October 17, 1998 – The Disney Channel Original Movie Halloweentown Premieres
“Halloween is cool, nature boy. I mean, it’s exciting, strange, and ancient.”
On October 17, 1998, the Disney Channel Original Movie Halloweentown premiered. The film was very popular, and became a franchise for the Disney Channel, with three other sequels released: Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge, Halloweentown High, and Return to Halloweentown. Although later stylized as “Kalabar,” there are several instances where the character’s name is spelled “Calabar.” The film was written Paul Bernbaum, Jon Cooksey, and Ali Matheson, and directed by Duwayne Dunham. It stars Kimberly J. Brown as Marnie, Debbie Reynolds as Aggie, Judith Hoag as Gwen, Joey Zimmerman as Dylan, Emily Roeske as Sophie, and Robin Thomas as Kalabar.
The film begins on Halloween night, and Marnie Piper is arguing with her mother, Gwen, about how Gwen forbids her children to go out trick-or-treating or attend any parties. Marnie’s siblings Dylan and Sophie also wish to go outside, but while Gwen apologizes, she refuses to explain why she won’t let her children go outside. Outside, a strange bus flies through the air, and drops off an old woman at the corner, who is followed by a carpet bag. She appears at the Pipers and is revealed to be Gwen’s mother, Aggie, and surprises her grandchildren with a bagful of candy, along with some other presents. She remarks to Gwen that this is Marnie’s thirteenth Halloween, but Gwen refuses to acknowledge her mother. After the kids get ready for bed, Aggie tries to convince Gwen to move home, but Gwen refuses to live with her. Aggie then tells the kids a story about a magical place called “Halloweentown,” and shows the kids a picture book of the place. Marnie then sees an image of a witch that looks like herself in the book, and wishes she were a witch. Just as Aggie is about to say something important, Gwen interrupts her, and Aggie sadly realizes that she has to leave.
In the kitchen, Gwen and Aggie argue about Marnie, with Aggie angry that Marnie hasn’t had any of her witch training, and will soon lose any powers she had. Marnie sneaks downstairs and discovers that her grandmother is a witch. Aggie then reveals that she came to ask Gwen for help, as something bad is happening at home, suspecting that someone is returning them to the Dark Times. Gwen refuses to help, stating that it’s nothing to do with her. Marnie rushes upstairs and tells Dylan what she’s found out, and they see Aggie walking out with her bag following her. Marnie then decides to go after her, with Dylan following her as well. The two see a bus appear, and quickly board through the back without anyone noticing. Once they arrive in Halloweentown, the two quickly follow their grandmother, but are distracted by all the strange and wonderful surroundings and people. The two are soon surprised to see Sophie, who followed them onto the bus without them knowing.
The three run across the Mayor of Halloweentown, Kalabar, who happens to be a warlock, and somehow knows their mom. He helps them get to Aggie’s by the use of a skeleton cab driver named Benny. Marnie then tries to unlock the door with any powers she has, but fails. Sophie is able to unlock the door by wishing the lock was a frog. Inside, Aggie senses that her grandchildren are coming, and is not surprised to see them. She allows them to stay until midnight in their world, which could be anywhere between two days or two weeks, and then agrees to help train Marnie. She shows the kids Merlin’s Talisman, which should help get rid of the bad thing threatening Halloweentown. She has the kids help her gather the ingredients for witches brew, but they have to do it carefully. Meanwhile, back in the mortal world, Gwen is still unaware that her children are gone, and when she goes to check on them, she realizes there’s only one place they could have gone when she finds them missing.
Aggie takes them through the town, explaining how Halloweentown came to be. They run across Kalabar again, and Aggie tries to explain the situation to him. Kalabar apologizes to Aggie about not believing her before, but asks her to leave the situation be until he can get a good handle on it. Marnie then discovers the broomsticks, and Aggie agrees to buy her one. Unfortunately, the bonding moment is ruined by a local punk named Luke, who wants to take Marnie out on a date, but Marnie turns him down flat. He threatens them before leaving, and Marnie returns to her task at hand: buying a broomstick. Aggie takes Marnie for a ride on the broomstick, and when they land, they find Gwen waiting for them. Gwen demands that they go home, but Marnie refuses to go, and wants to get her training from her grandmother. Gwen refuses to let Marnie get her training, stating she was born in the human world, and human is what she will be. Marnie finally goes with her mother, but is angered that she will lose her powers forever. Aggie is upset to be torn away from her family.
As they wait for the bus, Marnie proclaims that she will never speak to her mother again. Fortunately for Marnie, the bus won’t be available for several hours. Dylan offers to go see the mayor to take them home, and Gwen agrees. When they arrive, Kalabar flirts with Gwen, as he has had feelings for her for a long time. Meanwhile, Aggie wanders dejectedly through town, when she is accosted by Luke. His powerful friend knows that she has Merlin’s Talisman, and Luke offers to take Aggie to meet this creature that is causing the problems in Halloweentown. Marnie continues to argue with her mother about her being a witch, when Sophie sees Aggie walking with Luke. Marnie rushes out to help her grandmother, and the rest of the family follows to stop her. Aggie is taken to the closed-down movie theater, where she meets the Shadow Creature, who has taken residents of Halloweentown and freezes them in time until he needs them to help bring back the Dark Ages. She refuses to hand over the Talisman, and he decides to freeze her as well. Luke is alarmed, as the Shadow Creature had promised that Aggie would be safe. When Marnie and her family arrive, Luke is ordered to attack them, but he flees instead. Gwen is hit by the creature’s spell when she tries to protect Aggie, and Aggie is finally frozen. Aggie, with her last bit of strength, asks Marnie to go and save Halloweentown.
On their own, the kids try to come up with a plan to save their mother and grandmother, beginning with the collection of ingredients to create witches brew. They first head to hairdressers to collect some hair of a werewolf, then to a gym to get some sweat from a ghost, and finally a dentist to get the fang from a vampire. As they leave, they come across Benny again, who offers to give them a ride. Sophie senses that he’s possessed by the “bad thing,” and they are able to escape his clutches by sending a dog after him. They make the witches brew and place it in the talisman, but Marnie forgets the spell needed to make it light up. Sophie is able to remember the words, as she thought it was pretty enough to make into a song. With Sophie’s help, the two recite the spell, but nothing happens. However, Marnie remembers her grandmother’s words on magic, which is to want something and then let yourself have it. The two try again, and the Talisman lights up. The kids then head out to the movie theater, with Marnie taking her grandmother’s cloak with her. Marnie soon deduces that they need to put the Talisman in the giant pumpkin in the town square.
As Marnie heads to the pumpkin, she is stopped by Luke, who warns her it’s a trap. She doesn’t listen to him, but he pleads that he didn’t know that the Shadow Creature was going to attack her grandmother, that the creature just wanted the talisman, and he’d let Aggie go. Suddenly, a dark cloud appears over city hall, and Luke hides Marnie behind a hay bale. The Shadow Creature appears on the roof of city hall, and reveals his plan of taking over the mortal world, bringing the monsters back to where they used to live. The creature then reveals himself to be Kalabar, and he promises to reclaim the mortal world for the creatures of Halloweentown, so long as they stop Marnie Cromwell from stopping him. He attacks Marnie as she runs through the crowd, and when he pulls away the cloak, he finds he has been tricked, as Luke was acting as a diversion while Marnie went to place the Talisman in the pumpkin. Kalabar hits her with freezing power, but as Marnie lies on the top of the pumpkin, she uses the last of her strength to place the Talisman, and the pumpkin lights up with power, freeing everyone frozen in the movie theater. Gwen and Aggie rush out to the town square, and Marnie rejoins her siblings.
Kalabar retreats to the steps of city hall, weakened. When Gwen asks him why, Kalabar proclaims that Gwen could have had him, but she chose a human instead, and then he steals the Talisman. Aggie and Gwen use their power to stop him, but aren’t powerful enough. Marnie notices power coming out of Dylan’s fingertips, and he is dismayed to find he is a warlock. The entire family joins hands, using their power to stop Kalabar and destroy him. The Talisman is then returned to Aggie, and is once again placed in the pumpkin where it belongs. Marnie then runs to find Luke, who has lost his good looks once Kalabar was destroyed. Marnie then gives Luke a kiss, telling him that she liked him when he agreed to help her. Marnie then has to return to the mortal world with her family, but Gwen surprises the family by asking Aggie to live with them, which she agrees. Gwen surprises Marnie further by telling her that she will be finishing Marnie’s training. The Pipers then leave a grateful Halloweentown as heroes.