As a kid, Halloween was the one time of year in which I felt the most adult, and on the opposite side of that coin … as an adult, Halloween is the season that makes me feel the most like a kid again. It’s a perfect marriage of feeling young and grown-up in one package, and I try to maintain that balance in my posts for October.
For every adult horror movie I review, I also want to post something that ties into my childhood nostalgia of growing up with Halloween as my favorite holiday. I was one of those kids that grew-up with various Halloween movies and specials, and one of the highlights I always looked forward to was a breakout song or musical number. While there are obviously a number of great stand-alone Halloween tunes like Alice Coopers “Welcome to my Nightmare”, Bobby Pickett’s “The Monster Mash”, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”, Ramones “Pet Sematary”, and even the “Grim Grinning Ghosts” theme from Disneyland’s The Haunted Mansion Ride, it was always the songs from select Halloween specials that always left the most nostalgic impact on me. Someday I’ll do a top 10 Halloween songs with no movie tie-ins, but that’s for another season. For this October however, I’m going to count down my own personal top 10 favorite song or musical numbers from Halloween specials.
#10 “Trick r’ Treat Theme Song” (Classic Donald Duck Cartoon: Trick or Treat)
I grew-up with this classic Donald Duck short titled “Trick or Treat” on an old VHS collection called “Cartoon Classics Halloween Haunts”, and needless to say … it was something I made a tradition of watching every year. It was fun, colorful, packed with memorable images, and an awesome supporting character called Old Witch Hazel. The highlight was this catchy little theme song which plays through-out the short. It’s a surprisingly catchy and cheerful harmony that always gets me in the perfect, nostalgic, Halloween mood. The musical number itself features some bouncy ghouls and playful visuals. While the song is no classic by any means, it’s still a fun little time capsule of a tune, and makes my childhood favorite Donald Duck short all the more special.
#9 “Remains of the Day” (Corpse Bride)
The re-animated corps bride named Emily has arguably the most tragic backstory of any character in a children’s Halloween special. So, what better way to convey her tragic tale … then with up-scale musical number in a jazzy night club. The presentation is polar contrast to the darkness of her origins, but it goes with the tone and personality of the movie. The animation on display is outstanding, with striking colors, a busy environment, and arguably the greatest ensemble of stop-Motion Skeletons senses the days of “Jason and the Argonauts”. Also, you can’t get any better than the lead Skeleton singer who’s voiced by the wickedly talented Danny Elfman, and is clearly channeling Sammy Davis in his delivery. It’s all-around a Jazzy number, and a “lively” way to explore a character’s backstory.
#8 “You're My Zing” (Hotel Transylvania)
Unlike the other songs on my countdown, which emphasize either the spooky or adventurous aspects of the season, this song is more romantic at heart, and the presentation is upbeat and colorful. We all know the classic phrase “love at first sight” … well, the monster’s from “Hotel Transylvania” have their own take, which is colorfully referred to as … a zing. When Dracula’s daughter falls in love with a human boy, it’s Zing at first sight, and this song marks the finale of their romantic venture in a fun, upbeat fashion. Aside from that, it’s just cool to be at a party with all the classic monsters. The lyrics are catchy, the rhythm is bouncy, and it’s just a charming musical number to close out an all-around lovable film.
#7 “Monks on a Mission” (Alvin and the Chipmunks meet the Wolf-Man)
Back when I was a kid, I always viewed Halloween as a mini-adventure, a time when kids face their fears, journey out into the night, and share an exciting experience with friends. In this animated Chipmunks adventure, Alvin and his brother Simon venture out into the night to solve the mystery of a Werewolf. The ensuing song titled “Monks on a Mission” just seems to capture all the spirit and excitement of us kids that went out Trick r’ Treating on the spookiest, yet most fun night of the year. It has the eerie build up, the triumphant high notes, and the scene contains all the proper fun, spooky visuals. It’s simply an upbeat song number that brings out the inner child in me, and who’s ready to make Halloween night an adventure again.
#6 “Who You Gonna Call?” (Ghostbusters)
This is one of those movies that’s not exactly “Halloween related”, but I still watch it ever October, and every Halloween party I go to plays their theme song. “Ghostbusters” in general was a childhood favorite, with genuine scares, cool ghosts, awesome gadgets, and one hell of a catchy theme song to boot. I distinctly remember my parents asking why I would still be watching it even though the credits were rolling. Obviously, I was still listening to that awesome song, and I wasn’t going to turn that movie off until it was over. The film is very self-aware that it has a catchy theme, because it's played not once, not twice, but three times in the film. The only thing that keeps this song from ranking any higher on my list is the musical montage sequence in the middle of the film ... it just needed more Ghosts on display then just that one dream girl ghost. Still, to this day the Halloween season just doesn’t feel complete without this memorable tune.
#5 “I Want t to Scare Myself” (Winnie the Pooh: Boo To You Too)
Along with “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown”, “Boo to You Too” was one of the very first Halloween specials I ever saw in my lifetime, and the song “I Want t to Scare Myself” is when my love for the holiday first took shape. No joke, one of the first things I loved about the holiday was its collection of different characters and creatures. This musical number was the first time I saw so many at once, like all Halloween characters on parade. The song isn’t even that long, about a minuet at best, yet it’s one minuet of awesomeness that no amount of growing up could make me forget. The music tempo was bouncy, and the lyrics were easy to remember. Once more, this song is exploding with energy and delightfully spooky visuals that are constantly being thrown in your face. We get headless horsemen, mad scientists, haunted mansions, a selection of costumes, and a parade of all kinds of ghosts and goblins. It’s almost like if a kid ate too much candy, and then had the craziest Halloween dream ever. Basically, it was just an awesome treat to see as a child, and it’s never left me sense.
#4 “Thriller Night” (Shrek’s Thriller)
In my view, Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is the all-time greatest song to listen to at Halloween parties. In this underrated 2011 animated Halloween special featuring the characters of Shrek’s animated universe, there’s a short segment that plays out as a loving recreation of Michael Jackson’s original music video … and its great stuff. Some of the lyrics are changed around to fit with both the characters and setting, but it still keeps the same beat, tone, atmosphere and bouncy fun of its source material. It even contains some additional material that worked for a modern update, including flashy colors, and backup singers that came in the form of Witches, rats and black birds. It’s all around a great way for kids to be introduced to the classic song, and for us familiar’s, it’s a fun homage, and one that’s shore to thrill.
#3 “Terror Time Again” (Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island)
I never called myself a Scooby-Doo fan as a kid, but he still had his select animated movies I loved watching. “Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island” was exceptionally good, with a darker tone, a layered mystery, and even some moments that came close to being scary. Yet, the big take away from this venture was the zombie theme song “Terror Time Again”. It had a fast beat, lots of energy, and it had some awesome lyrics like “You Just Might Die of Fright”. Just like the movie, this song had a little bit of a dark edge, and always got me riveted. All around, it was just a fun song that got me in the proper mood for some awesome zombie action.
#2 “I Put a Spell on You” (Hocus Pocus)
The evil Sanderson Sisters have awakened on Halloween night, and their after all the towns children ... but first, they have to distract the parents. Straight to the point, this was one of my favorite Halloween movies from child hood, as it had fun characters, a strong atmosphere, and … the most insanely entertaining musical number any holiday special could ask for. The song “I put a Spell on You!” was relentlessly energized, colorful, catchy, and with Bette Midler giving her all, this song just reeked of classic Halloween nostalgia. I don’t even need to comment further, it’s such a staple of the holiday, and I think it’s what’s kept “Hocus Pocus” alive after all these years.
Before I reveal my #1 favorite, here are some Honorable Mentions …
“Time Warp” (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
“I'm a Hex Girl” (Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost)
“Things Out There” (Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein)
“The Headless Horsman Song” (Disney’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)
#1 “This is Halloween” (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Yea, you guessed it, how could this not be number one? It’s the witching hour, and the residents of Halloween town are throwing a celebration. The images, creatures, visuals, and variety of characters on display in this opening number just blew my mind as a child.
We got ghosts, vampires, trees with skeletons, witches, shadows, Jack O’ lanterns, faceless clowns, black cat’s, a flaming scarecrow, and it all builds to that unforgettable final image of Jack Skellington rising up from the well. It’s simply the definitive opening for a Halloween movie. There’s also a relentless amount of energy to this scene, as the camera is constantly zooming through different rooms, interiors and landscapes. It’s almost like a simulated roller-coaster, but set in a highly decorative Halloween world. With all kinds of great designs and surreal images just flying out at the screen, it’s probably one of the most over the top and mind-blowing (or mind-numbing) scenes for a holiday special. It’s almost too good, because as a kid, I rarely continued the rest of the film ... truthfully, I just kept replaying this opening song. It’s a musical number that lives up to its title 100%, and in my opinion deserves to be called the number one Halloween song of all time.