I don’t often post about it on this blog, but I’m also a fan of obscure or older western animation. As Halloween is coming up, I thought I’d post links to some old-school cartoons that are great for anime lovers looking for different or more mature October specials. So break out the VHS or try and track down the DVDs on Ebay; here are five awesome old-school Halloween cartoons.
1. The Devil and Daniel Mouse
Oh goodness, this terrified me as a kid.
A young mouse, modeled after Janis Joplin, seeks fame. She signs a contract with the devil (!) and abandons her folk-singing partner for life as a star. But the devil comes back to collect the price one night; her very soul. Can the boy she spurned somehow save her from her fate?
Nelvana animation is known among anime fans for starting off the second anime boom on television by their translation of Card Captor Sakura. But before this, they made some off-beat cartoons and specials such as The Raccoons on Ice, and the Nelvanamation series of shorts like Romi-0 and Julie-8. Most of their old-school work has been forgotten in time, but this short is probably their best, and is incredibly frightening to young kids. The scene where the devil (Tony Jay in all his deep-voiced glory) changes into a demonic cat, alligator, or fish to chase the frightened mouse down to her eternal end gave me many a nightmare.
This particular short was also influential in making the cult hit Rock and Rule, which also should be seen. Rock and Rule takes this premise and makes it much more adult, and is insanely well-animated for its time. Even better than Disney releases over ten years ago. You can see some of it here. The Devil and Daniel Mouse though is a spooky tale about not giving up everything in pursuit of fortune, and is well worth tracking down. If you can find Rock and Rule, it’s on the disc as a bonus.
2. A Witch’s Night Out
This is more cheesy awesome, though. A witch awakens one halloween and in order to scare people, transforms a babysitter and two kids into monsters. It doesn’t end well. This cartoon is notable for having Gilda Radner (!) as the voice of the witch, as well as having some bizarre seventies monochrome character design. There’s some sly humor for adults if you look in it, but if you want good, cheesy, old-school Halloween fun, this isn’t bad. That youtube link is the only way you can find it at all, I think.
3. Halloween is Grinch Night
The other Grinch holiday special.
The Grinch gets off his mountain to terrify the locals. His weapon? A wagon which houses non-Euclidean space and a bunch of G-rated Eldritch abominations designed to frighten the crap out of you. Little Eukariah Who gets to face him when he’s caught outside on Grinch Night.
You want to traumatize your kids? Here you go. If it’s not the entirely eerie world inside of the wagon, it’s the heartbreaking song Max the doggie sings when he regrets his life and wonders how he ended up like this. When you have a character in a kids special wishing he could turn back the clock to the fine future he had before, you get a ton of existential angst dumped on you.
But even before this, it’s a surprisingly scary toon. Grinch night is so feared that they have an early warning system made to detect him leaving his mountain, and the scenes of loneliness and desolation as everyone in Whoville hides indoors from him are intense for a kid’s film. You can find this on DVD in various releases, and it’s well worth the money. It’s probably even better than the Christmas grinch special, if just for that surrealistic, nightmare of a scene starting at 20:24.
4. Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure.
Technically not a Halloween film, but best watched then because it is one of the most frightening, mind-screwing kids films you ever will see. The fear is from the nightmarish character designs and situations the stuffed dolls go through. This was directed by Richard WIlliams, of Thief and the Cobbler fame, and it’s ten times scarier than R & A’s real Halloween special, The Pumpkin That Couldn’t Smile.
If you’re the kind of person who is vulnerable to surrealism, and was scared witless by the Dumbo Pink Elephants scene, this ENTIRE MOVIE is like that. Gazooks the sea monster in particular is this undulating, blobby mass that manages to unnerve you despite only tickling people, and almost every single scene has some nightmarish aspect to it. Well worth watching if you can find it.
Also qualifying is The Mouse and His Child, for inadvertent horror, but only in one scene here. Infinity has never, ever been more terrifying. Who in heaven’s name puts existential dread into kid’s movies? When the Child starts counting the dogs is one of the eeriest things I’ve seen. “There’s one, two, another…oh, I’ve lost track,” in a watery monotone.
5. Face Like a Frog
A halloween staple of our local PBS station, this bizarre little short is done by Sally Cruikshank. I remember her mostly as the person who animated the into to the 80s rom-com Mannequin, but this is a silly, riotous cartoon that makes for a good palate cleanser after scarier stuff. Notable for having music by Danny Elfman (!)
I hope you liked the five very odd Halloween specials. Remember, don’t go in the basement.