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.