The 1980s was a great decade for Halloween cartoons aimed at kids and families. During this era, networks like ABC, CBS, and NBC would air special Halloween cartoon episodes and TV movies to get viewers into the spooky spirit. These cartoons featured beloved characters like the Smurfs, Garfield, the Muppet Babies, and more.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
One of the most iconic Halloween cartoons of the 80s was It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. This Peanuts special first aired on CBS in 1966, but continued to air annually throughout the 1980s (and beyond!). It follows the Peanuts gang as they celebrate Halloween in their own unique ways. Linus believes in the mythical Great Pumpkin and waits all night in the pumpkin patch for him to arrive. Meanwhile, Snoopy imagines himself as a World War I flying ace battling the Red Baron. With its cool jazz soundtrack and messages about belief and commercialism, it’s a quintessential Halloween cartoon.
Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf
In 1988, Hanna-Barbera released Scooby-Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf. In this TV movie, Shaggy is turned into a werewolf and has to compete in a monster race organized by Dracula. As Scooby and the gang try to help Shaggy, they encounter many classic horror movie monsters like the Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster, and more. The zany monster slapstick and larger-than-life villains made this a favorite Halloween cartoon.
Garfield’s Halloween Adventure (1985)
Garfield and his dog companion Odie have quite the spooky adventure in this primetime CBS special. Garfield reluctantly agrees to take Odie trick-or-treating, only to end up going through a genuinely haunted house. The house is inhabited by pirating ghosts seeking hidden treasure. Garfield and Odie decide to find the treasure themselves to avoid being ghost chow. Lorenzo Music’s iconic voice acting brings Garfield’s scare-induced sarcasm to life.
The special stands out for its creepy atmosphere and nuanced portrayal of Garfield and Odie’s friendship. It became a classic Garfield story proving the fat cat did have a heart under all his grouchiness.
The Real Ghostbusters (1980s)
This animated show based on the hit Ghostbusters movie regularly featured Halloween episodes during its run in the late 1980s.
One of the most memorable is “When Halloween Was Forever” from 1986. In the episode, the Ghostbusters are hired to perform at a Halloween costume party. But real ghosts crash the party when Samhain, the spirit of Halloween, is summoned and wants to make the holiday last forever. The Ghostbusters battle against ancient samurai ghosts and other ghouls to save Halloween.
The Real Ghostbusters created a perfect blend of paranormal action and humor with just the right amount of spooky flair for Halloween.
Fat Albert Halloween Special (1977)
Yeah, this primetime CBS special is a 1970s Halloween classic, but it was a classic all through the 80s, too.
Fat Albert and his friends encounter some real ghosts, not just costumes. The Cosby Kids visit a funeral home on Halloween night, unaware that it is haunted by the ghost of its late owner. The ghost is bitter and threatens to lock the kids inside forever. In the end, Fat Albert helps the spirit find peace and cross overby learning his sad story.
The Fat Albert Halloween Special stood out for dealing with themes of life, death, and finding empathy for others in a genre usually geared toward light-hearted scares and laughs. The special gave it some real heart and gravitas.
Saturday Morning Cartoons
For younger kids, there were Halloween episodes of shows like The Smurfs and Muppet Babies. In a 1986 Smurfs episode, the Smurfs dress up as their ideal careers for a Halloween party. Meanwhile, the evil wizard Gargamel transforms into a vampire to try to scare the Smurfs. On the Muppet Babies’ first Halloween episode in 1987, the characters’ imaginations run wild as they tell spooky stories and search a haunted house. These cartoons blended Halloween thrills with gentle comedy for kids.
Whether watching Linus wait for the Great Pumpkin or seeing Shaggy race against classic movie monsters, 1980s Halloween cartoons offered seasonal fun for the whole family. Their iconic Halloween scenes and characters remain popular nostalgic favorites for those who grew up watching them.