Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (Movie Review)


       I can honestly care less about reviewing a direct to video Disney sequel, however, in this case, I want to make an exception. It is the Christmas season, and back in January I did start the year with a review of the 1991 Disney classic “Beauty and the beast”, so it only seems fitting that I close the year with a review of its 1997 sequel titled “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas”. As you’d expect, this film follows suite with a long line of direct to video Disney sequels, which are commonly hated and pore follow ups to their predecessors. This film in many ways is no exception, it obviously doesn’t hold a candle to the original, but it’s at least better than most of the forgettable Disney sequels, and has some worthwhile things to offer. Plus, as far as I know, it’s the only Disney sequel that’s actually themed around a holiday.       

     I have to confess, having this movie themed around Christmas may seem random and out of place when compared to the original but I honestly think it helps in this movies favor. All other direct to video Disney sequels are just empty follow-ups to classic movies (with some small exceptions), but this movie has some small chance to exist as its own thing with a subtle splash of Christmas magic. The film plays less like a sequel and more like a prequel or in-between sequel, as the plot takes place somewhere in between the events of the first movie. The story goes like this, its Christmas time at the castle and everyone is cheery, that is with the exception of the Beast who naturally can’t get into the spirit of the holiday. Now it’s up to Belle and friends to get the Beast to see the real meaning and beauty of the holiday. Meanwhile, an evil villain try’s to twist and cloud the beasts mind with misery and envy, all in hopes of preventing our two lead hero’s from falling in love. It’s about as generic as Disney plots go, and it sadly leaves the characters with little to do. Belle is still a great leading heroine but in this film she feels more like a stereotype that will obviously do the right thing, rather than a character with personality and charisma. Things only get worse with Beast, who’s clearly just a stereotypical Mr. Scrooge that will act bitter and grouchy, then learn something meaningful in the end.          
      Most of the primary supporting characters from the original are back and while they have little to do in the plot, there still just as charming as ever. Lumiere and Cogsworth (the candle and clock) are still fun to watch and Angela Lansbury respectively reprises her role as Mrs. Potts, which is very welcome. Belle’s father Maurice is given a small background cameo, but then again what else would you expect him to do. The only big cast change is the character Chip, now voiced by Haley Joel Osment, who’s often described as the greatest child actor of his generation. You may wonder why he’d waist his talents on a film like this but on the contrary, he made a career out of doing voice work in Disney sequels. I’m not sure how many he did voice work in, but it was a tone of them. Then there’s some new characters that actually hold their own in the film. There’s a Christmas angle (by that I mean ornament) voiced by famous Broadway star Bernadette Peters and she has her own unique charm. There’s also an amusing little whistle character named Fife voiced by Paul Rubens, that’s the same talent famous for playing Pee Wee Herman.  

      But the best character, or perhaps I should say, the most entertaining character is the villain Forte, voiced by Tim Curry. Do I need to say any more than that, it’s Tim Curry, and he livens up everything. You could have the most passive, one dimensional character in the world and he’ll still make the performance a lot of fun to watch. The animation on him is great and the characters design is especially cool. He’s basically a giant pipe organ with a scary face that reminds me of the face in the magic mirror from “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”. It’s a good thing he’s fun to watch because his motivations are the stupidest I’ve ever heard, he doesn’t want Beast and Belle to fall in love because that will break the enchantment and Forte refuses to become human again. I guise he enjoys spending eternity as a piano that’s chained to a wall and can’t even leave a single room. Seriously, why wouldn't he want to become human again? His villain song titled “Don’t Fall in Love” is perhaps the most boring and stereotypical villain song I’ve ever heard. Terrible lyrics, dull melody, and adds nothing to the story. Thankfully, Tim Curry still redeems the character by acting so deliciously over the top, especially during the climax, he goes all out with wicked laughter and destructive magic spells. In comparison to the villain Gaston from the first “Beauty and the Beast”, this guy is a million times cartoonier. You could argue that Gaston was sillier but at least he had charisma and even a subtle metaphor at the center, Forte on the other hand is just a hammy villain.

      The musical score in this film is quiet nice to listen to and the individual songs themselves range from surprisingly good to unsurprisingly bland and generic. The movie begins with “Deck the Halls”, performed by a Chorus and that dose a good job putting you in the proper Christmas mind set. There’s a song called “Stories”, which doesn’t really have anything to do with the holiday but it has a nice melody, its up-beat and the scene boasts some really nice animation. The weakest song is called “A Cut Above the Rest”, which is a buddy song for Lumiere and Cogsworth. It could have been passable, but the song itself comes out of no-where and it happens just before the climax. It’s so sudden and abrupt that you can’t help but get annoyed with it. The big musical number of the film is “As Long As There's Christmas”, which I have mixed feelings about. The version that plays during the movie is descent enough, it’s lively and active, even though the lyrics can be a little silly at times. The final version of this song performed by Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack is really good, in fact this version of the song can easily stand on its own as a genuinely great Christmas song that I’d enjoy listening to every year.        

      I know it isn’t fair to compare the animation of a direct to video picture to that of a theatrical motion picture, considering the one film has a much bigger budget then the other. However, there’s one glaring problem that needs to be addressed, especially in comparison to the first movie. If you read my review of that film, I stated that despite being a story that’s seat almost entirely in a castle, it never once felt confined or claustrophobic. Everything was brought up on a grand scale, the backgrounds were beautifully detailed and the surroundings all felt magical and lively. Unfortunately for this movie, it has very empty backgrounds, tight spaces and little to no color. In fact most of the interiors are dark, gloomy and the characters are mostly trapped in shadows. When you mix that with the films slightly harsh tone and constant scenes that feature characters moping, it just makes this film feel empty and joyless. Oh and when I say this film can be harsh, it can actually be really harsh. There’s a scene when Belle falls in a frozen lake, almost drowns and freezes to death, immediately followed by a scene in which Beast locks Belle in a dark and gloomy dungeon while loudly stating that she’ll rote in there for the rest of her miserable life. I just don’t get this movie, didn’t anyone on the righting staff look at this and think it might be a little too harsh.

      The movie tries to redeem itself by addressing virtues like “hope” and “forgiveness”, which to the films credit are done fairly well. Unfortunately the story is just so passive and uneventful that viewers could probably care less. In the first movie, every scene was important and helped build on the story, but the scenes in this film come off as filler. There's also a more detailed flashback of the spell that the enchantress unleashes on the castle, which is cool to see but it doesn't tell us anything that we didn't already know.

      There just isn’t enough depth to this plot to justify its existence, but there is just enough enjoyment that the film can pass as derivative. I will say that of all these really bad direct to video Disney sequels, this one isn’t entirely bad. It does have its good morals, some of the music is pleasant, the villain is a lot of fun and there’s a hand full of genuine holiday charms. This isn’t a good movie by any means, and it doesn’t even touch on the brilliance of its predecessor but at the very least, it’s slightly better than just another bad, direct to video sequel.

           I give “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” 2 ½ stars out of 5.


Monday, December 16, 2013

My Top 10 Favorite Santa Clauses

Well, Christmas just isn't complete without Santa Clause. He’s one of the most famous holiday icons of all time, and there have been countless interpretations of this character throughout various holiday movies and specials. So for a special holiday treat, here are my personal top ten favorite renditions of Santa Clause, portrayed in movies and television.

10. Santa Clause from “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” 

Here’s one of the more unique renditions of Santa. First of all, I like how his formal title is “Father Christmas” as opposed to one of his more common names. Second, I like how he’s from a mid-evil setting, with an original, mid-evil design to boot. This is a Santa who doesn’t shy away from weapons either, as long as their used for a good purpose.

9. Santa Clause from “The Polar Express” 

Even though this Santa isn’t on screen for that long, he still leaves a subtle impact. This Santa has a genuinely magical presence, feeling less like a person in a suit, and more like a mystical being that was created from the joy and good tidings of the holiday. Tom Hanks delivers a subtle performance, I like how the character even glows and he delivers those speeches that are short but simple and to the point. It’s all you really need from a film rendition of Santa Clause. 

8. Santa Clause from “Nicolas: The Boy Who Became Santa” 

This is a half hour, holiday short from a company called CCC Entertainment and they specialized in developing animated, direct to video movies that always focused on a famous individual with a religious back story. In the case of this special, it’s Saint Nicolas, the boy who would grow up to become the embodiment of Santa Clause. Many people forget to connect Santa to religion, but he is in fact based on a Saint that indeed has a Christian background. This special is a great little reminder of that, and it’s an interesting take on his life, beginning as a humble child, and then growing up to be a charitable adult who thinks nothing of himself or his needs, just the needs of others. If you can find a copy of this special, then give it a watch and check out one of the most selfless and faithfully inspiring Santa’s you’ll ever see.

7. Santa Clause from “A Christmas Story” 

Well, not every variation of Santa is kind and cheery, some are downright cruel (as seen in movies like “Bad Santa”). But of all the “jerk Santa’s”, my favorite by far is the one featured in “A Christmas Story”. The idea of Santa can warm any child’s heart around the holidays but when you meet him in a shopping mall, Santa starts getting a little scary. Speaking from personal experiences, I was never happy visiting Santa in a shopping mall, and this movie represents that perfectly. This Santa is so enjoyably over the top with his big bug eyes, overblown laugh and extremely uncomfortable close-up shots, that I couldn’t help but give his a spot on the list.   

6. Santa Clause from “The Santa Clause” 

Oh, this movie is such a treasured gem, and a lot of that stems from the films simplistic story of how an ordinary guy can become someone as special as Santa. Actually, Tim Allen’s character isn’t just an everyday, common guy, he’s also a complete jerk, and seeing him slowly become Santa, not just in physical form but also in spirit and tone, makes this flick all the more warm and joyful. Interestingly enough, he feels like a genuine Santa Clause, with a cheery personality and a high spirited performance from Tim Allen to boot.

5. Santa Clause from “Rise of the Guardians” 

Okay, so, this is an unusual take on Santa because this one goes into battle swinging two swords, dresses up like a pirate, has a Russian accent and could put up one heck of a fight. Yet he still feels like a classic, cheery Santa Clause with wholesome morals, words of wisdom and nothing but sheer joy for what he does. I just love how energized and upbeat this guy is, even when he’s aiding the tooth fairy with a task that’s nothing like his own, he still enjoys every second of it and does the best he can at his job. He’s energetic, fun, loving and sure knows how to use a sword. That makes him one of the most unique, yet thoroughly enjoyable Santa Clauses. 

4. Santa Clause from “The Twilight Zone: Night of the Meek” 

I had this particular “Twilight Zone” Christmas episode on my top 25 Christmas specials list last year and a lot of that has to do with the Santa featured here. This is a very tragic and down beat Santa but he’s also one of the most thoughtful and charitable Santa’s I’ve ever seen. This guys determination to give to the need and destitute is just so admirable and joyful, despite coming from a unique source. I highly recommend looking up this fantastic episode from this even more fantastic TV series, so you can view one of the greatest Santa’s of all time.   

3. Santa Clause from “Miracle on 34th Street” (The Original)

This is perhaps the most famous Santa on my list, which is no surprise, considering that he comes from the most famous Santa Clause themed movies. In this film, Edmund Gwenn plays Chris Cringle and the brilliance of this film is that we never know for sure if he’s the real Santa or just a kind old man who believes he’s Santa. However, when you see this guy do what he does, there’s absolutely no doubt in your mind that he’s the genuine article. This is the movie that made Santa feel the most human and relatable, and it’s Edmund Gwenn’s performance that makes the character feel all the more real. Even though this isn’t my absolute favorite portrayal of Santa, he’s still one of the absolute best and for all the right reasons. 

2. Santa Clause from “Ernest Saves Christmas” 

Now I’m not going to argue that this isn’t a stupid movie, it is for the most part. However, the Santa Clause in this film played by the late Douglas Seale is an absolute gem. This is perhaps the most joyful Santa Clause of all time, and by that, I mean he’s an instant joy to watch. Every time he’s on screen, you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Every time he chuckles, or gives a simplistic speech, it can make anyone’s small heart grow three sizes. It’s one of those performances where I never see an actor delivering memorized lines, it genuinely feels like Santa, right there in the flesh. If you think this movie is stupid, that’s perfectly understandable, if you think Ernest is stupid, that’s especially understandable, but if you think this portrayal of Santa Claus is stupid, then you just don’t know Christmas.    

1. Santa Clause from “Miracle on 34th Street” (1994) 

When it comes to different variations of Santa Clause, my personal favorite is this one, played by Sir Richard Attenborough. He is just the kindest, sweetest old man that just embodies the spirit of the holiday. He’s also very sophisticated and dignified, which balances off his magical charm and persona perfectly. I especially love his presentation, the design of his costume is beautifully detailed and his smile is simply contagious. He simply embodies everything jolly, wholesome and dignified that you’d expect to see in a rendition of Santa Clause and for that, he’s my personal favorite.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Elf (Movie Review)

     It’s the Christmas season again and time to review another classic Christmas comedy. Director Jon Favreau, best known for directing the “Iron Man” movies, brings us the 2003 motion picture simply titled “Elf”. It’s actually quite rare for a Christmas comedy from the 2000’s to stand the test of time as a holiday classic. Most of them like “Fred Claus” and “Eight Crazy Nights” just crash and burn. I’ll be honest, while I do like this movie, I certainly wouldn’t call it one of the best Christmas movies I’ve ever seen. There are some problems that way it down, but it still has its charms and it certainly has it's laughs.  

      The plot goes like this, one Christmas Eve a baby accidentally stows away in Santa’s bag, this baby was already an orphan, so one of Santa’s elf’s decides to take him in as a son and names him Body. As you’d expect, this guy doesn’t fit in with the other elves and longs to learn who his real family is. Once he discovers that his father is alive, and working in New York city, he sets out determined to meet him. But there’s a catch, his dad is on the knotty list, now nothing will stop Body from bringing holiday cheer and family togetherness to him. I like this premise a lot, but the way this story is told can feel very corny, and the jokes come off as hit or miss.

      But before I get into all of that, let’s talk about the absolute best thing this movie has to offer, Will Ferrell as Body the elf. Holly smokes, how could you not love this guy, this was actually Will Ferrell’s very first movie after he left “Saturday Night Live” and it’s easily one of the best performances of his carrier. He is so innocent, so energetic, so adorably naive that you can’t help but smile whenever he’s on screen. Not only is the performance fun to watch but the character himself is just wonderful. He’s so full of Christmas spirit, and is so determined that everyone else is feeling the same amount of holiday cheer. His hyper active joy is so contagious, I can't get enough of the guy. Most of his jokes are side splitting, including a laugh out loud funny montage that involves him arriving in New York city for the first time. Unfortunately, I have to admit that some of his jokes are painful, most notably his jokes that involve un-healthy food.   

     Well, it’s a good thing that Will Ferrell is so much fun because the remaining characters aren’t that great. There dull, boring and most of the actors feel so tiered. You may argue that some of the characters like the Dad played by James Caan are supposed to be like that, but then there’s Santa and the elf’s who all come off as either grouchy or boring. Maybe it’s just me, but I just don’t care for any these supporting characters. Oh and there’s also a girl friend, that doesn't really amount to much more than an average girl friend.  

     Now being a Christmas movie, this film at least has plenty of genuine holiday charms. The opening credit scene get’s things started on a good note, with some colorful visuals, an upbeat musical score and some charming stop-motion animals that are very reminiscent of the classic Rankin Bass specials that we grew up with (and possibly suffered through). Even the North Pole is populated with stop motion animals, even a snow man character who I think comes from one of the Rankin Bass Christmas specials, but I don’t know for sure. There’s also a candy cane forest, which is a nice touch. Unfortunately, everything else about this portrayal of the North Pole sucks. The workshop and homes are all so dull and ugly, with no color, there’s no magic in the air and it has this slightly depressing overtone. Aside from the colorful uniforms worn by the elf’s, all you get to look at are ugly white walls and white furniture, thankfully this is only a small problem. There’s still plenty of other scenes that are worth looking forward to, including a wild snowball fight and a scene in which Buddy reveals that a shopping mall Santa isn’t the real Santa.  

      The only big problem I have with the movie is the ending, the whole third act of this film completely forgets about our lead elf and his family problems. Instead, we segway into this other story that involves Santa crashing in New York, he can’t fly the sleigh because no one believes in him, there’s a group of evil park rangers that want to see Santa dead and it’s up to our supporting characters to bring Christmas cheer to everyone else. Meanwhile, our main character, who we’ve been invested in and rooting for get’s very little to do in the climax. Plus his family problems, which have been the main focus of the whole movie get resolved so fast, it makes you wonder if there was any point to the whole thing.  

      Despite all my problems that I’ve addressed, in this movie, I still enjoy it. Do I make it a tradition to watch every Christmas, certainly not, but I do still watch it now and then, I still enjoy watching Will Ferrell and I do still enjoy laughing at the sense that are genuinely funny. Overall, “Elf” is a cute and humorous little holiday flick, not one of the absolute best but it’s pleasant enough. I give “Elf” 3 stars out of 5, which means, it’s okay.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Top 10 favorite flying sequences

    There’s one thing I love more than watching a cool sequence in movie and that’s experiencing a cool sequence in a movie. Not literally of cores, but when a scene is so heavy with atmosphere, music and thrills, you almost begin to feel like you’re there, experiencing the event that’s unfolding on screen, as opposed to just watching something on a screen. Personally, nothing engages my senses more than a flying sequence. When done right, these scenes have a power to lift you off your feet and submerse your mind into something that's truly simulating. So, in what might just be the strangest, yet, coolest top ten lists I’ve ever constructed, here are my top ten favorite flight sequences in movies.

                                   10. Bike riding at night from “E. T. The Extra Terrestrial” 

Of cores I had to include this one, this scene is so iconic and so classic that’s impossible not to have it on the list. Admittedly, it’s a very short scene, about a minuet long at best but it’s still a cinematic gem. The music is nice and of cores that shot of them flying in front of the moon is so timeless. It’s one of those wholesome scenes that allow you to take a moment to breathe and I love it when movies give you a minuet to just breathe.  

                                        9. “A Whole New World” from Disney’s “Aladdin” 

Now this a different kind of flight sequence. It’s not big on cinematography or spectacles, the same way many other flights are, but for obvious reasons, it’s still one of the greatest flight sequence ever seen in a motion picture. This musicale number is often regarded as one of the greatest in Disney history and while the song is romantic enough on its own, it's the presentation with our two lovers flying trough the clods and across the sky that really makes it feel all the more magical. On a side note, I just love all the different locations in this scene, from Arabia, to Grease, to Egypt, to China, they certainly cover a lot of places in one night.  


                           8. Eagle Rescue from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” 

You’ll notice that a lot of the flights on this list involve giant eagles, that may seem a little repetitive but they all have their own unique strengths. Case in point, this awesome flight scene, which is actually the finally of the movie. After a flock of giant eagles rescue our hero’s from the villains, were treated to a breathtaking flight through a mountain range, with wonderful cinematography and the most simplistic musical score you could ask for. Plus, it’s such a spectacle to behold, when you have several giant eagles flying silhouette against a setting sun.  

                                              7. “It’s my Time to Fly” from “Titan A.E.” 

Now here’s a rather unique flight scene because unlike all the others, this one takes place in outer space. However, rather than flying around a black void with twinkling stars in the background, this film provides one of the most unique renditions of outer space that I’ve ever seen. With gaseous anomalies, colorful backgrounds, active environments and glowing blue angle creatures that fly around the ship. In this scene, which is so appropriately matched to the rock’ n good song “It’s my Time to Fly”, our lead hero gets a chance to pilot the space ship. What follows is a riveting flight sequence that’s absolutely worth including on the list.   

                                                6. The opening to Disney’s “Dinosaur” 

Talk about starting your movie on a high note. The opening of Disney’s “Dinosaur” is like a short movie in of itself, showing the life and struggles of various Dinosaurs. In this opening is a brief moment featuring a pterodactyl as it collects food for its nest. The flight sequence that follows is nothing short of phenomenal. The landscape, the musicale quire and the cinematography are all brought up on such a grand and epic scale, making this intro feel larger than life.

                         5. Flying the Golden Eagle from Disney’s “The Rescuers Down Under” 

Okay, the eagle scene from “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” was really cool, but honestly, it’s nothing compared to this. So what makes this eagle flight more spectacular than the one featured in that film, well, to be honest, there’s so much more going on in this scene. We have some awesome shots of the eagle flying through the sky but then we have some really unique moments involving water skiing, a dive off a waterfall and an intense drop from a mountain that really elevate this into one of my favorite animated scenes from any Disney movie. The backgrounds are great and the occasional first person perspective help’s simulate the whole illusion and feel of flight perfectly.  

                           4. Buckbeak flight from “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” 

As far as sheer spectacles go, this flight may seem a little tame in comparison to some of the other flights on this list. However, this is still a personal favorite scene of mine because this is where I first fell in love with flight sequences. It’s a new class for Harry and his friends at Hogwarts school, and today’s class is all about a winged creature called a Hippogriff, nicknamed Buckbeak. During class, Harry gets the privilege to ride this creature, like many other flights featured on this list, this whole scene could have been cut out of the film for plot and time purposes, but it’s another perfect example of the movie giving the audience a moment to just breathe and be submersed in the world that the film creates. Plus the shots, the scope and especially the music are all stealer in this short but awesome flight scene.    

                                         3. “Pines of Rome” from Disney’s “Fantasia 2000” 

I’ve used a lot of Disney movies on this list and of all them, this segment from “Fantasia 2000” is the best by far. This isn’t just a visual marvel to behold on screen, it’s a very imaginative and even artistic segment. The whole scene revolves around a group of flying whales and while that may sound odd, it still matches the musicale piece of “Pines of Rome” beautifully. I especially love how this segment builds, first it’s two flying whales, then it’s tones of flying whales, their swimming through the clouds, the music builds along with it, it’s just an awesome sequence.   

                                                     2. Sealing the Bond from “Avatar” 

Wow, now this was an experience I’ll never forget. Unlike every other flight scene mentioned on this list, I experienced this flight in 3D and IMAX. That more than anything transcended this awesome flight scene into a phenomenal experience. For the first time, I truly felt like I was experiencing the simulation of flight in a movie. The world of Pandora it also a visual marvel, complete with floating mountains, detailed landscape and some of the most unique looking flying creatures I’ve ever seen. This could have easily been my number one favorite, if it weren’t for the next scene.

Before I reveal my #1 Favorite, here are my most Honorable Mentions ...

Flight from The Snow Man
Flight from The Never Ending Story
Flight from Superman
Flight from Toy Story
Flight from The Matrix Reloaded
Flight from Bee Movie
Flight from Pearl Harbor 
Flight from Disney’s Peter Pan

                                             1. Dragon Riding from “How to Train Your Dragon” 

Only a year after “Avatar”, I never thought another movie could provide a flight scene as spectacular as the one in that film, but then “How to Train Your Dragon” came out and completely knocked “Avatar” out of the park. The plot revolves around a boy who’s teaching a dragon obedience, as well as learning how to fly him and when they go flying through the sky or through a cannon, you feel like your right there on that dragon. The 3D flying sequences in this film are true spectacles and the scenes themselves are just beautiful to look at. Not only is the cinematography breathtaking but the lighting is especially good, ranging from warm sun sets to cool nights full of glittering stars. Best of all, there’s not just one but several flight scenes in this flick and every one of them dose something different and awesome. This is one of those movies that’s meant to be seen in the IMAX, I mean it’s still a great movie regardless, but the flight scenes alone make this worth full price.        


Friday, October 25, 2013

Animated Halloween Movies and Specials (My Top 13 Favorites) (Updated)


      Horror movies are always a must for October, but I always like to balance those films out with some genuine Halloween movies and specials, preferably the animated ones. It’s like a tradition, Halloween is one of the most nostalgic times of the year for me, when I feel young again, so what better way to close out the year then looking back at all the tricks and treats that come with both classic and modern animated specials, here are my top 13 personal favorites.

#13 - Scared Shrekless (2010) 

In this animated Halloween anthology from DreamWorks, all the popular Shrek characters have gathered to tell scary stories that are all spoofs of classic horror films like “The Bride of Frankenstein”, “Psycho” and “The Exorcist”. Plus, the DVD includes an added short where they spoof Michal Jacksons classic Thriller music video. While there’s nothing subtle about this Halloween special, it’s still very funny, bursting with quality animation and has all the good stuff kid's would want to see this time of year. 


#12 Corps Bride (2005) 

This is the perfect example of how you should never judge a film by its title. “Corpse Bride” looked and sounded like a really stupid idea for a Halloween special, but director Tim Burton gave it a really nice touch and surpassed my small expectations. This story revolving around a man who finds himself accidently engaged to zombie bride plays less like a gothic horror, and more of a classic modern fairytale. It’s original, romantic and a surprisingly toughing film about long lost love. It’s one of Tim Burtons more uplifting and wholesome films, but not without some dark visuals and a lot of imagination.    

#11 It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966) 

This was the very first Halloween special I ever saw, so naturally I had to include it on my list. There really isn’t much of a plot to this special, nothing supernatural happens and there’s no action, it’s about as simplistic as they get, but that’s the beauty of it. It’s just a group of kids doing everything we associate with October, from carving a Jack’ O’ Lanterns, to trick or treating, to making individual costumes, to Halloween parties. It’s all so genuine, nostalgic, memorable and worth yearly viewings.   

#10 - Frankenweenie (2012) 

Sometimes it’s the really simple things that work best, and this film is no exception. Tim Burton’s animated remake of his 1980’s short film is one of the most heartwarming and delightful Halloween films I’ve ever seen, and a great offset to all the other crazy stuff we usually watch this time of year. The story revolves around a boy who brought his dead dog back from the dead as sort of a Frankenstein zombie, but the dog is still just as lovable as ever, it’s everyone else that needs to accept him. For such a quiet movie, it holds your attention great, has a lot of charm, and a monster mash ending to boot.  


#9 – Disney’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow” (1949) 

This classic Disney short made its debut in 1949 as part of the theatrical movie “The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad”, but it’s always stood tall on its own as a traditional and timeless animated Halloween special. It captures the essence of the season so perfectly, but it’s also a relatively dark short with scary sequences, and a richly haunting atmosphere. It’s the story of a man who encounters the frightening headless horseman, and the actual events of the story leading up to the encounter is subdued, making you forget it’s even a Halloween special until the end. It’s simply one of Disney’s greatest shorts and a worth while holiday classic all around.       

#8 - Hotel Transylvania (2013) 

With all the really dark and scary Halloween films like “ParaNorman” and “Coraline”, it’s nice to know that kids have alternatives in the form of films like “Hotel Transylvania”. The story revolves around Count Dracula as he’s built a safe haven for all the classic monsters, but his  daughter wants to see the world, and when a young human boy stumbles into monster land a romance is born, and it’s one energized situation after another as the Count tries to maintain peace in his castle. This film’s got everything ... funny moments, touching moments, colorful characters, terrific animation, lots of energy, upbeat music and a location that’s just drenched in Halloween goodness. It may be over shadowed by other Halloween films that are a pinch more adult, but I hope more people discover this film. It really is a gem, and a good one to show to your kids.        

#7 - Toy Story of Terror (2013) 

A Halloween special revolving around the Toy Story series, what’s not to love about that. When all our favorite Toy Story characters are forced to spend the night at a creepy motel, the gang find themselves the prey to a monster with an appetite for play toys. It may be light on traditional Halloween flair, but it is still an exciting adventure that revolves around concurring fear. It just a really fun time with our favorite Toy Story characters. 

#6 – Mickey and Donald's Classic Halloween Shorts

Oh, I loved Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons so much as a kid, and when you put them in a holiday themed scenario ... it’s instant gold. Their Halloween shorts are among some of their most nostalgic that I find myself watching every year. The episode “Lonesome Ghosts” is a perfect example as Mickey, Donald and Goofy are out hunting a silly gang of Ghosts. One of their darker episodes was titled “The Mad Doctor”, which involved an evil scientist that captured Pluto and is experimenting on him in his castle, so it’s up to Mickey to rescue him. While this episode has some stealer animation, many of the imagery could get really tense. My favorite episode titled “Trick R’ Treat” features a memorable guest character called Witch Hazel who terrorizes Donald Duck, and there’s a really catchy theme song to boot. With their joyful overtones, nostalgic novelty and no shortage of Halloween delights, I highly recommend looking up some of these old cartoons during October.     

#5 Monster House (2006) 

In 2003, Disney’s “The Haunted Mansion” was released and turned out to be a somewhat underwhelming haunted house adventure. Then three years later came an animated gem titled “Monster House”, which completely made up for it. As you’d expect, this is a scary adventure with kids in a haunted house, but it’s also a very smart film with lots of excitement, first rate animation and plenty of laughs. The film simply has everything you’d want ... lot of Halloween charms, likable characters, thrilling action scenes, a nostalgic overtone, and arguably the coolest haunted house I ever seen in motion picture.  

#4 - The Simpsons: Tree House of Horror 

It's like a yearly tradition to watch the annual Simpsons Tree House of Horror specials. This animated anthology series is the complete opposite of the Mickey Mouse Cartoons, as their much more adult and laced with dark comedy. However, there so much fun and even with the series going downhill, it’s still a yearly tradition to watch these Halloween shorts, and even at their worst, they still have that spark of creativity and hummer. You can never predict what you’ll get from a Simpsons Halloween special, it could be dark, it could be cute, it could be wild, over the top and they can always get me to laugh ... and laugh hard.


#3 The Nightmare Before Christmas (1994) 

I’ve always regarded this film as the perfect holiday special ... Why, because it’s both Halloween and Christmas rolled into one awesome package. When Jack Skeleton of Halloween town decides to take a shot at Christmas, it becomes a crazy mash of two holiday worlds. The novelty of the film is that it’s mostly told through song and is brought to life with top-notch stop-motion animation. It’s an amazing visual experience I’ll never forget, with memorable songs, creative holiday worlds, and stealer artistry. Two holidays are better than one, and this is that rare Halloween/Christmas film that you can watch twice in the holiday season.      

#2 - ParaNorman (2012) 

This is one of the scarier animated movies to show your kids, but it’s an incredible motion picture that I highly recommend. “ParaNorman” takes the familiar concepts of a boy with a supernatural ability to talk to the dead, a witch’s curse, a zombie epidemic and weaves them all together in a brilliant story with surprising emotional depth, deep conflicts and plenty of comedy along the way. The visual effects and stop-motion animation are big spectacles that alone make the film worth viewing, but with an enduring lead character, an especially heartwarming ending and competent storytelling make this something really special that’s not only worth yearly viewings but also deserving of being called a modern Halloween classic.    

Before I reveal my #1 Favorite, here are my Honorable Mentions ...

Garfield’s Halloween Adventure

Raggedy Ann and The Pumpkin Who Wouldn’t Smile

Winnie the Pooh: Boo To You Too

Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island

Alvin and the Chipmunks meet Frankenstein

#1 - Coraline (2009) 

Even though this film isn’t directly aimed at Halloween, it’s still very creepy, twisted and dripping with a haunting other worldly atmosphere. When a little girl is tired of her boring life, she finds a door leading her to an alternate reality where everything is perfect and fun, but something dark and sinister is trying to lead her away, which leads into an exciting adventure involving Ghosts, monsters and talking cats. It’s scary but very exciting, crazy yet imaginative, dark but not without some decent family morals. Animated movies are always more impressive when there stop-motion films like this, I love looking at all the visuals knowing that there all real sets, props and puppets that act and perform right in front of the camera. Great atmosphere, eye-pleasing visuals, imaginative storytelling, a top-notch vocal performance from Dakota Fanning and so much more make this my favorite animated Halloween movie and personally one of my favorites animated films ever.     

                         Happy Halloween!