With Halloween just a few days away, I figured it was time to break out the big guns. As in the ultimate in Halloween cartoons. The one that everybody looks forward to watching at this time of year. A classic. A cult classic even.
One that truly embodies the spirit of the holiday.
You can’t discuss the first film without bringing up the second, like most good sequels. In truth, I think Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy is the superior movie in terms of plot, simply because there actually is one, but of course the first one has its merits in introducing the audience to the world and characters in a fun way.
If only there were a third movie; I’m not sure what the conflict would be but there are many character interactions I would like to see explored and expanded upon. But I guess that’s what fan fiction is for. (Are there any fan fics for these movies? If there are can somebody give me a link? I am completely curious as to what kinds of situations get explored here. And I’m prepared to be horrified as well. Bring it on.)
Scary Godmother: Halloween Spooktacular is the story of a young girl named Hannah. One Halloween, she is sent to go trick-or-treating with her mean cousin Jimmy. Jimmy has no interest in spending time with her; he only wants to go out with his group of much nicer but severely underdeveloped friends.
Hoping to scare her into going home, they convince her to go into the old abdoned Spook House.
Inside, Hannah comes across the Fright Side, a realm where monsters, witches and ghosts reside and promptly runs into the Scary Godmother, a surprisingly kind and lovely witch who invites Hannah to her Halloween bash. There she meets Scary’s “broomates,” the effeminate Mr. Pettibone who lives in the closet and keeps people’s secrets (I’m not exaggerating at all here) and Bugaboo, a multi-eyed purple monster with huge teeth, who earns his living by hiding under kids’ beds and scaring them.
They all end up getting along fabulously.
Other party guests include the ever-ravenous werewolf Harry, and the royal vampire family: Count Maxwell, his wife Ruby and their son Orson who is somewhere around Hannah’s age and the precursor (and much better version) to the vampire boyfriend popularized just a few years later. The two kids quickly bond.
They party, and have fun dancing and eating. There’s some conflict when Harry eats all the snacks and the vampires originally thinking Hannah was a snack, but nothing that isn’t fixed within a few minutes. In fact, there’s not much conflict besides Hannah getting over her fears and Jimmy being a terrible relative.
Eventually, her new friends decide to help her get her revenge and scare Jimmy and his friends despite karma already biting them in the butts as by waiting for Hannah (and apparently never seeking help when a six-year-old never exited from an abandoned house) they never got to go trick-or-treating
Scary gives Hannah a magical key that will allow her to visit the Fright Side whenever she wants, and everybody lives happily ever after.
Until the sequel that is where it becomes clear that Jimmy is now suffering from PTSD.
In Scary Godmother: The Revenge of Jimmy, Jimmy has become so utterly traumatized that he decides he needs to stop Halloween from coming so that he won’t be scared again. He’s so traumatized that when he comes up with this idea, he grins for so long that his face freezes in a horrifying distorted grin which is easily the scariest thing in the series.
Meanwhile, Hannah is happy. She has made friends with Jimmy’s clique and is excited to go trick-or-treating again. She even seems to be in contact with some of her Fright Side friends; after a visit from Bugaboo, she goes to see Scary Godmother.
There she discovers the Fright Side is in trouble due to Jimmy’s vandalism in a desperate attempt to prevent Halloween from coming. With each new act, the Fright Side is in danger of being wiped out of existence but Hannah keeps finding ways to keep the holiday going even with defaced costumes and destroyed pumpkins.
It gets to the point where the holiday disappears all together and the residents lose some of their most important characteristics: Scary loses her color, Mr. Pettibones falls apart, the vampires become human… But luckily, Hannah finds a way to restore the holiday. Through the power of optimism.
Seriously. She’s just like: “Oh! The Spook House is covered in toilet paper. We can pretend it’s ghosts!” That solves everything.
Afterwards, the whole human gang is invited to celebrate Halloween on the Fright Side .Jimmy tries to ruin the holiday once more, by stealing the prize for Best Costume but then is announced winner by Scary Godmother. He is restored back to his old self and everyone lives happily ever after.
It’s not a strong or very creative conflict, but there’s more than the previous film. The characters don’t develop much either. There could have been a whole lot more done with Jimmy’s character, but the biggest difference is now there’s an explanation to his terrible behavior. We also learn that Bug-A-Boo and Hannah still talk; his job allows him to visit her quite often. But we don’t learn a lot about Jimmy’s friends.
Hannah is slightly more developed in that the events of the previous movie have allowed her to become more confident but there’s not much else.
Like the previous film, the animation isn’t the best. Personally, I think that 2-D would have suited the films better, with the designs more inspired by the books’ artwork. (Yes, the movies are based on books) But apparently, the author wanted the films to be computer animated; I’m doing 2D. Nobody else should be doing 2D, just me,” she said once in an interview. The backgrounds, though, do resemble those in the books.
I will say I love it when animated movies keep the same style as their comic or illustrated sources; I think it makes the transition more cohesive and keeps the identity of the story in check. But I suppose attitudes in 2006 were different, and the style in the movies is unique.
But, I think that’s part of the series’ charm. It’s not a masterpiece of cinema or animation history. There is absolutely nothing about these movies that is unique or contributes anything to the medium of animation or to anything at all. But, I love them because they bring me back to my childhood and that’s all that really matters here.
I also think part of the charm is in how well it embodies the ideals and uniqueness of Halloween, especially the childhood nostalgia of the holiday.
The duology embodies all the best parts of Halloween, for kids: it’s all about trick-or-treating, candy, Jack O’ Lanterns, friends and friendly monsters. It’s all the parts about Halloween from childhood, complete with candy trading, childhood crushes, combined with the childhood fantasy of saving the day. It’s great!.
Sure, it’s a pretty Americanized experience and it’s weird how the existence of the Fright Side is literally dependent on Halloween being celebrated in what is probably to be one small town in the Midwest, but who cares?
The movies are entertaining; there had to be a reason why they left such an impression on me.
And while they may not totally hold up or be comparable to many good animated films or movies today but it’s one of those things that when you watch it you’re instantly transported to third grade Halloween night, feet and arms achy from a night of candy spread out in front of you ready to be traded.
Simpler cartoons for simpler times.
And that’s the scoop!
Scores*: Scary Godmother: Halloween Spooktacular: 6/10
The Revenge of Jimmy: 7/10
If you enjoyed this review read : April and the definitely weird, out of the ordinary world.
Length: 46-47 minutes
Available for viewing: Youtube, DVD
Director: Ezekiel Norton (both),
Story by: Jill Thompson
Writers: Heath Corson (Spooktacular) Ian Boothby (Revenge)
Voice Actors: Dexter Bell, Garry Chalk, Britt Irvin, Alexander Ludwig, Britt McKillip, Scott McNeil, Nathan Tipple, Tabitha St. Germain, Richard Warke,