There once was an animated Halloween TV special from the late ‘70s, which aired yearly until the mid-‘80s, that shook me to the core and managed to take up residence in the attic of my brain. Its ghoulish cartoon characters spooked me for years. And that movie was “Witch’s Night Out.”
It wasn’t necessarily the story that frightened me, so much as the John Carpenteresque synthesizer score coupled with the trippy animation (think: Peter Max artwork, but only with more LSD) and the way that the spindly Witch was drawn—her facial expression always contorted to fall somewhere between a ghoulish grin and a scowl (think: most of Marilyn Manson’s poses).
The storyline goes as follows: it’s Halloween. There’s a misunderstood witch (voiced by SNL’s Gilda Radner) who lives in a town where everyone disregards her. All she wants to do is fit in and feel needed (this is her big night, after all). Meanwhile, thinking that her mansion is abandoned, some townspeople decide to use it as the location of the town’s Halloween party.
Across town two young kids, Small and Tender, lament to their babysitter, Bazooey (yes, these are their actual names), that they want to turn into the REAL scary monsters that they dressed as for trick-or-treating. Hearing their requests, the Witch arrives to grant their wishes to become a wolfman and a ghost. Their unwitting babysitter gets turned into a Frankenstein. The kids are excited and the Witch is elated to be of-use. She demonstrates how her magic wand can easily change them back, and then she brings the trio back to her mansion for some good-time fun, scaring the party-goers.
Well, the guests get scared alright, to the point where everyone flees in terror. During their stampede someone makes off with the Witch’s wand, making it impossible for Small, Tender, and Bazooey to change back to their normal selves. They all set off to find the missing wand, while the townspeople set off to try and find the kids! Mayhem ensues. I won’t ruin the ending for you, but I WILL say that there’s a disco dance party involved (this cartoon was made in the 1970s, natch).
So, does “Witch’s” creepiness hold up, some 30 years later? I think so. I still find the way that the witch is drawn to be mildly disturbing. On the flip side, I’m now able to appreciate the nuances in the script—some of the dialogue was clearly written for the benefit of adult/parental viewers, and went over my head as a child.
“Witch’s Night Out” is only half an hour and definitely worth the watch. I tracked down my own DVD copy of it a few years ago, as someone was selling it online as a double-feature disc, and couldn’t wait to watch it again. (The other movie was “The Halloween That Almost Wasn’t” starring Judd Hirsch as Count Dracula. As in dressed AS Dracula, not the voice OF Dracula. Live-action. Seriously. This exists. My thoughts on that to come…).
In the meantime, check out “Witch’s Night Out,” and its catchy theme song, in its entirety here: