As October 31st became November 1st, I finished the Halloweentown saga. While watching the fourth and final (for now) film, I refreshed my memory on the controversial recasting situation. Kimberly J. Brown has addressed this in the past, explaining to E! News in 2017, “That was one of those things where they chose to use somebody else instead of me. I was definitely disappointed for the fans and a little personally disappointed because I love Marnie and have loved being able to participate in her adventures as much as people have seemed to love watching her go through them.” Producer Sheri Singer told E! News, “We couldn’t make the deal work. That was why and we didn’t want to not do it. I know people didn’t like it, but it’s not like people haven’t been recast before. I always was sorry. That’s how it went.” Sara Paxton played Marnie for that film, and although I love her, I do most enjoy seeing Kimberly J. Brown in the role she originated and thoughtfully developed over the years.
In 2004, Marnie (Kimberly) brought Halloweentown citizens to the mortal world with an exchange program in Halloweentown High. I like that Marnie is afraid to get to know a student who likes her because her crush on Kal in the second movie was so troublesome. Kimberly J. Brown told Seventeen that she helped the new Halloweentown High writer (Dan Berendsen) with continuity ideas before he wrote the script. Since Marnie is wise enough to worry about a love interest being against her, it’s surprising that she and her mom and grandma aren’t suspicious about a Halloweentown leader being the mole. With Kalabar long gone (until a reboot??), we’re introduced to a Halloweentown council, led by a warlock named Dalloway. He’s in cahoots with an evil Knight of the Iron Dagger, the high school’s Principal Flannigan. Dalloway’s son, Ethan (Lucas Grabeel), does dirty work for his dad throughout most of the movie. What I like about the third film is that it is very much in Marnie’s nature to guide a group of younger students. Just as she learned her way around Halloweentown, she is clearly excited to expose these magical beings to the mortal world. Aggie and Principal Flannigan strike up a romance. Strangely, after Flannigan tries to banish Halloweentown creatures to their realm, he has a change of heart and they supposedly continue their relationship. In order to reopen the portal that Dalloway seals, the human teachers and students must show that they can be accepting of the werewolf, ogre, troll, fairy, and all the other beings of Halloweentown.
I do think Cody, who woos Marnie in the third film, is dropped rather unexpectedly in the fourth. Instead, Marnie and Ethan develop feelings for one another. As Kimberly indicated in the interview with Seventeen, it’s a bit odd to put Marnie with a student she mentored — especially when Luke or Cody might be more logical choices. In general, I’ve realized that it’s quite rare for a Disney Channel movie to focus on college students. On a positive note, I’m glad Debbie Reynolds was still able to appear in Return to Halloweentown, along with mom Gwen (Judith Hoag) and brother Dylan (J. Paul Zimmerman). Sophie (Emily Roeske) is not in the fourth film, but she wasn’t in much of the third one, either. Return to Halloweentown draws on the Cromwell power, with Marnie finding an amulet that belonged to Grandma Aggie, whose real name is Splendora? Through time travel, Marnie meets young Aggie and sees her grandma demonstrating how the amulet enables her to control her subjects. We shouldn’t be too surprised that Halloweentown leaders at the university try to trick Marnie into making Witch University students their slaves. Of course, she outsmarts them.
Marnie, Dylan, and their mom defeat the villains, but Marnie doesn’t destroy that amulet. It winds up with Dylan in the final moments of the movie, leaving the door open for yet another installment. I have an inkling that some new Halloweentown project could someday happen. As Disney/Disney Channel/Disney+ execs know, fans have high expectations for their beloved magical world and their favorite spooky DCOM characters. I enjoyed revisiting this realm again; I always do!