- “Halloweentown” first debuted on Disney Channel in 1998, and it inspired three sequels.
- Benny, the sassy skeleton taxi driver, was actually a robot, and Aggie’s house was partially shot at a bed and breakfast.
- The film started out as a project for NBC, and the ending was originally supposed to be much darker.
- Only two of the leading actors appeared in all four films in the series.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It’s been over 20 years since “Halloweentown” (1998) first aired on Disney Channel, and it’s still a fan-favourite. But even the film’s most loyal viewers might not know all of these behind-the-scenes secrets.
Read on for some fun facts you probably didn’t know about “Halloweentown.”
The movie didn’t have a large budget.
The first instalment of the “Halloweentown” franchise was presented to director Duwayne Dunham as a $US20 million to $US30 million project – but that turned into just $US4 million.
“I liked the story of the kids and their grandmother and the mother and the secret and all of that stuff,” Dunham said in a 2015 interview with MTV News. “But it was like a $US20 to $US30 million movie when they presented it to me …”
He continued, “Our concept was great, but the scope was too much for us and our budget. So the trick was how do you keep the tone and the concept intact, and pare it down so we could afford to do this?”
Luckily, they made it work. The film was shot in a quick 24-day schedule, with background actors doubling up and changing costumes to create the illusion of a busy town.
“Halloweentown” was one of the first Disney Channel original movies ever made, but it almost aired on a different station.
In the same interview with MTV News, Dunham said that “Halloweentown” was Disney Channel’s second original movie in production – the first was “Brink” – but by the time the film was made, it was the fourth to be aired.
Originally, the film was slated for NBC, but when the network passed on the Halloween-themed film, Disney Channel picked up the project.
“The NBC version [of the script] was actually darker… I remember a general sequence where they were travelling at night through Halloweentown, and it just got really scary,” screenwriter Paul Bernbaum told Bustle in 2018.
To make the film more family-friendly and suitable for the Disney Channel budget, Dunham told Bustle that they spent “two straight weeks going through the script.”
Benny, the sassy skeleton taxi driver, was actually a robot.
Benny the taxi driver wasn’t an actor dressed as a skeleton, nor was his character completely digitised.
During a 2016 interview with Baltimore Media Blog, Kimberly J. Brown, who played Marnie, said that Benny was actually a robot.
“One specific memory [I have from filming ‘Halloweentown’ is] of the character Benny,” she told the blog. “The actor dubbed his lines after filming, so we actually worked with a robot. I’ll always remember the ‘errr err’ sound it made.”
The real “Halloweentown,” where they shot the film, is in Oregon.
The original “Halloweentown” was filmed in St. Helens, Oregon, and every year the town celebrates the season by hosting the Spirit of “Halloweentown” Festival from mid-September through October 31.
“They kick off the festival every year with an annual lighting ceremony,” Brown said of the festival in a video on her YouTube channel. “We say a spell from the movie, and the jack-o’-lantern is lit.”
Grandma Aggie’s house from the film is actually a bed and breakfast.
If festivals aren’t your scene, but you’d still like to experience a taste of “Halloweentown” in real life, one of the filming locations for grandma Aggie’s house is actually a bed and breakfast overlooking St. Helens.
“Halloweentown” is a real book, but only a few copies were made.
Fans of the film might remember the “Halloweentown” picture book Aggie brought Marnie the night she found out she was a witch.
In a video on her YouTube channel from July 2013, Brown said the book was made exclusively for the film.
“That was a special book they did make for the movie,” she said. “They had an artist draw all the pictures in it … they gave them a photograph of me before we started shooting the movie [so that they could draw] that picture of me on the broom, which I thought was really cool.”
Brown said she has a copy of the book, but only a few were made, and they weren’t released for the public.
Brown also got to keep a few other props from the film.
In addition to the book, Brown said in her YouTube video that she also kept the bat puppet from Kalabar’s desk in the first movie, Marnie’s miniature broom prop from the second movie, and a few costumes from the series.
The fall film was actually shot in the summer.
Fall might mean pumpkin-spice lattes, cosy sweaters, and watching reruns of the entire “Halloweentown” franchise for the average 1990s kid, but the classic autumnal film was actually made in the middle of July.
Dunham told MTV News in the same 2015 interview the actors would often walk around set with part of their costumes off when they weren’t filming a scene “because it was the dead of summer” and very hot.
Brown had to dodge real fire in the hair-salon scene.
During a 2015 event in St. Helens, Brown shared that she actually had to handle fire during the hair-salon scene in “Halloweentown.”
“A cool little fact, that was not special effects,” she told the crowd at the event. “I actually had to stand with a hair dryer and real flames shout out of it, and it was very hot.”
The actor who played Kalabar lost his voice shooting one of the scenes.
Robin Thomas, who played Kalabar, told Bustle in 2018 that he lost his voice filming the scene where his character yells from the balcony of City Hall.
“I remember that they didn’t put a body mic on me. I was having to project my voice down. There were fans. [I was] 150 feet or so from the camera,” he said. “That was challenging. I blew my pipes out.”
The actor who played Kal in “Halloweentown II” improvised his first spell.
Most of the spells you’ll hear throughout the movies were scripted, but actor Daniel Kountz, who played Kalabar’s son, Kal, had to come up with a spell on the spot during his first scene.
Kountz told MTV News in 2016 that the script read, “Kal says spell and walks through the portal.” But he’d interpreted that to mean someone would fill in the blank when the time came.
When director Mary Lambert asked whether he had his spell prepared just minutes before shooting, Kountz lied and said he did. He ended up reciting a line from a random German song he’d remembered from his high-school choir days.
“I just pulled that out of nowhere, and they ended up using [it in the movie], and I think it actually worked out pretty well,” he told the publication. “Little did they know I was freaking out because I didn’t have my spell prepared.”
Jared Padalecki was reportedly also up for Kountz’s role.
According to Kountz, Jared Padalecki, who’s gained starring on The WB’s “Gilmore Girls” and The WB/The CW’s “Supernatural,” was also up for the role of Kal.
He told MTV News that he bumped into him “on the 52nd floor of the Disney building for the final audition.”
According to Brown, Debbie Reynolds introduced herself as “Princess Leia’s mother” on set.
The late Debbie Reynolds, who starred as Aggie Cromwell, was the mother of Carrie Fisher, who played Princess Leia in “Star Wars.”
Brown told BuzzFeed in 2018 that the legendary actress went around set introducing herself as “Princess Leia’s mother.”
The broom-flying scene was one of the last ones shot for the film.
In the same 2018 BuzzFeed interview, Brown said that the scene where Marnie and Aggie fly on a broom was shot on her last day of filming. Although the scene is less than a minute long, it took hours to film.
It was Brown’s favourite scene to shoot because she said, “It was nice on the last day to get to spend that quality time with [Reynolds].”
She also told MTV News in 2015, “It was so fun to do it with Debbie because she was always down for everything, she’s such a team player, she always looked out for me and she made everything fun.”
Only two of the original actors were in all four movies.
“Halloweentown” was supposed to have a much darker ending.
“Halloweentown” is a family-friendly holiday film, but in a 2017 interview with Seventeen magazine, Brown said the movie originally had a much darker ending.
“If I remember correctly, [the alternate ending] involved Marnie going into the middle of a forest to place the talisman instead of in the giant pumpkin,” she told Seventeen. “But I do remember that there was a section of the forest she had to walk through, and as she did she got older and older – that was the dangerous part about her having to go into it to save the town.”
The crew actually had to make a mould of Brown’s head to create masks for the age transitions. They never ended up making the masks or shooting the scene, but they did give the actress the cement mould as a keepsake once the film wrapped.
“Halloweentown High” shared a set with another classic Disney Channel original movie.
If you were a fan of Disney Channel’s “The Luck of the Irish,” then you might have noticed a few similarities in “Halloweentown High.”
The actors behind Kal and Marnie are dating in real life.
Kal was the devilishly charming villain in “Halloweentown II,” and if you were a fan of secretly shipping Kal and Marnie, there’s some good news.
Brown and Kountz made their real-life relationship Instagram official on July 6, 2018, when Brown posted a sweet picture in honour of National Kissing Day.
Kountz had been regularly popping up on her Instagram feed since 2017, but this post left no question that the “Halloweentown” actors were dating, and they still appear to be going strong.
Brown was involved in the writing process for the third film.
A new writer was hired for the third instalment of the series, so the production staff allowed Brown to give her input on the script.
She told Seventeen in 2016, “I was able to give share some ideas about continuity between all three of the movies. As a fan myself, I would want everything to match up. That was really important to me.”
Marnie was recast in “Return to Halloweentown,” and many fans weren’t happy about it.
Reports circulated for quite some time that Sara Paxton took over the role of Marnie in the fourth instalment because of scheduling issues with Brown, but the “Halloweentown” alum has been pretty vocal about the swap.
“Some people said they heard I was working on something, which was not the case at the time,” Brown said in a YouTube video on her channel. “I was available and ready to do it and had talked to them about possibly doing it. But Disney decided to go in a different direction and recast the role.”
Brown cowrote a children’s book about Halloween.
Brown is still well-known for her witchy role in the “Halloweentown” series, but her love for the spooky season expands beyond the franchise.
In the 2016 interview with Seventeen, she said, “Halloween is one of the best times of year and I love the fall. I’m from the East Coast, so I just love everything about fall.”
In 2016, she even cowrote a children’s book about a magical pumpkin patch called “Poppins Pumpkin Patch Parade” with author Diane Yslas.