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.
#12 – Corps Bride (2005)
#11 – It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown (1966)
#10 - Frankenweenie (2012)
#9 – Disney’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hallow” (1949)
#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 ...
Winnie the Pooh: Boo To You Too
Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island
Alvin and the Chipmunks meet The Wolf Man
The Halloween Tree
#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.