ANIMATION ANECDOTES
October 30, 2015 posted by

Disney’s “Trick or Treat” (1952)

trick-or-treat-title

“Trick or Treat.
Trick or Treat.
Trick or Treat for Halloween.

So when Ghosts and Goblins by the score
Ring the bell on your front door
Better not be stingy or your nightmares will come true.”

Released October 10th, 1952 and directed by Jack Hannah from a story by Ralph Wright, the Disney animated short Trick or Treat was an interesting choice by the Disney Studio since its re-release would be limited to just a small window of opportunity every holiday season.

donald-title-ticktreatAnimation was provided by Bill Justice, Volus Jones, Don Lusk and George Kreisl; effects animation by Dan MacManus; layout and background by Yale Gracey. The catchy title tune was written by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston and sung by the Mellomen that included Thurl Ravenscroft.

A very mean Donald Duck plays tricks on his three nephews, the trick-or-treating Huey, Dewey and Louie, instead of giving them treats. The boys are befriended by a real witch named Witch Hazel (voiced by June Foray) who uses some special spells to pry the treats from a reluctant Donald.

She finally enchants his feet with a magic spray so that Donald is involuntarily used as a battering ram to smack into the locked closet of goodies. Witch Hazel flies off as the night comes to a close and the kids enjoy their treats.

“I enjoyed directing Trick or Treat because I got a chance to work with a different personality. June Foray, who did such a great job as the voice of the witch, still mentions the film to me whenever I see her,” said Jack Hannah in an interview I did with him in 1978.

“The short got a very high ARI rating when the Studio watched it in the sweatbox. Walt said he couldn’t understand some of the words; that the dialog was too fast. I heard that Carl Barks later adapted the cartoon into a comic book story, but I never saw it.”

4dd22373360d055b78a892cef9ad87e6Two years later, Warner Brothers released a short titled Bewtiched Bunny (1954) directed by Chuck Jones, also featuring a witch named “Witch Hazel” (voiced by June Foray Bea Benederet). In this cartoon, Bugs Bunny must rescue Hansel and Gretel from a rather naughtier witch than the one at Disney. Foray herself was recruited to reprise the role in Jones’ sequel Broom-Stick Bunny, released in 1956.

“I did Witch Hazel as a short at Disney. She was a very funny character that I created the voice for. Chuck Jones loved it so much that he called me over to Warner Brothers to do her again. I went over there and they said, ‘You’re going to do Witch Hazel.’ And I thought, ‘how in hell are they going to do that?’ Disney owns it and they’re so litigious. But we did it. Chuck just went ahead and did it!

”So I asked him, just a couple of years ago, ‘How the heck did you ever do that and get away with it, taking a character out from under Disney’s nose?’ And he said, ‘Because it was an alcohol rub! He didn’t own the name!’ So Disney couldn’t capitalize on that or stop Chuck because it was already a copyrighted name,” Foray said in a December 1995 interview in Animation magazine.

Jones was probably referring to a North American shrub and the herbal medicine derived from it, witch hazel, and Warners used the character in four more cartoons. This is probably the reason that John Stanley was also able to use a Witch Hazel character in his Little Lulu comic book stories as well. It was just a natural name for a witch because it sounded so familiar.

Disney’s Witch Hazel has a broom named Beelzebub that acts as both her servant and her method of flying transportation just like a traditional witch. She is, essentially, a good witch, although quite a crackpot, and has been used fairly frequently in Italian comic books where she struggles to convince Goofy, not Donald, that witches are indeed real.

There was also a 1953 Little Golden Book titled “Donald and the Witch” illustrated by Dick Kelsey. The nephews think they saw a witch but Donald doesn’t believe them. After some supernatural hi-jinks, Donald becomes a believer and he and the boys enjoy a fall harvest feast with Witch Hazel.

For the record, if you want to recreate Witch Hazel’s recipe for the magic brew she stirs up in the animated short, it consists of eye of needle, tongue of shoe, hand of clock, neck of bottle, tail of pout (a type of fish) and whiskers from a billy goat.

Donald_Duck_in_Trick_or_TreatInterestingly, the same time the cartoon was released, Dell comic books produced an adaptation written and drawn by Hannah’s old Disney writing partner, Carl Barks.

The story appeared in “Donald Duck” No. 26, November-December 1952. There is an interesting story behind this adaptation.

Western Publishing did a lot of seasonal comic books from special “Back To School” issues to of course, Christmas specials. So it was not unusual for them to come up with a comic book themed to Halloween.

“I was sent the storyboard stats and told to make the stuff into a feature-length story. I soon found that the material wouldn’t fill 32 pages that were then the length of a feature story. So I ad-libbed some extra stuff. I didn’t see the movie until long afterward,” Barks said. (The artwork on the boards that Barks saw was by Ralph Wright.)

Some of Barks’ changes were minor, like a nephew carrying a pumpkin on a pole instead of balancing it on his head. Other changes were more major. The Donald Duck of the animated cartoons was limited to what he could say since the audience had difficulty understanding Clarence Nash’s “duck speak” clearly.

The Donald Duck of Carl Barks’ stories was much more eloquent. So this adaptation is atypical of the work that Barks was doing at the time with Donald Duck when it came to dialog.

Barks did borrow some of Witch Hazel’s lines from the animated cartoon as well as some of the staging from the storyboards and poses from Witch Hazel’s model sheet.

Barks scripting emphasizes the reason for Donald’s meanness when it comes to giving out treats. He sees it as an unwelcome violation of his privacy. Barks also reinforces that Witch Hazel’s efforts on behalf of the nephews is to remind people that witches do still exist and the nephews belief in witches needs to be rewarded.

trick-treat-sheet-musicBarks included some additions to the story including a short segment with a billy goat and another where Hazel disguises herself as a beautiful blonde duck bombshell to get candy from Donald.

However, not all of Barks’ changes and additions were welcomed by the editorial staff at Western. To flesh out the thin story, Barks added an episode with Smorgie the Ogre, a six armed Cyclops wearing a derby hat, who had been conjured up by Hazel, and that sequence ran for several pages.

The editor was so angry that those pages deviated so wildly from the original cartoon that they were deleted from the original printing of the story and Barks was refused payment for those additional, unwanted drawings.

To replace those missing pages since the story was now barely 23 pages long, Barks wrote and illustrated a nine-page story, “Hobblin’ Goblins” to fill out the rest of the comic book. The story recounts how the nephews get a “Goblin Foiler” device from Gyro Gearlose that only makes their lives worse when dealing with their Uncle Donald.

The editors also felt that Barks opening panel of a graveyard in the foreground to Duckburg was too gruesome even though it was based on the opening shot of the cartoon itself and Barks replaced that splash panel with a page and a half more clearly explaining why Donald felt he had to lock up the treats from the nephews because they had already made an attempt to steal the goodies.

“I didn’t even know that Carl had done a comic book version of it,” Hannah told me. “We didn’t follow the comic books because they were so different from what we were doing. We didn’t have any input into those at all. I saw a painting he did on that subject a couple of years ago, but I’ve never seen the comic.”

The ending to the comic book story version is more uplifting that the final Jack O’Lantern “Boo!” scare in the animated cartoon with Donald coming to the realization that he enjoys Halloween and will dress up as a goblin next year.

The Happiest of Halloweens to you and yours from Animation Anecdotes and Cartoon Research!


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26 Comments

  • Removing somebody’s front gate and putting it in a tree was evidently A Thing.

    It turned up in an old Mad Magazine piece about foiling such Halloween tricks as soaping windows (referenced in the illustrated title here?).

    It also was the basis for a 1960s Dennis the Menace comic book story, in which Dennis and friends try to duplicate an old-fashioned trick they’d heard about.

  • Very enjoyable article, as always, though I do have one question: Jack Hannah says of the cartoon that “The short got a very high ARI rating when the Studio watched it in the sweatbox.” What’s an “ARI rating”?

  • Mighty Mouse also fought a Witch Hazel, in The Witch’s Cat, from 1948.

    • And there was a Witch Hazel in the Doc McStuffins episode Boo-Hoo To You.

    • My mistake – it’s not The Witch’s Cat, it’s Pandora’s Box, from 1943, a Super Mouse cartoon, originally.

  • I always thought the line was “neck of bottle, tail of coat, and whiskers from a billy goat.” A coat tail would be a more familiar object to most viewers, wouldn’t it?

  • Incidentally, this is one of the most comprehensive articles I’ve seen on this particular short, which is a huge favorite of mine. It’s one of the few Donald Duck shorts that actually has a plot–in most of the cartoons, it’s a series of one-upmanships between Donald and the chipmunks, Donald and his nephews, Donald and the bee, etc. I like the portrayal of Witch Hazel in this cartoon and June Foray’s voice is perfect.

    The Disney version of Witch Hazel reappears in the later compilation TV show “The Mad Hermit of Chimney Butte.” New animation is combined with old animation to tell a story about Donald’s becoming a recluse.

    Thanks for a great post on a classic cartoon!

  • This cartoon is one of my all-time favorites!

  • Nice voice performance of June Foray! Say, any RKO prints of this film exist?

    • Yes. On the fourth Donald Duck set from the Walt Disney Treasures series, this cartoon has its original RKO logo.

  • Nice piece, Jim. This will have no doubt been corrected by the time I submit this, but Bea Benaderet was Witch Hazel in Bewitched Bunny. June voiced her in the subsequent cartoons.

    • June Foray did the voice of the transformed Witch Hazel in Broomstick Bunny where she was chased by the Genie of the Magic Mirror after turning into a beautiful woman after drinking a beautifying potion that she meant to give to Bugs Bunny (who was frick or treating as a witch and was wearing a latex witches mash).

    • I wonder if the transformed Witch Hazel was meant to be a caricature of June Foray? (I’m going more by the storyboard sketches in Chuck Amuck than the finished cartoon.)

  • Loved that cartoon especially with June Foray as a Cockney accented Witch Hazel speaking in Shakespearian English. True Story: when Chuck Jones and Warner Bros was doing Broomstick Bunny June Foray first refused to do the voice of their version of Witch Hazel citing that their version was a “knockoff” of Disney’s version. (But in truth Disney’s version if Witch Hazel was a petit blond Caucasian witch who spoke in Shakespearian English and the WB version was taller than Disney’s version, had scraggly black hair,and a green skin complexion) but as they say the rest is history and the WB’s version of Witch Hazel is just as popular as ever including a classic comical cartoon called A Witches Tangled Hare (Hair) which took place in the English countryside in the era of William Shakespeare.

  • Great post! I love to learn all these details!

    And as a Carl Barks fan it was wonderful to hear about the creation of the comic book story. But I’m dying to know — was the story ever reprinted with all the original pages intact?

    • Yes. Plenty of times including the recent volume of Fantagraphics’ Carl Barks series. Although, I wish they had someone that likes both the animated version and the comic version to write the liner notes for this comic (which is a shame as the guy teaches at “The Billy Ireland Cartoon Library” at Ohio State where I live twenty minutes from).

  • Yes, Dan, the story has been reprinted with the deleted pages added pack in. I believe it’s in a hard cover compilation on sale now, just in time for Halloween.

    One of the censored pages is up for auction now:

    http://comics.ha.com/itm/original-comic-art/carl-barks-donald-duck-26-trick-or-treat-censored-smorgie-page-21-original-art-dell-1952-/a/7152-92023.s?ic4=GalleryView-Thumbnail-071515

  • The underrated Disney historian Jim Fanning was kind enough to point out to me privately that “The Trick or Treat song is not by Paul Smith (as is reported all over the Internet). It’s by Mack David, Al Hoffman and Jerry Livingston.” I appreciate Jim’s kindness in not wanting to publicly embarrass me but the bottom line is always that if I make a mistake, I need to take the consequences and make the correction. Thanks, Jim!

    I keep assuming that people know things like ARI. As the eminent historian Michael Barrier wrote in correcting errors to the Neal Gabler biography of Walt Disney: “Audience Research Institute was an arm of the Gallup polling organization, which was hired by the Disney studio only briefly in the 1940s. The acronym “ARI” survived as a name for test screenings with questionnaires for studio personnel, but the testing done by the real ARI, to see how the public responded to story descriptions and potential titles, didn’t last very long. Card Walker, who as a young studio executive worked with ARI, said in 1968: “Very frankly it never worked out—you know, there’s no way to test creative ideas.”

    To the best of my knowledge, the censored Carl Barks story pages were restored for the first time in the reprinting in the Bruce Hamliton’s Another Rainbow Carl Barks Library edition in 1985. One panel remained missing and was recreated from art pulled from elsewhere in the story. A wonderful essay by Geoffrey Blum in that volume pointed out some significant differences in telling the story in animation (more visual than dialog) and in comic book form.

    He points out that the executive who absolutely hated Barks’ additions was Alice Cobb who had seen a preview screening of the short at the Disney Studio and that the reason for censoring Barks’ pages may have been that his interpretation (like the opening graveyard scene) was more grim and grisly than the cartoon.

    Gladstone continued to use this newly restored version in A Gladstone’s Comic Album 23 (1989) and Donald Duck Adventures Album 21 (1995)

    The censored nine pages from Trick or Treat are also in the current just released Fantagraphics reprinting of that story ISBN 978-1-60699-874-8.

    Apparently, Chuck Jones did try to get June Foray to voice the role of Witch Hazel in Bewitched Bunny but as stated in the above comments, June had reservations about doing so because of the Disney character. After the release of the cartoon and no adverse reaction from Disney, June was convinced to do the role. June took over the character starting with 1956′s Broomstick Bunny, and went on to play her in A Witch’s Tangled Hare (1959) and A Haunting We Will Go (1966), and, more recently, in such television shows as Sylvester and Tweety Mysteries and Pinky & the Brain.

    A similar Witch Hazel character voiced by June pops up in the 1956 Tom and Jerry cartoon The Flying Sorceress. And a little girl calling herself Witch Hazel pops up in Casper’s Which is Witch? (1958)

    • Tress McNeill did Witch Hazel voice in a episode of Tiny Toon Adventures as well as Candi Milo in the Tiny Toons Adventures Halloween Special “Night Ghoulary”

    • June had just started doing voices for Warners when Jones’ initial Witch Hazel cartoon came out, but Bea was still the studio’s main female voice artist. That changed both after the re-opening following the six-month shutdown in 1953, and the Burns & Allen Show’s changeover from a bi-weekly live show to a weekly filmed one. With 39 episodes a year to do, Bernaderet focused on her TV career, and by the time “Broomstick Bunny” came out, Foray was doing virtually all the female voices at Warners.

  • Great post today, Jim! This short is one of my Halloween favorites from Disney. It was included in those great TV specials from the late 70s / early 80s like The Wonderful World of Disney’s “Halloween Hall o’ Fame” (’77) and “A Disney Halloween” (’83).

  • June Foray also voiced Magica De Spell in Ducktales. Barks’ witch didn’t use magic though, and relied on technology and fakery.

    • As well as Ma Beagle the Matriarch of The Beagle Boys on DuckTales and as Grammi Gummi on Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears and the speaking voice of Grandma Fa in Mulan (The late Marni Dixon was her singing voice for Grandma Fa in Mulan).

  • The part of the Italian comics using Witch Hazel is one of the wonderful reasons why I visit as much Cartoon Research and Animation Anecdotes as my brain will hold,always on Sunday,like the old “Sunday funnies”. These “funnies” were hidden in a thing we used to call a newspaper back in the day. Even sold the darn things,in my Pop’s drug store,while helping a friend on his delivery route(and those Sunday papers filled up a bike basket and had to be walked to the doorstep-what a ubunch of stuff for twenty cents!)and later on in stores I managed. Thanks for just enough info to make my cup of coffee empty out so nicely.

  • There was another Little Golden Book with the title “Donald Duck and the Witch Next Door” that I read as a child. One thing I didn’t know at that time was that the witch in that book was Madam Mim! I guess I hadn’t yet seen Sword in the Stone at that point.

  • I often wonder about the economics, which drive so many aesthetic decisions, good or bad. I heard Disney only paid scale for voice work. I can’t believe that June would work for so little Did Mel Blanc or at Warners? If Sterling Holloway was only getting scale for his performances or June as Rocky, Daws Butler et. al. than that was truly a crime and only makes one realize the value of union representation.

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