The best animated Halloween TV specials of our youth
Halloween is my favorite holiday after Christmas – mostly because October marks the start of the holiday season, all the best candy starts coming out, and I get to dress up without fear of someone judging me (although, in reality, I don’t actually care about that). I love marathoning scary movies, decorating my apartment with tacky little Hallmark figurines, listening to my Spotify Halloween playlist on repeat, baking everything, and eating every pumpkin thing.
I also carry so many great Halloween memories from childhood that it’s hard not to use this holiday as an excuse to transport myself back to those days. Alongside movies like Hocus Pocus and The Craft, my VHS collection consisted of a bunch of animated Halloween TV specials my mom recorded for my brother and me. When I mention most of these nowadays, people look at me like I have three heads – which makes me think it’s time to spread the gospel on these great old Halloween specials. So without further ado, here are some of my favorites.
Halloween Is Grinch Night (1977)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is the animated Grinch special that gets all the attention. And I get it: Whos decking their tiny houses out in elaborate lights, that cute hand-holding song at the end, and of course “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” Plus, there’s the 2000 Jim Carrey live-action version co-starring Taylor Momsen of Gossip Girl fame (who is now a badass rock star, in case you were wondering) as Cindy Lou Who.
But Halloween Is Grinch Night has all the charm of its predecessor, with an extra bite. It follows the story of Euchariah, a Who whose mission is to stop the Grinch from terrorizing Whoville on Grinch Night: the night when the Sour-Sweet Wind blows. Along the way he encounters monsters courtesy of the Grinch and says things I didn’t understand in my kid years (like using the actual word “euphemism” for an outhouse), but everything turns out OK in the end.
Casper the Friendly Ghost, “He Ain’t Scary, He’s Our Brother” (1979)
This may be my favorite special on the list; I’ve already watched it and the Grinch one this year. In “He Ain’t Scary, He’s Our Brother,” pre-Devon Sawa Casper teams up with a sweet group of orphans who just want to put on masks and go out trick-or-treating in rich neighborhoods but are thwarted by a couple of ghosts and a witch, against Casper’s pleading requests.
Of course, Casper and his pals reign supreme – with a little help from one of the ghosts, Harry Scary, who has a change of heart by the end of the special when it comes to his Halloween-night shenanigans. “HASHOB” teaches kids about the importance of kindness, friendship, and second chances. And good luck getting the songs out of your head.
The Flintstones, “The Flintstones’ New Neighbors” (1980)
The Flintstones had at least two Halloween specials that I know of. The more popular one, “The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone,” is available online. But the one I preferred was “The Flintstones’ New Neighbors,” which followed the story of a Munsters-type family (the Frankenstones) moving in next door to The Flintstones. Wilma is welcoming and Fred is beside himself – par for the course for our favorite classic animated couple – which creates a hilarious dynamic. There’s also a side plot where the Frankenstone daughter is obsessed with how cute Pebbles is, which we totally get. Adorable babies can break even the gothiest of goths.
Disney’s Halloween Treat (1982)
For Disney fans, Disney’s Halloween Treat is everything. It’s an anthology, consisting of a few scenes from older Disney animated movies (e.g., Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Sword in the Stone, 101 Dalmatians), clips from various one-off Disney animated cartoons, the “Night on Bald Mountain” segment from Fantasia, and more. Oh, and it has the greatest opening sequence ever, complete with a dancing-skeleton troupe. It’s a super unique tribute to all things creepy Disney – even for the Disney Parks fans, including scenes from The Haunted Mansion. Disney’s Halloween Treat is probably the scariest entry on this list, surprisingly.
Johnny Bravo, “Bravo Dooby Doo” (1997)
What happens when Johnny Bravo’s car breaks down and the Mystery Machine stops by the side of the road to give him a ride? If you guessed slapstick comedy and sexual innuendo that went over our heads as kids, you’d be correct. This is one of my favorite cartoon-crossover episodes ever, and it’s even better because it’s creepy (even if it isn’t Halloween themed, per se). Watch “Bravo Dooby Doo” for Velma’s crush on Johnny, the scene where the gang tongue-in-cheekly (that’s totally a word) runs through a series of doors over and over again, and Johnny asking whether “Jinkies” is a breakfast cereal in this masterpiece of ’90s television.
(Images via DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, Hanna-Barbera Productions, Disney, and Cartoon Network)