Welcome to Jim Hill Media - Entertainment News : Theme Parks Movies Television

The Disney Halloween special you never got to see, Tim Burton's "Trick or Treat"

The Disney Halloween special you never got to see, Tim Burton's "Trick or Treat"

Rate This
  • Comments 8

Did you see where Walt Disney Studios put Tim Burton's "Alice in Wonderland" back in theaters last week? Not all over the country, mind you. But just in the LA area. With the hope that this limited engagement might then make Academy members remember this 3D blockbuster when awards season rolls around again.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Boy, what a difference a few decades can make. I can remember back in the early 1980s when Tim  used to make live-action featurettes like "Frankenweenie" ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... and TV specials like "Hansel and Gretel" ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... that executives at Walt Disney Productions just had no idea what to do with. In the case of Burton's dark & weird "Hansel and Gretel," this Disney Channel production was only shown once (on Halloween night 1983, appropriately enough) before it was then shoved to the back on the infamous Disney vault and never aired again.

But at least "Hansel and Gretel" did ultimately get produced. In the 4 years that Burton worked at Walt Disney Productions (as an in-betweener, assistant animator and - finally - a concept artist), he proposed a number of projects that never made it off the drawing board. Among them "Little Dead Riding Hood" ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... which was supposed to have been this "suspenseful tale of torment and demon possession." (Gee, I can't understand why Ron Miller would have balked when it came to putting an animated short like that into production back in 1981.)


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

But this time of year, there's one project that Tim proposed back in 1980 that I really wish that Ron had greenlit. And that was "Trick or Treat."


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Just as "The Nightmare Before Christmas" started out as an idea for a holiday special much in the style of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," "Trick or Treat" was supposed to be this half hour-long  TV show. Only instead of being set in an otherworldly realm like Halloweentown ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... where the Pumpkin King learned the hard way what happens when holidays collide.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Well, this time around, Burton set this seasonal story in the real world. Where a kid who was growing up in a bland suburban neighborhood much like the one that Tim grew up in in Burbank, CA ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... has noticed that there's something unusual about the house that's just down the street.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

That the people who live there just seemed ... Well, kind of usual. They pretty much keep to themselves. More importantly, they really, really, REALLY seem to like Halloween.

So one day, this boy just has to know what the deal is with this family. So he sneaks into that house ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... goes upstairs ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

... and discovers this family of monsters ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... who have been getting by suburbia by masquerading as humans.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Of course, in the now-well-known Tim Burton tradition, these monsters aren't really all that monstrous.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

They're actually thrilled to find a human in their midst.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,Inc. All rights reserved

Since they're kind of hoping that this kid will help teach the trick of passing for human in suburbia. So - for that one night a year - these creatures will actually be able to get out of the house and really enjoy Halloween.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights resereved

And Burton ... He really wanted to turn "Trick to Treat" into a holiday special. So much so that Tim created 181 separate drawings of characters & scenes that were to have appeared in this seasonal show.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

Then - working with fellow CalArts grad Rick Heinrichs - Burton then sculpted character models of various monsters for "Trick or Treat." If you look closely in the above drawing, you'll recognize these 3D versions of the Clown Totem Monster ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

... and the Candy Monster.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

But in the end, the Walt Disney Productions management team of the early 1980s - while they recognized Tim's obvious talent - didn't have enough faith in this fledgling filmmaker to let him start out with making TV specials for the Mouse. So first came "Vincent," a 7-minute long stop-motion short ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... Which got such great reviews that Burton was then allowed to try his hand at live-action. Which is where "Hansel & Gretel" ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved

... and "Frankenweenie" came in.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Of course, what's kind of ironic about all this is that it was "Frankenweenie" that convinced Paul Reubens & Warner Bros. that Tim had what it took to direct "Pee-wee's Big Adventure." And the success of that August 1985 live-action film was what led to Burton being offered "Batman." And that June 1989 release was such a huge success that ... Well, Tim had  his choice of follow-up projects.

Which is why - when Burton reached out to Disney in 1990 and asked if he could buy back the rights to "The Nightmare Before Christmas" - Jeffrey Katzenberg saw the opportunity to repair Ron Miller's mistake in letting Tim slip away. Which is why he immediately proposed that Burton make that movie for Touchstone.


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

Now jump ahead to November of 2007. Where Burton revealed that - as part of the two picture deal that he'd just signed with Walt Disney Pictures - that Tim was thinking of revisiting "Frankenweenie." Taking this 30-minute live-action featurette and then turning in that into a full-length stop-motion animated feature.


Copyright Disney Enterprises,Inc.
All rights reserved

So one has to wonder: Given that Walt Disney Pictures would dearly love to extend its current deal with Burton (so that this acclaimed filmmaker could then follow-up "Alice in Wonderland" with Maleficent. Which is supposed to put a "Wicked" -like spin on the tale of Sleeping Beauty's nemesis), could the Company perhaps offer Tim "Trick or Treat"? Which - because Burton developed this project while he was still a Mouse House employee back in the 1980s - it's Mickey's property.

Because - as this photo of Tim's Jack Skellington-like costume (which he built to wear for Halloween 1967) costume  proves  ...


Copyright Disney Enterprises, Inc.
All rights reserved

... Burton is never one to give up on and/or let go of a good idea.

So what do you folks think? Based on the artwork & character models that are featured in today's JHM article, would you someday like to see Tim Burton revisit "Trick or Treat"? And - if so - would you like to see these characters & this concept used as the basis of a new Halloween television special or a full length feature film?

Your thoughts?

Blog - Post Feedback Form
Your comment has been posted.   Close
Thank you, your comment requires moderation so it may take a while to appear.   Close
Leave a Comment
  • * Please enter your name
  • * Please enter a comment
  • Post
  • What a delightful concept, although it seems like he fulfilled Trick Or Treat with NBXmas. Now, if it remained a 30 minute special and set to air on TV, why I'd say it would do to Halloween what The Grinch did to Xmas. Great post!

  • I saw the Hansel & Gretel special on the Disney Channel. It was very bizarre and I loved it. I just remember the Japanese martial arts flavor to it, and Hansel poking his finger in the house wall and colored liquid pouring out.

  • I saw the Hansel and Gretel special at the Museum of Modern Art Tim Burton exhibit.  Strange and fascinating.

  • This Trick or Treat concept sounds like "Where the Wild Things Are" with a Halloween slant. The art is great, but the story needs something more.

  • Great article! The photo at the end is wonderful. 181 separate drawings! He should do it! In some form or other. He's got a great sense of humor. He must have made them nuts at Disney. "Little Dead Riding Hood!"

  • I'd love to see more Jack Skellington and Danny Elfman be his singing voice!

  • I really loved some of these prints--do you happen to know if copies can be purchased anywhere?

  • Absolutely! I would like to see both Hansel & Gretel revisited, as well as Trick-or-Treat made.  Trick-or-treat would be awesome for new actors to get into the business, having a lot of possible characters; as well as keeping some star-studded names on the cast list to help draw the crowds into the theater.

Page 1 of 1 (8 items)