Rankin/Bass Festival Of Family Classics: Jack O Lantern (1972)


I grew up watching Rankin Bass cartoons. I loved them, and watched mostly around the holidays. So every single Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas were spent with the folks at Rankin Bass. Someone somewhere would air one of their numerous specials every year, so I love this company. “Jack O Lantern” though is very new to me, and one I was never really familiar with. Which is shocking considering “Jack O Lantern” is really quite a good adventure tale that I would have loved as a child.

The tale is set as a flashback where a grandfather tells the tale of growing up with his sister when his old farm was once on the brink of dying. He and his family suspect evil goings on that are ruining their crops and food, thus he and his sister work together to build a new scarecrow. Deciding to build a head out of a normal pumpkin, they discover the jack o lantern is a wil-o-the wisp named Jack. Jack is a kind leprechaun who has turned in to a pumpkin to hibernate for the winter and is awoken when the face is carved in to him.

Jack takes pity on the children, though, and learns that the crops are being destroyed by two evil witches, Zelda and her brother, not to mention their army of ghouls and goblins. Jack, along with the children, decide to use good magic to fight the evil witch and fight for the good of the farm, once and for all. As with most Rankin Bass features, the animation is kind of crude, but there’s still a magic to it that you have to love. It celebrates autumn and Halloween so well, while also spinning a pretty unique tale of good and evil.

Jack is a kind and heroic individual who uses his power to help someone in dire need, and he kicks immense amounts of butt, in the process. The short film garners echoes of “Frosty the Snowman” where Jack’s hat possesses a kind of magic to it that he really needs to help him win the day, and I’m just fine with that. I like to think Frosty is a distant cousin of Jack’s. “Jack O Lantern” is a very rare and impossible to find special, and worth watching. It’s filled with magic, excitement, and originality and I just wanted to see more. I hope someday it’s re-invented in to a longer format for modern audiences.