Throughout the month of October, we here at Nerds are sharing our favorite spooky films! Today, I’m tackling the ‘Halloweentown’ films that originally aired on Disney Channel between 1998 and 2004.
When I was a kid, October meant one thing: I’d soon be able to watch my beloved Halloweentown trilogy on Disney Channel. It was the first time I’d fallen in love with not just a character in Marnie Cromwell (Kimberly J. Brown), but also a setting. Halloweentown felt like a place I wanted to live in, with its giant pumpkin square and interesting cast of characters. Even now, revisiting the Halloweentown trilogy gives me a warm feeling not unlike that first Pumpkin Spice Latte sip of the fall. Here’s why I love going back to Halloweentown, and why you should consider making a trip this October (whether alone or accompanied by small children, I won’t judge either way!)
The one that started it all! In the first film, we meet Marnie Cromwell and her grandmother Aggie (played by the incomparable Debbie Reynolds). Marnie has always known that there was something strange about her family. When she follows her grandmother on Halloween, she discovers that she is descended from a long line of real-life witches. She also finds Halloweentown, a place where all the not-so-scary creatures like werewolves and vampires live during the year to avoid persecution by humans. This movie is my favorite of the three. It gives us a courageous heroine in Marnie and introduces us to the hilarious characters from Halloweentown like Benny, the skeleton cab driver. It also contains the best and most quoted line from the whole series, courtesy of Grandma Aggie:
Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge (2001)
In the second film, Marnie and her friends must confront the son of the villain from the first film, who wants to use a curse to turn Halloweentown into a grey world with none of the warmth and fun it is known for. Of the three, it is the least comedic in nature and slightly scarier. However, I loved the message that the qualities that make you “weird” are also the traits that make you yourself, and that dulling that joy to fit in will just make the whole world a less interesting place. It also has a great villain in Kal (Daniel Kountz), who struggles with falling in love with Marnie (after fake falling in love with her) and avenging his father. Fun fact: Kountz and Brown have been dating in real life since 2016, which just makes my childhood nostalgia heart burst with happiness.
Halloweentown High (2004)
This it the last installment that I recognize as canon. The third film focuses on the aftermath of the mortal world being open to the residents of Halloweentown for the first time. As part of a student exchange program proposed by Marnie, several students from Halloweentown go to a normal high school, masquerading as humans. We meet new characters like Cody (Finn Wittrock of American Horror Story) — Marnie’s new mortal love interest — and Natalie the pink troll (Olesya Rulin of High School Musical). We also meet Ethan (Lucas Grabeel, also of HSM), the son of the main villain trying to take away the Cromwell family magic. The movie returns to the fun, magical vibe of the first film, with each Halloweentown resident struggling to live as mortals.
I love the Halloweentown films, and it has become a tradition for me to watch them each year. They’re great for kids, with their message about being yourself and standing up for what you believe in even when it’s hard. The world of Halloweentown feels lived in and comforting. And best of all, Marnie is a heroine with quirks. She’s a funny and brave girl who the audience instantly falls in love with. I highly recommend the Halloweentown trilogy to anyone looking for a light, fun Halloween movie marathon this October!