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Western Animation / The Halloween Tree

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He will tell you the true story...

The Halloween Tree is a 1993 TV movie made by Hanna-Barbera, based on the Ray Bradbury novel of the same name.

A group of trick-or-treaters learn about the origins of Halloween as they go on a quest to rescue the soul of their dying friend.

Contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Distillation: Most notably, there were originally eight kids going out for trick or treating this year and all of them were boys. They also condensed it to four different eras of time rather then go to multiple time periods for the eight boys.
  • Adaptational Villainy: In the novel, Moundshroud was the one to suggest the kids pool their years to save Pip, and while he does have some connection to death (or may be Death itself), as the ransom for Pipkin is paid to him, there is no suggestion that he is some sort of debt collector and Pip's dying is due to his attempting to collect said debt.
  • Adapted Out: The animated film omits four trick-or-treaters from the original book: George Smith (who goes as a ghost), J.J. (who goes as an apeman), Fred Fryer (who goes as a beggar), and "Hackles" Nibley (who goes as Death).
  • Actor Allusion: When Pip first makes off with his pumpkin, Moundshroud (who is played by Leonard Nimoy) remarks that finding him will be difficult, because he's almost certainly escaped to "the Undiscovered Country" by now. Granted, the phrase was in the original novel too.
    • "The Undiscovered Country" is an allusion to William Shakespeare's Hamlet, the title character of which describes death as "the undiscovered country." This is also where Star Trek V draws it's name.
  • Animation Bump: The Notre Dame building sequence is very fluid compared to the so-so animation budget.
  • And You Were There: After Pip wakes up alive again, he lets on that he realizes the events in his "dream" really happened.
  • Are You Sure You Want to Do That?: When Tom offers to sacrifice a year of his life for Pip, Moundshroud warns him to think about it and says he might regret this one day.
  • Armor-Piercing Response:
    Moundshroud: Is he worth it, this friend of yours? Hmm?
    Tom: More than you'll ever know.
  • Balancing Death's Books: Each of the kids sacrifice a year of their lives to save Pip.
  • Becoming the Mask: While no-one actually becomes the monster they dress as, Jenny does get to ride a witch's broom.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: As Moundshroud explains he's just a debt collector. He has no personal vendetta against Pip, it's his "rent" that's overdue, and no one has paid for him when the boy is struck down by appendicitis. It begs the question: Who pays the bills for people's souls? Why are they late? And what kind of entity is Moundshroud working for?
  • Chain of People: This happens twice; once when the kids struggle to avoid getting sucked into a haunted house, and again when they form the tail of a giant kite.
  • Character Catchphrase:
    • Wally frequently says '"Oh my gosh!"
    • Pip also has his own catchphrase: "Ready, set, go!" But it isn't as spoken as frequently as Wally's "Oh my gosh!"
  • Covers Always Lie: The home video cover features Pip in the front and center, and while he does drive the story, it's more of a Supporting Protagonist role as his friends are the true protagonists of it. The way Moundshroud hovers menacingly over the kids makes him out like he's sort of villain, but while he has the role of The Grim Reaper it's actually a neutral role and he serves as the four's guide.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: Mr. Moundshroud, is more of a messenger of death who can be reasoned with and only tries to do his job.
  • Edutainment Show: One of the most visually stimulating works with educational value from the 90s, it reveals facts like witches were actually women who were more into obtaining information or having their "wits" about.
  • Everybody Cries: At the end of the animated film, all the children shed tears of joy after seeing that their bargain with Moundshroud succeeded in saving Pip.
  • Fate Worse than Death: Heavily implied for Pip. If he succeeds in evading Moundshroud, he'll be trapped in the real-world, forever dying, and never passing onto the afterlife.
  • Four Is Death: There are four kids, four moments in history, and Pip dies when he's found in a crypt, which is the fourth area of the field trip.
  • Gender Flip: In the original book, the trick-or-treater dressed as a witch was a boy named Henry-Hank. The animated film changes him into a girl named Jenny.
  • The Grim Reaper: Mr. Moundshroud is implied to be a personification of death.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Moundshroud's annoyance at the kids' ignorance of Halloween's origins compels him to bring them along to educate them.
  • Halloween Episode: Takes place during Halloween, but they time travel to important time periods related to their customs.
  • Haunted House: The mansion Moundshround lives in is believed to be one, and it certainly looks the part. The only ghost we see is Pip's, and he's quick to bail.
  • Holy Ground: Moundshround refuses to set foot in Notre Dame at first, making the kids go inside to search for Pip for him. Once it's fully built, he makes the moon vanish behind the clouds, which somehow then lets him go inside.
    • As the cathedral is built, he seems to be specifically avoiding standing it its shadow for some reason, which becomes increasingly difficult as the structure gets larger and its shadow longer. He presumably then blocks the moonlight so that there is no shadow.
  • Honor Before Reason: Tom offers up a year of his life to save Pip and his friends jump in to do the same. The problem is, they do this while Moundshroud seems to be strongly considering Tom's terms alone, which would have rendered the four way sacrifice unnecessary. At the end of the evening, Moundshroud outright says that it's been a very profitable night. It's a touching display of friendship, but not the greatest show of bargaining ability.
  • I Am Spartacus: Tom is the first one to offer a year of his life and his friends follow suit.
  • Informed Attribute: Wally's costume is supposedly a gargoyle/monster, but the only time this is proven is in the beginning with his mask.
  • I Wished You Were Dead: Tom feels guilty because he wished something would happen to Pip so he could lead the gang for once.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Moundshroud. He truly sympathizes with the children and wants to educate them on Halloween traditions (and not to fear their own mortality) but is duty-bound to escort Pip to the afterlife regardless of how the other children feel about Pip passing away.
  • Karmic Jackpot: Moundshroud's decision to educate the children pays dividends; not only are they instrumental in capturing Pip, but their experiences have taught them not to fear death, so they offer up time from their own lives to save their friend.
  • Mummy: Ralph dresses as a mummy using bandages from his father.
  • Narrator: The film is narrated by Ray Bradbury himself.
  • Noodle Incident: Wally accidentally set firecrackers off in his room once and Pip took the blame for it.
  • Nothing Personal: Moundshroud isn't evil. He's just doing his job.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Joseph "Pip" Pipkin is mainly addressed as "Pip".
  • Only One Name: Everyone other than Tom Skelton, Joe Pipkin, and Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud are only given first names.
  • Pet the Dog: Moundshroud congratulates the kids when they figure out the given lesson he is trying to teach.
  • Psychopomp: Moundshroud is implied to carry souls into the afterlife.
  • Soul Jar: Pumpkins serve this purpose, as Pip is trying to hold onto his so he doesn't die.
  • Sir Not-Appearing-in-This-Trailer: Wally, the kid dressed as the gargoyle, is absent from the video poster.
  • The Smurfette Principle: Jenny is the only girl in the group.
  • Tears of Joy: The kids shed happy tears after Pip returns from the hospital alive.
  • Why Did It Have to Be Snakes?: Jenny is shown to have a fear of heights, which she frequently confronts during the Halloween journey. This also initially makes flying on a broomstick difficult for her, until Moundshroud and Tom point out that riding a flying broomstick is somewhat similar to riding her bike.