Film / Halloweentown

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"Being normal is vastly overrated."
Aggie Cromwell

A series of Disney Channel Original Movies, regarding the efforts of a young woman, of both witch and mortal heritage, to maintain peace in a Quirky Town populated by mystical beings and creatures, with help from her magically-gifted grandmother. The first aired in October 1998.

Thirteen-year old Marnie Piper (Kimberly Brown) has always been fascinated by the strange and unusual, but for some reason her mother, Gwen (Judith Hoag), disapproves. Marnie would love to go out for Halloween, but her mother makes her and her siblings Sophie (Emily Roeske) and Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) stay home every year. Her only explanation is that "there are things about Halloween you don't understand."

Since this year marks Marnie's 13th birthday, her grandmother Agatha (Debbie Reynolds) shows up on Halloween, and reads Marnie and her siblings a book titled Halloweentown. With its pictures of the supernatural living everyday lives, including one showing a witch who resembles Marnie, Marnie becomes entranced by the thoughts of Halloweentown. Later, Marnie sneaks downstairs to overhear her mom and grandmother discussing Marnie's future. Grandma Aggie wants to train Marnie as a witch; Gwen wants nothing of the sort. Grandma Aggie also says something is wrong in Halloweentown, and that she could use Gwen's help, but Gwen refuses.

Eager at the thoughts of being trained as a witch, Marnie follows Grandma Aggie back to Halloweentown... and so do Sophie and Dylan. There, they must stop the evil Kalabar from taking over.

Three sequels have been made: Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge (2001), Halloweentown High (2004), and Return to Halloweentown (2006).

Not to be confused with the setting of The Nightmare Before Christmas.

This film quadrology has examples of:

    open/close all folders 

    Series-Wide 
  • Aesop Amnesia: Gwen, could you please make up your mind whether you like magic now or not? This is lampshaded when Gwen uses magic for a trivial thing in the third movie (as opposed to in emergencies, which is what she did in the previous two movies), and remarks "Remind me why I don't like magic again?"
  • Another Dimension: Halloweentown is located in one because it was either relocate or go to war with the humans.
  • Badass Family: According to Aggie, the Cromwells (that is, Marnie's maternal family line) have been the most powerful witch clan since the beginning of time. Considering their actions in the first film, the second film, the Big Bad's eagerness to take their powers in the third film, and Aggie herself sitting as the ruler of Halloween town in the fourth film, she wasn't exaggerating.
  • Bag of Holding: Grandma Aggie's carpet bag is magically connected to her house in Halloweentown, explaining how it can contain so much stuff.
  • Bewitched Amphibians:
    • In Halloweentown, Sophie unlocks Aggie's gate by changing its frog-engraved lock into a frog.
    • In Kalabar's Revenge, after Gwen discovers that her Halloween date is actually an amphibious golem, she delivers a chant that reverts him to a pile of frogs.
  • Bigger on the Inside: Grandma Aggie's bag—specifically, it allows her to pull out anything currently at her house in Halloweentown.
  • Butt-Monkey: Dylan. His sisters give him grief, odd things happen to him, and the alpha bitch trio treat him like a slave.
  • Broken Masquerade: Originally, Halloweentown was created to keep supernatural creatures safe from humans. At the end of the third film, humans (or at least the students and faculty at Marnie's school) find out about Halloweentown and its inhabitants. In the fourth film, it's stated that some of Halloweentown's citizens are going to college on Earth.
  • Cheerful Child: Sophie, contrasting with Dylan's cynicism.
  • Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Luke was never seen or mentioned after the second film. It's really striking since given his age he could've easily been featured in the third movie or given a mention.
  • Conflict Ball: Gwen, Gwen, Gwen, why do you hate magic so?
  • Cool Old Lady: Aggie. Even children who don't realize she's an immortal witch enjoy her encouraging their fascination with Halloween and the supernatural, despite Gwen's objections.
  • Cute Monster Girl: There are a few, such as a troll.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Dylan regularly snarks at his sisters about magic or some other zany scheme.
  • Defanged Horrors: Most werewolves are vegetarian and vampires are just as squeamish at the dentist as everyone else.
    Aggie: You can't tell what's in a monster's heart just by looking at them. I mean, sometimes, some of the slimiest, raunchiest, ugliest little monsters turn out to be the nicest.
  • Dem Bones: The Taxi in Halloweentown is driven by a wisecracking skeleton, Benny.
  • Disappeared Dad: The kids' father, William, had apparently died before the first movie's events.
  • Does Not Like Magic: Gwen and Dylan.
    • Gwen because she admired her muggle husband for getting by without magic. Eventually she gets over it.
    • Dylan because he likes pretending he is a muggle. Eventually he gets over it and uses magic to read faster.
  • Evil Is Hammy: Kalabar in the first film, his son in the second and the Silias Sinister in the fourth.
  • Evil Plan: Kalibar in the first film, his son in the second, the Dominion in the third and fourth films. All of them except the second were Take Over the World plans; that one was Revenge.
  • Flying Broomstick: sold by a zombie who talks like Elvis. There are different molds from the classic broomstick to something that looks like a motorcycle without wheels.
  • For Halloween, I Am Going as Myself: Halloweentown denizens sometimes pull this in order to visit the mortal world. Marnie also dresses as a witch to attend a party in Kalabar's Revenge.
  • Foreign Queasine: A reference is made to maggot cookies in Halloweentown High, and the college cafeteria serves some rather odd-looking dishes in Return To Halloweentown.
  • Geeky Turn-On:
    • In the third movie, Dylan and Natalie bond over their AP classes. His glasses fog up when she gets a high score on his favorite arcade game.
    • In the fourth movie, he is interested in Scarlet Sinister not just for her looks, but also because she speaks Latin the first time he meets her.
  • Halloween Town: Natch.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Luke in the first film and the school principal in the third.
  • Hollywood Nerd: In the first film, Dylan says he doesn't understand why anyone would go trick or treating when there's a perfectly good nature documentary on TV...
  • I Just Want to Be Normal: As seen in the fist movie, this is how Gwen wants her family to be and tries to prevent Aggie from training Marnie as a witch like her. Only Dylan agrees with her and even he uses magic sometimes.
  • Made-for-TV Movie: All have premiered on the Disney Channel. The original was such a surprise hit that it started off the "Movie-a-Month" series that the channel ran for several years.
  • Magic Mirror: Witches can use any reflective surface to communicate with each other. Also, witches' mirrors (which are usually used for communication) can be used to imprison people.
  • Magical Foreign Words: Several of the spells are spoken in Welsh. The spell used to bring Merlin's Talisman to life in Halloweentown is a stanza from a medieval poem.
  • Masquerade: Halloweentown is kept a secret from humans until the end of the third film.
  • Nay-Theist: Gwen and Dylan fully believe in, and are capable of, magic but neither of them likes it. Both waffle in and out of a love/hate relationship with it.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: Marnie. In the first movie she excidetly asks if the spell her grandmother will cast will "bring forth the powers of darkness?" When Aggie says it won't, Marnie is visibly dissapointed.
  • Odd Name Out: Gwen seems like the only surviving witch in Marnie's family whose alias doesn't end with -ie.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: All over the place; in particular they're usually Lighter and Softer.
    • Our Elves Are Better: Astrid, an elf from the second movie, looks and acts pretty human, except for the obligatory ears. She dresses in bright, whimsical outfits and is constantly upbeat.
    • Our Fairies Are Different: A human-sized one with wings appears in the last movie. One of the kids in the third movie looks like a tiny, glowing fairy, but is apparently a wood nymph.
    • Our Genies Are Different: In the fourth movie, one of the college students is a genie who lives in a lamp, but it doesn't appear that she's obligated to grant wishes to anyone. When her lamp is destroyed, Marnie offers to share her dorm with her.
    • Our Ghosts are Different: They can be very depressed creatures and let out ghostly moans. For one, they can sweat and lose weight. Dylan Lampshades how little sense this makes.
    • Our Goblins Are Different: They're pretty human-looking, though pretty ugly. (Oddly, Luke seems to consider himself ugly, even though most other monsters don't use a human standard for appearances.) One goblin in the last movie has a name made up of burps and snorts and drools a lot.
    • Our Ogres Are Hungrier: Actually, they seem pretty indifferent to food. Gort from the second movie looks basically like a Scary Black Man with pointy ears; in contrast, Chester from the third has bright blue skin.
    • All Trolls Are Different: Natalie the troll in Halloweentown High has bright pink skin, a lot of pink hair, and a kind of large nose. Other than that, she looks pretty human. She looks more like a pink-skinned troll doll than a hugely muscled mountain beast.
    • Our Werewolves Are Different: They seem to be permanently in "wolfman" form rather than transforming back and forth; also, most are vegetarians.
  • Robe and Wizard Hat: Mostly robes, but Marnie wears a robe and hat in the second movie.
  • Shared Family Quirks:
    • Kalabar and his son Kal both flirt by presenting their intended with a rose—and, for added similarity, the respective girls are a mother and daughter.
    Marnie: The rose... I should have known when he gave me the rose! Kal... you're Kalabar's son!
    • In the final movie, Gwen knows that Marnie will do her laundry on Wednesday because she did laundry on Wednesday when she was in college.
  • Ship Tease: Marnie and Luke in the first two films, Dylan and Natalie in the third.
  • Spell Book: Grandma Aggie has two.
  • Spider-Sense: Sophie tends to realize more quickly than the others when someone evil is nearby, though she can't always figure out who exactly sets this realization off.
  • Time Travel: Marnie does this in the even-numbered movies.
  • Villainous Breakdown:
    • Kal in the second film looses his cool when his spell is broken, rants about his superiority, and devolves into screams of frustration.
    • His father also had one briefly in the first movie when he bemoans the fact that Gwen chose a mortal man over him, the most powerful sorcerer in Halloween Town. You can tell this really gets to him because this breakdown is actually quiet and subdued, in stark contrast to his usual evil demeanor.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Sophie in Halloweentown High. She was in the beginning of the film, but when the three left for school, she appeared in maybe one other scene. She didn't even get to do any magic or get involved with the fact that her family's powers could be taken away.
    • Also Kal from the second film. He apparently escapes and Luke remarks that "he'll be back." But he never reappears in either of the sequels.
  • Witch Species: Witch powers are passed from parent to child and they live much longer than non-powered humans.
  • Wizards Live Longer: Unless they've had their powers removed. How long do they live? Grandma Aggie was a young woman 1,000 years ago.
  • Wolf Man: In the first movie, a werewolf works as a barber. In the third, one of the transfer students from Halloweentown is a werewolf.
  • Year Inside, Hour Outside: Time passes more slowly in Halloweentown than in the mortal world, though exactly how much more slowly seems to vary between movies.

    Halloweentown 
  • 13 Is Unlucky: According to Aggie, a witch's 13th Halloween is supposed to mark the completion of her training, and a witch who doesn't at least start it by then loses her powers forever.
  • Ambiguously Gay: The werewolf barber has an effeminate manner and tone of voice but he is never seen to be attracted to men.
  • Bait the Dog: Kalabar appears to be an innocent mayor at first, until it turns out he wants to get back at the humans.
  • Conflict Ball: Why would it be so terrible if Marnie went out trick-or-treating? Fortunately, she does get to attend some Halloween parties in the sequels.
  • Déjà Vu: Marnie admits experiencing this sometimes, and wondering if it has anything to do with magic.
  • Eye of Newt: The potion used to power Merlin's Talisman requires the hair of a werewolf, a vampire's fang, and a drop of ghost sweat.
  • Flat-Earth Atheist: Dylan refuses to believe in witches, ghosts, werewolves, and the like, even when he's in Halloweentown, and insists he's dreaming. He gets better in the next film.
  • Incoming Ham: Kalbar loves making a Big Entrance.
  • Magic Bus: Characters travel between Halloweentown and the mortal world on a flying bus.
  • Magic Music: Sophie makes a song out of the incantation used to activate Merlin's Talisman.
  • No Ontological Inertia: Affer the defeat of Kalabar, the spell he cast on Luke to turn him handsome becomes reversed.
  • Obviously Evil: The villain is a ghoul in a black robe. Subverted in that it's only a costume being worn by the town's mayor, Kalabar, who does not seem evil at first glance.
  • Painful Rhyme: Invoked on the writers' part, and lampshaded by Dylan, during Marnie's failed attempt to unlock Aggie's gate:
    Big iron lock that keeps us out, open up your big iron mouth!
  • The Paralyzer: Kalabar freezes several Halloweentown denizens, including Aggie, inside the seemingly-closed movie theater.
  • Parasol Parachute: Aggie uses one to descend from the Magic Bus.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Aggie gives Marnie a medallion with a pentagram, Marnie comments that Lon Chaney [Jr.] also received one in The Wolf Man (1941).
    • Dylan and Marine respectively mention Disneyland, and the eponymous Audio-Animatronic of its Great Moments With Mr. Lincoln show, after Dylan calls Benny an animatronic.
    • Aggie's microwave has buttons for "Toil" and "Trouble".
    • Aggie mentions It's a Wonderful Death as a movie that plays at Halloweentown's theater.
  • Villain with Good Publicity: Kalabar, although he was never revealed as the villain until the movie's climax.
  • Weakened by the Light: Kalabar's powers seem their strongest in darkened areas, such as the inside of the movie theater. The maximum radiance of Merlin's Talisman destroys him.

    Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge 
  • Becoming the Costume: Part of the Evil Plan.
    "With this spell I shall avenge their cruel joke at our expense.... Change them into the creature whose guise they have taken!
  • Beyond the Impossible: For the first and second movie the rule has been iron clad: The door between worlds is only open on Halloween. It will close at midnight and CANNOT be opened until the next year. Marti thinks otherwise and justifies it with this speech:
    "The portal wasn't always there; it was created by magic and no one's magic is stronger than ours!"
  • Collector of the Strange: Gort hoards random things misplaced in either Halloweentown or the mortal world.
  • Color Motif: Kal's "father" loves green.
  • Continuity Nod: There's a bottle of werewolf hair in Grandma Aggie's room. Marnie says that getting it "wasn't easy."
  • Cool Gate: The portal to Halloweentown looks like the entrance to a medieval castle.
  • Crystal Ball: Grandma Aggie uses one to see how things are going in Halloweentown.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: Halloweentown becomes a black and white, ordinary town, as it and its denizens fall victim to the "Grey Spell".
  • Fantasy Counterpart Appliance: "Skull phones" work exactly like interdimensional walkie-talkies.
  • Golem: One made of frogs, no less. Until he's disassembled, he appears to be a normal human.
  • Humanity Ensues: Victims of the "Grey Spell" undergo a Bit-by-Bit Transformation into a color-drained human with mundane interests.
  • It's All My Fault: Marnie has moments of this, since if she never brought Kal into Aggie's room, then he wouldn't have stolen her spell book.
  • Last-Second Chance: Marnie offers one to Kal by telling him that he doesn't have to let his father's hatred determine his decisions. Predictably, he refuses and Marnie foils his Evil Plan. However, she doesn't kill him because he escapes.
  • Late-Arrival Spoiler: Woe to whoever watches Halloweentown after seeing Kalabar's Revenge, or at least an ad for it, since it reveals the villain of the first movie.
  • Never Trust a Title: Kalabar doesn't appear in Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge. Subverted by the fact that his son, Kalabar, Jr. (Kal), is the villain.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: Sometimes Disney promotes the movie with a synopsis that says Sophie re-visits Halloweentown along with Marnie and Aggie. Actually, she spends most of the story in the mortal world, and only visits Halloweentown during the last few minutes.
  • Now Do It Again Backwards: Any spell can become undone by reciting its incantation backwards. For example, the Grey Spell can become undone with the incantation "Trapa", the word "Apart" spelled backwards.
  • Previously On: Kalabar's Revenge begins with Marnie recalling her first visit to Halloweentown, as clips from the first movie play for the viewer.
  • Progressively Prettier: In the first film, Luke was not an attractive goblin. In the second film, his prosthetics were toned down drastically; ostensibly to keep him the Ship Tease with Marnie believable.
  • San Dimas Time: Marnie and Luke have to rush back to the present before the portal between the worlds closes! ...Except they could just travel back a few minutes or even hours earlier and stop the villain before he started his Evil Plan...
  • Sequel Escalation: The villain of this movie threatens both Halloweentown and the mortal world, and Marnie has to make the most of two years' worth of magical training to stop him.
  • Skewed Priorities: After Aggie succumbs to the Grey Spell, she decides stopping Kal doesn't sound as important as helping the Neat Freak Gort pair his sock collection. Worse, an earlier conversation between Aggie and Sophie revealed that said collection consists of every sock that any mortal or Halloweentown denizen lost while drying his or her laundry.
  • Spell My Name with an "S": In the credits and closed captions of the first film, Kalabar's name was spelled "Calabar". The second film changed the C to a K, and IMDb lists the character as "Kalabar". It's speculated by many fans that the reasoning for spelling the sequel's title with a 'K' rather than a 'C' is because the person giving the 'revenge' isn't actually Calabar... it was Kal (possibly short for Kalabar with a 'K'). Either that, or it's just Fan Wank.
  • Stealth Pun:
    • After the Grey Spell turns Benny into a drab, human cabbie, Marnie remarks that last time they met, he was "skin and bones...except for the skin."
    • Aggie asks Marnie if the "World Wide Web" contains any spiders.
  • Strange Secret Entrance: Aggie keeps magical artifacts in a room accessed through a door that only appears when a witch or warlock does a special hand motion.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: The Kalabar's Revenge ads spoiled such plot points as Gwen's date actually being a golem, and Aggie having to free the Halloweentown Pumpkin from a box made of grey bricks.
  • Up the Real Rabbit Hole: Marnie refers to her home dimension, where the muggles live, as the "real world." This is despite the fact that she prefers Halloween Town.

    Halloweentown High 

    Return to Halloweentown 
  • Academy of Adventure: Witch College has a conspiracy and magical relics.
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: The Sinister sisters: Scarlet, Sage, and Sapphire.
  • Alpha Bitch: Three - Scarlet, Sage, and Sapphire.
  • Artifact of Doom: The MacGuffin is not inherently evil, but you know what they say about absolute power.
  • Ascended Extra: A mild version. Ethan (Lucas Grabeel) was a warlock in Halloweentown High who was more of a rival for Marnie (but wasn't on screen any more than any other magical creature), but in the fourth movie, he becomes a love interest for Marnie, probably due to Lucas Grabeel's starring role in High School Musical.
  • Character Development: Dylan, who reveals to Marnie the reason he was able to access in school was because he used magic to become proficient in fast reading. Marnie actually ends up being surprised, since throughout the entire franchise, he acted like magic was the worst thing period.
  • Chromatic Arrangement: Scarlet, Sage, and Sapphire.
  • Dangerous Device Disposal Debacle: Only a Cromwell Witch can use the Gift. Splendora doesn't want the Gift and fully intends to destroy it, but she's incapable of doing it herself because it takes 3 Cromwells to destroy the Gift, so she buries it. 1000 years later, Marnie inherits the Gift, but on Splendora's wishes she, Dylan and Gwen destroy it together. This trope is discussed when one of Marnie's friends doesn't believe she would have actually destroyed the Gift, but would secretly give it to someone she trusts.
  • Demoted to Extra: Grandma Aggie, though a younger version of the character does factor into the plot.
  • Do Not Call Me "Paul": Splendora hates her first name. She eventually decides to go by her middle name, Agatha/Aggie.
  • The End... Or Is It?: Return to Halloweentown ends this way. The ending reveals that Marnie didn't destroy the Gift, which Dylan finds in one of his books. Dylan, knowing full well what will happen if he takes it, immediately closes the book and shoves it back onto the shelf. There, it's revealed that the book has the Sinister Clan's symbol on its binding, which glows ominously before cutting to the credits.
  • Eternal English: The Halloween town of from 1,000 years pre-series uses the same kind of english as present.
  • Homage: Marnie tries various methods to open a locked box, including wiggling her nose and crossing her arms and nodding her head.
  • Identical Grandson: Marnie looks just like her grandmother when she was young.
  • Kid from the Future: Marnie goes back in time and meets a young Grandma Aggie.
  • More Than Mind Control: The Sinister sisters use magic to enhance Dylan's infatuation with them in the fourth film, making him into their veritable slave.
  • Mundane Utility: Dylan only uses magic for one thing: speed-reading.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • The title was based on the original name of the script for Halloweentown II.
    • In the first Halloweentown movie, Aggie mentions that she installed the Halloweentown Pumpkin herself. In "Return to Halloweentown," after Marnie goes back in time and meets her grandmother, she tells her that she's got something Aggie will need...and summons up the Pumpkin. When Marnie leaves, Aggie calmly asks the guards to take the Pumpkin outside
  • Put on a Bus: Sophie is on an adventure of some sort.
  • Requisite Royal Regalia: Splendora and Marnie both wear elaborate royal dresses and a crown. The latter insists upon it.
  • Retcon: Ethan's father was portrayed as a standalone Big Bad in the third movie, but the fourth movie had Ethan claiming that he was a part of that film's council of villains, the Dominion.
  • Stable Time Loop: Marnie goes to the past to get a missing key from Splendora. She gives the key to Marnie, explaining why it was missing. While there Marnie also creates the magic pumpkin.
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Professor Perrywinkle for Grandma Aggie; both of them old, affable, grandmotherly old ladies that take a shine to Marnie.

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