Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Dozen (or more) Must See, Horrific, Animated Shorts

The old, animated cartoon shorts that used to screen before theatricals are a wonderful source of humor… and horror. They actually show how narrow the barrier is between the two, as many of the situations would be downright terrifying in a non-animated context. Then there were the ‘toons that really aimed to explore the horror genres, some of which are masterpieces. Here are the top 12 as ranked by NonModern, along with a few companion titles:

12. “The Skeleton Dance” (Disney 1929) dir. Walt Disney 

The first Silly Symphony by Disney was a horror themed film. It doesn’t really hold up to today’s tastes, but it is an amazing film for 1929.

11. “Porky in Wackyland” (Looney Tunes 1938) dir. Bob Clampett 

More of a piece of surreal art than a piece of entertainment. This strange film was remade in color as “Dough for the Do-do” (Merry Melodies 1949) dir. Friz Freleng.

10. “Duck Pimples” (Disney 1945) dir. Jack Kinney 

Donald Duck is a slave to his imagination as he listens to the radio and reads adventure stories.

9. “Transylvania 6-5000” (Merry Melodies 1963) dir. Chuck Jones 

Bugs Bunny ends up in the wrong place again as he travels with his naiveté in tow. He soon taps into his fighting mode when he realizes he is staying in a vampire’s lair.

8. “Feed the Kitty” (Merry Melodies 1952) dir. Chuck Jones 

Not really a horror story, but the way that perception can make the ordinary seem horrific have been tapped into ever since this film was released.

7. “Mouse Wreckers” (Merry Melodies 1949) dir. Chuck Jones

Claude Cat goes through levels of psychological horror the likes that Rosemary or any other character in a Roman Polansky has seldom endured. Followed by “Hypo-Chondri Cat” (Merry Melodies 1950) and “Cheese Chasers” (Merry Melodies 1951).

6. “Hyde and Hare” (Looney Tunes 1955) dir. Friz Freleng 

The Jekyll and Hyde horror as experienced by Bugs, and later Sylvester in “Hyde and Go Tweet” (Merry Melodies 1960)

5. “Fraidy Cat” (MGM 1942) dir. Hanna and Barbera 

Tom and Jerry outdo Donald Duck’s overreaction as Tom’s imagination gets the better of him while tuning into the radio.

4. “Lonesome Ghosts” (Disney 1937) dir. Burt Gillett 

Mickey, Goofy, and Donald lay the groundwork for the Ghost Busters franchise nearly fifty years before Dan Aykroyd and company.

3. “Water, Water Every Hare” (Looney Tunes 1952) dir. Chuck Jones 

The second of the “big hairy monster” cartoons is my favorite, as Bugs fights for survival in the mad scientists laboratory. Preceded by “Hair Raising Hare” (Looney Tunes 1946).

2. “Broomstick Bunny” (Looney Tunes 1956) Chuck Jones 

Again, the second outing of a character (Witch Hazel) tops the first. Bugs matches wits with a witch. Other titles: “Bewitched Bunny” (LT 1954) also Jones and “A Witch’s Tangled Hare” (LT 1959) dir. Abe Levitow.

1. “Claws for Alarm” (Merry Melodies 1954) dir. Chuck Jones 

Jones again tops a concept in the second outing, where Sylvester sees the horror that his owner, Porky, is unable to perceive. A truly creepy series. “Scaredy Cat” (MM 1948) and “Jumpin’ Jupiter” (MM 1955)

Most of these shorts are available to view online. (And just a preemptive note, I see Marvin the Martian shorts as more SciFi thriller than horror.)

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