Nostalgia and a message make Halloweentown a winner every year


While Hocus Pocus combines creepy and comedy, Halloweentown relies on a broader range of characters and a deep message–and it does just fine.

The Halloweentown series follows the story of Marnie Piper, a teen who loves all things Halloween despite her mother’s refusal to even acknowledge the holiday. On her 13th Halloween, Marnie learns from her grandmother, Aggie Cromwell (played by the late Debbie Reynolds) that she’s a witch and begins her magical training.

Marnie uses her powers to overthrow Halloweentown’s corrupt mayor Kalabar and his son Kal–who both seek to dominate both worlds and punish the humans who mock them.

In the great Culturess Halloween movie debate, Halloweentown easily tops Hocus Pocus. Why? Well, let’s step through the nostalgia portal and find out — don’t worry, we’ll be back before midnight!

(Note: For the purpose of this article, I’ll only be talking about the original Halloweentown and Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge)

Dynamic Characters

A big part of what makes Halloweentown great are the main and supporting characters: Marnie Piper and her family. 

For example, Marnie comes from one of the most powerful magical families in existence but she’s still a kid. Marnie can be snarky, boy-crazy, forgetful and irresponsible. What else do you call letting a stranger into your grandmother’s room where she keeps her spell book?

Despite her flaws, Marnie always does the right thing and her goals are noble. She wants Halloweentown and the mortal world — the two halves of her identity — to coexist peacefully. Marnie’s no Harry Potter, but she’s way more engaging than the hero of Hocus Pocus, Max. Let’s be honest, Max spends half the film moping about moving and salivates over his love interest, Allison, for the other half.

I absolutely adore any scene with Aggie, Marnie and Marnie’s mother, Gwen. The three women are on a spectrum.  Aggie is on one end, believing that magic makes everything easier and remaining unshakably devoted to Halloweentown. Meanwhile Gwen wishes for complete normalcy, and Marnie falls right in the middle. Marnie’s desire for peace between her mother and grandmother mirrors her desire for harmony among the mortal world and Halloweentown.

Dylan and Sophie, Marnie’s siblings,  show the difference between trying to repress magical powers and letting them flourish. Admittedly, because Dylan’s the only “normal” family member, there isn’t a whole lot to say about him. However, Sophie completely wins the little sister contest over Dani. In Hocus Pocus, Dani is bratty and ends up needing to be rescued most of the time. Meanwhile, Sophie’s quick-witted and insightful, and she’s already better at remembering spells and controlling her powers than Marnie.

Halloweentown gets hit by two smooth criminals

 Kalabar and Kal are two of the smoothest and most charming villains to appear in a Disney movie since Hades in Hercules. Their disingenuous personalities made them more realistic and threatening than the clumsy and argumentative, Sanderson sisters. Kalabar was just like any slimy politician, using his power and influence to live above the law and get what he wants.

Kal, meanwhile, fits right into the bad boy archetype. He can sweet talk his way out of any situation, or into a secret chamber as it were. Kal also becomes a bit of a tragic character at the end of Kalabar‘s Revenge. He’s a product of his father’s extreme hatred and doesn’t know any other way. Despite seeing that good triumphs over evil and Marnie’s desire to help him, Kal can’t overcome his intolerance because it’s all he understands and it ultimately causes his downfall.

Which brings me to my final point:

Halloweentown has a message to boot

What really sells me on Halloweentown, is its message. In fact, for a DCOM, the Halloweentown  series is actually pretty deep.

In the films, the residents of Halloweentown are an oppressed group who were relegated to their own world due to humans’ fear of them. Despite being reviled most of the year, the denizens of Halloweentown still see humans mocking their traditions and appearance every Halloween.

I’ll be honest, for a movie that references themes around segregation and cultural appropriation, Halloweentown  leaves a lot to be desired diversity-wise. Gort, the messy troll in Kalabar‘s Revenge, is the only Black character that I remember having a speaking role, and the problematic sombrero costume Dylan wore to the dance also left a bad taste in my mouth.

I’d like to think Disney Channel has evolved since then. Nonetheless, the themes of intolerance and allowing ignorance to skew your perception of reality are definitely there and both of those ideas remain universal and relevant today.

So if you’re looking for a movie that combines laughs, magic, an important theme and winning characters, look no further than Halloweentown. Halloweentown is a world where witches’ brew is instant and comes in a box, skeletons drive taxis, and even the most cynical of brothers can tap into the power of magic. It’s not a typical Halloween movie by any stretch of the imagination but, let’s be honest…

Next: At Halloween, Hocus Pocus reigns supreme over Halloweentown

Do you have your favorite Halloween movie? Let us know in the comments below!