Thursday, October 11, 2012

Witch's Night Out

Premiered October 27, 1978

“This is what Hal­loween is all about, my dar­lings. Every day we go about our lives in the same old way, but once a year we can be what­ever and whomever we please! Pre­tend! Let your secret fan­cies run wild!” - Witch

Small and Tender in their Halloween masks

In this animated special,  two children named Small (Tony Molesworth) and Tender (Naomi Leach) are excited about going trick-or-treating in their Halloween costumes.   Small has chosen to be a werewolf, while his sister, Tender, is dressed up as a ghost.   They listen in on some of the local adults talking about Halloween. Town curmudgeons, Rotten (Bob Church) and Malicious (Catherine O'Hara), express their dislike of the holiday, while Goodly (John Leach),  who seems to be the town organizer, and his friend Nicely (Fiona Reid), think that dressing in costumes is just for kids and want to find a way to celebrate that will appeal to "adults, as people" and help make "a really definitive Halloween experience."  They decide a Halloween party will be just the thing ... they just need a venue.

Small and Tender listen in on the adults' Halloween plans

A spooky mansion on the edge of town -- does anyone else think it resembles the house in Psycho?

Meanwhile, in a dilapidated and spooky mansion on the edge of town,  a lonely Witch (Gilda Radner) is lamenting the fact that no one seems to want to celebrate Halloween anymore.  She hasn't had any "calls" for "wicked wishes" in ages and attempts to keep herself entertained by practicing spells on her cat.

What's a bored witch to do?

She perks up quite a bit when Goodly and Rotten come to check out her home as a potential site for their Halloween party plans and deem it perfect.  The witch has her OWN ideas about how this Halloween celebration will go --  "I'll turn the pumpkin pie into spider stew!  I'll turn the taffy apples into lizards!"  (Obviously, the witch doesn't know that Malicious has been assigned food duty and her additions probably won't be much ickier!)

Small and Tender trick or treating at Nicely's house

 Small and Tender are very disappointed when they go trick-or-treating and not only don't scare anyone but are easily recognized.   Nicely comments on how "cute" they are.   Malicious mocks them and tries to give them sardine meringue and pepperoni peppermints as treats (she's taking these to the party).

Small and Tender try to scare Malicious

The children go home where their family friend Bazooey (Gerry Salsberg) is there to babysit  (presumably their parents are going to the Halloween party).    Bazooey offers to read them a spooky Halloween story, but the kids reject this idea due to their recent disappointment, so he reads them a story about a fairy godmother instead.

Bazooey reads to the kids
After the story,  Small says Halloween would be more fun if he was a real werewolf, not just a kid in a mask.  Tender feels the same way and wishes to be a real ghost.  The Witch hears their wishes -- a call at last!   She puts her party mayhem on hold and hastens to grant Small and Tender's wishes.  She turns them into their costumes using her wand.  Small and Tender are delighted.  Bazooey is not quite so sure  this is a good idea,  but the Witch reassures him that it's only temporary.   Bazooey gets into the spirit of the evening and asks to be turned into a Frankenstein monster. The Witch is happy to grant his request and then invites the three of them to her Halloween party.

The party is looking pretty grown-up and not very Halloween-ish until the Witch and her transformed friends arrive.  They scare everyone, the party empties out in seconds. There is a stampede for the door - the Witch gets a bit trampled in the process.  The kids and Bazooey are disappointed, they didn't mean to scare the grown-ups quite that much. Things get worse when the Witch realizes someone has stolen her wand, this means she can't change anyone back to their regular forms.

You mean we might have to stay like this?

Meanwhile back in town,  the frightened grown-ups realize that Small,  Tender and Bazooey are missing.  They assume that the kids have been taken by "the monsters."  Goodly organizes a mob to hunt down the monsters and save the missing children, not realizing that the monsters ARE the missing children!    Meanwhile, Rotten and Malicious have discovered what happened to the Witch's wand (it was stuck in Malicious' hair) and they attempt to cast their own spells which prove to be ... well ... rotten.

Magnificent mayhem and running about ensues.  We don't want to spoil the ending though ...

This show is available as a VHS tape (and via other sources) but has not (yet) been released as a DVD or Blu-Ray.

RigbyMel says:

I remember watching and enjoying this special as a child.   I really like the quirky, minimalist way the characters are rendered.   The excellent voice cast as well as one of the catchiest theme tunes ever (groovy synths and all) makes this show a delight to hear as well as to watch.   Moreover,  this special really illustrates what Halloween should be all about - letting your imagination run wild and enjoying some spookiness in the process.

Our copy of Witch's Night Out is treasured annual Halloween viewing.

My rating:

4 Jack O'lanterns

J.A. Morris says:

I'm in agreement with my co-blogger here, this is one of my favorite Halloween specials.  For years, I couldn't remember much more beyond the catchy theme song ("Halloween!  Witch magic, Halloween!") and that it had a character named "Bazooey".  I searched for Bazooey one day a few years ago and found the title.  And I'm glad I did, you could say this is the definitive Halloween special.  
I wanted to add a theory I have about the Witch's appearance and lifestyle.  Some of her comments about being forgotten remind me of Norma Desmond, the forgotten movie star (portrayed by Gloria Swanson) in the classic film Sunset Boulevard.  It also looks like her head scarf and her dilapidated mansion may be inspired by Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale, as seen in the documentary Grey Gardens.

Little Edie

The Witch's quote about how Halloween is the day "we can be whatever and whomever we please" gets to the heart of the Holiday, and the voice actors are all excellent.  Catherine O'Hara and Gilda Radner are two of my all-time favorite actors (I'm a big fan of SCTV and SNL), they do a great job voicing Witch and Malicious. 
An excellent special, I wish the copyright holders would release Witch's Night Out on DVD, Blu Ray or streaming already!
My rating:
4 Jack O'Lanterns


bga said...

This sounds like one I need to watch.

Joanna said...

I was Little Edie for Halloween a couple years ago! Love the reference here.

RigbyMel said...

Are there pictures of you as Little Edie anywhere, Joanna? I'd love to see that! :-)

I also think there is a bit of a Norma Desmond/Sunset Boulevard thing going on with the Witch's "look".

RigbyMel said...

And bga, "Witch's Night Out" is definitely worth watching!

uncleporkchop said...

It's now on dvd and they have a web site

J.A. Morris said...

uncleporkchop, thanks for stopping by! Yes, we just ordered a copy of the new dvd, we may post about it in Octobers


Love all the love people have for this film. If you get THIS tv network it will be on all month long in October . Go to the this tv site and punch in your zip and see if your cable provider carries it.

RigbyMel said...

Thanks for taking the time to read and comment, Cross/Rogers!

We'll keep an eye out on the THIS network.

We got our copy of the DVD a week or so ago and are putting together a little post about it, so keep an eye on the blog!


Your welcome it's all about you the fans . We couldn't do anything with out you. Our hats are off to you.