Movies & TV / Columns

Favorite Animated Halloween TV Specials  

October 25, 2021 | Posted by Steve Gustafson
It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

It’s that time of year where we can take a step back and enjoy the Halloween season with a cup of whatever you want to fill it with and a pinch of nostalgia. I decided to take a few steps into our past and share 10 of my favorite Halloween animated TV specials.

When I was growing up, holiday specials were something to look forward to and relish. No joke, you’d see an ad for one in the TV Guide and something in your stomach would tingle, signaling that something new and exciting was coming.

This was back in the day when Saturday morning cartoons were your main fix for animated goodness and a Halloween Special was that extra spice to make the holiday season that much better.

You kids today will never have that feeling.

I finally got a chance to watch The Halloween Tree and really enjoyed it. I didn’t include it in the list as I usually like to watch something multiple times so I can fully appreciate it’s quality. 

I wanted to include Disney’s Halloween Treat from 1982 but I’m pretty sure it had some live-action stuff in it and I wanted to keep this strictly cartoon. Still, this was a fun little jaunt so enjoy this before we get started…

OK. let’s get the list started properly with…

The Simpsons: Treehouse of Horror V
I have a rough draft that’s been sitting around with my ranking of the various Treehouse of Horror specials from over the years and one day I hope to be done with it and share it. 

What I could do is say that this one has to be the best of them all. From time travel mishaps, an homage to The Shining to strange cafeteria happenings, this one hit all the right notes.

Pac-Man Halloween Special
Sorry, they used to have the whole special on YouTube but it’s gone the way of 2-bit video games. 
Honestly. 1982 was a prime year for specials. A number of my favorites came from this year and this was also around the time when Pac-Man was THE game. Pac-Man fever was bigger than Covid! OK, that might be a bit much but it was a pretty big deal.

While the special ran on October 30th, it was made up of two Saturday morning episodes, telling you the power Saturday morning cartoons had. Watching this today is a reminder that not all nostalgia is good nostalgia and we let a lot of things go in the name of getting entertainment anyway we could.

Bugs Bunny’s Howl-Oween Special
I still remember this after all these years and several of the scenes are burned into my memory. That witch, the Mr. Hyde. Bugs Bunny getting into trouble…well, I guess that’s a given, but this is a classic all around and exemplifies Halloween specials when I talk about them with friends.

Fat Albert’s Halloween Special
Hey, hey, hey! I’m not even sure if this is OK to list given that Bill Cosby created, produced, hosted, and voiced for the show but I’m including it. Fat Albert gets overlooked as a classic cartoon and that’s too bad. This Halloween special is actually really well done and includes some clever trash talk among friends and sneaks in a lesson or two for the gang to learn. Plus, it’s a lot of fun.

Flintstones: Rockula and Frankenstone
Another classic! I wonder if the kids growing up today will ever be able to enjoy some of these old school cartoons. Most likely not and that’s sad because the writing seems so much better and the solid, easy to follow art seems so much more…palatable…than some of these newer programs. But that’s just an old guy talking and as long as a kid is enjoying a cartoon, I’m happy.

Take Fred, Barney, Wilma, and Betty and add in some Halloween themed fun and you got a really enjoyable time for the whole family.

The Scooby-Doo Show: The Headless Horseman Of Halloween
Ruh roh! You just knew I had to have some Scooby-Doo in the mix! This one was an instant classic as the gang gets in the Halloween spirit with a Sleepy Hollow tone. The Headless Horseman gallops in and gives Mystery Inc. some trouble before they’re able to figure it all out and solve the case. 
Eat some Scooby snacks while watching this one.

Futurama: The Honking
As much love as Futurama gets, I still feel it’s underrated and especially this Halloween special in the grand scheme of things. Bender in a haunted castle to claim his inheritance from his uncle is pure comedy. The episode gives respect to a number of sources but keeps it original all the way through.`

BoJack Horseman: Mr. Peanutbutter’s Boos
I’m still new to the BoJack show but I’m really catching on to its greatness and surprised it took me this long to experience it. Mr. Peanutbutter’s annual Halloween party frames the episode and we get some great throwback parties that provide all the fun and drama to complement the season.  

Peanuts: It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
If I was ranking them, this would be number one, no doubt. The music, the characters, the story, everything adds up to this being the best of the best.

Waiting for the Great Pumpkin in the pumpkin patch and Charlie getting damn rocks while trick-or-treating are Halloween standards for me. Growing up, this was the true signal that Halloween was here.

All right, that’s my SUBJECTIVE list for you. I’ve left plenty of low hanging fruit for you to mention in the comments below. Grab a bag of candy and get sharing! And for those of you paying attention, I hope you enjoyed the trick!