Horror Inspired Kids’ Shows and Tomb ‘Toons
Steven Rose “From the Grave” Jr.
Some of you may be wondering what place do kids’ shows have here on a Website that specializes in the genre of horror, traditionally a teen/adult genre. Actually, horror films have inspired children’s television for decades.
Are some of you old enough to remember those cartoons and live action kids’ shows that were inspired by horror movies? Do you remember the Real Ghostbusters cartoon from the 1980s? If you’re old enough to remember back even further, the middle ‘70s, you may know that those weren’t really the real Ghostbusters as the cartoon series’ title indicates. In 1975 the real, and therefore original, Ghostbusters was a live action kids’ show that, instead of involving four men and a slime pouring ghost, actually involved only two vaudeville-like men and a gorilla that assisted them on their paranormal missions. Some of you may be saying, that was a cartoon in the 1980s. Well you’re right, because when the “Real” Ghostbusters (my quotation marks) tried taking the Saturday morning spotlight (and they succeeded, sadly for the original Ghostbusters) the original series was revived as a cartoon in competition only it was bumped to after school-hours syndicated television.
Let’s backtrack a few years from the original Ghostbusters Saturday morning series. There was The Funky Phantom in 1971, a Scooby Doo-like mystery cartoon series involving a group of detective like-teens and their 18th century ghost friend. Then around the same time there was The Groovy Ghoulies, a cartoon series based on the three most famous monsters of film, Frankenstein’s Monster (Franky), Count Dracula (Drac) and the Wolf-Man (Wolfie) and their many like friends and relatives who all dwelled in a haunted castle called “Horrible Hall”. This series was actually a spin-off from another dark supernatural lore inspired cartoon series—Sabrina the Teenage Witch (1969) (itself a spin-off from The Archies). Another kids’ show inspired by the three famous movie monsters was actually a live action series called The Monster Squad (1976). In this series a computer geek-law student who works in a wax museum brings the sculptures of Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula and the Wolfman to life and they fight crime together. The Addams Family cartoon was also aired in the early ‘70s. The same year that Monster Squad premiered, the producers of live action kids’ shows, Sid and Marty Kroft, came out with a series called Dr. Shrinker, which was about a mad scientist and his dwarvish assistant who shrink a group of island marooned young adventurers and is always after them to perform dangerous experiments on them.
Moving forward to 1978, the same producers of Dr. Shrinker came out with another live action series called Horror Hotel, which involved many of the strange characters from the Kroft brothers’ 1969 Puff ‘N Stuff (an Oz-/Wonderland-like fantasy series): a witch named Witchy Poo, a stupid bat named just that–Stupid Bat, a mad scientist owl by the name of Dr. Blinkey, a yellow spider-like monster, a vulture and a green faced magician (from another earlier Kroft series called Lidville). They were the staff of a haunted hotel who had a different strange guest each week (“guest” as in both guest star and hotel guest).
The following year, 1979, the New Flinstones show came out with some characters who were neighbors to the neanderthal comic family, the Frankenstones. The patriarchal head of this ghoulish family was a neanderthal Frankenstein’s monster. That same year premiered a cartoon based on the Dracula character, Count Quackula, about a vampire duck who, unlike most of the cartoon monsters we’ve been talking about, was not a very nice guy—or, rather, ghoul.
As we moved into the ‘80s two more horror inspired cartoon series came out on Saturday mornings: Drac Pack and Ding Bat and Friends. Drac Pack involved three teenage descendents of the Frankenstein’s monster, Dracula and the Wolf-Man who, like the characters in Monster Squad, also fought crime, only in their case up against the same group of villains each week—Dr. Dread and his evil crew of monsters. Ding Bat was a more slapstick kind of cartoon involving a vampire dog (Dingbat), a cranky jack-o-lantern and a skeleton who wore a toilet plunger for a hat.
I already mentioned some of the cartoon series of the latter half of the 1980s such as the two Ghostbusters cartoon series. But also, in 1988, the comedian Martin Short came out with his own Saturday morning kids’ show that was partly live action and partly animated. In one of the live action weekly skits a Dracula-like vampire told horror stories to his child audience, the stories themselves being animated. As the decade came to a close, the Beatlejuice movie franchise produced a Saturday morning cartoon series based on the movie’s characters.
In the 1990s, when the cable television-based Tales from the Crypt became popular on syndicated television, a cartoon version came out on Saturday mornings. A new Addams Family cartoon series also aired. Then R.L. Stine’s kids’ horror novel series, Goosebumps, was adapted for a live action syndicated series.
In the 2001s Cartoon Network aired The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, a series about two kids who are friends with the Grim Reaper. Will there be more horror genre inspired cartoons and kids’ shows? The horror genre has become more popular than ever with young people’s series of novels such as Twilight and TV series such as True Blood, Ghost Whisperer and Supernatural, not to mention the many horror movies made for the big screen such as Paranormal Activity. How can there not be any horror inspired cartoons and live action kids shows? Let’s hope some will premiere soon enough. Any animators out there in the blog audience?
The cartoons and kids’ shows throughout television history have been numerous, regardless of their genre. If I missed any titles you think should have been mentioned, then, please, leave me a comment! I’d like to know of more myself!
Take scare, every body!
Steven Rose, Jr. is a journalist and writer of fiction. His non-fiction includes book, television and movie reviews. His fiction consists of horror and science fiction short stories, although he plans to write novels in the near future.
Besides writing, Steven serves as a public relations rep for the Sacramento based network, Sylvanopolis Writers’ Society. His most recent story will be published in the Society’s short fiction anthology, Leafkin, due for release in December 2010.