The animation world may be a lot of things, but one thing it generally is not is a breeding ground for horror. Major studios like Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks Animation have peppered many of their movies with creepy images, yet they’ve been reluctant to come out with what could be labeled as full-fledged scary movies. Other companies have answered that call, however, and the following five films rank as the best animated horror films geared towards children:
Labeled the “first true horror film for children” by USA Today, Monster House follows three friends as they attempt to rid their neighborhood of a possessed house that has a reputation for eating people that get too close. The movie, produced by Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis, features a surprisingly creepy atmosphere that’s heightened by its use of spooky sound effects and foreboding visuals, and it’s clear that director Gil Kenan has been inspired by a number of classic haunted house pictures (including the 1963 horror masterpiece The Haunting). And while the film might be a little too scary for very small children, Monster House ultimately stands as a perfect introduction into the world of cinematic horror for younger viewers.
From acclaimed stop-motion filmmaker Henry Selick comes this creepy adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s book, in which a young girl named Coraline (Dakota Fanning) inadvertently steps into an off-kilter mirror universe inhabited by strange people with buttons for eyes. Though it’s not quite as effective as Selick’s earlier films, 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and 1996’s James and the Giant Peach, Coraline certainly boasts plenty of horrific moments and scary bursts of imagery designed to rattle around in the viewer’s head long after the movie’s ended. This is, after all, a movie in which several characters possess buttons for eyes, which is itself one of the most impressively disturbing elements ever included within a supposed kid’s film.
3. '9' (2009)
Inspired by an Oscar-nominated short, 9 unfolds in a post-apocalyptic world in which machines have defeated humans and it’s now up to a heroic burlap doll named 9 (Elijah Wood) to prevent the total destruction of our planet. It’s a creepy premise that’s utilized to memorably disturbing effect by filmmaker Shane Acker, as the director, along with producer Tim Burton, uses the movie’s computer-animated visuals to create a grim landscape that contains deadly threats around every corner. And just because the central character and all his buddies are toys, they’re just as prone to injury and even death as their human counterparts. The end result is a film that undoubtedly earns its PG-13 rating for “violence and scary images.”
Tim Burton is certainly no stranger to the world of horror, as the acclaimed director has infused virtually all of his movies with bursts of gothic creepiness – with 2005’s Corpse Bride certainly no exception to this. The film, for the most part, details the sweet romance that ensues between an introverted young man (Johnny Depp’s Victor Van Dort) and a deceased woman (Helena Bonham Carter’s Corpse Bride), yet Burton, along with co-director Mike Johnson, places a consistent emphasis on sinister, downright unsettling elements. And while the movie lacks anything resembling overt scares, Corpse Bride contains a consistently spooky atmosphere that cements its place as a Halloween night staple.
5. 'Spirited Away' (2001)
Undoubtedly the tamest movie on this list, Spirited Away nevertheless features a number of genuinely disturbing moments and images sprinkled throughout its briskly-paced running time. The movie, which follows a young girl as she’s drawn into a world inhabited by a host of strange creatures, remains one of Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki’s most accomplished and well-regarded works, and although there’s nothing here that will frighten viewers past puberty, the film’s emphasis on out-of-this-world creatures, as well as its selection of human characters that are transformed into animals like mice and pigs, will surely leave younger viewers cowering behind closed eyes.