The way we watch TV has changed so much in just a short amount of time. Almost gone are the days of flipping channels to see what your local station or cable offerings are. These days a majority of folks are tuning in to their favorite viewings through app-based programming like Roku, Fire Stick or other such devices, like iPhones, Androids, tablets, or even the computer.
Some of those apps are paid, some are free. And as we head into the week of Halloween, I want to offer up some recommendations for the best Halloween offerings you can watch right now, absolutely free via the PBS Kids app.
Wild Kratts: Creepy Creatures – While the crew of the Tortuga get ready for Halloween, the villains band forces to turn Halloween into a scary time for both animal and human alike, kidnapping various creatures to create haunted havoc and a Halloween monster! There’s also some fun self-referential jokes like the characters dressing like their own villains.
Pinkalicious and Peteriffic: Pink or Treat – Halloween is Coming! But a storm through Pinkville has left the town without power and disarray. It’s Pinkagirl to the rescue to save Halloween. Based on the book of the same name from the Pinkalicious book series, this animated interpretation has a few slight changes but still delivers home a message of community and working together to find joy together in what seems like even the darkest of moments.
Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood: The Neighborhood Fall Festival – Sure, there is a Halloween/Dress Up Day episode of Daniel Tiger I could have gone with, but I have to admit a soft spot for show’s and episodes that take the road less traveled and do a story more related to Autumn than Halloween itself. Here, a fall storm knocks over the autumn decorations outside Music Man Stan’s Music Store and it’s up to Daniel and his friends to put them back up. They may not be the way Music Man Stan had them, but it’s a great lesson for the kids that they don’t have to do things the way someone else does, or that it needs to be perfect. They just need to do the best that’s right for them.
Word Girl: Tobey’s Tricks & Treats – Poor robotics genius Tobey loses the costume contest at school. What’s a kid super-villain to do in response but set his giant robots (ahem, ro-buts) into town on Halloween night to steal all the candy. Word Girl is always a super-heroic great time, Patton Oswalt is a recurring delight as Tobey and this Halloween episode is no exception to the fun.
Curious George Boofest! – One of my all-time autumn favorites. A spooky scarecrow legend keeps the country town of the Man in the Yellow Hat on edge, and it’s none other than George and friends to get to the bottom of it. A fun romp through the country at Halloween time, with great songs and fun.
This list is in no way exhaustive, and there’s many great Halloween episodes to be found in a variety of other shows in the app as well – Arthur, Sid the Science Kid, Let’s Go Luna and more.
And for quick dives into Halloween goodies, you can forsake the full episodes (found in each show’s profile) and go straight to the Happy Halloween section for a slew of seasonal clips for shorter viewing.
Like many offerings that tie into the season at hand, these are only available for a limited time before disappearing again next year. But if you’re looking for some safe seasonal fun for any age, the PBS Kids app is the place to find it.
The crinkle of leaves, the windy nights.
You can go ahead and enjoy all the pumpkin spice whatever you like. I’ve never been a fan of pumpkin other than decoratively.
For me, other than the aesthetics of a neighborhood or roadways lines with multi-colored leaves, the thing I look forward to the most this time of year is Halloween specials. I’m not a horror movie guy, so Jason, Freddy, the rest of you will have to sit this one out. The old, original Universal crew of Dracula, Frankenstein and friends? Okay, those I’ll get behind. And maybe one day I’ll talk about the wonder that is Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Or how I have to watch Arsenic & Old Lace with Cary Grant at least once a season.
But beyond those, there’s something I really, really dig this time of year on the same level of those classics, and that’s watching family-friendly Halloween specials with the kids. I love it. Absolutely love it and look forward to it every year. Sometimes it’s a weekend, nighttime treat with a big bowl of popcorn for all of us and some apple cider to sip on. Or, it’s just a spur of the moment afternoon viewing because it’s Autumn and why not?
Either way, Fall and Halloween specials with the kids are my bag, and I wanted to pass along some of my personal favorites to recommend for anyone looking for some non-scary, but intensely entertaining treats for the eyes of your little ones, or even just you.
So, let’s hope into this leaf pile of nostalgia and spooks, shall we?
The Skeleton Dance, a Walt Disney short from 1929, in all its black and white glory, is simply that – a group of skeletons that come out of the cemetery when the sun goes down and dance the night away, with macabre music made on their very own bones.
Lonesome Ghosts is a 1937 Disney short featuring Mickey, Donald, and Goofy as ghost hunters tricked into an old house by a group of mischievous ghosts looking for some entertainment. This one, in full-color, is another Disney classic.
If you possibly get iffy at times about the use of firearms in old cartoons, as I tend to be a bit wary of, know Mickey does bring a shotgun with him into the home. Standard for cartoons of the day, it’s good to know upfront should you want to put it into both a historical and safety context for any young ones, as I’ve tried to while we enjoy. Or, if unlike me, you don’t care about that sort of thing, then enjoy all on its own.
Capping off the Disney trio is my favorite of the three – Trick or Treat from 1952, featuring Huey, Dewey and Louie enlisting the help of a witch named Hazel (voiced by the late, great voiceover legend June Foray) for some Halloween comeuppance against their Uncle Donald, who proves to be the worst uncle in the world with the tricks he plays on the boys.
The opening and closing song of “Trick or Treat” will get stuck in your head, but it’s so much fun to sing, you won’t mind.
I’m always intrigued by the fact that the Grinch was one of Dr. Seuss’ most popular characters, but only appeared in that one published tale when he stole Christmas. Other than that, he’s been relegated to screen appearances, perhaps fueled by the adage about small doses. With its typical Seussian rhymes, it focuses on a young Who from Whoville who confronts the Grinch on Halloween/Grinch Night in an effort to stall him from making it to Whoville and scaring the entire population.
There’s familiar canine companion Max, and a lot of bizarre, surreal elements during the scare-sequence that might seem like something out of a Dali painting brought to life, but in the end, this sing-song tale of facing your fears is a fun Halloween romp that was actually written by Dr. Seuss himself! Minus Karloff this time around, Hans Conried, a familiar face to TV audiences in the 50s/60s and prolific voice-over actor, brings his refined diction to the titular Grinch.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Come on, does this one really need much of a write-up? This one has been a classic for decades.
Though no matter how many years go by, you can’t help but ask why this group of kids are so incredibly mean to poor Charlie Brown (and in this case, Linus, too).
Linus waits in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin to arrive on Halloween night, while the rest of the Peanuts gang go trick-or-treating in ghost costumes, where ol’ Chuck gets nothing but rocks. While yes, moments in it serve as a great reminder to not be so mean to people (what is your problem all the time, Lucy?!) the classic animation and characters still make it a fun tradition each and every year.
Curious George Halloween Boo Fest
I refer to this as a contemporary classic and it’s quickly become one of my staples of the fall season.
Seriously. I will watch this whether kids are in the room or not. And it’s not just because the Man in the Yellow Hat is my spirit animal.
Taking place primarily at the Man’s country house (my favorite setting for the PBS Kids Curious George TV series, which alternates between their city apartment and the man’s family home in the country), George is intrigued by the neighborhood tales of No-Noggin, the scarecrow whose head disappeared years and years ago and now comes back at Halloween to kick off people’s hats and take them as his own.
Great songs, great characters, and just enough spooky Halloween atmosphere without being scary, this has become such a favorite of mine that when it recently came off of Netflix, I had to go out and buy a copy on DVD so we could have it.
So there’s your homework this season. To enjoy some fun viewings with your little ones or on your own that still stand the test of time in my opinion and are the perfect on-screen companion to the month of October.
Grown-Up Bonus Viewing: Send the kids to bed and delight in all the kitsch of 1970s pop culture with the Paul Lynde Halloween Special, where Mr. Center Square himself guffaws his way through a haunted castle with Margaret “Wicked Witch of the West” Hamilton at his side and cameos by everyone from Betty White, to Florence Henderson, to KISS and H.R. Puffenstuff’s Witchiepoo.