We love zombie makeup and buckets of corn-syrup blood as much as the next gaggle of horror fans, but sometimes all it takes to give us a little dose of creepiness is a cool old cartoon. So for the 14th installment in our 31 Days of Halloween series, we present a few of our favorites.
The Skeleton Dance (1929)
Directed by Walt Disney and animated by his Mickey Mouse co-creator Ub Iwerks, this creepy short is the very first in Disney's long-running Silly Symphonies series.
The Devil's Ball (1933)
Terry Gilliam called this stop-motion freakshow by the legendary Vladislav Starevich one of the greatest animated films ever made. You can see why.
Shiver Me Timbers (1934)
Spinach or no spinach, even Popeye gets creeped out when he stumbles upon this rather ghostly shipwreck.
The Mad Doctor (1933)
When a mad scientist kidnaps Pluto, it's up to Mickey to venture into the doctor's creepy castle to get him back. Apparently this one was a bit too scary for a Mickey cartoon, so some theaters refused to show it to kids.
Haunted House (1929)
Mickey takes shelter from a storm in a creepy old house, and winds up forced to play along with the frolicking of a gaggle of ghosts.
The Tell-Tale Heart (1953)
Highlighted by remarkably atmospheric animation and James Mason's extra-spooky narration, this might just be the scariest Edgar Allan Poe adaptation ever put on film.
Hell's Bells (1929)
Disney was really into the creepy stuff in the early years. "The Skeleton Dance" (listed above) was the first Silly Symphony, and this one, released in the same year, was the fourth.
Magic Mummy (1933)
Before that cat-and-mouse duo ever existed, Tom and Jerry were a couple of regular Joes appearing in short cartoons from the Van Beuren Studios. Here they investigated the theft of a mummy, and got way more than they bargained for.
Wot a Night (1931)
Two years earlier, the same Tom and Jerry (in their very first adventure) were cab drivers who found themselves in the middle of an adventure that proves (to us at least) that people in the late '20s and early '30s just really couldn't get enough dancing skeletons in their cartoons.
Night on Bald Mountain (From Fantasia, 1940)
Though it's not a short film, but rather a segment of a feature-length anthology, "Night on Bald Mountain" is for many the gold standard of scary cartoons. It's got everything: demons, ghosts, shadows, fire and booming music by the great Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky.
Scrappy's Ghost Story (1935)
Here's one that should remind us all how effective a simple white-sheeted ghost can be.
Betty Boop's Hallowe'en Party (1933)
Betty just wants to have a fun Halloween bash, but of course a monster has to crash the party.
Felix the Ghost Breaker (1923)
In the oldest film on our list, and the first Felix the Cat short of 1923, silent-era Felix has some spooky spirits to drive off.
Ko-Ko's Haunted House (1928)
In this classic installment from Max Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell series of animated shorts, Ko-Ko the Clown must navigate a haunted house so terrifying it literally makes him jump out of his skin.
After a falling-out with Walt Disney, Mickey Mouse co-creator Ub Iwerks moved to Celebrity Pictures, where he introduced Flip the Frog. Here's Flip navigating a haunted house that includes, among other things, a very bony dog. And yes, more dancing skeletons.
And here's a complete list of all 31 Days of Halloween features: