Why we love them: Rhode Montijo specializes in that vintage Halloween look, where his works truly capture the whimsical innocence of Halloween. When browsing through prints, be prepared for a flood of childhood memories to engulf you and remind you why you fell in love with Halloween in the first place.
According to US law, all motion pictures made and exhibited before 1923 are in public domain, but copyright law is seriously complex and since other countries have different copyright laws than the USA, it can be downright confusing when trying to get correct information. Shepherded works from golden age of American animation typically fell into public domain due to registration failures, clerical errors, or a variety of other personal and business reasons. Recently, I was researching Halloween cartoons in public domain and I thought I’d share my research on three of the most commonly misidentified Halloween cartoons.
Disney’s Silly Symphonies Skeleton Dance, 1929
Despite what you may have heard or seen online, the Skeleton Dance is not public domain, likewise, neither is Mickey Mouse’s Haunted House. Due to the Copyright Term Extension Act of 1998 (CTEA), copyright protection was extended 95 years from the publication date for any works published before January 1, 1978. That meant, any films released in 1923, which would have entered public domain in 1998, were scheduled to enter on January 1, 2019. Due to extensive lobbying, the Walt Disney Company was granted more extension for their works, therefore, all early Mickey Mouse cartoons, such as Steamboat Willie, won’t enter public domain until 2023. Keep in mind, there’s a very good chance that Disney will be granted another extension. Thus, why some people refer to CTEA as the ‘Mickey Mouse Protection Act’.
It’s important to note, that all Disney characters are not only copyrighted but also trademarked and that lasts for forever, so long as the owners continually use the trademarks commercially. Bottom line, Disney characters may NOT be commercially used whether they’re part of the public domain or not.
Betty Boop’s Halloween Party, 1933
Betty Boop’s Halloween Party is not in public domain. Since the Copyright Act of 1976, copyrights are automatically applied to a work and last the entirety of someone’s life, plus 95 years after creator’s death. Before 1976, however, companies needed to register and re-register their works to ensure copyright protection. In the case of Betty Boop, after a few company mergers and failure of the original owners, Fleischer Studios, to re-register the copyright of many of Betty Boop’s earliest cartoons, many fell into public domain. Unfortunately for fans, Halloween Party is not one of them. Wikipedia has a comprehensive list of Betty Boop’s cartoons and indicates which ones are public domain.
For the record, it appears that the character of Betty Boop is owned by Paramount, the Betty Boop name itself is owned by Fleischer Studios, and the right to distribute the cartoons (those not public domain) are split between three different companies, Trifeca Entertainment & Media, Olive Films and Melange Pictures.
Casper, The Friendly Ghost, 1945
Casper’s very first movie The Friendly Ghost is public domain. In the 1950s, when Harvey Publications purchased Casper the Friendly Ghost and bunch of other cartoons from Noveltoon, lawyers failed to inform Harvey that they needed to register copyrights for the first works of the character, thus, The Friendly Ghost and four other Casper titles (There’s Good Boos To-Night, A Haunting We Will Go Boo Moon, and Spooking About Africa) all wound up in public domain, however, these are the only works that are public domain. Because Harvey trademarked Casper and continued to make newer cartoons, they retained ownership of the character of Casper and all subsequent Casper works. These days, Universal Studios holds ownership over Casper and all films except for the five mentioned above.
Here are a few more spooky cartoons in public domain:
Felix the Cat, Switches Witches 1927
Swing You Sinners 1930
Bimbo’s Initiation 1931
The Mad Doctor 1933
The Headless Horseman 1934
Cobweb Hotel 1936
Popeye, Fright to the Finish 1954
I’m not a legal expert, so please don’t assume any of this is legal advice. Please seek out your own legal counsel and do your research before posting potentially copyrighted or trademarked material on websites.
If you’re interested in more animation films in public domain, check out TV Tropes and Wikipedia, which both have a pretty comprehensive list of films.
A recent bout with illness gave me plenty of time to surf the web, where I came across a debate over how to celebrate Halloween. Sounds silly, since the beauty of Halloween is that it can be celebrated by anyone, in absolutely any way. It got me thinking though, do you have a Halloween style? It’s totally okay not to. It’s fascinating how all the different cultures and types of people come together and form this global Halloween convergence, that only grows with more and more ideas as Halloween moves into the mainstream consciousness. So, I thought, let’s have some fun discussing Halloween styles and see what people identify with.
Sweet ‘r Vintage
This is the barely scary, family friendly, vintage loving, zero gore Halloween. Their costumes are cute, their jack o’lanterns are cuter, and they never miss an airing of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This crowd is into Beistle vintage repros and genuine antiques. They spend a lot of time preserving the history and innocent traditions of Halloween, and I suspect there’s a lot of baking going on.
Classic and Spooky
These are the people who want a little more bite to their Halloween, but they are no gore hounds. They celebrate in the most typical of fashion, i.e., costume parties, parades, haunted mazes, theme parks, and midnight showings of classic monster movies. Every box is checked on the Halloween bucket list. They’re fine with the fact that Halloween only comes once a year, even though they’ll spend all year preparing for it. Say what you want about the consumerism, but these are the true Halloween traditionalists.
Grim & Goth
Halloween macabre. Vampire mystique. Red velvet. Dark eyeliner. Hearse rides around Forest Lawn. Candles. Candles. Candles. Tattoos and latex outfits are optional, but the devil-may-care attitude is a must. I look at Halloween goths as classic traditionalists who have a deeper appreciation for the darker, supernatural, more grim side to Halloween.
Scary ‘n Gory
Do you turn your own backyard into a terrain of terror every Halloween because you like the sound of people screaming? Have you ever had the cops called on you over a gruesome yard display? Have you ever petitioned the Academy to take another look at the artistic merits of the movie Hostel? If you answered yes to any of these questions, and are patiently waiting for the Saw series reboot, this could be your Halloween style.
$exy / #Trendy
Yes, this gets its own category because, candy corn Jello shots! Controversial masks and slutty Halloween costumes are not going away anytime soon, so long as frat parties are still around, but, here’s the thing, college kids always grow up. Whether or not, they stay Halloween fans and pass on appreciation for the holiday to their own children, depends on how they were embraced by the Halloween community. So stop being so judgmental, and let people wear what they want. Instead of bullying, urge people to respect each other, be kind, drink responsibly, and be safe on Halloween night.
Your Halloween style doesn’t and shouldn’t define you, but instead, allows you to connect to people who you normally wouldn’t. If you match one thing or two things or all things on this list, great! And, if you don’t, but you still love Halloween, well, there’s a style for that too.
Hello future collectors! Apologies, it’s been a while since my last post, but I’ve been busy making more content for readers. A few weeks ago, I mentioned that shopping for vintage Halloween collectibles was a cool activity. So, I decided to expand a bit on the topic of collecting.
I believe collectors fall into three types of categories:
Professional collectors: Collecting, trading, buying and selling is their business. They do it for a living. They might own a physical shop or an online business. They know everything there is to know about vintage Halloween, including company details, origin dates and prices. You can talk to them online on their web page forums, or at collector shows, or find them in social media groups. The professionals love to talk vintage Halloween and share their knowledge.
Serious collectors: This group is also quite knowledgeable and passionate about vintage Halloween, but they don’t typically make a career out of it. Usually, these types of collectors are not open to trading or selling, and their collections tend to be plentiful, rare and quite expensive.
Casual collectors: If you don’t have a cabinet full of vintage Halloween wares, this is probably the category you fall into, for now. Casual collectors may or may not be as passionate or knowledgeable, but they’re always learning and on the prowl for cool vintage stuff.
What to buy is purely subjective. Generally, the rarer or the older the item and the better the shape, the higher the value. Some people work hard to build a collection of specific types of items, like blow molds, lanterns, Kokomold plastic candy holders, or die cut cutouts. Others buy whatever they can get their hands on.
In the past few years, Retro Halloween, or replicas of old Halloween decorations, have become all the rage with retailers. Owning retro items is totally cool, so long as you understand you are not buying authentic vintage collectibles. Watch out for online sellers who label retro items as vintage items. Also, keep in mind that even reputable shops could sell knock-offs, not necessarily because they’re trying to scam buyers, but sometimes even shop owners cannot tell the difference between authentic vintage and replicas. I once got suckered over a mislabeled black cat Paper Mache lantern that I bought on a whim. When shopping for Paper Mache lanterns, arguably the most sought after and yet most difficult to determine authenticity, look for a ring pressed in at the bottom. Smooth bottoms or crackled paint are sure ringers for a replica.
Antique Paper Mache JOL Lantern
JOL Lantern w/Ring-pressed Bottom
Determining the difference between authentic vintage, replicas or retro and knock-offs can be difficult. Over time, labels and logos disappear. Information gets lost if there was any to begin with. Don’t get discouraged. The Halloween gods are generous sometimes. Information on embossed die cut cutout decorations, Halloween party books, or blow molds is easily accessible online nowadays. Two of the biggest and most popular producers of Halloween party decorations and paper collectibles are Beistle Company and Dennison Manufacturing Company, both whom typically marked their products with the company name or logo. Dennison merged with Avery years ago, but Beistle is still around and making replicas of their own merchandise. Empire, a popular maker of blow molds and pumpkin pails, almost always placed their imprint near the bottom or back of their products.
1969 Empire Blow Mold
1925 Dennison’s Bogie Book
It’s important to do your research and ask questions before making purchases. Do not be afraid to sound stupid. Most sellers of authentic vintage Halloween collectibles know what they are talking about and are happy to answer your questions.
There’s no need to wait until October. Off-season shopping might yield lower prices, whereas, in-season, you may find more vintage wares but at higher prices. It’s not unusual for antique shops to put out merchandise according season, just like retailers. During off season, depending on the condition or rarity of the item, you may have better luck convincing store owners to accept lower offers. During the peak Halloween season though, don’t be surprised if they don’t budge.
Vintage Halloween collectibles are usually found in antique stores, thrift stores, estate sales, yard sales, collector shows and specialty stores. Vintage Halloween postcards often can be found at collector or paper shows. You can also shop online for all vintage collectibles, at places like eBay, VintageHalloween.com, Etsy, and specialty stores. Typically, retailers like Amazon, Walmart, Target, Hallmark, or Spirit Halloween stores, do not carry vintage collectibles, only replicas.
Most people get into collecting because they love vintage Halloween, but some are hoping to make money. Either way, remember do your research and ask lots of questions. There are collectible and price guide books available in book stores or online. Many of these books are from the 90s but are still great resources. One of the most current guides published is Mark Ledenbach’s Vintage Halloween Collectibles – Third Edition from 2014. It’s a fabulous book, full of detailed information and over 700 color photos. You can find out more about his book and wealth of information on vintage Halloween collectibles at his blog here: http://halloweencollector.com/
HOW (much to spend)
If you make a cool find in antique or thrift store somewhere, and not sure if it’s worth the price tag, Google it! Check eBay for a price comparison. Never let yourself feel pressured into buying anything. If you’re on a budget, stick to it. If you’re uncomfortable with the price, go with your gut. Missed opportunities do happen. It’s the worst feeling in the world, but so is being in over your head or in mountains of debt. Best advice I’ve ever received, only pay what you fell the item is worth.
You may have noticed I didn’t talk much about Halloween post cards. That’s because it’s a special category and deserves its own blog post. 🙂
Here are ten things to do while we patiently await the return of the Halloween season.
Listen to Halloween Music
From spooky orchestral to monster remixes, the fastest way to invoke some Halloween spirit is by getting your groove on. If you don’t have time to create a Halloween playlist, the good folks at Halloween Radio got you covered with four different live channels to stream online. Lend them your ears here: http://www.halloweenradio.net/
Read Halloween Themed Books
Sometimes it’s just fun to read novels set around Halloween time in the middle of spring. October Dreams Volume I and II is a great collection of short stories, novellas, and personal essays from the world’s best literary minds. Who knows, you might be inspired to write your own Halloween story.
Watch Halloween Themed Movies
Believe it or not, there’s a lot more Halloween themed movies out there than Halloween or Hocus Pocus. Check out some more obscure movie titles, like The Monster Squad or Trick r Treat. Careful, the first one is for kids and latter is most definitely not. You can find more movie suggestions here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_set_around_Halloween
Plan/Shop for a Halloween Costume Early
Whether you’re buying a full outfit or shopping for accessories, now is a great time to start looking for things that sell out during peak season. You could even find sales online or sharp discounts. Remember to buy items that fit. It is risky business buying costumes two sizes too small, in hopes of losing weight by October.
Practice Halloween Recipes
Practice makes perfect! Sure, you could wait until October to make chocolate-pretzel spider balls or toasted ghost marshmallows, but there’s always a risk involved in trying out a new recipe the night before your big shindig. Pinterest is filled with hilarious Halloween recipe fails. If your waistline and your wallet can afford it, work out the kinks of the kitchen now, and by the time Halloween rolls around, you’ll be the Betty Crocker of Samhain.
Make Halloween Crafts
Since the emergence of Pinterest, DIY Halloween has become wildly popular. It’s easy to find online tutorials for dioramas, door wreaths, etc. Places like Michaels, Joann, and local art stores happily cater to your craft needs all year-around. While stylized Halloween supplies are indeed more abundant during the season, generic supplies in Halloween colors can be found every day. Online shopping off-season could yield some pretty good discounts too.
Visit a Real Haunt
From haunted homes to spooky hotels to abandoned asylums, chances are there’s a few places near you with a ghostly past. Taking guided ghost tours is most entertaining way to learn about history of your town or city and an excellent way to get some exercise. You may even have your own paranormal experience. The spirit world doesn’t exactly wait until Halloween night to make contact.
Shop for Vintage Halloween Items
If you’re lucky enough to hit right the estate or yard sale, it’s like finding buried treasure. eBay, antique shops and swap meets are also good places to find vintage wares. Buyers beware! If you plan on getting into the collecting business, be sure to do a little research on what’s vintage and what’s not. Take time to research market values of rare collectibles and learn how to spot replicas (cool) or outright fakes (not cool).
Find a Halloween Conventions, Expos, and Tradeshows
There are several websites dedicated to passing on information on expos and tradeshows that you can attend outside the Halloween season. Some shows are for home haunters, which has grown into its own multi-million-dollar business; and some that simply celebrate Halloween, horror and such. Conventions and expos often showcase new industry trends, animatronics and products for haunters. Film festivals are another subject entirely, but another awesome way to satisfy those Halloween cravings. Check out the Favorite Links page to find events near you. https://halloween-haiku.com/favorite-links/
Join a Halloween Facebook or Google Plus Group
Find like-minded souls who share in your love for Halloween by, what else, talking about Halloween! Halloween fans love sharing ideas and tips and movie and book review with each other. Seriously, Halloweenophiles will gobble up anything and everything Halloween, because every day is Halloween!