For a whole lot of reasons, the early 90s, as I took my first fledgling steps into adulthood, were a bad time for me. And it seemed, to me at least, that this change in both the nature and the quality of my life was reflected in everything going on in the world around me. Musical styles changed. Clothing styles changed. And animation style changed, too. The cartoons I’d grown up with were being replaced by fare like RECESS, for example. I didn’t like it at all.
One Sunday morning, sometime near Halloween, I turned on the television. My plain old rabbit-eared television that offered five channels, period. I caught this animated special after it had already started. It wasn’t listed in the TV GUIDE so I didn’t know what it was I was watching. (Yes, there actually was a time when such things were a problem.) All I knew was, here was this seeming throwback to the cartoons of my youth, and earlier than my youth. This could have been a Rankin-Bass production, something that could have aired alongside a broadcast of IT’S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN. It was, and there’s no hyperbole in me saying this, a gift for a guy who desperately needed that touchstone with his past, and with the past in general, and a lifeline to cling to in the present. Ray Bradbury’s THE HALLOWEEN TREE, both the cartoon special and the book upon which it was based, is nothing less than a love letter to the holiday. Bradbury provides the viewers—I won’t dare imply these should only comprise children—with a concise history lesson of the day and the celebration, as well as a downright philosophical, even esoteric, explanation of why we need it in the first place. It is magical, no more, no less, and should be a part of everyone’s autumnal rituals.