I’d say the best marketing The Last Halloween ever had was on a bag of Reese’s Pieces during the Halloween of 1991. I can still remember my mom buying the big bag of Reese’s Pieces and on the lower left hand corner there was the ad for the CBS special premiering that month with the “Mission to MARS” mascots front and center. It was a fine Halloween, with a great special that ran once on CBS and before disappearing into obscurity. Serving as a promotional film for the candy company MARS Company, “The Last Halloween” was a half hour movie about a small town named Crystal Lake with an economy reliant on their massive candy factory.
The only problems are the local mad scientists, (Rhea Perlman and Richard Moll) who are experimenting on bugs to find the secret to eternal youth. To do so, they’re draining the town’s lake, making it impossible to produce candy. In response, the town of Crystal Lake has to eventually shut down and begin moving its residents elsewhere, hence the title. Two kids, Jeanie and Michael, are celebrating their last Halloween in their town and just by luck four aliens crash land in the woods, stranded on Earth. Named Gleep, Romtu, Scoota, and Bing (all voiced by legendary voice actors Frank Welker, Don Messick, and Paul Williams), they’re four colorful and lovable computer-animated sprites in the tradition of Spielberg’s E.T.
On a mission from Mars to save their own planet, they have to collect “coobi,” a rare mineral. You can essentially guess what happens next. The kids discover the four friendly aliens, and they learn that “coobi” is in fact candy. The Last Halloween is only a 20 minutes in length (a half hour if you include commercials) and speeds right through its story, so you have no time to soak in much of what’s happening. The kids, we learn, lost their mother to a death that’s never explained, and young daughter Jeanie refuses to stop wearing the costume her mom made her before she died.
The four aliens are friendly and unimposing and form a bond with the children, which results in their trick or treating to find coobi. The aliens could have probably become characters for their own show or cartoon, but for some reason nothing ever resulted from this special. Their designs are quite good, and they still inspire an “awww!” out of me to this day. Back in 1991, I was quite the art prodigy and spent the night drawing the aliens on paper… I digress. The Last Halloween could have really used about a half hour more to pad its run time and allowed for a larger narrative with a great sense of whimsy. The story (produced by Hanna Barbera) is not bad in its trappings, considering it’s so short, as it offers an interesting tale about the spirit of Halloween, the inherent magic of the holiday, and how much it means to children.
Star Will Nipper (you know him as Will Estes, now) gives a solid performance as the hero who spends the entirety of the movie trying to skip stones… but he can’t since the lake has dried. The ending really does offer a pay off as the four aliens give him a stone that allows him to skip it and revive the town’s water supply. If candy is good, I wonder what candy made on alien water would taste like. The characters are really well drawn and unique with their own chemistry that really adds to the entertainment value of the short film, and though they are merely corporate mascots promoting a Halloween contest and MARS candy, they really had potential to be more.
Sadly, whether based on ratings or rights issues, The Last Halloween aired once in 1991 and never actually made it to any formats like VHS or DVD. It went on to fade away in obscurity and live only as a rare memory for nineties kids, all the while the “Mission to MARS” contest continued well in to the nineties with a $100K prize. That’s kind of sad, considering how ahead of its time it was for including computer animated aliens in place of puppets or stop motion, thanks to ILM. It’s also great for the fact that the short in and of itself is a wonderful love letter to Halloween.
It celebrates the more novel aspects that include community, dressing up, and eating that sweet, sweet candy. he Last Halloween is a wonderful Halloween gem I try to re-visit every year, and it’s a perfect trip to simpler Halloweens.