October is the time of year where you start pulling out your sweaters, where everything is pumpkin flavored, and when Disney Channel shows their classic Halloween movies.
Their third original movie, Halloweentown, is arguably their most famous and a fan favorite, being a must watch in most households any time it is playing on the TV. While many people's favorite character from the movies is Marnie, I have always had a soft spot for the lonely warlock in a sea of witches, Dylan. Luckily, I was able to sit down with J. Paul Zimmerman and have a chat about his role and look back on such a beloved film.
1. He actually wasn't a Disney kid
My agent at the time found out about it and really wanted me to audition. I had just turned 12 and never auditioned for any "nerdy" roles before, so I guess they wanted to see how it would go. I was more excited about the fact that it was a Halloween movie than a Disney Channel movie. I didn't have Disney Channel growing up. I was more of a Nickelodeon kid.
2. He was shocked at the fan response
I'd never been a part of anything that spawned sequels. I remember how excited I was to hear about "Halloweentown II" and got excited for every sequel rumor after that.
3. He basically is Dylan... kind of
There's always been a lot of us in each other. If he liked monsters and magic it'd be hard to tell us apart. A lot of things you see Dylan do are because I would do the same thing myself.
4. He likes difficult situations
Oh yes, difficult AND fun. The scene in "Return to Halloweentown" where the Sinister Sisters trip me and I fall into green pudding was especially tricky. Due to factors like wardrobe and props and decorations and time it would take to reset, we could only do ONE take.
5. He has a favorite Halloweentown movie and character
Still, I would have to say the very first is my very favorite. Filming was mostly the three kids, running around Halloweentown solving the big mystery in order to defeat the scary villain. All those sets were fantastic, and those local Portland actors have my eternal admiration for pulling off brilliant heavily-costumed characters in hundred-plus heat, and still having a great attitude. I spent a lot of those weekends with Kimberly [J. Brown] and our families, touring local attractions like where "The Shining" was filmed. Oh, and Benny. He's my all-time favorite "Halloweentown" character and I got to interact the most with him in the first film.
6. The villain that was the most villainous was more then just one
I would have liked to see the 'Knights of the Iron Dagger' again. I'm also a big fan of fantasy and was into the idea of the Cromwell Clan having to fight off a huge army of knights.
7. If he could be a supernatural creature... it actually wouldn't be a warlock
I think I'd like to be a really helpful ghost. I'd float around restarting car batteries and causing favorable ATM errors, or make myself visible occasionally and talk to lonely people. As long as there's maybe one day every year I can turn solid and eat pizza. Maybe two days.
8. He DOES have a favorite "Marnie"
Sara [Paxton] was a lot of fun to work with and we got along as friends, but when Kimberly and I filmed the first three movies we really pretended to be family. We got to know each other well during and between the films, so that evolved closeness from years of real experience was missing from my chemistry with Sara.
9. He had his own fanboy moment while filming
Well, I have always been a huge fan of the original "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles," so when I found out Judith Hoag [who played April] was going to be my mother, I geeked out. I wanted to be a professional, so I waited until after filming the entire first movie before exploding about TMNT. Doing the sequels was like winning some kind of lottery. Judith is a terrific actor with an impressive career, and to top it off she's a wonderful and hilarious person to be around. I always enjoyed when Dylan and Gwen bond over how much trouble Marnie can be. I looked forward to any scene with Mom.
10. He is always up for a sequel
I'd put the Dylan glasses on so fast, I'd get glasses-burn. It's such a fun world to play in. I loved that Dylan was keeping the stone safe, but I think I'd most like to see a sequel that focuses on new characters to keep things fresh. I'd rather see Dylan in a support capacity, offering advice and assistance to the young adventurers. It'd be funny if he ended up working at Witch University as a Professor of Mortal Culture or something.
11. Don't tell the wardrobe department about his sticky fingers.
The evidence of our similarity is building...I admit to taking home and wearing a lot of my clothes from the films.
12. He still is known by fans
I do! It used to be mostly around Halloween, but I think Disney runs the movies sometime in the Spring now, for whatever reason. And thanks to social media it's easier for fans to find me online and see what I'm up to during the "off-season." There's quite an age range, too. I've been recognized by people around my age who grew up with the movies as well as their young children who weren't even born when the first movie came out, but still look at me and say "Dylan!"
13. He HAS watched the movies since they were filmed
It's been a long time, but I'll tune in if I happen to come across them. They bring back a lot of fun memories. And those types of movies are always fun to watch after you film them, because you'll see the result of all the special effects that weren't there during filming. It's like, on set you see a guy covered in a green sheet against a green backdrop, and on screen it's a monster with five heads. Really makes you appreciate the technical aspect as well as the imagination of having to film that with little to no reference.
14. His favorite Halloween movie is not one of his own
It's so hard to pick a favorite! I don't think there's one particular Halloween/Horror movie I have to make sure and watch every year. At some point the "spirit" moves me and I just want to watch anything. I'm a lover of classics, though. The black and white, the silent. I'd have to say zombie movies are my favorite. It's fascinating to watch how they've evolved through cinema history. Watch "White Zombie" and then "Zombieland" and you'll see what I mean.
15. His favorite actor is Bruce Campbell
My older sister showed me "Army of Darkness" when I was 9 and I just thought he was the coolest dude ever. He's my go-to influence. I've seen probably every terrible movie he's made, and even joined the "Xena: Warrior Princess" fan club when I was 13. And dressed up as Autolycus for a convention. And Ash for Halloween once. I'd love to work with him someday.
16. From sci-fi to stage, he is still keeping busy
I've created ZFO Entertainment with my co-producer Bradley Pierce. You might know him from "Jumanji" and "Beauty and the Beast." We've been friends for a long time and decided to pool our filmmaking expertise and create a channel exclusively sci-fi/fantasy/horror. We have geek news, convention coverage and now our first original series. Early 2016 will see the premiere of "Vultures," a sci-fi short that I wrote and directed. On the acting side, I've been getting back to theatre. I've been involved with Cool Britannia, a Thousand Oaks-based company, and will be doing my third show with them this year, a project called "Shakespeare and Song-etts." It's the highlights of Shakespeare double billed with Beatles tunes, and admittedly...my first attempt at appearing in a musical. I'll also be appearing in Thousand Oaks' annual production of "A Christmas Carol" in December, which will be wonderful for the whole family! Come on down!
It has been amazing to watch J. Paul grow as both a person and an actor over the years, and it sounds like he has even bigger plans for the future. It looks like we'll have to keep an eye on this magic man.
Follow ZFO on Facebook to keep up to date on it as well as see what J. Paul has been up to since he last flew out of Halloweentown.