Because the holidays are a time for family, gathering around the TV tends to be one of the least stressful ways of spending time together. But most holiday horror offerings aren’t very family friendly. There’s always kid-appropriate cartoons, though. And what better way to get kids into horror than with cartoons? These horror themed cartoons not only hail from an era where Saturday morning cartoon binges hailed supreme, meant to be accompanied by the consumption of the sugariest of cereals, but they’re great for both adults and kids alike. For grown-ups, these cartoons are a trip to fuzzy nostalgic past, but for kids they’re an entertaining new discovery. The best part? These five horror-themed cartoons get into the holiday spirit, and offer perfect holiday horror viewing the whole family can appreciate.
Count Duckula – “A Christmas Quacker”
A British cartoon that ran from 1988-1993, Count Duckula followed the adventures of a vegetarian vampire duck and his servants in his sprawling gothic castle. This season 3 holiday episode sees poor Santa Claus getting lost in the castle’s intricate chimney system. It also wouldn’t be the holidays without an appearance by Count Duckula’s vampire-hunting adversary Von Goosewing. There’s Santa cosplay, gift giving, and lucid dreaming by way of Christmas pudding to round out this festive holiday episode. Even vampires can learn than it’s better to give than receive.
Aaahh!!! Real Monsters – “Gone Shopp’n”
Before Monsters, Inc., there was Aaahh!!! Real Monsters, a ‘90s cartoon on Nickelodeon that followed three monsters attending a school for monsters that taught how to frighten humans. Though the episode aired in December, the plot sees the core trio of monsters terrorizing shoppers in a mall that’s celebrating Christmas in July. For Oblina, Ickis, and Krumm, they soon become the terrorized themselves when they’re accidentally locked in the mall. Malls are horrifying no matter the time of year, but Christmas season is the worst.
Bump in the Night – “T’was the Night Before Bumpy”
This stop-motion animation series from the ‘90s revolved around Mr. Bumpy, a monster that lived under a little boy’s bed and feasted upon socks and dust bunnies. He was best friends with toilet monster Squishington and a Frankenstein’s monster-like rag doll named Molly Coddle, and each episode almost always ended in a music video breakdown of the ep. While the episodes were the usual cartoon length, Bump in the Night received its own hour-long Christmas special that had Mr. Bumpy enlist Squishington in his quest to steal Santa from the North Pole, while Molly Coddle served as director of the annual holiday pageant. The episode included numerous musical numbers and nods to other holiday specials.
The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries – “The Nutcracker Scoob”
Despite the “new” in the title, this holiday-themed episode aired in December of 1984, and saw Scooby, Scrappy, and the gang helping Tiny Tina and other kids in a children’s home put on a Christmas pageant. But they’re interrupted by an apparition with nefarious intent. The gang, sans Velma, must sleuth out whether it’s evil businessman Nickleby behind it or something much spookier. The halls are decked with Christmas cheer; there’s snow, Christmas trees, nutcrackers, and Scooby and Shaggy in ballerina costumes. While Scooby-Doo has had many Christmas specials throughout the decades, this one ranks among the absolute best.
The Real Ghostbusters – “Xmas Marks the Spot”
Two years after the theatrical release of Ghostbusters, the cartoon spinoff debuted on ABC. The inaugural season concluded with the holiday episode, which saw the Ghostbusters unknowingly pass through a portal that whisks them back in time to 1837 England. They run into Ebenezer Scrooge and save him from the three Ghosts of Christmas, but when they return to the present, they realize they’ve inadvertently destroyed Christmas by not allowing Scrooge to learn his vital lesson. They have to return to the past, and the creepy containment unit, to right their Christmas wrongs.