Nothing makes us feel like kids again more than Halloween. All of our greatest memories associated with the spooky holiday conjure up snapshots of crafty costumes and cavity-inducing treats. In the days leading up to Halloween, creepy cartoons always set the mood with spine-tingling tales and famous animated characters channeling the dark side. We’ve collected several classic cartoons that pay homage to all things haunted and hair-raising, so head past the break to see what we came up with. Share your favorites, below.
The Skeleton Dance (1929)
One of the greatest cartoons in animation history, Disney’s 1929 Skeleton Dance was a playful nod to late-medieval Danse Macabre iconography and a musical twist on the traditional foxtrot and Edvard Grieg’s “The March of the Trolls.” In the short, nocturnal creatures awaken a skeleton from the grave that enlists his bony friends for several spirited song and dance numbers. In a 1971 interview, composer Carl Stalling talked more about his inspiration. “Ever since I was a kid I had wanted to see real skeletons dancing and had always enjoyed seeing skeleton-dancing acts in vaudeville. As kids, we all like spooky pictures and stories, I think.” The dancing skeletons made several later appearances, including 1929’s Haunted House, starring Mickey.
Lonesome Ghosts (1937)
A group of phantoms are totally bored, so they invite some ghostbusters over to toy with. The trio of spirit chasers happens to be Mickey, Donald, and Goofy, which doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence, but the cartoon characters wind up doing an admirable job. The early animation style is charming, and Donald is even more hilariously indecipherable than we’re normally used to.
To Boo or Not to Boo (1951)
Casper the Friendly Ghost just wants to make friends and join in on the Halloween festivities, but the neighbors are terrified of him and abandon the little specter on Halloween. In his misery, Casper stumbles upon a barn dance and meets a giggly, young girl who takes an instant liking to him. Eventually she reveals they have more in common than he thinks.
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, “Hassle in the Castle” (1969)
This 1969 Scooby-Doo Halloween ep is full of Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon power. The gang heads out on a boating expedition, but some wicked fog leads them to the wrong destination. They end up on Haunted Isle, where a phantom warns them to turn back. Since this is Scooby-Doo, nobody listens and hijinks ensue. Spoiler alert: Shaggy’s double-triple-decker sardine and marshmallow fudge sandwich may be the most frightening thing featured in the clip.
The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (1949)
Based on Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and narrated by Bing Crosby, this 1949 Disney favorite is one segment in the Mouse House’s Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad. Directors Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, and James Algar wanted to remain true to Irving’s story so they inserted lines taken from the 1820 tale and gave it a similar regional, American-Romanticism spin.
Fright to the Finish (1954)
Popeye isn’t pleased about having to share quiet time with Olive Oyl, but Bluto doesn’t take no for an answer in this 1954 gem. The sailor man eventually kicks the bearded musclehead out of the house, but Bluto has other plans. He comes back to “haunt” Popeye and his ladylove under the guise of several spooky figures. As usual, Popeye gets revenge and Olive displays immense self-hatred — this time by stuffing herself into an ashtray.
Disney’s Haunted Halloween (1984)
Who can resist an animated Disney Halloween special narrated by a talking pumpkin that teaches you about Druids? Not us! This famous educational short discusses the origins of Halloween and various superstitions and traditions associated with the best day of the year: October 31. You’ll recognize several classic cartoon skits featured in the eight-minute clip and revisit some of Disney’s greatest villains.
Halloween is Grinch Night (1977)
After How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, there was this dark 1977 musical (that’s kind of a prequel), which replaces Halloween with an evening known as “Grinch Night.” It’s filled with the usual Dr. Seuss imagery and puns, but the real nightmare happens when the Grinch opens up his “paraphernalia wagon” to torment a Who named Euchariah. Those surreal, psychedelic scenes have terrified many children since they first appeared on the small screen.
The Duxorcist (1987)
Skip Paranormal Activity and watch Daffy Duck as a “paranormalist” who is enticed to a damsel in distress’ house. She’s possessed by an evil spirit, which transforms her into a Linda Blair look-alike at random. Daffy doesn’t let that dissuade him from getting a little closer — at first, anyway. The clip bridges old and new-era Looney Tunes humor and style quite nicely.
Jem: “Trick or Techrat” (1987)
With the recent Jem resurgence, we had to include this episode from the pink and sparkly TV series that finds rockers Jem and the Holograms trying to save an old theater. Villainous music manager Eric Raymond threatens to tear it down, so Jem and company try to convince him that the place is haunted. They get the geeky Techrat to work his electro wizardry — which only serves to make the elusive and angsty engineer way more crushable, at least in our book.