Blog Lagoon’s 31 Days of Halloween, Day 2: Spooky Toons

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is great. There’s a reason it’s the first cartoon you think of when you think of Halloween TV specials. (Do they still air it every year? I guess I’ll check my local listings.) But as far as Halloween cartoons go, can you name anything else off the top of your head? …Well then, allow me to direct your attention to this hand-picked collection of some of my favorites. First some early animated shorts from the 20s and 30s, and we’ll get a little more modern next time. I’m especially fond of old black and white cartoons because early animation is inherently creepy anyway. All the anthropomorphic animals’ eyes are too big, when they dance their shoulders move up and down…and when they laugh?– it’s the stuff of nightmares. When you remember that these were originally made to be shown on movie theater screens before a main feature, you have to kind of marvel at what they were throwing in front of general audiences back in the day. (It’s easy to forget that was the only way to see a cartoon before TV.) Obviously many of these were tailored for kids’ eyes.  Below are some of the best. [I should also mention here that many early cartoons try to squeeze yuks out of over-the-top racial slurs–common in pop culture at that time. I don’t condone it obviously but it’s still part of the cartoon fossil record.]

Silly Symphonies – The Skeleton Dance (1929)
This Silly Symphonies short was produced and directed by a young Walt Disney (see more Disney clips below). If some of it looks familiar that’s probably because clips of the music and visuals from it have popped up in several unexpected places over the years (like the 2007 Nicolas Cage snoozer Ghost Rider). It’s probably the best of the few Silly Symphonies shorts, which never enjoyed the same popularity as the early Mickey Mouse shorts. What’s more — Silly Symphonies developed stiff competition in the animated world from the sassy little Fleischer Studios gal below.

Betty Boop’s Hallowe’en Party
Check out just how scantily-clad Betty was back in the day. The length of that skirt rivals anything you’d see on Mystery Incorporated’s Daphne! Lots of great Halloween imagery here, and then Betty breaks into a sing-along of “Let’s All Sing Like the Birdies Sing” — a decidedly UNspooky standard. Fleischer Studios, responsible for both Betty, early Superman, and the original Popeye shorts were in direct competition with Disney in the early 30s — which is funny when you consider the little fellas bobbing for apples around the 4:05 mark…In appearance, they’re about as close to a certain mouse as I’m guessing the lawyers would allow.

Skeleton Frolics
This animated short was from the Color Rhapsodies animation wing of Columbia Pictures. It looks a lot like a color remake of the The Skeleton Dance from almost a decade earlier.

Scrappy’s Ghost Story (1935)
Another cartoon from Columbia, this time featuring one of their regular characters: a brat named Scrappy. Allow me to reiterate what I said above about early cartoon racist stereotyping.

Fleischer Studio Popeye the Sailor Shorts: Ghosks is the Bunk (1939) & Shiver Me Timbers! (1934)
I’ve been a HUGE Popeye fan since I was but a wee Gill Man tadpolin’ around the lagoon. I could not get enough. Anything and everything Popeye interested me and I’m one of the five people on Earth who love the Robin Williams movie musical. My parents bought me a corncob pipe at a gift shop on vacation when I was seven. Some kids wanted to be Magnum P.I. but I wanted to be a one-eyed sailor with a speech impediment. I grew up watching the Famous Studios Popeye cartoons which ran regularly on TV in the 70s and 80s but as an adult I discovered the superior Fleischer Studios shorts that were revolutionary for the time. They’ve all been released on DVD and they’re highly recommended. Here are two spooky Popeye shorts which offer a great representative sample.

Fright to the Finish (1954)
Now THIS is the Popeye I grew up on – and the only color toon in today’s collection. I wanted to include it along side the other Popeye shorts. The Famous Studios Popeye shorts are arguably inferior to the early black and whites, but this one is pretty great.

~ by Number5ive on October 2, 2010.

2 Responses to “Blog Lagoon’s 31 Days of Halloween, Day 2: Spooky Toons”

  1. Love these classic cartoons. Skeleton Dance is one of my favourites. 🙂

  2. great toons!

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