From one Hanna-Barbera short feature to another! It’s mind-blowing to me that Casper’s Halloween Special and this program are only a little over a decade apart, as they seem to be separated by eras of difference. If you’ve seen both, then surely you know exactly what I’m talking about. I first watched The Last Halloween last year and was just so perplexed by how weird it was, I really didn’t know what to immediately make of it. After rewatching… yeah, it’s pretty bad. But at least the ways in which it’s bad are pretty compelling in their own right.
As the special begins, we are told by a friendly narrator (played by William Hanna himself!) that a group of Martians have taken a trip to the planet Earth which is detected to contain high amounts of “coobi”, a necessary element that had been completely drained from Mars. It is after this point where we come back onto Earth itself, in a small American town in the midst of Halloween evening. I always remark on how much I love playful, autumnal Halloween imagery in these specials, and this is certainly the case here. Pumpkins are ever-present in the background of the action, and the backgrounds themselves are pretty neat themselves. Anyway, we meet a boy and his younger sister, both of whom seem to still be mourning over the death of their mother – the girl is wearing a princess costume her mother made for her before she died, while the boy continues to hang onto small memories of her, such as how they used to skip rocks and make wishes together.
The main conflict of the special is then brought in: these two siblings’ father is in danger of losing his candy-making factory, since too much money has been wasted trying to figure out why its surrounding lake, which generates its power (“Crystal Lake”, I shit you not), has dried up. Because of this, the father declares that this may, in fact, be the town’s very last Halloween – what’s a Halloween without candy?? Of course, this problem makes little sense when, later on in the special, we learn that the factory supplies most of the jobs in the city. Even if this preposterous detail were actually true, it wouldn’t exactly be the most economically viable decision for the county to just completely shut down the factory, if few other non-candy-making jobs exist in the town.
Anyway, eventually the kids come across a spaceship and soon after we finally get a glimpse of the visiting Martians and… yikes. Just yikes. Okay, I’m being a bit too harsh right off the bat – this is 1991, after all, and computer-generated animation wasn’t exactly at its most sophisticated. I’m sure that back in the day it was mind-blowing to watch these colorful, wacky creatures interaction with real-life human beings. As a matter of fact, it won a Primetime Emmy award specifically for these visual effects – so I’m sure it was good at the time! Sadly, though, as early CG animation goes, these are a huge cut below the potential of the medium as a whole. The characters are relatively tepid in personality, with jilted movements that remind one more of action figures than full-fledged beings. I’m sure there were more graceful ways to meld the two mediums but… this ain’t it. I never get a sense that these characters actually belong in this short; rather, they somehow snuck into this kids horror program through the back door of an entirely different animated sci-fi show. It also doesn’t help that the character known as Bing constantly hops around, making this grating, repetitive “bing bing bing” noise as he does. Thanks Frank Welker!
So from here, a little more of our questions are answered. Namely, we learn that the Martian word “coobi” is what English-speakers know as “candy”. And since they’re looking for candy, they couldn’t have come at a better time of the year! So they start grazing the neighborhood for candy for a while… until Bing stumbles across an indiscriminate spooky-looking castle up on a hill. This belongs to a character whom I forgot to mention earlier – Mad Scientist Lady Mrs. Gizborne, played by the wonderful Rhea Perlman! She was honestly the most fun character to watch in all of this, with her ridiculous costume, hair, and makeup only matched by her trademark over-the-top personality. I’m assuming since the kids already knew her name they (and presumably the rest of the town) were already aware of the eerie science stuff she performs… right?
Anyway, it soon becomes clear that she is the one behind Crystal Lake’s drought. It was all part of her evil plan to perform experiments on insects in order to find the secret to eternal youth and beauty (because what else would a mad scientist woman care about??) and that somehow drained the lake. Of course, she confuses the Martians for some exceptionally healthy bugs and chases and shenanigans occur. As these things tend to pan out, our protagonists run free, tell the nearest adult about the schemes, and Mrs. Gizborne is locked away. The Martians have what they need, so they say their tearful goodbyes and fly away. But wait – the lake still hasn’t been fixed! Not to worry, because the Martians have given the boy a special skipping stone. He throws it in the lake, magic happens, water appears, and all is 100% fixed.
So yeah, this is basically as ridiculous as it sounds. The narrative is certainly half-baked and you can tell that the only used the story as an excuse to showcase its CG creations and not the other way around. This might have been a better short if only human characters were a bit more fleshed out, but besides the dead mom backstory (a tired trope as it is) we don’t have anything for us to grab onto. As for the Martian dudes… well, at least Bing was, uh, bingy. I could see the designs for these characters having some real potential, but it just feels all wasted here. This potentially could be due to this special running only slightly over twenty minutes, barely giving us much time to delve into many character traits, but better writing and pacing could have made it at least slightly more tolerable. Overall, it’s not hard to see why this was Hanna-Barbera’s only trek into computer-animated territory – it just doesn’t work nearly as well as their hand-drawn stuff.
And by the way, those screencaps up above are literally the best quality shots I could find from the special! As lukewarm as I was on it in general, I still think it should be more effectively preserved if only for its place in the realm of obscure Halloween specials. Clean this up!