Top 5 Scariest Disney Animated Shorts: A Countdown

I will always defend Disney from those who say the company adds cutesy and fluffy elements to dark source material. Disney can get dark, and it will always have a dark side. We just need to dig deeper to find it. The vintage Disney shorts, or the Silly Symphonies, can provide ample scares.

This year has been bizarre, and not in a good way. We may not want to go out on Halloween for fear of becoming a cautionary tale or a statistic. If I may, I suggest the following shorts to watch on Tuesday night, ideally on YouTube. Grab some popcorn, and apple cider, and watch the top five scariest Disney animated shorts.

 

5. Merbabies

On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a scary short. It just features tiny babies with fish tails appearing to perform in an underwater circus.

Then you get to the ending. Where the babies end up above the waves and vanish. They just disappear. It was a shocking, abrupt way to end a cute seven minute film. Those poor little ones!

4. Lonesome Ghosts

This is another winsome cartoon with creepy overtones. Some ghosts get bored when no one comes to see them haunt anymore, so they call up the Ghostbusters’ predecessors: Mickey, Donald and Goofy. As you can imagine, hijinks ensue.

The scary part comes from the end when the comedic trio gets smothered in flour and syrup, scaring the ghosts away. To me as a kid, it looked like Mickey, Donald and Goofy were getting smothered. That imagery, combined with smooth animation, left a mark on me.

3. Babes in the Woods

We get Hansel and Gretel, Disney style. Only in this story, we don’t know if the parents abandoned Hansel and Gretel and left them to starve among the trees. We do know that Hansel and Gretel are naive enough to ride with a witch on her broom, and end up trapped in her cottage.

The animation makes it a little less scary, but not that much. This cartoon short exemplifies all the fears of letting children wander without any adult watching them. Even benevolent fairy creatures can only do so much work protecting lost kids.

2. Pluto’s Judgment Day

If you ever want a plain creepy cartoon, you got this one. Pluto gets reprimanded when Mickey catches him chasing a tiny kitten. Mickey warns him that if he keeps chasing poor cats, Pluto will have a judgment day. Obviously Pluto doesn’t understand the biblical apocalypse when the dead shall rise, but he dreams about cats putting him on trial.

These cats are not the friendly kittens Pluto was chasing. They claim to be ghosts, survivors, and sick felines. And they all want Pluto to burn. The short exemplifies the terror of being put on trial, and knowing you won’t get fair warning. The music and animation definitely help.

1. Chicken Little

I consider this the most disturbing Disney cartoon with cutesy animals. This naturally excludes “Education for Death,” and a good number of other cartoons that took on a serious tone. Do not watch this if you feel disappointed in people and in widespread ignorance.

The cartoon short follows the original fairy tale of “Chicken Little,” and ramps up the paranoia. Foxy Loxy reads from the abridged Mein Kampf  — rather, a psychology book that quotes Mein Kampf –and manipulates Chicken Little and the entire coop into thinking the sky is falling. When Turkey Lurkey tries to provide reason, Foxy undermines his authority subtly and convinces the others to put their trust in Chicken Little. There isn’t a happy ending, which even shocks the narrator and the audience. Due to the real life context, and recent relevant, I consider it, as well as the downer ending and creepy storyboarding, the scariest Disney short ever.

 

So ponder these shorts as we reach the end of the year. The harvests will be ending, and we hope, certain leaderships. Don’t think about what happens when ghosts get bored, or if others are manipulating your fears. That can only leadto dark places.

Happy Halloween!

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