TODAY ushered in the spookiest day of the year with a celebration dubbed “Once Upon a Halloween,” unveiling a storybook theme in conjunction with the upcoming film “The Tale of Despereaux.”
Filled with pumpkins and decorations inspired by children’s favorite bedtime stories, Rockefeller Plaza became a whimsical fantasy kingdom. With the help of “Saturday Night Live” costume designer Brian Hemesath, TODAY’s anchors were transformed into familiar characters from fairy tales.
Encased in a giant egg as Humpty Dumpty, Matt Lauer asked if he looked fat. Meredith Vieira, hard to recognize as Pinocchio, admitted at one point that she was getting “a little high” from the glue keeping her extended nose stuck to her face.
Ann Curry played Cinderella, or, as she described herself, "the ethnic J-Lo Cinderella." Al Roker was jovial in a gingerbread man’s costume.
Kathie Lee Gifford was even less recognizable than Vieira, done up complete with snout and furry tale as the Big Bad Wolf. Hoda Kotb, Gifford’s co-host on the fourth hour of TODAY, was Little Red Riding Hood, while Amy Robach sported a long blonde wig as Rapunzel.
There was also a surprise appearance by Natalie Morales, who showed off her new baby — as well as the fact that she’d lost her pregnancy weight.
Universal Pictures’ “The Tale of Despereaux” tells the tale of three unlikely heroes — a book-loving mouse, a scheming rat and a bumbling servant girl — whose fates are intertwined with that of a castle's princess. In honor of the film, TODAY incorporated the storybook theme, including a musical performance from the cast of Broadway’s “The Little Mermaid" and a game of “Fairy-tale Feud,” moderated by Al Roker.
In “Fairy-tale Feud,” the cast gathered to test their knowledge of legendary bedtime stories. The two teams — Matt, Ann and Meredith representing “Mother Goose” and Amy, Hoda and Kathie Lee as the “Brothers Grimm” — answered 10 trivia questions, such as “Who locked Rapunzel in the tower?” and “In ‘Jack and the Beanstalk,’ what does Jack steal from the giant?” Team Mother Goose won.
As in past years, the annual TODAY Halloween extravaganza also features a plaza costume contest, creepy-crawler insects and highlights pets in costume.
Last year, TODAY anchors dressed as the title characters from the iconic TV show “The Munsters,” with Matt Lauer as Herman, Meredith Vieira as Lillian, Al Roker as Grandpa, Hoda Kotb as Marilyn, Natalie Morales as Eddie and Tiki Barber as the family’s favorite dragon, Spot.
In 2006, the cast wore “Pirates of the Caribbean” costumes, with Matt Lauer as Capt. Jack Sparrow, Al Roker as pirate Davy Jones and Meredith Vieira as a mermaid in a clamshell.
In 2005, to celebrate a “divas” theme, Lauer and Roker made their grand entrance as Batman and Robin, with Ann Curry dressed to the nines as Audrey Hepburn.