Cartoon History Lesson #70: Scary Godmother
Scary Godmother is a series of children’s books and comic books created by artist Jill Thompson and published by Sirius Entertainment in 1997.
- Scary Godmother – A tall, skinny and pretty-looking fairy-witch with long curly squirrel hair, pale green skin, small bat wings on her back, purple and green leggings. She lives on the Fright Side (a world where scary Halloween monsters live). She befriends a little girl named Hannah Marie, who was scared by her older cousin Jimmy into holding the doorknob to the haunted house Scary Godmother and her “broommates” were in. She also rides a broom and has a pet ghost cat named Boozle. Thompson has acknowledged that the character bears a resemblance to its creator. Her voice was done by Tabitha St. Germain in the TV adaptation.
Hannah Marie – Hannah is scared of monsters, but then she realizes monsters don’t eat kids. Hannah is sweet, but her evil cousin Jimmy and his friends scare Hannah. They get a little scare of their own. She is voiced by Britt McKillip.
- Jimmy – Hannah’s cousin who has little affection for her. Since he didn’t want to take her trick or treating, he and his friends instead plan on scaring her. However, his plan backfires after Hannah befriends Scary Godmother and her broommates, all of whom give Jimmy and his friends a taste of their own medicine. A year later, he was so scared by that ordeal that he tried to stop Halloween from happening (by destroying all Halloween-related items, like pumpkins, costumes and candy), but is otherwise touched when he stumbles into a party that Scary Godmother, Hannah, and their friends were celebrating. Often dresses in a Devil sweatsuit on Halloween. He was the antagonist of the 1st and 2nd books, but in the ending of 2nd and the rest of the series he became good. He is voiced by Will Friedle.
Bert, Jimmy & Katie
Jimmy’s friends – Jimmy’s three companions, whom he talked into scaring Hannah-Marie when she first went trick-or-treating. Unlike Jimmy, they aren’t bad children, just easily influenced. They were content with Hannah’s company, and even helped her save Halloween when Jimmy tried to ruin it once.
- Bert – A boy and the most imaginative of the three. Dresses as a baseball player wearing a cardboard SUV around his body. He is voiced by Kevin Kleinbeirg.
- Daryl – Sweet and naive. Dresses as a piece of candy. Has a crush on Katie. He is voiced by Anthony Asbury.
- Katie – She’s the most empathic of the three. Has a crush on Daryl, which is revealed when she tells him she’ll trade him chocolate bar for a kiss, though also at times it seems she likes Jimmy. Dresses as a black cat. She is voiced by Lacey Chabert.
Mr. Skully Pettibone – Scary Godmother’s broommate. He’s the skeleton that hides in people’s closets to keep their secrets safe, and, as he puts it, just rattle around. Come Halloween, there’s nothing Skully likes more than to cut loose and roll the bones at a good party. His characterization in the books, and to a greater extent in the animated specials, is to a large extent that of a stereotypical “female lead’s best friend,” as suggested by his repeatedly coming out of closets. His voice was done by Scott McNeil.
- Bug-A-Boo – Another broommate of Scary Godmother’s. He is a huge, round monster with multiple yellow eyes, fur, a pointy tail, horns and a huge mouth with sharp teeth. He is the type of monster that lurks in places like in basements, under beds, in closets, and other deep, dark places (and knows what children are scared of, even Jimmy and his friends). Frightened of him at first, Hannah perceived him as the “monster in the basement” that Jimmy told her would eat children lest she feeds him candy. While she does that, Bug-A-Boo tells her that his job is to scare children, not eat them! (“If I went around eatin’ all the clients, I’d be out of work!”). They have since become great friends. His voice was done by Gary Chalk.
- Harry – A talkative werewolf who wears a blue, lamb-patterned shirt. He hails from Ackerman Forest (a pun on horror honcho Forrest J Ackerman) which is somewhere in the Fright Side. With a hammy, self-absorbed and pitying personality and an insatiable appetite for food (especially candy and snacks), he is one of Scary Godmother’s friends, but also a huge nuisance to her and her broommates. Is a big fan of the TV “skelevision” show The Spectral Six. It is notable however that while annoying, Harry is still a full-grown male werewolf possessing razor-sharp claws and fangs, incredible strength, and highly acute lupine senses. It would be unwise to get between Harry and something he wants. His voice was done by Gary Chalk.
Count Maxwell, Ruby & Orson
Count Maxwell – A tall, thin and bald vampire dressed in black. The most famous vampire on the Fright Side, he is the “King of the Night”. Usually very old-fashioned, Max feels awkward for being out of touch with the times His visual design is suggestive of that of Count Orlok in Murnau’s Nosferatu as played by Max Schreck, his vocal characterization of Béla Lugosi impersonators. His voice was done by Scott McNeil.
- Ruby – Max’s beautiful wife who is also a vampire and the “Queen of the Night”. She is more “modern” than her husband, which drives him batty. Has long, black hair and is clad in a satin dress. Her appearance recalls that of 1950s horror show hostess Vampira. Her voice was also done by Tabitha St. Germain in a Russian accent.
- Orson – Max & Ruby’s preteen son who is a vampire like his parents. He is the “Prince of the Night”. Wears modern goth clothing, thin round glasses and has blue dyed hair, He has a crush on Hannah. His voice is done by Richie Warke.
Scary Godmother is now a doll thanks to Kickstarter.
Thomson described the work and the character this way: “Scary Godmother is like your fairy godmother, but for Halloween. There’s really nothing scary about the Scary Godmother. She’s fun and macabre; reminiscent of childhood with a little bit of social commentary mixed in.” She stated that “comics are so segregated now” and that she wanted to create something that both young readers and adults could enjoy.” She decided to create a something with a Halloween theme after looking for a Halloween-themed children’s book for her niece and not finding anything that she liked. The books employ a combination of storybook/comic formats. Thompson does the interiors as well as the covers for Scary Godmother, and she said that planning ahead and meeting deadlines can be a challenge.
Two films have been produced based on the series. The first, Scary Godmother Halloween Spooktacular, premiered on television in Europe, Latin America, and Canada in 2003. Later, it premiered in the United States on Cartoon Network in 2004. The film was the first one Mainframe Entertainment used its new software/animation pipeline for. Jill Thompson co-wrote the script, and had some creative control over the project. When she was shown early character designs for the film which resembled the watercolor illustrations in her books, she requested that the characters instead be fully computer-generated. (In an interview, Thompson stated that she wanted them to go with CGI because “I’m doing 2D. Nobody else should be doing 2D, just me.”) However, the mostly static backgrounds used in the film more closely resemble traditional cel animation or the illustrations in Thompson’s books. Because of that, the 3D characters often appear to “pop out” from their backgrounds. The visual style of the film has been described as resembling that of Tim Burton‘s The Nightmare Before Christmas rather than that of computer-animated films such as Finding Nemo. A review of the film in School Library Journal, however, described the film as “Toy Story meets Tim Burton”, and thought that the animation closely resembles Thompson’s watercolor illustrations.
The second, Scary Godmother 2: The Revenge of Jimmy (based on the second book), premiered in 2005.