A question I’ve been asked, and often ask myself, has been “Why do you like horror movies?” Contemplating the subject, I’ve thought back. Way back, to my earliest brushes with the genre. They were all animated! Cartoons clever enough to include more adult humor and most prevalently parodies, if not entire themes from a variety of different horror media that no child would be able to see on their own. Being the bait to lead me into looking for the source materials that inspired. Below are a list of some awesome cartoons that have in some way, horror in their 2D DNA!
1) Courage The Cowardly Dog
A series as though David Lynch tried to follow in the footsteps of Chuck Jones. Created by John R. Dilworth and one of the first original programs on Cartoon Network, it struck hard, and struck weird. The series followed Courage (the titular fuchsia cowardly dog) as he tried to protect his owners, the thickheaded Eustace and kindly Muriel, from the menagerie of monstrosities that lurked in their home town (quite literally) in the middle of Nowhere. Each episode featured a bizarre danger out to get Courage and his owners. From killer French ducks, a demonically possessed mattress, to a freaky barber named Fred. Courage also featured very little continuity, but using it to a fun advantage ala Looney Tunes in that characters, such as Eustace, get killed, or blown up, or vaporized, and come back just as fine either by the next scene or episode. The first two seasons are available on Netflix and the entire series is on iTunes.
2) Regular Show
A recent series that is anything but ‘Regular’ and more often than not ‘Horrifying!’ Following the anthropomorphic bluejay and raccoon team of Mordecai and Rigby who work as park groundskeepers and inevitably get tied into bizarre, usually, world destroying events. That combined with numerous references to popculture of yesteryear brings up many horror movies and themes of the 80’s and 90’s. One of their favorite hobbies is watching b-movies (on VHS of course!) and old video games. Many a time coming to life and trying to kill them. Such as when Rigby rents a black and white British horror film called ‘Ello Govna concerning a possessed British taxi that runs people down… and being chased by the vehicle himself! The show earns its TV-PG rating with all manner of monsters and evils, Death himself coming to blows with the protagonists many a time. The Halloween Specials in particular have been so notoriously scary they’re rarely aired! The series is still airing and the first season is available on Netflix!
3) The Angry Beavers
An older Nicktoons show you may remember. The animated sitcom adventures of a duo of beaver brothers named Norbert and Dagget as they live in their dam. Sounds fairly tame, correct? Wrong! So wrong. Similar to Regular Show, the duo have a love for old horror movies. Though in this case, much older, I’m talking 50’s B-Horror Films with such names as The Crawling Spleen and The Amazing Colossal Colossus. All starring a send-up of a mishmash of 50’s actors, named Oxnard Montalvo, whom the brothers look up to with a saint like reverence. More often than not, Dag and Norb have encounters with creatures comparable with these types of movies, such as a parasitic pond scum, a giant deep sea snail, and even a massively mutated killer splinter! The entire series is available on DVD from Shout Factory!
4) Gravity Falls
A show that makes a whole lot of sense when considered Twin Peaks… for kids! The story revolves around twins Dipper and Mabel as they’re sent to live with their Grunkle (Grand Uncle) Stanford Pines for the Summer, who runs a tourist trap. Unaware of the real bizarre oddities and creatures that surround the mysterious eponymous town. Dipper is an inquisitive investigator while Mabel, his sister and foil, is ridiculously, yet endearingly naive. Despite being a Disney cartoon, the show has proven time and time again to run circles around the censors. Some stories involving a child eating ‘Summerween’ monster, teenager hating ghosts, and even a mind hijacking demon in the shape of a one eyed pyramid! One of their recurring antagonists, Lil Gideon, is a white coifed faux psychic child with an obsession over Mabel, and feels like an odd combination of the Dwarf from Twin Peaks and the psychotic small town kingpin, Frank Booth, of Blue Velvet. Gravity Falls has a lot of clever story arcs to it, being one of the few modern cartoons I feel has a strong sense of narrative and continuity. The series can be found on demand, with the second season tentatively coming out later this year.
5) Randy Cunningham: 9th Grade Ninja
A more recent animated series that plays a classic trope: the teenage super hero. Or, in this case, super ninja. The title basically spells it out, Randy Cunningham is in 9th grade, and also The Ninja of Norrisville High. Charged, like one person of every generation before him, in protecting the school and its students from monsters, an evil CEO and his mad scientist, and keeping an ancient evil locked below… alongside his best friend Howard and dealing with high school problems. Of course, it can’t be all that weird or freaky, it’s a Disney cartoon. Specifically, Disney XD. Like the above example: WRONG! The designs and style of the show may look familiar to many, thanks in part to notorious cartoonist Johnen Vasquez being behind said designs. Vasquez being the man behind the comic book series Johnny The Homicidal Maniac and cult cartoon Invader Zim. One of the main antagonists is an evil undead sorcerer voiced by none other than horror veteran Tim Curry, who makes fantastically frightful use of his voice. Many episodes revolving around the Sorcerer ‘stanking’ students in despair, mutating them into hideous monstrosities that Randy must return to normal before they can free The Sorcerer and usher in his reign of darkness! The creators, definitely genre fans themselves, have given many episode names in tribute to horror classics, such as The Last Stall On The Left and Attack Of The Killer Potatoes. New episodes air January 18th with episodes available on iTunes, online, and on demand.
6) Rick And Morty
From the demented minds of Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon comes a dark twist of the typical Back To The Future mentor-kid adventurer dynamic. Morty’s just an ordinary high school student with a dysfunctional family, including a mother, father, older sister, and grandfather, Rick. Who happens to be a genius, but definitely of the mad/alcoholic scientist variety. Rick frequently pushes Morty into all manner of danger and insanity in the pursuit of scientific progress/money. Being an Adult Swim show, Rick and Morty has been able to get away with much more than the average toon. The first few episodes so far have involved smuggling alien fruit up Mort’s butt, accidentally causing dog’s to become sentient and uprise, and entering a failed and disastrous theme park inside a diseased/dying homeless man. If horror can be made synonymous with weirdness than its a perfect combination for animation. In the second episode, while Incepting Morty’s Math Teacher for better grades, they incept so deep down his sub-conscious that they encounter a nightmare walking killer named ‘Scary Terry.’ Who Rick lampshades is a knock-off of a certain recognizable 80’s horror icon. But with swords for fingers for legal clarification. This is a show that’s definitely entrenched in pop-culture, with sci-fi/horror as a foundation. Needless to say, every episode has had a sizable body count so far. The show airs new episodes every Monday night on Adult Swim!