It's sort of subjective when you start talking about animated characters that haunted your childhood. So I tried to go beyond characters that just haunted mine. There is no shortage of pretty terrifying cartoon characters. Hell, some of them are still scary even today. But when you're a kid, it's a whole lot easier to be scared be even the silliest of things.
So there are a few cartoon characters here who you may not have been scared of at all, but surely you found them strange or...at least a little off. Rest assured though, that they terrified plenty of kids in their time, and still do. I happen to know several kids who have been terrified of the Evil Spirit from The Care Bears Movie. And recently.
Some of these cartoons go as far back as the 60s, but it's a guarantee that anyone over 20 years old here has seen them in the rotation of Saturday cartoons at some point. Maybe the 80s cartoons are a little more selective, but that doesn't make them any less frightening. So let's dig in to some cartoon characters who scared the sh*t out of kids when they appeared on screen.
15 Cruella De Vil
This is perhaps the most terrifying picture of this entire article. At least it is to me. I think it has something to do with the hypnotic, but simultaneously jaundiced, and bloodshot eyes. And maybe the cruel, frowning, expression of rage on her face. This is, of course, Cruella de Vil. Get it? Cruel devil? Anyway, she is visibly frightening. But that's not even the worst of it, by any means. You'd think her awfully ugly, and scary face would be enough. But on top of that, she wants to take 101 dogs, kill them, skin them, and turns them into coats, and accessories. She is essentially the Hitler of the Dalmatian world. And that is hardly an exaggeration. Sure, she hasn't set up slaughter facilities for them...but guaranteed that if she had the political power to do it, she certainly would.
14 Salad Fingers
Back in the day, when the internet was first exploding with social media sites, and viral video sites (before Google, YouTube, and Facebook overtook everything), there was Salad Fingers. This very, very strange character was a pretty deeply disturbed dude. I'm not even sure how this came to someone's mind as a thing to write and animate. But he is now forever on the freeways of the internet. This creepy character had an incredible yearning for rust that was "almost orgasmic" according to him. But he wouldn't just rub rust along his salad fingers. He would also rub nettles over his nipples which "[made] the milk come out". He would ride rusty faucets in a strange sort of acid trip. He would even talk to his imaginary finger friends, like Hubert Cumberdale, to name one of them. He might have been more creepy than scary, but he surely haunted the dreams of many kids around the globe.
Now, her little minions, Flotsam and Jetsam may have scared plenty of people as well, but for sure Ursula is one of the more terrifying Disney characters in the world. She's husky, and has a great, smoky singing voice. But she is gigantic, and villainous to the point of murder...or at least attempted murder. And even beyond that, she has no trouble torturing whomever she wants, simply to be pretty, and have a sweet little voice...and only two legs instead of eight. Of course, when things don't quite work out for her, she has the power to grow larger than a three-masted ship! If she wasn't scary enough, slinking in the inky blackness of the ocean depths, she is far scarier when she's towering over a ship like the Kraken. Especially during a storm that she seems to have conjured up with her intense magical powers.
12 Mumm Ra
For those who either are old enough to have been watching Thunder Cats when it was airing, or for those who have been watching Teletoon Retro for the past 10 years, you will likely have come across Mumm Ra at one point or another. Even just the above photo is surely enough to scare a little kid. But it gets way worse. He's not just some skulking, robed mummy creature. Not by any stretch of the imagination. He transforms. Maybe he doesn't get as large as Ursula in The Little Mermaid, but he grows, rips out of his mummy wraps, and bulges out an incredible array of muscles. He then towers over the Thunder Cats. It has to be said though that his most scary form is the one above. At least in my mind. It' crazy to know that he can become a gigantic muscle beast, but the creepily evil version is far more nightmare-inducing.
11 Oogie Boogie
Nightmare Before Christmas featured an array of creepy and scary characters. The film was basically built on every manner of creepy and scary things Tim Burton could think up though, so that makes total sense. But among all of those other disturbing characters, is the main villain, who is essentially a pile of bugs, sewn into a burlap bag. Now that might not sound very scary off the top, but when it comes to the contorted face that Oogie Boogie has sewn into that bag of bugs, then it all gets scary. He essentially is the boogie man. Hence the name, of course. And while Jack Skellington does have his moments of fright, Oogie doesn't have a kind heart like Jack does. All he wants is to do whatever he wants. And if that means torturing Santa Claus for nothing more than the fun of it, then that's what he'll do.
10 The Crypt Keeper
Cards on the table here, the Crypt Keeper is a lot scarier in his live-action HBO version. But that didn't stop him from filling children with nightmares for years, and years in the 90's. He's sort of like a cross between a skeleton, and a ghoulish, zombie-like character. He appears to have flesh of some sort, with that eerie blue hue. But he also has several features of a bare skeleton: like nothing more than a completely vacant nasal cavity. But maybe that's not what scares the sh*t out of kids with him. It seems far more likely that it's the shrieking laugh that he has at the outset of every single episode. Or maybe it's nothing more than the fact that the host of a cartoon show is a skeletal ghoul who loves nothing more than purposely scaring children. That might have a little something to do with it.
Anastasia, in spite of what a lot of people think, is not a Disney movie. But it does have a lot of the same elements, to be sure. For example, it's got a tiny animal sidekick..and it also has a frightening villain that people can't seem to get enough of in their waking life, as well as their dreams. Rasputin (alleged to have been the "lover of the Russian queen" back in the day) takes on a whole new persona in this film. Looked upon as a sorcerer, it seems that he has already been shot, stabbed, poisoned, and left in a frozen river to die. Why does it seem that way? Because his body continually falls apart, a seen in the screenshot above. But that's not necessarily the scariest thing about him. Aside from his decaying body, and his obsession with a young Russian girl, he is able to move his body in ways that make people shudder. He basically does a creepier version of the Exorcist head spin...
8 Judge Doom
This guy scared the ever-living sh*t out of me when I was a kid. I would watch Who Framed Roger Rabbit? over and over again, to the point I'm sure my parents hated at least the movie, if not me. But every single time that Judge Doom would finally be discovered to be a cartoon, and his eyes started going all nutty...and his voice hit that piercing screech, I would be terrified. And it doesn't help that the character was played by Christopher Lloyd, which meant that he was terrifying no matter what the hell he did. And it might seem a little unfair to call Judge Doom a scary cartoon character, as he does spend most of the film as a regular human being. But for the maybe five or ten minutes of cartoon action that you get out of this character...he certainly belongs on this list. Hands down.
7 Lord Noheart
Alright, so this photo is a little less scary because Beastly happens to be in it, but that doesn't change the fact that Noheart is a terrifying character. It's strange that these frightening villains all seem to exist predominantly in children's cartoons. It's as though people are purposely trying to scare kids into being good. Which is in itself kind of scary. But back to Noheart, perhaps one of the most terrifying things about him is that he has no face! At least not that any of us ever get to see. All we get to see are his creepy, fiery cat eyes, that appear out of the blackness of his hood. The only real part of his body that you ever get to see are his hands, and they are all sorts of old, mangled talons from some scary creature. This evil sorcerer is definitely one of the heavy hitters on this list.
For those who grew up watching Ferngully, you will absolutely understand Hexxus appearing on this list. He is like a strange, toxic, fiery, smoky version of Ursula from The Little Mermaid. With a far more voluptuous, and villainous voice. Why? Because this character is played by Tim Curry, and you know he's got to be somewhat frightening, given that fact. Imagine everything about global warming is true (which it is for the most part). Then imagine that everything horrible about it were to come together in one evil spirit of smog and fire. Then imagine that evil spirit came to town to devastate every bit of nature that existed. That's exactly what the character of Hexxus is. But with the charm and terror of Tim Curry.
5 Tweety Hyde
So this cartoon did first air in the 60's, but that hasn't stopped kids from adding The Bugs Bunny And Tweety Show to their Saturday cartoon viewings. In this interesting segment cute, innocent Tweety Bird has a Jekyll and Hyde moment. Basically, Tweety turns into a gigantic bird monster. And instead of Sylvester always hunting Tweety, he becomes the hunted. Tweety Bird actually gets to the point where he starts eating Sylvester. There is the iconic moment when all you see is Sylvester's tail sticking out of Tweety's beak. Which, to be fair, is a mirror image of what Sylvester typically does to Tweety. That doesn't change the fact that it's terrifying though. Which is saying an awful lot. Surely no one ever thought that Tweety could be scary. But we were all wrong.
4 The Evil Spirit
This is a very personal terror for me. I used to have a hard time watching The Care Bears Movie when I was little, for the sheer fact that this was the main villain. And she was one hell of a villain. Manipulating a teenage magician, her whole aim was to rid the world of anything goo and pure. She wanted nothing but her wickedness to reign supreme in the world. What's crazy about that is the fact that she was able to make a pretty good go at this while being nothing more than a scary face in a book. A very scary face to a young kid, but that's all she was. Though occasionally you'd glimpse green wisps coming forth from the book, like ghostly fingers, reaching out to manipulate, and distort whatever she wished. Thank goodness for those Care Bears.
3 Horned King
“Now I call on my army of the dead: the Cauldron Born! Arise, my messengers of death! Our time has arrived!” That's the Horned King in a nutshell. This is perhaps one of Disney's most terrifying cartoon characters to have reached screens to date. His whole agenda is based on ridding the world of every single living thing. His whole goal is to use his Cauldron Born, and every other creature he has at his disposal, to kill everything. Which is actually kind of ridiculous considering he wants to be a "god among mortal men". It's kind of hard to be a god among mortals when there are no more mortals around. But that's besides the point. The point is that the Horned King is a terrifying addition to the Disney collection. And almost disturbingly so. When was the last time anyone actually saw a dark, animated Disney movie arrive in theatres?
2 Nightmare King
Little Nemo: Adventures In Slumberland is a Japanese film from the 80's. And the main villain is exactly what you don't want to see when you go to sleep. Rather aptly, the Nightmare King is the ruler of the nightmare realm. It makes perfect sense, I think. Now this guy is no laughing matter. He is the creator of all nightmares, and he is pretty damn powerful. When his army fails to kill Nemo, and bring him the sceptre, the Nightmare King simply absorbs his entire army. He literally just sucks them into himself, and they disappear into darkness forever. And if that's not enough, his right-hand man is actually a gigantic stingray. Together, this devastating duo brings Slumberland almost entirely to its knees. Even the killing of the Nightmare King kills Nemo in turn.
1 Judge Frollo
Judge Frollo, from yet another Disney film, is a pretty scary guy. Now he doesn't have any magic. He's not superhuman. He doesn't have any special powers at all. At least no special powers that are beyond his position as a judge in France. But that doesn't change the fact that this character (voice by Tony Jay) is a psychotic, fanatical, obsessive, murderous Catholic, who wants nothing more than to either rape and/or burn Esmeralda - the gypsy girl he lusts after, He is by no means a nice man. And it doesn't help his case that he calls out to imaginary beings all day long, to try and justify his actions. Or to atone for his actions. And some of his atoning has to do with murder. And that's not him atoning for murder. That's him atoning for lust in his heart...by murdering.