Sadly Ray Bradbury, one of America’s most well-known and celebrated writers, passed away this year. There are others who have much more appropriate words about the artist who was in no way insignificant to this writer. Bridging science fiction, horror and suspense, Ray Bradbury’s prose was often poetic. Ironically, the 1972 novel, The Halloween Tree was originally planned as screen play for animation icon Chuck Jones. As it turns out, Ray Bradbury adapted and even narrated an animated Hanna-Barbera animated movie in 1992, for which he won an Emmy Award.
If the draw of Ray Bradbury narrating one of his own works in a 70-minute animated movie isn’t enough to pique your interest, the inimitable Leonard Nimoy also lends his voice as the sometimes guide and villain, Moundshroud, to the film. Further cementing the film in sci-fi nerd relevance, the movie was scored by John Debney of Star Trek’s The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine in addition to Doctor Who to name a few. So significant was this story and its author, who had a personal relationship with Walt Disney, that there is now a Halloween Tree in Disneyland itself which is decorated every year.
The made-for-TV Hanna-Barbera The Halloween Tree movie is animated in a style much like Saturday morning cartoons the company did in the early 1990s. That being said the overall story and many sequences, from ancient Egypt, to druidic Britain and the Mexican Day of the Dead festival, are probably too dark for preschool and younger elementary school age children. The tale itself tells about four friends about to meet up with their friend Pip to go trick or treating. Strangely, Pip does not show up and so the three boys and girl rush off to his house to gather him up when they find an ambulance leaving his house and note. Thinking the note may be a prank, they head off to find their friend.
On their way to find Pip, the four friends come across an archetypal haunted mansion. Since it is Halloween and the kids are all in their costumes, they decide to trick or treat at the old house. A Nosferatu-ish man greets them and introduces himself as Moundshroud. Fearless as teenagers are, they ask the stranger, “Trick or treat?” Incensed at the kids’ ignorance of the origins of Halloween, Moundshroud is about to throw them out when they catch a glimpse of Pip in the mansion. This leads to a journey through time and around the world delving into the origins of the holiday and an opportunity for the children to save their friend.
Presented in the previous television standard 4:3 format the Warner Archive transfer of The Halloween Tree is nice and bright. The sound is given the Dolby Digital treatment but isn’t remarkable in anyway except that it’s not bad. There are no extras whatsoever on the disc, which is shame considering the relevance of many of those involved in the project and the recent loss of Ray Bradbury. Maybe one day a more complete package will be offered. Until then Bradbury, Nimoy, Halloween, Sci-fi and horror fans all should have this in their collection if for nothing else, to watch once a year.