The word monster is a very broad term, but the general image that comes to mind is a fictional creature with a brutal design and temperament. They are the stuff of nightmare to children, either as creatures out to scare them at the least or kill them at the most. With the days growing shorter and the nights colder in autumn, it’s the perfect time for monsters to come about.
Thanks to the creativity found within the world of animation, skilled writers, storytellers, and animators have been able to bring life to many classic monsters that endure even to this day. Ironically, the worst of them come from media aimed at kids, giving them plenty of reference material for their own monsters.
Fantasia is seen by many to be Disney’s most ambitious film thanks to its high concept of combining classical music with high-quality animation. To close the film, they contrast Modest Mussorgsky “Night on Bald Mountain,” with Franz Schubert’s “Ave Maria.” Before audiences can rejoice in the coming of the dawn, they must first witness the demon Chernabog emerge from the mountain and conduct his followers.
Chernabog lords over demons, harpies, and ghosts, who he forces to dance for his amusement before he casts them into the mountain’s burning heart. Everything about him is a display of power and control, from his hulking frame, his broad wings, and his merciless smile, captured perfectly by master animator Bill Tytla. Chernabog has appeared in many Disney spin-off shows and games, including as a boss in the Kingdom Hearts franchise.
The Red Bull (The Last Unicorn)
In a fairy tale kingdom, the wicked King Haggard rules from a crumbling seaside fortress. Though he inspires no loyalty in his subjects, he maintains control thanks to the Red Bull. One of Haggard’s first acts with the bull was to drive all but one of the world’s unicorns into the sea, so only he could enjoy their beauty.
The bull is a beast made of fire and smoke, part ethereal and part physical. This makes it a tireless hunter: when it set its sights on a target, it never rests until it claims them. Worst of all, nobody is able to tell if Haggard is the bull’s master or the other way around.
The Horned King (The Black Cauldron)
The villain of the biggest black sheep in all of Disney is a skeletal warlord called the Horned King. Though he commands a great army, his ambition is to find the magical Black Cauldron and use its powers to resurrect an army of undead and become unstoppable. To find it, he tasks his minions with stealing a pig with the power of prophecy, guarded by a boy named Taran who would grow to oppose him.
Though not the most memorable villain in Disney’s catalog, the Horned King manages to stand out thanks to his imposing design and how utterly evil he is. Few villains in Disney take such delight in tormenting others and spreading death and destruction as he does. Finally, he is voiced by John Hurt,one of the most versatile actors of his day.
Oogie Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
The Boogeyman is one of the most universally feared monsters by children around the world. Used to promote good behavior, its design is undefined to be what frightens an individual child the most. For Tim Burton and Henry Selick’s holiday story, they went with a sentient bag of bugs with a gambling addiction and a pension for torture.
What Oogie Boogie lacks in physical power he makes up for in theatrics. His casino lair is rigged with all manner of traps and tricks, allowing him to torment his prisoners before cooking them in snake and spider stew. During the song he sings to Santa Claus, he showcases the skeletons of his previous victims and even forces them to be his backup singers, implying they don’t even get released in death.
The Rhino (James and The Giant Peach)
Burton and Selick teamed up again to adapt the work of Roald Dahl. One of the biggest changes made was concerning the rhino that killed the parents of the protagonist, James. Originally just a rhinoceros that escaped from the London Zoo, the film changes it into an elemental monster that runs on a storm and fires lightning from its horn.
The changes made to the rhino allow for a stronger narrative of James overcoming his fears. Originally, the rhino haunts his dreams and is used by his wicked aunts to keep him in line. By the end of the film, emboldened by the love for his friends, James confronts his fears in a climactic showdown in the skies above New York City.
Constance Nebbercracker (Monster House)
In life, Constance was a member of a traveling freak show until she was rescued by her future husband, Horace Nebbercracker. Unfortunately, while Horace was building a house for them, Constance was bullied by some kids and, in a fury, lost her balance and fell to her death. Her vengeful spirit merged with the house, forcing Horace to drive people away for their own safety.
Constance’s story is a tragic one of someone pushed to their breaking point until all that remains is rage and a desire to hurt others. The filmmakers get creative with Constance’s powers, both in how she can manipulate parts of the house to attack others, and even using toys to lure children to their doom. As she becomes more determined to kill the film’s heroes, her form degrades until it truly becomes monstrous.
The Beldam (Coraline)
When young Coraline travels through a hidden door, she meets a woman with buttons for eyes who says she is her other mother. She delights Coraline with a world made entirely of her favorite things and then offers to let her stay if Coraline will allow buttons to be sewn on her eyes. However, a meeting with three ghost children reveals that it’s a trap by a shapeshifting demon to steal Coraline’s soul.
Along with her button-eyes and her spider-like design, the Beldam is terrifying because of her predatory nature. She turns a child’s love for fantasy and wonders into a trap to pull them away from their family and into her jaws. She’s also not afraid to steal her victim’s loved ones to use as hostages to ensure that they return to play her game.
Fabrication Machine (9)
A scientist used a magic talisman to copy his intellect into a machine, in the hopes that it would be able to create wonderful new things for humanity. Unfortunately, none of the scientist’s soul was transferred, which meant the machine was cold and calculated. Worse, it was taken from its creator and forced to produce weapons until it snapped under pressure and created a plague to wipe out all living things.
The Fabrication Machine represents the dangers of detaching from emotion in favor of cold and tireless progress. Everything is material for new robotic minions, including animal skulls and the bodies of the stitchpunks created by the scientist. However, it cares not how using these materials affects others emotionally, and even counts on those emotional responses to lure its victims into traps.
The Lich (Adventure Time)
In the aftermath of the Mushroom War that created the land of Ooo appeared the Lich. This immortal sorcerer works tirelessly towards a single goal: the eradication of all life across the multiverse. Armed with a seemingly endless supply of spells and ancient knowledge, it takes all the hero Finn’s determination, skill, and luck to stop him.
The Lich represents the inevitable end of death. While the heroes are able to defeat him, it’s just a temporary setback before he returns with a new plan. This is further captured by a chilling vocal performance by Ron Perlman, who also voiced the narrator in the Fallout games and Slade from Teen Titans.
The Beast (Over the Garden Wall)
Within a mystical forest called the Unknown, people live in fear of the Beast. He stalks in the shadows looking for innocent souls who have lost their way and waits for them to succumb to despair or death. Once they do, their bodies are transformed into horrific trees that leak oil to fuel his lantern.
Though the Beast only makes a few appearances in Over the Garden Wall, his presence is felt in every episode. He delights in tormenting people psychologically before they perish. Emotions like love and compassion are just weaknesses he can use to break his victims’ spirits before he perverts their bodies in an ultimate display of power.