Bradbury's phantasmagorical 1972 novel of a Halloween eve adventure quite closely.… (more)