by Donna Klein

I’ve been a kid and I’ve raised a couple of them. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and there is nothing I love more than animated Halloween classics at this time of year. Fortunately, I have two good excuses to keep watching them without people doubting my sanity – my grandchildren.

My Favorite Animated Halloween Classics

My childhood was filled with Halloween specials on TV. They fueled our fun and provided inspiration for our costumes. The first animated Halloween classic I can remember is It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, which first aired in 1966. I was so sad for Linus, but fell in love with Vince Guaraldi’s music. Not only is this a classic video, the music remains popular 50 years later! This one is not too scary for even the youngest viewers, and I’ve enjoyed snuggling up with my favorite little ones, reliving old memories and making new ones, too!

animated Halloween classics - It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Monster House, , Corpse Bride

Animated (and live action) Halloween specials continued through the 1970s and 80s. Then, in 1993, Tim Burton hit the animation scene. Henry Selick brought Tim Burton’s story, The Nightmare Before Christmas, to the big screen. Young viewers might be a little frightened at times, but the story has a happy ending. Again, this can be a great snuggle movie. Jack Skellington and his adventures outside of Halloween Town as he strives to bring some life back into the same old celebration make for a good family story. Danny Elfman provides a memorably enchanting soundtrack, which makes for a perfect pairing with Henry Selick’s vision. In my opinion, this is an animated Halloween classic.

Tim Burton brought us Corpse Bride in 2005. This stop-motion animated film is a musical fantasy with hauntingly beautiful music once again by Danny Elfman. This story takes place somewhere in Europe during the Victorian era. The story centers around a shy groom who places his bride’s wedding ring on the wrong tree upturned tree root while practicing his wedding vows. The root turns out to be the finger of a murdered woman who mistakenly thinks she is now married to him and must bring him over to the land of the dead in order for them to spend eternity with each other. This one is definitely parental guidance territory, but the story is pretty tame. This is another one that I would consider an animated Halloween classic.

Monster House, released in 2006, may be a little intense for younger children, but it is a story that draws you in and propels you along to the end. The plot revolves around three teens who discover that their neighbor’s house is really a living breathing, scary monster. The story twists and turns until you find out who the monster really is!

animated Halloween classics - Coraline, ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania, Frankenweenie

Henry Selick returned in 2009 with Coraline, from the book by Neil Gaiman. This is a modern animated Halloween classic, as far as I am concerned. It might not take place at Halloween per se, but the story and the button eyes are definitely the stuff that makes Halloween the holiday that it is. I’ve not been able to look at button eye dolls the same since seeing this movie! This movie gets pretty intense, making me think twice about watching it with my grandchildren just yet. But, when they are ready, we’ll cook up a big bowl of popcorn and enjoy the show! This one is definitely an animated Halloween classic in my book.

The banner year for animated Halloween movies was 2012, and I got to see them all on the big screen with some of my favorite young people! ParaNorman, Hotel Transylvania, and Frankenweenie (another Tim Burton offering), were all released in the fall of 2012. ParaNorman is a horror comedy that follows a young boy named Norman who can see and speak with the spirits of dead people. He is tasked with keeping the ritual to protect the town. I saw this with one of my young friends and neither of us was frightened by this movie, but we sure had a good time! Hotel Transylvania brings a human teenager to an exclusive resort for monsters looking to get away from the human world that is run by Dracula who, of course, has a teenaged daughter. Sparks fly and more, but this movie is probably not going to frighten the kids. The sequel will be released in October. Frankenweenie is the remake of Tim Burton’s 1984 short film of the same name. It is a parody of and a homage to the 1931 film Frankenstein. It was filmed in black and white, and follows a boy who brings his dead dog back to life and is then blackmailed by his peers. The result is some very funny mayhem! I’m not sure if any of these will be considered animated Halloween classics, but time will tell.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little series on Halloween, and will find them fun and inspiring as we count down to Halloween. For more inspiration, visit Recollections’ Halloween section.