If you’ve watched as much cartoons as I have, you may notice that Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster appear in a lot of them. It’s strange, really, considering their first appearances weren’t exactly kid-friendly. Mary Shelley’s artificial creature was miserable and driven to murder by the way he was treated by the world around him, and was meant to show the dangers of playing God. Bram Stoker’s vampire was the result of necromancy, a sexually-charged demon with no redeeming qualities. Not exactly the loveable protagonists you’d expect for a kiddie show, yet Frankenstein’s monster keeps being made a cute doofus and Dracula a noble yet slighty dim-witted hero in parodies that make Abbot and Costello look reserved. There’s probably more silly portrayals of Dracula then serious adaptations of the novel.
So, if cartoons are going to make the classic monsters goofy, then it comes to reason that they should make the modern monsters goofy too, copyright laws be damned. A Nightmare on Elm Street may be considered more juvenile than a classic work of Gothic literature, true, but it is amusing to see monsters from a movie meant for teenagers and adults appear in a work for tiny tots. Pop culture parodies are not uncommon in works like these, and for good reason; they provide some entertainment for the parents being forced to watch, and the juxtaposition does raise a tiny chuckle. Then again, if you try to tweak an adult horror movie villain for a child audience, trapping him in a world without bloodshed, that villain is going to end up with egg on his face.
So here are some cartoon riffs on famous horror movie villains, and how they compare to their inspirations:
The Delightful Children from Down the Lane (Codename: Kids Next Door) – Various Creepy Kids (Village of the Damned etc.)
Codename: Kids Next Door, from what little I know of it, wasn’t a good cartoon, and for some of the same reasons The Beano Video wasn’t a very good cartoon; a cartoon about children misbehaving may have its novelty when you’re a kid, but it’s not very entertaining for adults. You know when you were younger you thought Ferris Bueller was cool but then you rewatch it when you’re older and you think ‘Hey, maybe the Dean has a point.’
The title characters of the Kids Next Door were young children who fought tooth and nail to not brush their teeth after dinner and eat between meals, so their arch-enemies were children who paid respect to their elders – and of course, referenced every ‘creepy child’ in horror movies like Village of the Damned, Children of the Corn and the Shining Twins. Only they had giant robots and stuff. To…help adults rule the world. Or something. So yeah, while the twins or the Village kids are the result of supernatural evil, the Delightful Children are the result of listening to their parents. Saying ‘Please’ and ‘Thank you’ and being in bed by nine does not a terrifying adversary make.
Pinface (Billy and Mandy) – Pinhead (Hellraiser)
LOL he has bowling pins in his head instead of actual ones
Billy and Mandy is another Cartoon Network show, this one actually decent. It’s ballsy enough to make a kids’ show with the embodiment of death as a main character, but they went the whole hog, referencing the Cthulhu mythos, including a cross between Snake Plissen and Ash, and even included one of the last horror movie monsters you’d expect to see in a silly cartoon. All these, sadly, were given a pretty immature twist with farts and snot galore, but A for effort.
Despite their similar appearances, there are significant differences between these two characters. Pinhead may have had a rough, sinister tone to his voice, but Pinface sounds more high-pitched, like if Alvin Seville was possessed by Satan. Pinhead has a Lament Configuration, Pinface has a Rubik’s cube. Pinhead was once a human, while Pinface was apparently the way he is his whole life, since he has a sister who looks exactly like him (you may ask how painful the birth was, but I like to think demon vaginas are swirling fifty-foot vortexes anyway). Pinhead’s helpers are all tortured nightmare creatures, while Pinface is settled with some generic monsters who throw a house party.
As Pinhead parodies go, Pinface is no Fornicus, Lord of Bondage and Pain. To tell the truth, I like to think the three of them are relatives, and every once in a while, they get together and go to the movies. Evil movies. Movies they watch while torturing people.
Freddy Scooper (Raw Toonage) – Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street)
I said in my Raw Toonage review that the only remotely funny sketches were the ‘Totally Tasteless Video’ ones, and Freddy Scooper appears in one of them ‘Nightmare on Rocky Road’. Yes, it’s one of those things where they think of the punny title first then try and build a cartoon around it (see later episodes of The Simpsons), as really, who would think of putting Freddy together with ice cream?
Oddly enough, the sketch is pretty close to the Nightmare movies in terms of formula. Said movies have been known to feature dreams that at first seem benign and innocent until Freddy bursts in and wrecks shit, and ‘Rocky Road’ is no exception. A little Charlie Brown-esque boy wishes for the world to be made out of ice cream, and gets his wish in his dreams, until Scooper bursts in, threatening to turn the kid into ice cream himself.
Now, I must admit, being turned into ice cream is a pretty horrible fate – gone would be the days of the tanning salon – but Scooper is still no Krueger. He has scoops for fingers instead of knives (as well as a nice looking blue jumper. It’s obviously for legal reasons but blue isn’t as scary a colour as red), and gets thwarted by sunlight. Quick question, when he melts, how many of you foresaw him say ‘What a world!’?
The Toy Master (The Boy Who Dreamed Christmas) – Pennywise (It)
This one is a little debatable, but there is a definite resemblance between the two characters – Toy Master not only looks similar to Pennywise, but his voice is similar to that of Tim Curry, even if that’s not his voice actor, and since he is supposed to represent the commercialisation of Christmas, what better form to take then “the Eater of Worlds, and of children”.
I don’t want to repeat what I said from the Boy Who Dreamed Christmas review too much, so I’ll just say that Toy Master definitely pales in comparison to Pennywise. Pennywise is a god-like being who has existed as long as time itself and feeds on the fear of children. Toy Master has a nifty toy factory which, while impressive-looking, isn’t really all that evil, and disappears quickly if you type in some computer commands. Toy Master can’t turn into a werewolf or a shark or a leper. There aren’t even any magic turtles.
Eddy Cougar (Tiny Toon Adventures) – Freddy Krueger (Nightmare on Elm Street)
That’s right, another Freddy. You may be wondering why I’m not putting Groundskeeper Willie from The Simpsons on this list, but I don’t really consider Simpsons a kiddie cartoon.
If there’s one thing Tiny Toon Adventures is known for, it’s that creepy guy who kept bugging one of the voice actresses. Another thing it was known for was its tendency to take pop culture characters and tweak for the Looney Tunes universe (even ones who would fit in that universe the way they were). In one cartoon, Plucky Duck watches too many horror movies, and dreams he is being stalked by the terrifying Eddy Cougar. Now, Eddy is definitely more badass than Scooper up there, since he actually not only has the claws, but another set of claws on top of that set of claws, but a slasher in Looney Tunes isn’t going to be scary because Looney Tunes characters never die. Maybe if he had some DIP from Roger Rabbit, but all he really does is just laugh and blow up Plucky with some non-lethal gunpowder. Still better than the Jackie Earle Haley version, though.
The Cryptkeeper (Tales from the Cryptkeeper), Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice) and Audrey II (Little Shop) – The Cryptkeeper (Tales from the Crypt), Beetlejuice (Beetlejuice) and Audrey II (Little Shop of Horrors)
What’s stranger than an unofficial appearance from a horror movie monster in a cartoon? Why, an official appearance, of course! The Cryptkeeper, Beetlejuice and Audrey II were more ‘jokey’ monsters, so it makes sense in a way that they would get their own cartoons, but that doesn’t make the existence of their shows any less surprising.
Tales from the Cryptkeeper was simply just a bloodless, toned-down version of the usual Tales from the Crypt show; the Cryptkeeper still told spooky stories, but now they were about kids and focussed more on monsters than murder (but let’s face it, the cartoon was less silly than the live-action show). Beetlejuice, however, had the formerly villainous ghost become Lydia’s friend, and disposed of the poor Maitlands. Yet it still kept the spirit (no pun intended) of the movie, and was actually quite interesting.
Little Shop, however…
So, there you go. You may wonder why I missed off the Jason, Chucky and Alien parodies from Monster Mash, but if I pointed out how they suck again, I’d probably be doing what that stupid movie wanted me to.