The Halloween Tree is a Daytime Emmy Award-winning 1993 feature-length animated television movie produced by Hanna-Barbera based on Ray Bradbury's 1972 fantasy novel of the same name. It tells the story of a group of trick-or-treating children who learn about the origins and influences of Halloween when one of their friends is spirited away by mysterious forces.
The film opens to the voice of a narrator (Ray Bradbury) describing one small town's preparations for Halloween night. Four friends are shown at their respective homes donning costumes excitedly: Jenny as a witch, Ralph as a mummy; Wally as a monster; and finally Tom Skelton as a skeleton. They all hurry so as not be late meeting up with each other and the infamous Pip (described as their communal best friend and as a truly amazing person and friend which the narrator asserts by saying, "Some say that on the day he was born, all the soda pop bottles in the world fizzled over. Pipken, who could yell louder, sing better, and eat more popcorn. Pip, the greatest boy who ever lived"). Jenny, Wally, Ralph and Tom meet up, but Pip is absent. Believing it a trick, as Pip would never miss his favorite holiday, the four head to Pip's home on the edge of town.
They arrive at Pip's house, only to find it bare of decoration, with no pumpkins or bowls of candy set out on the porch, and Pip being loaded into the back of an ambulance, with his parents to ride with him. A note on the door written by Pip explains that he is being rushed off for an emergency with the note saying that he did not want to spoil their Halloween but had to go to the hospital due to something about his appendix (implying that he is in severe need of an appendectomy, an operation he may die without). Pip ends the note telling his friends to continue without him and using his catch phrase, "Ready, set, go!". The four friends feel they cannot start Halloween without him, so they follow the path of the ambulance to visit him at the hospital. Tom suggests they take a short-cut through the woods, which is apparently known for being a frightening place, and Wally nervously remarks it would take them through a dark and eerie ravine.
As they approach it, they see what looks like Pip running through the path which cuts through the ravine. Wally posits he can see right through Pip, but Ralph shrugs it off. Tom, convinced that Pip has designed this elaborate hoax for the four of them, continues on. The group races after Pip through the mysterious and twisting forest path, going deeper into the shadowy ravine. Falling behind Pip along the way, they wind up in sight of a towering and darkened mansion.
After knocking on the door they meet a man named Carapace Clavicle Moundshroud. Moundshroud expresses disappointment that none of the children know what their costumes symbolize. It is revealed that Moundshroud is after the ghost of Pip, whom the protagonists followed to the house. It is also revealed that Pip is after a pumpkin with his face carved into it and escapes with it. Tom begs Moundshroud to let them come and help bring back Pip. Though Moundshroud initially refuses, as they know nothing of the true origins of Halloween, he relents — if they can keep up with him before dawn, then they might just be able to retrieve the pumpkin and get Pip back, while also going on a scavenger hunt of sorts to learn why they are dressed as they are and where Halloween comes from. Moundshroud fashions a giant kite from hundreds of posters from the side of an abandoned barn (with the children serving as the tail) and they begin their pursuit. Pip uses the magic of the pumpkin to travel back over 4,000 Halloweens ago, and the group follows.
This children travel to Halloweens past, learning the significance of and history and tradition behind their costumes. First, they travel to Egypt to learn of the first ever celebration of Halloween called 'The Feast of Ghosts' where family members actually ate dinner with deceased relatives and left food on their doorsteps with lanterns to feed the spirits that had no families, which the children think resembles trick-or-treat traditions. Following Pip's spirit to a tomb, they learn about the Book of the Dead and the significance of mummification. Ralph, pretending to be a re-animated mummy, scares away the priests trying to embalm Pip whose sarcophagus has a baseball, a glove, and a bat on it instead of the traditional rods and serpents. Ralph begs Pip to come back, whispering that Pip is the only one never to make fun of his glasses, but Pip assures him that he never needs to worry about being made fun of, before suddenly disappearing again.
Next, they witness old rituals carried out by Celtic druids and average citizens of the old Celtic world. Mr. Moundshroud cries 'Happy New Year!' and the children learn that Halloween in the western world was once a celebration called Samhain which was the Celts' New Year marking the end of summer and the beginning of winter the darker half of the year a time often associated with human death and that the night of the 31st was not believed to exist in the old year or the new, so spirits who usually took on the form of animals like black cats were believed to be able to return and so people would light bonfires and dress up in animal-like costumes, the tradition of costumes at Halloween, to blend in with the spirits and not be victims of their mischief.
They also come across a field of straw being harvested and made into brooms before encountering a coven of witches who are chanting and celebrating the new year as well; here they learn the origin and myths of witches. Jenny helps the others escape a mob of angry anti-witch villagers by making some of the brooms fly and it is revealed that she fears heights, but the spirit of Pip briefly appears to her as she fears she is going to fall and reminds her that he once talked her down from an apple tree and that she is very brave, braver than she knows, before he disappears in the direction of France.
They travel next to an unfinished Notre Dame Cathedral (which they finish in a matter of minutes with Moundshroud's magic) to learn of the Cathedral's use of gargoyles and demons to ward off evil spirits on the Middle-European celebration of All Soul's Night. The gargoyles are to lure monsters into the shadow of the cathedral or church where they will be defeated and thus the spirits of the departed humans can go on to eternity in peace instead of being taken by a demon or evil spirit. Pip speaks to Wally who climbs to reach a Pip-shaped gargoyle holding his pumpkin. It is revealed that Gargoyles can only speak when wind and water move over their mouths and Wally begs Pip to come with them, reminding Pip that he has been very kind to Wally about his being so awkward, to which Pip reassures him that he is a great friend and not awkward at all; then Pip tells him that he is starting to feel too weak. Pip's spirit then suddenly departs and the group follows southward.
They finally arrive in Mexico, where the significance of 'calacas' or skeletons is revealed. The children see people selling skeleton dolls in costumes, selling toy funeral processions, and going from door to door to get special cookies, sugar candy skulls (calacas dulce), and other treats while picnics and hordes of flowers are taken by happy families to the cemeteries where their families are and candles are lit to allow celebrating all night. They learn that this is called the Day of the Dead. After eating a sugar skull with each of their names on it, the children are told by Mr. Moundshroud that the celebration focuses on being "Glad, oh so glad that you are alive!", and is celebrated as a means of overcoming one's fear of death thereby causing it to lose its power over them in life.
They finally follow Pip, who is growing weak into an old tomb in Mexico, but they are afraid that they are too late to save him. Being brave enough to enter the tomb as the skeletons come to life, Tom makes it out of the tomb without being overtaken by the skeletons which then fell apart. Tom apologized to Pip, admitting that he feels guilty for the whole ordeal because he wanted to lead the group for once. Pip smiles and forgives him promising to let him lead anytime he wants as Tom grabs his hand. But then, Pip's spirit crumbles into the dust and is gone, much to the horror of his friends.
Moundshroud, holding Pip's pumpkin, tells the children they did not make it in time and Pip is now his property, symbolized by Pip's pumpkin. The children, eager to have their friend back, offer a year from each of their lives in exchange for Pip's. Moundshroud accepts the deal and takes a sugar skull with Pip's name on it, breaking it into four pieces, and has each of them eat it to seal the bargain. Pip's spirit is then revived as quickly as possible, and he snatches his pumpkin back from Moundshroud's arms and flies out of the tomb. The group is then immediately teleported home and realize that the ordeal took all night, but was not a dream at all as they first believed.
The children rush to Pip's house once more to see if the entire ordeal was in fact real, and are delighted to see their friend back from the hospital. He recounts the journey as a dream he experienced during surgery. The movie ends with Moundshroud disappearing into a pumpkin shaped like him after he blew out its "one last candle", while the Halloween Tree is assaulted by strong winds, blowing all the pumpkins away into the sky— all except for Pip's pumpkin, which remains on his porch.
|Leonard Nimoy||Mr. Moundshroud|
|Kevin Smets||Pip (as Kevin Michaels)|
|Darleen Carr||Additional Voices|
|Lindsay Crouse||Additional Voices|
|Mark L. Taylor||Additional Voices|