Laura’s List: Top 10 Scariest Animated Moments From Your Childhood

Scary stuff on the screen that you repressed as a kid?  I’m here to bring it all back.

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Bold confession of the week: when I was a child, I absolutely HATED the month of October.  HATED IT AND DREADED IT.

You read me: I hated pumpkins, I hated costumes, I hated Halloween party stores, I hated Halloween masks, I hated witches’ wigs, fake spiders, paper ghosts, those little motion detectors that would SCREAM whenever somebody would walk by!  But MOST OF ALL – I hated Halloween.  Here I am, this little girl – the real-life Grinch of Halloween…you probably think I was nuts, right?

In hindsight, maybe I was.  The truth is, I was a very fearful little kid – hell, I still hate getting spooked.  My immediate family will tell you that I was afraid of pretty much everything – except puppies.  For me, whenever October rolled around, I instinctively took serious offense to its arrival: it was the month where EVERYTHING was scary.  And, being a ’90s baby, at least two or three stupid boys in my class would dress like this every damn year:

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Then I’d walk into class like:

Michael-scott-no-god-no

Yeah, to all those boys who thought it was so original to dress up like freakin’ SCREAM every year, I still don’t like you.  CALLING YOU OUT, SON.

But, there’s a happy ending: during my teenage years, I discovered a new kind of October…a more grown-up October that, honestly, just happened to be the better October for me.  Nowadays, October means stylin’ boots and jackets, pumpkin spice lattes, crunchy red and gold leaves, and dressing up like an idiot with my friends.  It means badass butternut squash soup with cinnamon.  It means spending a perfect afternoon with my boyfriend at a football game, even though I STILL don’t understand how the game works.  This is my apology to the men in my life who have tried in vain: I will NEVER know how to football!!  Just let me sit here in happy ignorance, and enjoy the weather, and eat my cheeseburger.  That’s all I want from football.

Anyway, I digress: since I’ve made my peace with October, I’ve also made my peace with the countless animated movies that terrified me as a child.  So, to honor them, I present you with another edition of Laura’s List!  Please keep in mind, this list includes my PERSONAL most frightening animated moments that freaked me out as a CHILD.  So you’re not gonna see any of this guy or others like him:

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I might have to save Salad Fingers for a future review…without further ado, here are my Top 10 Scariest Animated Moments from your Childhood!

10. Rabbit lost in the mist in THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE THE POOH (1977)

Seriously?!?!  Winnie the Pooh?!  Yeah, I know, but just hear me out.

We can all agree that Pooh, Piglet, and their friends are among the cutest fictional characters ever brought to life – especially through Disney’s rendition.  That’s why it was so disorienting for me as a kid when this particular scene came along…jarring visuals, amplified noises, and a creepy orchestral score TOTALLY takes you away from the sweet and innocent world of the Hundred Acre Wood.  It looks like Rabbit’s tripping on acid or something!  It just ain’t right.

Believe it or not, this is the best quality of the clip that I could find.  Go about 1:30 in until 2:45:

See, I’m not crazy.

9. “Pink Elephants on Parade” from DUMBO (1941)

Speaking of acid, WHAT WAS WALT DISNEY THINKING?

This particular musical number didn’t frighten me as much as it made my five year-old little brain think WTF.  I suppose when baby elephants get DRUNK (yeah, I’m still not cool with that, Disney), this is what they see.  Trippy character designs and colors, creepy vocals – the scene comes and goes, and the film never addresses it again.  So, really, what was the point of it???  Did Walt Disney predict that someone in the 2000s would see it as inspiration for some really cool dubstep?  Was that the goal, Walt?  Was it?!?!

At least it’s not the worst thing about Dumbo:

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Yikes.

8. The Underworld and the Three Fates from HERCULES (1997)

This one is definitely one of the more…personal items on my list.  My roommate LOVES this scene in Hercules and sees nothing but the comedy – and there is good comedy!  Even as a little kid, I adored James Woods playing Hades like a fast-talking lawyer.  But, man  oh man, when those Three Fates showed up, I used to book it up the stairs and away from the living room, and then I’d wait until the scene was over before heading back to the couch (you know, once it was safe).  Meanwhile, my mom would be standing there like…what?

Shrieking undead souls, three old bats who take pleasure in ending people’s lives, and that STINKIN’ EYE they share and throw around like a damn hacky sack.  It still grosses me out.  I also used to get jumpy when Hades would engulf himself in red flames of anger – I was deathly afraid of fire too, which made our trips to hibachi restaurants interesting…

“And thaaaaat’s the GOSPEL TRUUUUUUTH…”

7. The donkey transformation in PINOCCHIO (1940)

Not only is this scene TERRIFYING for a child, it’s upsetting.  A big scary guy physically abusing little boys/donkeys – it made me teary-eyed!  But, the image I will FOREVER have tattooed in my brain…when that redhead kid’s hands turn into hooves, and he starts screaming and kicking around all over the place while Pinocchio looks on horror.

My sister says that her most traumatizing moment from the film is when the gigantic whale attacks.  Nah, man…even for an adult, this is disturbing:

Poor Alexander.

6. “This is Halloween” from THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)

As you can guess from the song title alone, I was a HUGE FAN of this movie as a child!!!…I avoided it like the plague.

It wasn’t until I was older that I saw the beauty in Tim Burton’s (early) films.  He’s now one of my favorite filmmakers of all-time, and his most original cinematic works, including The Nightmare Before Christmas, are among the most unusual and memorable movies ever made.  But, up until I made that conclusion, The Nightmare Before Christmas was on my childhood S-list.

In my eight year-old eyes, one of the film’s biggest offenses lied in its bizarre opening sequence: a creepy song by Danny Elfman, a parade of dark and distorted stop-motion HALLOWEEN characters, and that freakin’ clown with the tearaway face!  That still creeps me out.  Just go to 1:32:

“Gone without a trace”?!?!  Gone where, my closet???  Somebody HALP.

5. Jafar transforms into a giant cobra in ALADDIN (1992)

Snakes have always freaked me out, and they always will.  So, when I first saw Aladdin, nothing traumatized me more than the climax, when Jafar breathed a ring of fire around our hero and then grew into a humongous, hissing snake.  This requires no further explanation.  Jump to 1:25:

SAVE ME, ROBIN WILLIAMS!

4. Giant Ursula rises out of the sea, gets impaled with a ship, and gets electrocuted…in THE LITTLE MERMAID (1989)

Pop quiz: name the animal that I was even more afraid of than snakes.  Here’s a clue – you can find it in any number of Japanese and Italian restaurants.

Ursula is basically Harvey Fierstein with tentacles.  She is HORRIFYING, especially to a small child who’s afraid of octopuses.  And, when she starts secreting ink all over the place and grows fifty times her size…and, for some reason, she acquires a deep, booming MALE voice…man, I was out.

Not to mention, the excessively violent and disturbing death she suffers – Eric impales her with a ship, and then lightning fries her up.  Even for a dastardly villain, it’s terrifying to witness!  The real drama goes down around 1:25:

“My pooooor little poopsies.”

3. Woody and the abused toys turn on Sid in TOY STORY (1995)

I still can’t watch this.  It hurt me to find the clip on YouTube.

Dolls always kinda freaked me out as a kid – I always preferred stuffed animals.  Even today, I think there’s something so soulless and vacant about the gaze of a plastic baby doll that can say “Mama.”  And, like in the Chucky franchise, the Toy Story films play on this common, childish fear like there’s no tomorrow.

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While we root for Woody and the gang because Sid IS a psychotic little brat, I firmly believe that this scene is every child’s nightmare.  “We toys see EEEEEEVVVERYTHIIIIIING.”

The music’s creepy as all hell too.

2. SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARVES (1937)…pretty much the whole movie

Where do I BEGIN?

The evil trees, the Queen’s disturbing transformation, the old hag’s grisly demise?  This film is chockfull of dark and horrific imagery and animation…and if you ever visited Disney World as a child, you’d also know that Disney seemed to glorify Snow White as one of its more frightening films.

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But actually.

I decided to feature the film’s climax as its scariest moment…because I honestly can’t decide what’s most disturbing: the violent nature of the old hag’s death, or the fact that our cute, friendly little dwarves were on their way to beat an old lady to death.  YOU decide.

And, now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for….

1. Donald Duck goes INSANE with hunger in MICKEY AND THE BEANSTALK (1947)

WARNING: You can never unsee this.

As I mentioned in my most previous edition of Laura’s List, I find it extremely unsettling when beloved, classic Disney characters are anything but cute, silly, happy, endearing, etc. for a long period of time.  This scene from an old Disney short film earns the number-one spot simply because it’s DONALD DUCK.  In an episode of Saturday Night Live from last season, Bill Hader’s character, Stefan, cracked a joke about Donald Duck “having a Vietnam nightmare.”  Well, Bill, the joke’s funny because it’s true – this is as close to Donald Duck having a murderous, mental breakdown as you’re ever gonna get…skip ahead to 1:50 if you dare:

“Just look at that miserable DUCK!”

Which animated moments frightened YOU as a kid?  Are you still freaked out by them now?  Yes, no, maybe so?  Tell me alllll about it in the comments.  Here’s hoping you have a safe, happy, and SCARY October!  Thanks for reading.

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9 thoughts on “Laura’s List: Top 10 Scariest Animated Moments From Your Childhood

  1. Great choices! I personally don’t/didn’t find Jafar’s transformation or Ursula’s transformation frightening. And I loved when the toys turn on Sid, it’s probably my favorite scene in the entire movie. I also like the crows from “Dumbo”.

    The donkey transformation scene is really…dark and disturbing.

    I honestly can’t think of any scenes from my childhood that frightened me. I feel if I watched “The Black Cauldron” when I was a child, maybe that would have scared me.

  2. It was called Tarantula. The mad scientist was injecting growth hormones into tarantulas. One grew to be the size of a house. The scientist injected himself. Here’s the scary scene. All you see is this bloated hand coming around the door. The music starts getting louder and louder. Then the scientist comes around the door and his face is all distorted. I use to use this example of how music effects your emotions when I taught music at GW Middle School. I saw this at age 9 in the theater. I can still see it vivdly in my mind 55 years later. BTW Laura. I am enjoying your blog.(Christine shares it on Facebook)
    Mrs. Rossettini

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