15 Terrifying Cartoon Characters From Your Childhood Who Scarred You For Life

Chernabog from Disney's Fantasia (1940).
Chernabog from Disney's Fantasia (1940).

In most children’s programs, you can count on the good, visually appealing characters to triumph over the bad, scary-looking ones. Having said that: Once an animated image of pure evil has embedded itself into the malleable mind of a child, not even the happiest of endings can erase it. From The Black Cauldron’s Horned King to FernGully’s Hexxus, here’s a list of the best (and by “best” we mean “utterly horrifying”) cartoon characters from your childhood that you’ve either successfully repressed or still shudder to think about every single day.

1. Rasputin // Anastasia (1997)

At the very least, Rasputin is a friendly reminder to practice good hygiene habits and always finish the full dose of antibiotics even if you start to feel better. The cartoon version of the infamous Russian mystic is a walking, talking, wart-faced germ who communes with cockroaches and can’t keep his head (or any body part, for that matter) on straight. His batty, bright green minions were scary in a conventional way, but it was Rasputin’s 2-inch-long fingernails and 4-foot-long beard that really upped the ante in the animated villain game. —Ellen Gutoskey

2. Claude Frollo // The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)

Before Andrew Scott single-handedly made the clergy cool again with his portrayal of the “hot priest” in Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag, Claude Frollo was giving holy authority figures a bad name. The sinister, spindly-fingered religious zealot demanded that Esmeralda either submit to his lusty desires or burn at the stake, which is enough to make you fear a two-dimensional cartoon character at any age. Have you managed to forget his diabolical eyes and shady sneer? Some of us have not. —EG

3. The Giant Baby // Rugrats, “Angelica’s Worst Nightmare/The Mega Diaper Babies” (1994)

giant baby from angelica's worst nightmare, rugrats

Hmm, where to start? How can I adequately capture in words why a 30-foot-tall drooling baby that speaks like Vincent Pastore from The Sopranos is terrifying? Dang. An impossible task.

Clearly, the writers of Rugrats wanted to prove to all children that the blessing of a baby sibling isn't so bad after all! Unfortunately, in an effort to make their point, they inundated us with repeated scenes of a massive baby with an old man's voice teething on cars and dripping drool over the highway, while threatening to suck on Angelica. Massive missed opportunity, as they could've simply ... not done that. —Adam Weinrib

4. Chernabog // Fantasia (1940)

While the 1940 Disney classic Fantasia offers tons of colorful sequences full of joy, it comes at a price. Yes, I’m referring to probably the scariest fictional character made for children: Chernabog. Amid having fun with the innocent baby Pegasus and the ever-charming Mickey Mouse, there comes “Night on Bald Mountain,” featuring skeletons flying in the sky, menacing music, and the villain himself, glowing eyes and all, literally catching on fire and still controlling his followers from up above. Yeah, no thanks. —Natalie Zamora

5. Mumm-Ra // ThunderCats (1985)

In the 1980s, cartoons were often sanitized by watchdog groups—notice that He-Man rarely swung his sword offensively at another human—and largely toothless. For the most part, so was ThunderCats, the mid-'80s adventure series about a band of catlike aliens at odds with Mumm-Ra, the bandage-covered sorcerer who wants the ThunderCats off his planet of Third Earth. In addition to being an undead instrument of pure evil, Mumm-Ra was viscerally ghoulish. Using an incantation, he could also swell to bodybuilder proportions. Nothing about this guy sat well with younger viewers, and for good reason: In a sea of ineffectual cartoon villains, Mumm-Ra stood out as genuinely malevolent. —Jake Rossen

6. The Horned King // The Black Cauldron (1985)

Next to the Horned King from Disney’s darker-than-usual fantasy film The Black Cauldron, Voldemort practically looks cute. The skeletal dictator’s aspiration to take over the world with his army of undead soldiers was frightening, sure, but it’s the memory of his glowing red eyes, crooked teeth, and greenish-brown complexion that really makes you reach for your bedside baseball bat whenever you think you see your coat rack move in the darkness. —EG

7. Ursula’s Poor Unfortunate Souls // The Little Mermaid (1989)

The only thing more frightening than Ursula’s tacky blue eyeshadow in The Little Mermaid was the fear that she’d show up in your bathtub and magic you into one of her poor unfortunate souls, even if you were pretty positive you never signed a contract for everlasting youth, extra legs, or whatever. The slimy, stumpy little creatures that skulked on the floor of Ursula’s dank (and not in the cool way) ocean cave weren’t evil or dangerous in any way, but sometimes the ‘ew’ factor is all it takes to scar you for life. —EG

8. The Nightmare King // Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)

nightmare king from little nemo adventures in slumberland
TMS Entertainment Co.

This cult-classic animated film from the early 1990s is strange, silly, and undoubtedly a ripoff of Alice in Wonderland, but it’s still pretty fantastic. It was, after all, written by Chris Columbus (yes, the guy who wrote Gremlins and The Goonies and directed the first two Harry Potter movies, Home Alone, and Mrs. Doubtfire). The antagonist is the haunting, amorphic Nightmare King, who mostly manifests itself as a moving, living ocean of terrifying black goop that swallows up everything it touches. It’s sort of reminiscent of The Nothing that threatens the world of The NeverEnding Story, except, you know, goopier. He’s like an evil, sentient quicksand monster. If being engulfed by a black, sticky nightmare isn’t scary enough, the Nightmare King also has a giant, anthropomorphic, gargoyle-esque form that is voiced by William E. Martin, who also voiced Shredder in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (so you know he’s sinister). This guy is literally the stuff of nightmares—case closed. —Justin Dodd

9. The Red Bull // The Last Unicorn (1982)

The Red Bull is the giant, fiery cherry on top of an ice cream sundae that looks, smells, and tastes like fear from beginning to end. Objectively, Rankin and Bass’s The Last Unicorn is a quality animated fantasy, elevated with a soundtrack from the band America and exceptional voice acting from Mia Farrow, Alan Arkin, Jeff Bridges, Angela Lansbury, Christopher Lee, and more. To a very unobjective and easily impressionable child, it’s about 90 minutes of all-out terror that this hellish bull is going to destroy the last unicorn on earth (and maybe you, too). —EG

10. The Clown // The Brave Little Toaster (1987)

It’s a clown. Need we say more? The Pennywise-wannabe from Toaster’s nightmare has absolutely nothing to do with the plot of this movie, proving that you really don’t need narrative structure to make something scary as all get-out. With crooked, yellowed teeth; red horns; and a devilish grin to rival that of Bill Skarsgård himself, he delivers his one word of dialogue (“Run”) with such exemplary malice that he’s not only a perfect poster child for coulrophobia, but also for that old acting adage that “there are no small parts, only small actors.” —EG

11. Hexxus // FernGully (1992)

The knowledge that Hexxus is played by musical theater heavyweight Tim Curry makes him a lot less terrifying in retrospect, and his jazzy number “Toxic Love” is nothing short of iconic. As a kid, however, Hexxus was an oozy, oily, amorphous monster who was coming to suck the life out of everything you love and maybe also soak you in acid rain. If you haven’t seen the movie, just imagine if the smoke monster from Lost had the voice of The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Dr. Frank N. Furter. —EG

12. Cruella de Vil // 101 Dalmatians (1961)

Sure, monsters and goblins were frightening when we were kids, but we were assured by our parents that they were make-believe (though some of us may not have believed them). But what's very real is a wretched, scrawny, terrifying old woman, be it a distant relative, great aunt, grandmother, or whoever. Cruella de Vil is the embodiment of this tangible fear. Her name is literally derived from the words cruel and devil, and she tried to make a giant coat out of dogs' fur. And we loved dogs as kids (and still do)! How was this horrible story written for a young audience? —Thomas Carannante

13. Freaky Fred // Courage the Cowardly Dog, “Freaky Fred” (1999)

freaky fred from courage the cowardly dog
Cartoon Network

From his creepy posture to his unkempt hair, Freaky Fred’s physical appearance is enough to produce nightmare fuel for people of all ages. However, his freakiness does not stop there—he also suffers from trichotemnomania (an obsession with shaving people until they’re bald). And to complement his unsettling voice, he speaks in rhyming quatrains that always end with the word naughty. For example: “Alone was I, with tender Courage / And all his fur, his furry furrage / Which, I say, did encourage / Me to be quite naughty.” —Brian Stieve

14. Sharptooth // The Land Before Time (1988)

The pathetic little arms of a Tyrannosaurus rex are unfailingly hilarious in every other context except The Land Before Time, in which they’re upstaged by teeth so sharp and eyes so wicked that many a parent had to lull their nightmare-plagued children back to sleep with a nice, happy story about extinction. The aptly named Sharptooth technically terrorized Littlefoot, Ducky, and the rest of the dino gang because he was hungry, but it always seemed more sadistic than that. —EG

15. Bilbo Baggins // The Hobbit (1977)

rankin/bass's 1977 the hobbit
Rankin/Bass Productions

In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbits are supposed to be the good guys. But in Rankin/Bass’s 1977 animated TV movie, lead Hobbit Bilbo Baggins is a small freaky dude with premature wrinkles who is only marginally less scary than Gollum and Smaug. This Hobbit presented Bilbo in terrifying chase scenes and dangerous battles sure to provoke existential anxiety rather than pleasant memories of the Shire. With a visual style composed of moody watercolors and voices by John Huston, Otto Preminger, and Thurl “Tony the Tiger” Ravenscroft, The Hobbit was a children’s special with adult-level content that creeped out a generation of impressionable youngsters. —Kat Long

8 Festive Facts About Hallmark Channel Christmas Movies

The holiday season means gifts, lavish meals, stocking stuffers, and what appear to be literally hundreds of holiday-themed movies running in perpetuity on the Hallmark Channel, which has come to replace footage of a crackling fireplace as the background noise of choice for cozy evenings indoors. Last year, roughly 70 million people watched Hallmark's holiday scheduling block. If you’re curious how the network manages to assemble films like Check Inn to Christmas, Christmas at Graceland: Home for the Holidays, and Sense, Sensibility & Snowmen with such efficiency—a total of 40 new films will debut this season on the Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Movies and Mysteries, and Hallmark Movies Now—keep reading.

1. The Hallmark Channel Christmas movie tradition started with ABC.

The idea of unspooling a continuous run of holiday films started in the 1990s, when ABC offshoot network ABC Family started a "25 Days of Christmas" programming promotion that would go on to feature the likes of Joey Lawrence and Mario Lopez. The Hallmark Channel, which launched in 2001, didn’t fully embrace the concept until 2011, when ABC Family moved away from the concept in an effort to appeal to teen viewers.

2. Most Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are shot in Canada.

To maximize their $2 million budget, most Hallmark Channel holiday features are shot in Canada, where tax breaks can stretch the dollar. Wintry Vancouver is a popular destination, though films have also been shot in Montreal and Toronto. One film, 2018's Christmas at the Palace, was shot in Romania to take advantage of the country's castles.

3. Each Hallmark Channel Christmas movie only takes a couple of weeks to film.

If you’re wondering why a holiday movie on basic cable can regularly attract—and keep—a list of talent ranging from Candace Cameron Bure to Lacey Chabert, the answer is partly scheduling. Most Hallmark holiday movies take just two to three weeks to shoot, meaning actors don’t have to commit months out of the year to a project. Actors like Rachael Leigh Cook, who stars in this year's A Blue Ridge Mountain Christmas, have also complimented the channel on giving them opportunities to be with their families while on location: Cook said that the production schedule allowed her time to FaceTime with family back home.

4. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies use a variety of tricks to create snow.

Even more pervasive than Dean Cain in the Hallmark Channel Christmas line-up is snow. Because some of the films shoot in the summer, it’s not always possible to achieve that powder naturally. Producers use a variety of tricks to simulate snowfall, including snow blankets that mimic the real thing when laid out; foam; commercial replica snow; crushed limestone; and ice shavings. Actors might also get covered with soapy bubbles for close-ups. The typical budget for snow per movie is around $50,000.

5. There’s a psychological reason why Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are so addictive.

Like a drug, Hallmark Channel Christmas movies provide a neurological reward. Speaking with CNBC in 2019, Pamela Rutledge, behavioral scientist, director of the Media Psychology Research Center, and a faculty member in the Media Psychology department at Fielding Graduate University, explained that the formulaic plots and predictability of the films is rewarding, especially when viewers are trying to unwind from the stress of the holiday season. “The lack of reality at all levels, from plot to production, signals that the movies are meant to be escapism entertainment,” Rutledge said. “The genre is well-defined, and our expectations follow. This enables us to suspend disbelief.”

6. Hallmark Channel Christmas movie fans now have their own convention.

Call it the Comic-Con of holiday cheer. This year, fans of Hallmark Channel’s Christmas programming got to attend ChristmasCon, a celebration of all things Hallmark in Edison, New Jersey. Throngs of people gathered to attend panels with movie actors and writers, scoop up merchandise, and vie for prizes during an ugly sweater competition. The first wave of $50 admission tickets sold out instantly. Hallmark Channel USA was the official sponsor.

7. Hallmark Channel Christmas movies are helping keep cable afloat.

Actors Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas are pictured in a publicity still from the 2017 Hallmark Channel original movie 'Miss Christmas'
Brooke D'Orsay and Marc Blucas in Miss Christmas (2017).
Hallmark Channel

In an era of cord-cutting and streaming apps, more and more people are turning away from cable television, preferring to queue up programming when they want it. But viewers of Hallmark Channel’s holiday offerings often tune in as the movie is airing. In 2016, 4 million viewers watched the line-up “live.” One reason might be the communal nature of the films. People tend to watch holiday-oriented programming in groups, tuning in as they air. The result? For the fourth quarter of 2018, the Hallmark Channel was the most-watched cable network among women 18 to 49 and 25 to 54, even outpacing broadcast network programming on Saturday nights.

8. You can get paid to watch Hallmark Channel Christmas movies.

If you think you have the constitution to make it through 24 Hallmark Channel holiday films in 12 days, you might want to consider applying for the Hallmark Movie Dream Job contest, which is sponsored by Internet Service Partners and will pay $1000 to the winning entrant who seems most capable of binging the two dozen films and making wry comments about them on social media. You can enter though December 6 here.

Get Cozy This Winter in a Harry Potter-Themed Tiny House on Airbnb


If you're in need of a magical getaway, look no further than this Harry Potter-themed listing on Airbnb. The tiny house packs all the magic of Hogwarts into a space slightly larger than Harry's cupboard under the stairs.

The "Harry Potter Fan’s Magical Tiny House of Wizarding" is located in Marlboro, New York, about 90 minutes away from New York City. Though the 300-square-foot space is tiny, there's no shortage of whimsical details for Muggles to discover. Memorabilia from the wizarding world—like wands, a Sorting Hat, and a Goblet of Fire—are hidden throughout the home. Available reading materials include issues of The Daily Prophet and The Quibbler, as well as all seven books in the Harry Potter series. And whether, you're a Slytherin, Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, or Hufflepuff, you'll feel welcome: The crests of all four Hogwarts houses are hung on the walls.

The listing features plenty of perks guests can enjoy, regardless of their level of fandom. The tiny house sits on a 30-acre farm with a lavender field, a fire pit, and easy access to nearby vineyards and orchards. The Airbnb host writes that you should even expect to see some fantastic beasts during your stay. "Don't be surprised if you see coyotes, families of deer, and every type of bird you could imagine—not to mention more butterflies than you've ever seen, depending on the season," the listing reads. "This is a truly immersive experience into nature."

The Harry Potter tiny home is only available as a limited-run pop-up during the winter. You and up to three friends can book your stay for $159 per night today through Airbnb. And if you're looking for a slightly roomier experience that's just as magical, there are Harry Potter-themed rentals in Atlanta and the UK.

Harry Potter tiny house on Airbnb.

Wands in Harry Potter tiny home.

Harry Potter tiny house on Airbnb.

Harry Potter tiny house on Airbnb.

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