For me, the highlight of Disneyland at Halloween is Frontierland. Between the Dia de los Muertos decor near Rancho del Zocalo and The Halloween Tree near Golden Horseshoe, there’s a lot of actual meaning behind the decorations in Frontierland. It’s not simply decorating for the sake of decorating. Disneyland fans are probably fairly familiar with The Halloween Tree, but for those of you who are not, this post offers a bit of historical information about it, and the man to whom it pays tribute, Ray Bradbury.
Most Americans probably know literary heavy-weight Ray Bradbury for Fahrenheit 451. This has been a curriculum mainstay for countless grade schools around the United States; I fondly recall reading it as a child during “Banned Book Week.” It was one of the first “significant” (save for the seminal Monster Blood title from R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps series) books that really captivated me, thanks to its edgy substance and controversial reputation.
Bradbury wrote countless novels, short stories, and other works over the course of a career that spanned decades. One of these was his 1972 novel, titled The Halloween Tree. This is a story about eight boys who set out on a Halloween night to meet their friend, Pipkin, at a haunted house. Like all good Disney stories, “something goes terribly wrong,” and then instead end up encountering a mysterious character named Moundshroud next to a tree filled with jack-o-lanterns (hence the name of the story).
This dude leads the boys through time and space making their way through various death-related scenes–witnessing a funeral procession in ancient Egypt, cavemen discovering fire, Druid rites, the persecution of witches in the Dark Ages, and the gargoyles of Notre Dame–as they try to chase after Pipkin. They finally catch up with their friend and make a sacrifice to save his life. In the story, the Halloween Tree serves as a metaphor representing cultural Halloween traditions. (more…)