The Moviehunter

Pulp Culture
Halloween animation
offers chills for the family


October 24, 2002
By Franklin Harris

Every year, I recommend scary movies to keep your nerves rattled on Halloween night. It's a tradition. But this year, I have some suggestions suitable for the whole family.

''Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see!''Speaking of tradition, it isn't Halloween without the annual broadcast of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," still the reigning champ of Halloween specials. It airs Friday night at 7 on WAAY-TV, followed at 7:30 by Disney's "Boo! To You, Too, Winnie the Pooh."

Both specials also are available on home video.

After "The Great Pumpkin," there is no better Halloween special than the 1993 made-for-TV cartoon, "The Halloween Tree," based on Ray Bradbury's novel.

In "The Halloween Tree," several friends learn the secrets of Halloween while on a history-spanning journey to find their missing friend, Pip. Their tour guide through time is the mysterious Mr. Moundshroud (voice of Leonard Nimoy).

Bradbury narrates the tale, which is available on VHS.

An old favorite that doesn't receive as much airplay as it should is Disney's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." It's available on DVD and VHS as the second half of "The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad." (The other half is "The Wind in the Willows.")

Bing Crosby narrates the story of lanky schoolmaster Ichabod Crane, who crosses paths with the Headless Horseman and disappears into the mists of American folklore.

The DVD includes "Lonely Ghosts," a short featuring Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck and Goofy as inept ghost busters.

Most children are too fidgety to sit through all of Walt Disney's masterpiece "Fantasia," but the final segment is perfect for Halloween viewing.

The Headless HorsemanSet to Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky's "Night on Bald Mountain," the climax of "Fantasia," with its army of flying skeleton warriors, may be too scary for the youngest viewers, but it's spooky fun for older children.

"Fantasia" is available on DVD and VHS.

Horror icon Boris Karloff ("Frankenstein") lends his voice to another old favorite, recently restored and released on DVD and home video.

"Mad Monster Party" is from the folks at Rankin/Bass, who also gave us the classic "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Frosty the Snowman" Christmas specials, and it features the same winning combination of stop-motion animation and catchy songs.

The story begins when Baron Frankenstein (Karloff) calls a meeting of monsters, including Dracula, the Wolf Man and the Mummy. But when the Baron announces his retirement and names his nerdy nephew as his successor, the monsters react by trying to steal the Baron's greatest invention.

Originally released in 1967, "Mad Monster Party" may not be as well known as the Rankin/Bass Christmas productions, but it stands up with the best of them.

''Mad Monster Party''Now, parents, once you've put the children to bed, you can pop some adults-only horror animation into your video player.

The Japanese anime "Vampire Hunter D," available on VHS and DVD, has been a favorite of anime fans for 15 years. It follows a half-vampire bounty hunter who has declared war on the vampire aristocrats who dominate Earth 10,000 years in the future.

Also available is the 2001 sequel, "Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust," which played last year in art-house theaters. This updated version features breathtaking animation and more than a little gore.

This time D is in a race against a family of vampire hunters to rescue a human woman abducted by a powerful vampire. But D and the other hunters may be too late to save the woman from becoming one of the undead.

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