It's not officially Hallowe'en until you've re-watched "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown." But the special only runs a half-hour, so here are some suggestions for additional viewing — laughs and shivers that should help burn off the trick-or-treat sugar rush.
For all ages:
The Skeleton Dance
Walt Disney launched the "Silly Symphonies" in 1929 with this plotless graveyard romp. Eighty-five years later (!), the antics of the rubbery skeletons still get laughs. Disney has issued the film in its first “Silly Symphonies” collection.
Ub Iwerks, who animated "Skeleton Dance" almost single-handedly, returned to bony characters in this eerie 1932 cartoon. The story makes no sense at all, but Flip's awkward tango with a skeletal belle is a hoot. There’s no definitive set of the Iwerks films, but they’re available on various anthologies, like this one on Amazon.
The long-awaited fourth volume of Olive Films' "Essential Betty Boop Collection" offers "Snow White" (1933). Rubbery, loose-limbed and bizarre, it's the ultimate black-and-white Fleischer cartoon. Although based on rotoscoped footage of bandleader Cab Calloway, Koko's transformations in the eerie Mystery Cave are wonderfully surreal, with only vague ties to reality.
Bugs Bunny meets the madcap Witch Hazel (cackled by June Foray), who dashes about in a cloud of hairpins in Chuck Jones' 1956 Hallowe'en send-up, "Broomstick Bunny." Jones made two versions of the cartoon that pitted Bugs against an E-vil Scientist and his red-haired monster Rudolph: "Hair Raising Hare" (1946) and "Water, Water, Every Hare" (1952). In the former, Bugs poses as a gum-chewing manicurist; in the latter, a fey hairdresser. Rudolph invariably gets the worst of it. Both films are hilarious. All three are on the various Looney Tunes Golden Collections.
The Tell-Tale Heart
The subtlety of Ted Parmalee's Oscar-nominated adaptation of the classic Poe story makes it more unsettling than a literal interpretation. The animation is minimal but effective, with camera movements over static artwork suggesting motion. A contemporary critic described the film as "a cross between Salvador Dali and woodcut illustrations for a horror story." The recent set of the UPA “Jolly Frolics” includes a good print.
Although he's one of the top-ranked high school students in Japan, Light Yagami, the hero of the supernatural series "Death Note," is repulsed by the world's evils—until he finds the Death Note, the notebook of a Shinigami, or god of death. If someone's name is written in the book, that person dies within minutes. Light launches a vigilante campaign to rid the world of criminals. Baffled by the puzzling deaths, the police turn the case over to the master detective known only as L. Although it begins slowly, "Death Note" builds as the stakes grow higher and the duel of wits between Light and L intensifies.
The eerie vampire adventure series "Shiki" takes place in an isolated village amid pine forests. When a foreign family arrives, locals begin dying of a mysterious anemia-linked disease. Dedicated Dr. Ozaki and sullen teen-ager Natsuno suspect the deaths are linked to okiagari, undead creatures who stalk the night. Unlike many recent vampire anime series, Shiki is genuinely creepy, rather than a gore fest. Like a volume of Edgar Allan Poe stories, it’s is not something to enjoy alone late at night.