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Ink & Pixel: Top 5 Animated Halloween-Themed Films

Ink & Pixel is a source of pride and joy for me as a writer and as such, I’m always striving to take this column further for those who read and enjoy it. In an effort to widen the reach of our continuously growing fanbase, Ink & Pixel has been granted permission to broaden its horizons with the inclusion of films from the Horror, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy genres. I hope that you enjoy this bold new direction for the column. Additionally, if you yourself, or anyone you know, helped to make any of the amazing feature films found within this column, I would love to talk to you to further my knowledge. Please contact me at [email protected] so we can discuss it further.

Good grief, Halloween certainly has changed, hasn't it? Back in my day, the moment the school bell rang, it was open season on every house you could visit. My friends and I would grab up every available empty pillow case in the house, and we wouldn't rest until each and every one of them was filled to the brim with Butterfingers, Tootsie Pops, and all the gummi shapes you could imagine. I won't even get into what would happen if you were fool enough to leave the bowl outside of your home, with one of those “Just Take One” signs attached to it.

These days - if Halloween isn't all but dead in your neighborhood to begin with - the holiday is plagued by: dangerous candies, violent youth, and a growing number of tame animated films that have forgotten how to scare as well as entertain their audience. Am I being too harsh? Perhaps you think that I'm the one who's lost his holiday spirit? Well, then let's do something about that, shall we? Let's take a trip down a haunted memory lane and make a list. I present to you The Top 5 Halloween Animated Films/Specials!

5. SILLY SYMPHONIES: THE SKELETON DANCE (Short Film)

Produced and directed by Walt Disney himself as a part of the Disney Silly Symphonies series, this 1929 animated gem is sure to slap a Cheshire-like grin on the face of anyone who remembers it. Presented in black and white, THE SKELETON DANCE was animated by Ub Iwerks, and featured a quartet of skeletal undead getting jiggy with it in a graveyard. Aside from the sweet dance moves and hauntingly stellar music provided by Carl W. Stalling and Edvard Grieg, this short is noted for being the first to use non-post sync sound – meaning that no additional audio was needed to enhance the film's primary soundtrack.

Disney's THE SKELETON DANCE is one of the few Silly Symphonies to have garnered a bit of a cult status as the years have passed. The short has appeared in films such as GHOST RIDER (2007), Genndy Tartaovsky's HOTEL TRANSYLVANIA, and more. Over the years, I've worn out at least 2 or 3 VCR tapes watching this high energy musical short. Its soulful presentation and imaginative sound have remained untouchable even after all this time, therefore securing itself a spot on this list.

4. DAFFY DUCK'S QUACKBUSTERS

*Ahem* Sing it with me if you know the words. “They're drenched in blood, or caked in mud. You yell and scream when one of them arrives. There's no denying monsters lead such interesting lives.” Thank you, you're all beautiful. Be sure to tip your waitress.

The year was 1988, and Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies had cobbled together from their vast library of animations, one of the best Halloween-themed animated films of all time when they released DAFFY DUCK'S QUACKBUSTERS. The filmed starred (my favorite Looney Tune) Daffy Duck as a street corner purveyor of novelty gags who answers the want ad of billionaire J.P Cubish, an ailing individual whose final wish is to have one last laugh before kicking the bucket. Ultimately, Daffy wins Cubish over with a good old pie in the face routine, and -before he dies of laughter - the ailing “buzzsaw baron” makes the proper arrangements to leave Daffy his fortune.

Shortly thereafter, and in accordance with the rules passed down by the late J.P. Cubish himself, Daffy must use the money to create and manage a company that practices honesty in business affairs. The spiteful duck begrudgingly agrees, and asks his compatriots, Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, to help him start a paranormal investigation service a la GHOSTBUSTERS. As you can imagine, things don't go exactly as planned for Daffy and his friends. Before long, the beloved Looney Tunes characters find themselves in all manner of terrifyingly spooky situations, while the ghost of J.P. Cubish belly laughs from the afterlife.

DAFFY DUCK'S QUACKBUSTERS, aside from being amazing, is also the final theatrical production in which Mel Blanc provided the voice for the various characters featured in the film. The movie was made by way of stringing a series of famous horror-related Looney Tunes cartoons together to make one seamless presentation. Shorts such as “The Night of the Living Duck”, “Transylvania 6-5000”, “Hyde and Go Tweet” and several more were all used to create this hilarious, monster-laden romp. I still watch this film every Halloween season; It never ages.

3. MONSTER HOUSE

You can't have a Halloween-themed list without including Gil Kenan's MONSTER HOUSE. Released in 2006, this computer animated, performance capture, supernatural comedy scratched the itch for anyone waiting on an imaginatively creepy animated horror film. With a story by Dan Harmon (COMMUNITY) and Rob Schrab, MONSTER HOUSE tells the chilling tale of three friends - DJ Walters, “Chowder”, and Jenny Bennett - and their decent into a fabled haunted house in search of a lost basketball. Before long, the trio learn that the house is in fact a “Dormus Mactabilis” (or “deadly home”) capable of coming to life and devouring them, bones and all! Their story quickly becomes one of survival as they attempt to escape the house and, in the process, destroy it once and for all.

Not only is MONSTER HOUSE a remarkable achievement in the art of performance capture animation, it also manages to contain moments that are genuinely scary. I mean, for a film such as this, you've got to know how to balance your content, right? Although the picture met with mostly positive reviews from critics, it also garnered a fair amount of flack from concerned parents. Some proclaimed that the film was perhaps too scary for young audiences, and that MONSTER HOUSE failed to deliver on its “PG” rating.

Personally, I'm of the mind that a few scares can help to build your child's character. Nothing too serious mind you, but who's to say that the exposure to a fun film such as this won't inspire your young one to become their generation's Tim Burton or Clive Barker? It's a film packed with endearing characters, adventure, and nail-biting scares that will leave your imagination spinning. I'd say those are damn good reasons to give it the number three position on this list.

2. PARANORMAN

Okay, so anyone who is a frequent reader of the Ink & Pixel column knows that Laika Studios is my favorite animation house, but I dare you to give me just one good reason why PARANORMAN shouldn't be near the top of this list. You can't, can you? It's okay, let's just get right into why this movie is perfect for Halloween-time viewing.

Directed by Sam Fell and Chris Buller, PARANORMAN is a 3D stop-motion animated horror comedy film that manages to pack in more horror-related Easter eggs than every film in the SCARY MOVIE franchise combined! Enter Blithe Hollow, Massachusetts, where Norman Babcock is a young boy bestowed with the gift of gab... with the dead. When an angry witch threatens to raze the modest township to the ground, it's up to Norman - alongside several of his friends and family - to solve the riddle of the witch's curse and send her gently back to sleep for all eternity.

PARANORMAN is yet another animated feature that - for its younger viewers - walks the fine line between wholesome family entertainment and pure terror. In my estimation, this is the movie that all of the folks who grew up with FRIDAY THE 13TH, A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET, and HALLOWEEN want to be watching with their children today. Its spectacular color palette forces the characters and environments to leap from the screen in 3D, completely immersing its viewers in a world painstakingly brought to life using the stop-motion techniques that put Laika on the map when they made Neil Gaiman's CORALINE.

Not only is the film spellbinding in terms of the animation itself, it also carries with it an invaluable lesson that it's okay to be different. Things are not always as they appear in this life (or the next), and one should never be afraid to embrace the unexplainable. PARANORMAN teaches kids that all you have to do in life to be special is to be yourself. I think that's beautiful, and all of this against an unrelenting Halloween-like backdrop.

1. THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Ha! Of course Tim Burton's masterpiece, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, is number one on this list! But Steve, NIGHTMARE is totally a Christmas movie, it's in the title, man. Look guy, it's both, okay? Seriously, when you think of animated Halloween-themed films, is there any other that enters your mind before this flawless musical adventure?

Directed by Henry Selick, with music by Danny Elfman, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS set the bar for modern day stop-motion fantasy filmmaking. The film tells the heroic tale of Jack Skellington - The Pumpkin King of Halloweentown - and his wish to bring Christmas to every boy and girl across all the holiday worlds within his kingdom. Together with his beloved friend Sally and his dog, Zero, Jack must find a way to bring peace to Earth and good will toward men before a nefarious villain known as Oogie Boogie can put an end to the notion of the holiday spirit once and for all.

In my personal opinion, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is the quintessential animated holiday film. It embodies everything that makes animation such a fascinating form of entertainment, and does it with such confidence that it's characters and songs have woven themselves into our pop culture like no other animated film has in recent times. It's an experience that can be enjoyed by people of all ages, and in the near 21 years since its release, the movie has never lost its appeal. It's my hope that NIGHTMARE will be enjoyed by generations to come, and stand proudly as the best animated Halloween-themed film of all time!

There you have it, folks! I hope you enjoyed the list and that you all have a happy and safe Halloween! Cheers!

Extra Tidbit: More Than Honorable Mentions: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Bunnicula, Scooby-Doo! and the Reluctant Werewolf, and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad are all truly great films to watch around this spooky time of year.
Source: joblo.comDisneyWiki

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