Remembering Nostalgic Halloween TV Specials

The Muppet Show Halloween Special

I have very fond memories of nostalgic Halloween TV specials when I was a kid. In the late 70’s and all through the 80’s I couldn’t wait to watch TV to find the next Halloween sitcom or cartoon special. Television was so fun back then! We’d get our TV guides and circle all the Halloween episodes that would be on during the week. Sometimes TV shows had a Halloween or spooky theme such as when horror movie icon Vincent Price guest starred on an episode of The Muppet Show. However, it was the Halloween cartoons that aired year after year that really warms my heart now. We never tired of them but waited to watch them each year with great anticipation. Many are so good that today they are considered classics.

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
My favorite Halloween TV special.

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has got to be the crowning jewel of all Halloween specials. I mean for me it doesn’t feel like Halloween without it. Every year in the 80’s this would air on TV. If you missed it, you’d feel regret just like Linus did when he missed seeing the Great Pumpkin rise out of the pumpkin patch on Halloween night.

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Linus nervously awaits The Great Pumpkin with Sally.

Now that I think of it, Linus is just like all of us Halloween fans. We throw in so much sincere emotion and excitement for this holiday then faithfully wait for the big night of scares and trick or treating. Or in my case yard haunting. Others might try to denounce it or say they’re not into Halloween, but that doesn’t distract us from enjoying the holiday and sharing it with others. Much like how Linus is trying to share the experience with Sally, Charlie Brown’s little sister. She’s the only one who believes Linus that the Great Pumpkin might appear.

I have to make a shout out to poor Charlie Brown. Who else do you know gets rocks while the rest of the kids get candy during trick or treating. Evil parents! I always hated that year after year Charlie had to throw those rocks out of his trick or treat bag…the poor guy.

It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

I love how the Peanuts gang attend a Halloween party with all the trimmings. Just look at all those decorations. Witches, pumpkins, skeletons and cats! While they’re bobbing for apples and dancing their feet off Snoopy goes on his mission to bring down The Great Baron. I never quite got what this bit had to do with Halloween but I eventually just grew to accept it as part of the cartoon. After all it’s Snoopy! Joe Cool himself!

Bugs Bunny Halloween Cartoons

Bugs Bunny cartoons were my absolute favorites growing up as a kid. There were so many good ones but my favorites were the ones that were a little on the creepy side (naturally). Witch Hazel was a character originally created for a Disney short. Legendary animator Chuck Jones created his own version of this witch and also named her Witch Hazel. I loved her crumpled black hat, bulbous nose and stick skinny legs. But the best part is every time she plotted to do away with Bugs Bunny she’d dart off while hairpins flew out of her hair and spun in midair. The three cartoons she starred in during the golden age of animation included Bewitched Bunny (1954), Broom-Stick Bunny (1956), and A Witch’s Tangled Hare (1959). She also made an appearances in the Bugs Bunny short Transylvania 6-5000 (1963) and in the cartoon A-Haunting We Will Go (1966).

Broom-Stick Bunny (1956)
Bugs Bunny trick or treating in Broom-Stick Bunny (1956)

In Hyde and Hare (1956), Bugs befriends the timid Doctor Jekyll but soon finds the doctor transforms into the terrible Mr. Hyde. This creature is downright terrifying, even for a cartoon. There’s something very Jack Torrance (from The Shining) about this character. It was pretty scary but I always enjoyed watching Bugs outwit Mr. Hyde.

Hyde and Hare (1956)
Hyde and Hare (1956)

There are probably a few more Bugs Bunny cartoons I’m forgetting but Transylvania 6-5000 is definitely worth mentioning again. In this episode, Bugs is constantly singing and saying the phrases “Abracadabra” and “Hocus Pocus” which transforms a vampire named Count Blood Count back into a bat at the most inopportune moments. It’s probably one of the most hilarious episodes and truly one of my favorites.

Transylvania 6-5000 (1963)
Transylvania 6-5000 (1963)

Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)

Disney's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)
Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)

I absolutely loved Disney’s version of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949). When it would come on TV each Halloween I’d have to see it. It’s so classic to me and is such a fun rendition of Washington Irving’s classic tale. The animation is fantastic and I always hoped Ichabod Crane and his horse would make it through that long covered bridge. Then we see that creepy jack-o-lantern thrown by The Headless Horseman. Poor Ichabod never had a chance.

Trick or Treat (1952)
Donald Duck and his nephews Trick or Treat (1952)

Another Disney cartoon called Trick or Treat (1952) is among my favorites. On Halloween night Donald Duck plays pranks on his three nephews instead of giving them candy. With the help of Witch Hazel, they vow to get even. I just love this episode and especially the song by the same title Trick or Treat sung during the opening of the special.

Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985)

Garfield was a popular comic strip turned cartoon in the 80’s. And the special Garfield’s Halloween Adventure was downright awesome. I loved it. It’s got a great Halloween tone and captures the holiday perfectly. Garfield and Odie are on their way to get as much candy as possible. While trick or treating, supernatural things begin happening. It involves a cool ghost story with a pirate theme. I didn’t know it at the time but it won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program. They also adapted the cartoon into a comic book. I think I still might have it somewhere stashed away in my garage.

After writing about these cartoons I’ve gotten excited to watch them all over again. What were some of your favorite nostalgic TV Halloween specials?

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