No new Halloween movies premiered on Disney Channel this October – and that’s just fine.
Cheesy Halloween flicks have been a staple for Disney Channel since the first Disney Channel Original Movie “Under Wraps” premiered in 1997. The movie, which follows three adolescent friends who accidentally reawaken a mummy, was the first of several Halloween-themed films put out by the company in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
The channel has made recent attempts to create new Halloween classics with films like 2015’s “Descendants.” But the newer flicks’ unoriginal casting and mild plot lines cannot compare to the iconic characters and innovative, scary premises that make the early DCOMs irreplaceable.
The scripts of newer Halloween DCOMs like “Descendants” lack ingenuity. The movie tells the story of the preteen descendants of familiar Disney villains like Maleficent and Cruella De Vil, banking on the already successful narratives of previous animated Disney films.
Much like the storyline, the cast of “Descendants” is also borrowed. Dove Cameron, who plays Maleficent’s daughter Mal, also stars in the Disney Channel series “Liv and Maddie.” Cameron Boyce, who plays Cruella De Vil’s son Carlos, starred in Disney Channel’s “Jessie.”
The stories and casts of Disney’s early Halloween DCOMs, however, are entirely their own. The most enduring of these TV movies has been “Halloweentown” and its sequels, which have been broadcast regularly on Disney Channel since the first film premiered in 1998.
In the film, Marnie Piper (Kimberly J. Brown) and her grandmother Aggie Cromwell (Debbie Reynolds) introduced Disney Channel viewers to an alternate dimension of witches, warlocks, goblins, skeletons and ghosts who celebrate Halloween year-round.
Though the world of Halloweentown vaguely resembles that of “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the endearing characters are what sets it apart from other Halloween flicks. Marnie’s determination to become a powerful Cromwell witch in the face of villainous warlocks and gangs of evil knights makes her a strong protagonist worthy of prime time every October.
Marnie’s sidekicks and siblings, Dylan (Joey Zimmerman) and Sophie (Emily Roeske), provide entertaining counterparts to Marnie’s serious nature and strong will. Dylan, who acts as if he couldn’t care less that he was born into a magical family, delivers dry humor that keeps parents amused and balances the series’ overall cheesiness. Sophie’s youthful positivity in the midst of adversity kindles a sense of hope that drives the series forward.
Halloweentown’s mix of personalities strike the perfect family balance between spooky and comical. Its unmatched family appeal has allowed it to survive its creepy contemporaries. However, other Halloween DCOMs like “Don’t Look Under the Bed” and “Phantom of the Megaplex” aren’t shown on the channel anymore, probably due to the channel’s transition from truly scary films to milder plots that play it safe for parents.
Before “Monsters, Inc.” or “Monsters University,” Disney explored the lives of bedroom monsters with the 1999 DCOM “Don’t Look Under the Bed.” The film, which details the lives and motivations of the bogeymen who reside under the beds of its protagonists, offers several scenes that could be potentially scarring for its young target audience.
The image of a monstrous hand pulling a young boy under his bed by his ankles has the capacity to disturb audience members of a similar age to the boy himself.
Though terrifying, exploration of the paranormal in “Don’t Look Under the Bed” is infinitely more intriguing than Maleficent’s daughter’s cliché use of a sleep-inducing spinning wheel. The innovative and sincerely chilling screenplays of older DCOMs deserve more airplay than what they currently receive, while newer DCOMs should be forever banished to DVD.
Disney Channel’s decision to not release a 2016 Halloween DCOM may not be such a tragedy – it doesn’t need another “Descendants” to ruin its Monstober programming.