In what may be the strangest concept for a kids' movie ever, Variety reports that John Davis' The Animation Picture Company has landed the rights to E.L. Katz's script for 'Zombie Pet Shop' – and they're planning to turn it into a 3D animated feature. You know, because nothing says "kid friendly" quite like seeing animated zombie puppies devour adorable non-zombie bunny rabbits...in loving 3D so you can almost touch the guts.
Katz, who's probably best known for writing the screenplay for Adam Gierasch's 'Autopsy,' is making the jump to macabre kids' movies with this tale of a mall pet shop infected with a strange virus that turns the animals into zombies. It's up to a spunky pug named Joey to find an antidote and save his friends.
While we have no idea how the pitch meeting for this went down, we like to think of Katz telling Davis that "it's like 'Dawn of the Dead,' only Ken Foree's part is played by a cute little pug I've named Joey!' How could anyone pass on a pitch like that? How awesome would this be if they went with a downbeat Romero-styled ending where Joey either A) never finds the antidote or B) finds it too late to save his best friend/love interest and the last shot is of him working feverishly to find a cure while his zombie pet strains against a leash in the background? We'd pay to see that.
This, of course, got us thinking. There aren't enough animated horror movies for kids out there – so what do you show little Timmy or Jane if they have a taste for the darker things in life? Here are five flicks for your horror-obsessed tykes.
'Coraline': Henry Selick's feature, based on Neil Gaiman's novel of the same name, isn't your typical horror film. In fact, it's more like a dark fantasy than an out and out fright flick, but it still packs enough creepy ambiance and disturbing imagery to give your little one his or her much needed taste of the dark side. Coraline stumbles across a path to an alternate world – one a lot like her own, only more fun. In this other world, Coraline's parents pay attention to her and life is one fun thing after another. It's only as the film progresses that the dark secret of this other world, and its matriarchal Other Mother, begin to emerge – and let's just say her plan would have pleased the late Lucio Fulci greatly with its penchant for ocular mayhem.
'Monster House': Steven Spielberg and Robert Zemeckis reunited to produce this 2006 CGI animated feature from director Gil Keenan that finds three kids doing battle with the house across the street – a home that isn't merely haunted, but alive. This clever and entertaining monster flick benefits from an engaging story about a house merged with the soul of its owner and hungry to eat children. Featuring the voice acting talents of Steve Buscemi as the malevolent home's owner, along with Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jason Lee and Kathleen Turner, 'Monster House' may be too intense for younger children, but will appeal to who're older but not quite ready for grown-up haunted house films.
'The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad': Disney adapts Washington Irving's 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow' in this 1949 animated feature. The tale follows Ichabod Crane, a school teacher in Tarry-Town who encounters the legendary Headless Horseman on his ride home from a Halloween party. Featuring narration by Bing Crosby, a beautifully animated Headless Horseman and some genuinely frightening moments (mixed, at first, with comic relief) this is a title that's well deserving of its classic status. For years, it was available as a standalone release (under the title 'The Legend of Sleepy Hollow'), but Disney has reunited it with the completely un-horrific 'The Wind in the Willows' on DVD. This was how the films were originally released back in 1949.
'Corpse Bride' and 'The Nightmare Before Christmas': It was too hard to pick just one of these films, so consider this a bonus choice. Both films feature the trademark Tim Burton oddness, but in a very kid-friendly way. 'Nightmare' finds Jack Skellington, the mayor of Halloweentown, learning about Christmas and kidnapping Santa as part of his plan to change things up in his city. Unfortunately, this doesn't go exactly as planned. While not overly scary, 'Nightmare' features loads of spooky (and fun) imagery and has become a holiday classic that can be viewed on either Halloween or Christmas.
'Corpse Bride,' meanwhile, features Burton co-directing (he only got a story and producer credit on 'Nightmare' – Henry Selick directed) with Mike Johnson. 'Corpse Bride' tells the tale of Victor and Victoria, a couple set to be married. However, when Victor butchers his lines at rehearsal, he heads off into the woods to be alone and practice. Things go terribly wrong when he places the wedding band on the finger of a corpse and is whisked away to the land of the dead with his new corpse wife. Can Victor escape this plight and return to his beloved Victoria? You'll have to watch it to find out. Like 'Nightmare,' 'Corpse Bride' is lovingly animated and filled with spooky locales. It also features the voice talents of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter and Christopher Lee.
'Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island': For years, Scooby and the gang tracked down supernatural ghosts and goblins only to inevitably discover that the monster wasn't a monster at all, but some greedy crook instead. That changed in 1998's 'Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island,' which finds the gang reuniting to explore legends of a ghost pirate who haunts an island in the Louisiana bayou. The whole thing plays like an extended episode of the original show – mixing light scares with comedy bits – but it's a little more intense than the television program ever was. The scene of zombies rising from the Earth is pretty awesome for a children's cartoon, for example. The only real downside here (for parents, not for kids) is that most of the original voice actors didn't return for the film. It's a little disconcerting hearing these different voices coming out of beloved characters all these years later. Despite that, 'Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island' is a surprisingly good animated horror film. If your kids like things that go bump in the night, it's hard to go wrong with this one.