Spooky animated films aim to introduce the classics to kids

A scene from the film "Frankenweenie." (Walt Disney)

Published: Friday, September 28, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, September 27, 2012 at 7:07 p.m.

It's that time of year again, when filmmakers try to scare the bejeebies out of us.


Spooky extras:

Disney, surprisingly, has issued some shorts and films that if not totally horrific produce some downright scary moments.
“Skeleton Dance” (1929): This Disney short of skeletons dancing at night in a cemetery is one of the earliest spooky animations.
“Pinocchio” (1940): Film critic Roger Ebert considers this Disney classic to be a top scary animated film. After all, the evil Stromboli? The horrors of Pleasure Island? Being swallowed by Monstro the whale?
“Sleeping Beauty” (1959): Malevolent fairy Maleficent is downright terrifying, especially when she becomes a fire-breathing dragon.
“The Black Cauldron” (1985): A young boy and his misfit friends embark on a quest to find a dark magic item of ultimate power before a diabolical tyrant can.

Top 10 Anime:
Horrornews.net's list of the Top 10 Animated Horror Movies is heavy with anime, a stylized Japanese form of animation. Some are just as scary as their live-action cousins.
“Perfect Blue”
“Blood: The Last Vampire”
“Dead Space: Downfall”
“Heavy Metal”
“Spirited Away”
“Dear Beautiful”
“City of Rott”
“Dead Fury”
“Vampire Hunter D”

Just for the fun of it:
“Mad Monster Party?” (1967): “When Dr. Frankenstein decides to retire from the monster-making business, he calls an international roster of monsters to a creepy convention to elect his successor. Everyone is there including Dracula, The Werewolf, The Creature, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and many more.” — Imdb.com. Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller team up with Allen Swift as voices.
“The Haunted World of El Superbeasto” (2009): “The story follows the adventures of El Superbeasto, a washed-up Mexican luchador, and his sultry sidekick and sister Suzi-X as they confront an evil villain by the name of Dr. Satan.” — Imdb.com. Based on a comic by horror director Rob Zombie.

Joining the lineup of the usual fare this fall are a pair of less-spooky animated films for the younger set: “Hotel Transylvania” opening today and “Frankenweenie,” Tim Burton's animated redo of his 1984 live action short, which opens next week.

“An animated film like ‘Hotel Transylvania' is great,” says Megan Lamb, a manager at FYE in Ocala's Paddock Mall, “because it gives the kids an idea of the classic horror characters like Frankenstein, Dracula, the Creature from the Black Lagoon.

“It opens the door to the older classics,” she adds — classics she was introduced to by her parents, says the 28-year-old. “They've always been fans of the classics.”

Yet the animated films are their own category, contends Christopher Lloyd, an Indianapolis film critic with thefilmyap.com whose reviews appear in the Ocala Star-Banner and Gainesville Sun.

“If it's animated, then the target audience is probably kids, so by definition it's not going to be very horrifying,” he writes. “I guess I would put animated horror films in a special hybrid class. It would be something like ‘Animated Movies for Kiddies with a Light Sprinkling of Gothic and/or Macabre Elements.'”

Nate Hensley, owner of Go Video in Gainesville, offers a shorter description: “spooky supernatural” animated films. And he agrees the sub-genre is a great market.

“Horror films are like a roller coaster,” he says, “and all the theme parks have a tamer roller coaster for the younger set.

“Kids like to be scared — a little bit,” adds the father of three daughters, ages 3, 4 and 7.

A one-time movie critic for the Sun, Hensley explores horror for youth in his recently published novel aimed at 15-year-olds, “The Strange Tale of Hector and Hannah Crowe,” which he describes as a Harry Potter-like tale with a horror twist.

Among his top “spooky supernatural” animated films are the Disney/Pixar gem “Monsters Inc.” as well as “Monster House” — “which actually is pretty scary for an animated movie,” he adds.

So to welcome two newest members to the sub-genre, here's a list of some of their predecessors. Synopses are from the Internet Movie DataBase and their ranking is by box office take on Boxofficemojo.com's list of overall highest grossing movies.

“Monsters Inc.” (2001): Monsters generate their city's power by scaring children, but they are afraid themselves of being contaminated by children. When one small child enters Monstropolis, top-scarer Sulley finds his world disrupted. Box office: $255 million; No. 9 on boxofficemojo.com.

“Monsters vs. Aliens” (2009): A woman transformed into a giant after she is struck by a meteorite on her wedding day becomes part of a team of monsters sent by the U.S. government to defeat an alien mastermind trying to take over Earth. Box office: $198 million; No 24 on boxofficemojo.com.

“Hunchback of Notre Dame” (1996): A deformed bell ringer must assert his independence from a vicious government minister to help his friend, a gypsy dancing girl. Box office: $100 million; No. 62 on boxofficemojo.com.

“Coraline” (2009): An adventurous girl finds another world that is a strangely idealized version of her frustrating home, but it holds sinister secrets. Box office: $75 million; No. 78 on boxofficemojo.com.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993): Jack Skellington, king of Halloweentown, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn't quite understand the concept. Box office: $75 million; No. 79 on boxofficemojo.com.

“Monster House” (2006): Three teens discover that their neighbor's house is really a living, breathing, scary monster. Box office: $73 million; No. 81 on boxofficemojo.com.

“Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit” (2005): Wallace and his loyal dog, Gromit, set out to discover the mystery behind the garden sabotage that plagues their village and threatens the annual giant vegetable growing contest. Box office: $56 million; No. 93 on boxofficemojo.com.

“Corpse Bride” (2005): When a shy groom practices his wedding vows in the inadvertent presence of a deceased young woman, she rises from the grave assuming he has married her. Box office: $53 million; No. 96 on boxofficemojo.com.

“ParaNorman” (2012): A misunderstood boy takes on ghosts, zombies and grown-ups to save his town from a centuries-old curse. Box office: $45 million; No. 107 on boxofficemojo.com.

“9” (2009): A rag doll that awakens in a post-apocalyptic future holds the key to humanity's salvation. Box office: $31 million; No 120 on boxofficemojo.com.

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