Sunday, October 24, 2021

31 Days of Scary Movies: “Witch’s Night Out” (1978)

 It was time for “Witch’s Night Out,” yesterday night. The 1978 Canadian animated television special looms high in the haunted hearts of many children of the 70s, 80s and early 90s, when this was heavily played on TV. It was extremely formative for yours truly, and while in more recent years DVD releases and fanfare has seen this gem recognized, it still has not been given its just credit in my book.


The plot of the half hour special is simple, the animation zany and kooky, the theme song spooky and the voice talent brilliant. Led by Gilda Radner as the title witch—a Norma Desmond like character who has been forgotten by the world, no one connecting with the real magic and witches of Halloween anymore—the case also includes the great Catherine O’Hara (seen previously in the film project as the voice of the Frankenstein’s monster Sally from “A Nightmare Before Christmas) as the aptly named Malicious. Gilda’s witch is legendary, and her voice performance is absolutely a result of that. Her comedic timing, in just her voice work and adapted by the animators is something special, and always beautiful to watch. As her Witch gets her groove back, which consists of loosing her wand and finding it again, all while teaching everyone in town the true meaning of Halloween—that for one night a year you can embrace the darkness and be whatever you want—will never not be perfect.


I don’t know if there is a year I have been alive that I have not watched this, but among what stood out the most to me this viewing was, as always, just how detailed and beautiful Jonathan Rogers’ animation is. While some of the characters don’t have detail beyond colors (until they learn the meaning of Halloween and are transformed, that is), the scenery—the Witch’s abandoned haunted house, the woods, even the town—are so beautifully drawn and painted and an absolute love letter to all that is Halloween. Here’s to the true October classic, “Witch’s Night Out.”

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