Halloween’s tomorrow, folks, so get your costumes ready, buy some candy, or do whatever else that puts you in a festive mood. For example, I myself have been watching the Halloween episodes for a bunch of cartoons all week, to put the “ha” back in Halloween. If you’re looking for something to watch before/on the big night, here are a few notable ones (in no particular order) that might be worth checking out:
Fairly Oddparents: “Real and Scary”
This Halloween, Timmy Turner suffers from a bad case of costume envy. He and his friends can’t get any candy from trick-or-treating with their lame costumes, and the rich kids are getting all the good stuff with their super-cool, ultra-realistic costumes. Frustrated, Timmy wishes to his fairy godparents that everyone’s costumes become “real and scary,” which of course has frightful consequences.
This is an episode from back in the show’s heyday and one of the Halloween specials I remember most from childhood. It’s not scary, far from it. Rather, it plays with the desire to be scary, manifesting itself in Timmy’s wish, made under the impression that only scary things get their way on Halloween. Instead of the triumph of the scary, however, it’s a triumph of the goofy. This special is packed with many jokes and gags that are worth a chuckle. There’s even a catchy song in the middle, and its tune haunts me every Halloween.
The story doesn’t really pick up until the second half and has awkwardly used subplot with aliens that doesn’t entirely lead to a great payoff, but it’s still an enjoyable episode. Hijinks, puns, and doomsday bombs that threaten to destroy the earth, this special makes Halloween fun.
Hey Arnold: “Arnold’s Halloween”
This is another episode I remember fondly from childhood, and it’s all about what can happen when a trick goes too far. If you’ve ever heard about the panic ensued by Orson Welles’ performance of War of the Worlds, then you basically already know the plot to this episode. Tired of the adults ignoring them while they plan for Halloween, Arnold and the kids get back at them with their own elaborate plans to prank them, inadvertently causing the whole city to believe that aliens are actually invading (what is it with Halloween and aliens?).
This episode may not be “ha-ha” funny, but I still can’t help but smile when I watch it. Hey Arnold is basically a Slice of Life show, meaning it makes stories out of the mundane, daily living of Arnold and his friends, but, despite its humble premise, this episode is a good example of why the show stands out: it pulls the extraordinary out of the ordinary. A routine Halloween night escalates into one with blackouts, chases, and hummers crashing through panic-infested streets. It’s exciting, and I always love watching such an eclectic cast of characters interact with each other.
Recess: “Terrifying Tales of Recess”
This is an odd one. Not only is this the premier of the 6th season, which is rare for a holiday special, but (barring the Halloween segment in the Direct-to-DVD finale that never aired) it’s also the only time Recess has done anything spooky. I mean, this is all about a bunch of mischievous kids having fun at recess; the scariest thing they ever have to deal with is getting caught by Ms. Finster (to be fair, she is pretty scary, though). This episode’s bizarreness helps it as a Halloween special. Imagine being a kid and tuning in on Saturday morning to watch more playground hijinks only to get spooked by were-wolf schoolgirls, zombie assistant teachers, and living bikes.
The episode is divided into three segments, set up as scary stories told by local storyteller Butch. Each story is reasonably rushed, especially considering Recess typically does two segments per episode. Each story is a parody of classic horror tropes, done in a 4th grade setting, and they try to be as cheesy as possible, playing up humor instead of horror by saying stuff like “Oh no, the bike cut the power .” This episode is like those nice neighbors that go the extra mile when decorating for Halloween, just to amuse trick-or-treaters with the novelty.
Gravity Falls: “Summerween”
A much more recent show, Gravity Falls is funny, quirky, and enigmatic, chronicling the supernatural adventures of twins Dipper and Mabel during their summer vacation. How can a show like this not have a Halloween special?
If Arnold’s Halloween is all about tricks, this episode is all about treats. The people of titular Gravity Falls love Halloween so much that they also celebrate it in June (Before you ask: no, they don’t have Christmas in July, too), and, after the twins upset the Summerween Trickster, they must trick-or-treat 500 pieces of candy by night’s end or become the Trickster’s morsels.
Gravity Falls thrives on eerie imagery, and, of course, it especially shows in this episode. Most of it revolves around the Trickster, who starts as a tall, ominous figure (imagine Slenderman’s cousin going trick-or-treating) and becomes a grotesque, spider-like monster by the climax. Even the way he’s defeated is kind of macabre. The soundtrack adds to the unsettling mood, using “bwong”-ing horns, screeching violins, and other trademark horror instruments. Of the animated Halloween specials I’ve mentioned this one is easily the scariest, but it’s no less funny for it. It’s a wonderfully balanced blend of humor and horror.
These are just a few animated Halloween specials that I think are fun to watch, but we’re hardly at the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty you can choose from, and I may talk to them next Halloween. Until then, Happy Halloween!