When I try to look back and think about what it was that warped my mind into loving horror, it’s hard to pinpoint one thing that caused me to enjoy the so-called “dark side”, ultimately resulting in my eventual love for writing about it. I remember reading things like Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Goosebumps series books and the thrill they brought. I remember watching Stephen King’s It at a slumber party around the age of eleven or twelve, and how it profoundly affected me. I recall scary campfire stories with the Girlscouts, and touring a haunted manor house on a storytellers tour called Southern Ghosts around the age of eight. It’s hard to attribute my early love of horror on just one thing, as it seems to be a cumulative sort of trait. In my trip down memory lane, I also thought of some of my favorite creepy, weird, and downright spooky cartoons from throughout the nineties. I was born in ’85, so the nineties were prime horror-cultivating years for me. I’ve compiled a list of five cartoons for us to reminisce over.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (1994-1997)
Most 90’s kids will recall this Nickelodeon series, which aired for the first time Halloween night in 1994. I was nine years old that October, and I recall very vividly the previews and commercial bumpers advertising Aaahh!!! Real Monsters. The show ran for four seasons, resulting in 52 spooktacular episodes. Based on the premise of the trio team of monsters, I sometimes wonder if it had anything to do with the creation of the Monsters Inc. film,in the way of inspiration.
Tales from the Cryptkeeper (1993-1999)
This ABC cartoon, based on the original horror serial Tales from the Crypt, aired in the early to late nineties. Call it the kiddy version of the live action show, with a toned down style. The show was on for three seasons and resulted in about thirty-nine full episodes because the series experienced a several-year dead-zone between 1995 and 1998, after the show was cancelled. It eventually returned for one season in 1999 re-titled as The NEW Tales from the Cryptkeeper. You can even still catch it on Pluto’s After School Cartoons channel, and it is sometimes aired around Halloween in Canada.
Based loosely on the film, Beetlejuice, the animated series follows the antics of the zany ghost of the same name, and his 12-year-old gothic BFF, Lydia Deetz. The show first aired on ABC, but was picked up by Fox before ultimately dying a cruel death in 1991. Tim Burton developed the cartoon show, and even Executive Produced until it ended. The plots followed Lydia as she often visited Beetlejuice’s The Netherworld, where they would explore and get into all sorts of strange and unusual trouble. If you’re like me, you get the theme music, created by the great Danny Elfman, stuck in your head once in a while.
The Real Ghostbusters (1986-1991)
Produced by Columbia Pictures and DiC (tell me you remember their bumper from the end of the episodes… if you don’t find it here and laugh for a good long while). The Real Ghostbusters ran for seven seasons with a voice cast that included Arsenio Hall, Dave Coulier, and Lorenzo Music (who also voiced Garfield the cat in the animated series). The show originally aired start to finish on ABC, but it has been syndicated on several networks, including USA’s Cartoon Express, Fox, and even Fearnet!
Toxic Crusaders (1990-1997)
Based on the Toxic Avengers Films, Toxic Crusaders follow Toxie and his band of mutated superheroes. The show heavily follows a theme of fighting pollution, a popular social issue in that era (remember Captain Planet?). Produced by Troma Entertainment, Toxic Crusaders was meant for kids and, while it retained some of the edgy jokes and grotesque characters, the bloodbaths which were a part of the films were not so present in the animated series.
There are a few others I didn’t include here, but I thought I’d leave it to the comments for discussion. What horror cartoons did you grow up on? How do you feel shows like the aforementioned affected you as a reader or as a writer (or both)?