A highlight of Halloween for me as a child, before I got big into horror flicks, was the many Halloween episodes of cartoons airing around the holiday. Returning from trick-or-treating and sorting through my candy pile (my fave? Reese cups) while tuning in to some Halloween hijinks was always a good time. Here are a few that will both instantly age me and get the spooky vibes going!
Reboot: “To Mend and Defend”
Reboot is a Canadian CGI animated show taking place entirely within a computer system. Each character serves a purpose to make the system run smoothly. When we go to play a PC game, it launches a “Game Cube” towards the citizens of Mainframe, and anyone caught within its field is transformed to fit the game, either as NPCs or bosses. By defeating the User (us), they win the game and return to safety. If they fail, well, everyone turns into slugs. This time Enzo, his older sister Dot, and Enzo’s dog Frisket are all teleported to the game Malicious Corpses, a riff on several horror titles, especially Evil Dead. Dot “reboots” into Elvira, complete with her tall updo and little knife at her waist. Frisket becomes a hellhound and Enzo, a zombie version of Michael Jackson in “Thriller.”
The User is a large chinned man wielding a shotgun on one hand and a chainsaw attached to the other who loves the word groovy. Hmm…sound familiar? He’s looking for the pages of the “Manual of Mortality” and making his way towards a creepy cabin at the end of the woods. For a few seconds, we even get an FPS view of the game, ala Doom. Our trio distracts Not-Ash Williams into using up his ammo and throwing him into the basement, as a tornado of corpses and demonic energy sucks him into the abyss where he utters “Undead before Dawn!” before the game is over, letting Enzo, Dot, and Frisket live another day. Reboot is one of my favourite shows from my childhood (I even did a li’l horror article about it) and I love how many references they fit into these Game episodes.
Yvon of the Yukon: “Dawn of the Dense”
Maybe only remembered by a handful of millennial Canadians, Yvon of the Yukon is about a 300-year-old Frenchman who was defrosted and now lives in a small fictional town called Upyermukluk, gets into wacky hijinks that relate to his fish-out-of-water status, all while wearing underwear as pants. There are about 10 people living in this town, including the Inuit family Bill and his son Tommy, a single mountie; Big Mary and her husband Harland, who run a bingo hall; a couple of town bullies; and the mayor. Tommy is watching scary zombie movies at his dad’s bar when his father Bill tells him to turn them off or he’ll get nightmares.
When Yvon shows up, a huge, nasty green stink trail follows him, making everyone gag. Tommy makes up a fake law that you have to wash your underwear at least twice a year. This isn’t the first time an episode revolved around how stinky this Frenchman is. Yvon heads home and begins washing all his clothes in a cauldron and a massive, even smellier wave of stench washes out and rolls like a fog over the local cemetery, bringing the dead back to life. Since they’re Canadian though, the zombies are very polite and say sorry when bumping into each other.
Eventually, the zombies chase them into the bar. Thinking on his feet, Bill tells the group about an “ancient tribal chanting log,” leading them to recite a spin on “the power of Christ compels you” forcing the zombies back into their graves. Tommy asks him, how did you know that would work? “Oh, I saw in a movie once that zombies will believe whatever you tell them. This is just a stick!” The zombies all look like European settlers, so yeah, they’d definitely believe in the hokey magic Bill is doing.
Hey Arnold!: “Arnold’s Halloween”
Arnold and Gerald are determined to scare Grandpa and the rest of the Boardhouse, so they set up a War of The Worlds broadcast to freak them out, even having a friend light up a nearby water tower as an alien spaceship. Meanwhile, Helga has convinced the entire class to dress in matching alien costumes to get back at her conspiracy theorist dad. When Arnold’s broadcast is accidentally picked up by a UFO-hunting TV show, it airs on the news and the whole town begins to panic. Some even chase the alien kids around with weapons!
The prank, now out of control, is revealed to Grandpa, who helps them shut it down. Unfortunately by this point, Helga’s dad completely believes they are really aliens (and their makeup won’t wash off, making it even worse) and shoots a catapult at his own daughter, narrowly missing and bursting the water tower. The makeup washes off and the UFO TV crew that showed up leaves disappointed. Mob mentality is really wild to think about!
Pokémon: “The Ghost of Maiden’s Peak”
Ash, Misty, and Brock arrive in a small seaside town just as they’re holding the summer festival. On a cliff edge nearby is a rock that resembles a woman, awaiting her sweetheart’s return. The legend goes that she waited for so long that she turned to stone. Several times a ghostly maiden appears to both our heroes and Team Rocket before her tale is told to the group and an old woman warns them to keep away if they see the apparition.
When Ash aims his Pokedex scanner at the ghost, its true identity is revealed—a Gastly! Old Pokémon episodes are so interesting to me because they show real animals. When Jessie sends out Ekans to attack Gastly, it retaliates by transforming into a mongoose, the natural enemy of the snake. As more Pokémon were created these were filled out with fitting monsters, and it’s pretty rare to see animals in the show nowadays (a mongoose Pokemon didn’t appear until the third generation of the games). Ash doesn’t even defeat Gastly, the sun comes up and it disappears. The real maiden ghost thanks the Pokémon for keeping her legend alive! I hope they are friends. If you’re a ghost, why not have a ghost Pokémon? Might as well!
Almost every cartoon from the ’90s and early 2000s had a Halloween-themed episode so this is just a tiny taste. I love when they reference classic horror movies, some of them were my first exposure to these films! What’s your favourite? I’d love to know!