Promotional poster
Screenplay by
  • Paul Bernbaum
  • Jon Cooksey
  • Ali Matheson
Story byPaul Bernbaum
Directed byDuwayne Dunham
ComposerMark Mothersbaugh
Country of originUnited States
Original languageEnglish
  • Ron Mitchell
  • Brian Pogue
CinematographyMichael Slovis
EditorMartin Nicholson
Running time84 minutes
Production companySinger-White Entertainment
Budget$4 Million[1]
Original release
NetworkDisney Channel
ReleaseOctober 17, 1998 (1998-10-17)

Halloweentown is a 1998 Disney Channel Original Movie directed by Duwayne Dunham. The first installment in Halloweentown series, it stars Debbie Reynolds, Kimberly J. Brown, Joey Zimmerman, and Judith Hoag.[1] It is the fourth Disney Channel Original Movie. It centers on Marnie, who learns she is a witch on her 13th Halloween and is transported to Halloweentown—a magical place where ghosts, ghouls, witches, and werewolves live apart from the human world, but she soon finds herself battling wicked warlocks, evil curses, and endless surprises.


Widowed mother, Gwen Piper, always refuses to let her kids Marnie, Dylan and Sophie go out on Halloween. Gwen's mother Aggie shows up for her annual Halloween visit. The children are happier to see Aggie than Gwen is, as Aggie openly encourages the children to get more involved in Halloween. Aggie and Gwen are secretly witches, but Gwen is determined to live a normal life as a mortal instead.

Aggie reads the children a bedtime story called "Halloweentown", about a mystical place where witches, vampires and monsters live in peace away from mortals. Sophie points out a drawing of a witch in the book that resembles Marnie; Aggie does nothing to stop Marnie from imagining such a thing. Gwen and Aggie get into an argument as Marnie eavesdrops. Gwen is angry that her mother encourages the children to enjoy Halloween, and insists Marnie will be raised as a mortal, like her father was, and not a witch. Aggie wants to train Marnie before she turns 13, as at this point without training, she would lose her powers. Aggie then asks Gwen for help; citizens of Halloweentown have been disappearing, and while Gwen suggests the missing have simply moved, Aggie believes that foul play is involved.

When Aggie leaves to return home, Marnie and Dylan covertly follow her. They see Aggie getting onto a magical bus, and sneak onto it and arrive in Halloweentown. Marnie and Dylan realize that Sophie had snuck onto the bus with them. The three begin looking for Aggie, and are approached by Kalabar, the mayor of Halloweentown, who gets them a cab driven by Benny, a skeleton who tells corny jokes. The children find their grandmother's mansion, and Aggie decides not to take them back to their home immediately. She says she will start Marnie's witch training, but has to take care of "the bad thing" first: in her cauldron, a vision of a hooded figure appears, laughing maniacally. She says she must activate Merlin's talisman with a spell and potion to defeat the evil creature.

Failing to light the talisman with "instant" potion, Aggie takes the children to town for ingredients. The family encounter Luke, a goblin who was made a handsome human by a "shadow creature". He makes a clumsy pass at Marnie, which she turns down. Gwen arrives in Halloweentown to retrieve the children, to Marnie's objections. Gwen cannot find another bus back to the mortal world and sees the mayor for help. She is shocked to see that the mayor is Kalabar, an ex-boyfriend of hers. However, Kalabar leaves to handle another problem but says he'll help when he returns. Gwen and her children see Aggie walking somewhere with Luke. Sensing Aggie might be in trouble, they follow Luke and her to an abandoned movie theater.

Aggie meets the hooded demon in the theater, where the missing Halloweentown citizens have been frozen in time. Aggie declines to give the talisman to the demon. Gwen and the children enter the theater as Luke rushes out in fear. The demon freezes Gwen and Aggie. The children escape, and obtain the necessary ingredients - the hair of a werewolf, the sweat of a ghost, and a vampire's fang - to make the potion that will activate the talisman. They then realize they must place the talisman in the large jack-o'-lantern in the center of the town to defeat the demon.

When they arrive to install it, the demon appears and reveals himself to be Kalabar, who is bitter that Gwen married a human instead of him. He tries to persuade the townspeople to join him in taking over the mortal world. With Luke's help, Marnie climbs onto the jack-o'-lantern and tries to place the talisman inside, but Kalabar casts a spell to freeze her. As she is about to pass out, Marnie drops the talisman inside the jack-o'-lantern, which causes it to illuminate. This unfreezes her and everyone trapped inside the theater, and weakens Kalabar. The children are reunited with their mother and grandmother. Kalabar obtains the talisman and says he will use it to become the ruler of both the mortal and magical world. Dylan is revealed to have magic powers and joins Gwen, Aggie, and his sisters in defeating Kalabar. Luke is restored to his goblin appearance, though receives a kiss from Marnie on the cheek.

Aggie decides to stay in the mortal world to spend more time with her grandchildren and Aggie and Gwen decide to train Marnie as a witch, and they get on the bus and blast off into the mortal world.




Steve White was the head of NBC's 'Movie and Miniseries' department in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1986, White left the company to establish his own production company, Steve White Entertainment.

The Wonderful World of Disney, which had been airing on NBC since 1988, was a sought-after property, and ABC wanted to return to the network.[2] NBC agreed to reliquish the rights to ABC on the condition that Walt Disney Television produced six movies for NBC in return.

In 1991, Sheri Singer, senior vice-president of TV movies[3] for Walt Disney Television, was assigned to collaborate with White on movies to fulfill the contract with NBC.[4]

After working together, they began dating and in 1993, Singer and White married. White shared a comment with Singer from his daughter: "I don't know where to go with this, but my daughter said to me, 'Dad, where do all the creatures from Halloween go the rest of the year when its not October 31?'"[5] Dubbed Halloweentown the concept was pitched to NBC as part of the movie deal, and the network greenlit the project.[5] With the green-light, Singer and White approached screenwriter Paul Bernbaum to write the script.[6] Bernbaum took inspiration from his own life, and used the names of his children, Marnie, Dylan, and Sophie as the protagonists. The first draft of the film was geared towards an adult demographic.[6] In 1994, the script was presented to NBC, and the network decided to pass on the project.[5] Singer ended up leaving the Walt Disney Company at the end of January 1994.

In 1997, Singer and White established Singer/White Entertainment,[3] and returned to the idea of Halloweentown. The duo pitched it to Disney Channel, who initially passed on the project as well. The executives at the network changed their mind after they aired Under Wraps, which was well received. The network returned to Singer/White Entertainment and the film was redeveloped into more of a children's film.[5]

In a 2018 interview with Insider, director Duwayne Dunham revealed the film was presented to him as a "$20 million to $30 million project" — but the budget ended up only being $4 million.[1][7]


After receiving the go ahead from Disney Channel, Singer/White Entertainment began casting. The first person cast for the film was Debbie Reynolds, who at the time had just decided to venture into television work. A list of actors were purposed to Singer/White, and Sheri Singer said: "When we saw the list, we took one look at her name and said, oh my god, would she really do it? This is absolutely unbelievably blessed and terrific idea for casting... We never went to anyone else".[5]

In September 2016, Kimberly J. Brown recalled her audition for the film which she had to react to the conversation where it's revealed the character Marnie is a witch.[8] Brown read for the role twice before being cast.[9]

In a 2020 Galaxy Con question-and answer panel, Judith Hoag revealed she had a meeting with the head of Disney Television where she read for the part. Hoag, who had previously played April O'Neil in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles said: "I kind of knew in the room that I had gotten the job because his son was a die-hard Ninja Turtle fan".[10]

According to Singer, the hardest role to cast was that of antagonist Kalabar, "...he had to be scary-but-Disney-Channel-scary".[5] Robin Thomas, who had previously worked with White on Amityville Dollhouse was brought in to audition, and was the final choice.


After Kimberly J. Brown was cast as Marnie, artists used a photo of her to create the "Halloweentown" book prop. The image of the witch flying across the page needed to resemble the actress.[11]

The initial ending of the film featured Marnie traveling deep into an enchanted forest to place the talisman. With each step the character was supposed to grow older the deeper into the forest she went, the make-up department took a life-mask of Kimberly J. Brown to make the different prosthetics to age Marnie. Before the make-up process was completed, the ending was rewritten, with Marnie placing the talisman in the Jack-o'-lantern.[12][11]


Halloweentown was filmed in St. Helens, Oregon,[13] and Scappoose, Oregon from May to June 1998, across 24-days.[1] The 'Nob Hill Riverview' bed and breakfast in Saint Helens was used for exterior shots of Aggie Cromwell's Halloweentown home.[11] The voice of the skeleton Benny was added in post-production; as a result, the actors on set were performing opposite a voice-less animatronic.[8]

While filming a dance scene in the theater, Debbie Reynolds pulled a muscle.[5] Singer went on to say how impressive it was for the young actors on set to see what a "real work ethic" was.

The final scene shot during filming was of Marnie and Aggie flying. The flying scenes took a day to film, capturing the actors in front of a blue-screen.[14]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 83% based on reviews from 6 critics, with an average rating of 5.7/10.[15]

Complex magazine ranked Halloweentown as number nine on its "The 40 Best Disney Channel Original Movies" list.[16] Katie Heaney for BuzzFeed called the first three films one of the best things about Halloween.[17]


Halloweentown was followed by three sequels: Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge in 2001, Halloweentown High in 2004 and Return to Halloweentown in 2006.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Guerra, Julia; Clair, Fiona (October 2018). "21 interesting things you probably didn't know about 'Halloweentown'". Insider.com.
  2. ^ Stevenson, Richard W. (February 23, 1990). "At Disney, Still One Elusive Goal: The booming studio lags in TV production". The New York Times. Vol. 139, no. 48155. New York, NY. p. D1. ProQuest 108432282.
  3. ^ a b "Profiles on Producer Sheri Singer". November 7, 2002. Archived from the original on September 28, 2022. Retrieved September 28, 2022.
  4. ^ Goldman, Kevin (September 5, 1989). "ABC Plans to Sell TV Programs Produced In-House to Its Rivals". Vol. 214, no. 44. New York, NY: The Wall Street Journal. p. B4. ProQuest 398093191.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g BRICKER, TIERNEY (October 31, 2017). "The Secret Origin of Halloweentown Revealed: How a Little Girl Inspired a Beloved Franchise". E!Online. Archived from the original on October 31, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Tenreyro, Tatiana (October 17, 2018). "Why 'Halloweentown' Is Such A Timeless DCOM, According To The Cast & Crew". Bustle. Archived from the original on September 28, 2022.
  7. ^ Bell, Crystal (October 14, 2015). "Revisiting 'Halloweentown' 17 Years Later: The Star And Director Share Secrets From Set". MTV. Archived from the original on September 28, 2022.
  8. ^ a b "Q&A: KIMBERLY J BROWN ("HALLOWEENTOWN")". Baltimore Media Blog. September 26, 2016. Archived from the original on September 28, 2022.
  9. ^ 'Halloweentown' GalaxyCon Q&A Panel 2020 (7m35s Timestamp) on YouTube
  10. ^ 'Halloweentown' GalaxyCon Q&A Panel 2020 (8m40s Timestamp) on YouTube
  11. ^ a b c Valdivia, Pablo (October 17, 2018). ""Halloweentown" Debuted 20 Years Ago, So Here Are 18 Facts About The Film". BuzzFeed.
  12. ^ Stivale, Shelby (October 4, 2021). "Spooky Season: Behind-the-Scenes Secrets You Never Knew About Disney Channel's 'Halloweentown'". J-14.
  13. ^ Grant, Stacey (September 23, 2015). "Kimberly J. Brown Has A Very Big Announcement For All 'Halloweentown' Fans". MTV News. Retrieved October 28, 2015.
  14. ^ @officialkjb (October 17, 2013). "Behind the scenes shooting the flying on the broom scene" – via Instagram.
  15. ^ "Halloweentown (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 1, 2020.
  16. ^ Aquino, Tara; Scarano, Ross; Herrera, Andy (April 23, 2018). "40 Best Disney Channel Original Movies". Complex.com.
  17. ^ Katie Heaney (October 8, 2013). "19 Reasons You Need To Rewatch The "Halloweentown" Series Right Now". BuzzFeed.com.