Classic Spooky Animated Shorts

Lisa Tate

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Animation has come a long way since inventor Joseph Plateau created his spinning “magic disk” known as the “phenakistiscope” in the 1830s. Today’s computer-driven animation is creative, beautiful and sometimes hard to distinguish from live action.

However, a good story is a good story no matter how basic or advanced the style, and this certainly goes for the storytelling when it comes to classic Disney or Warner Brothers Halloween and spooky tales.

In celebration of International Animation Day on Oct. 28, with Halloween not far behind, here are some of my favorite, classic, animated shorts (suitable for all ages) whose storytelling still holds up today:

Lonesome Ghosts (Disney, 1937)

A bunch of “wiseguy” ghosts decide to mess with a trio of ghost hunters consisting of Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy. Of course, they make the ultimate scary movie faux pas even then: “Let’s split up!” I can definitely see influences of this story everywhere, from the look of the Haunted Mansion attraction to Ghostbusters.

The Skeleton Dance (Disney, 1931)

This Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks created the Silly Symphony animated short turned 90 years old this year, and is still a cult favorite. The New York Times reported in 1931 the cartoon was banned in Denmark for being “too macabre.” How times have changed.

Scaredy Cat (Warner Bros.,1948)

Here's one of my favorite Looney Toons stories, in which Sylvester's terrifying imagination is ignited by some sadistic mice. I always felt for the poor, petrified cat shivering in the corner. Even though the ghosts weren't real, director Chuck Jones and crew did an amazing job with the eerie vibe. Besides, these rodents really were trying to kill them, which is pretty horrifying when you think about it.

The Witch Hazel Cartoons (Warner Bros.)

From her first appearance in the 1954 short Bewitched Bunny, Witch Hazel has been the quintessential Loony Tunes witch. From her cackling voice (provided by talents like Bea Benederet and June Foray), to her over-exaggerated movements, there's some wonderful details going into her characterization. How many of us still point out the spinning hair clips when she darts out of a shot?

Trick or Treat (Disney, 1952)

Now, if you want someone with the misguided chutzpah to a take on a witch, it's Donald Duck in this Halloween favorite. There's even a bit of classic Macbeth dialogue in this one. And if the witch (also named Hazel) sounds familiar, she was also voiced by June Foray.

So, before the business of Halloween night, take some time for a few brief spooky laughs with your kids, and happy haunting to all.

Header Image Screengrab from Lonesome Ghosts, ©Walt Disney Pictures.

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