“Spooky, scary skeletons, send shivers down your spine.
Shrieking skulls will shock your soul. Seal your doom tonight.”
— Andrew Gold
The skeletons come out every fall. They come creeping from Halloween displays or placed near altars during Day of the Dead as they finally get to come out of their fleshy shells and show off a little.
Skeletons are also seen all year long in pop culture, from scary movies to science fiction stories or music videos. With Halloween just a few days away, it’s a great time to dig up some fun and geeky facts on some favorite fictional skeletons and their friends.
1. The late multi-instrumentalist and pop artist Andrew Gold had some big hits in the 1970s such as “Lonely Boy” and “Never Let Her Slip Away,” yet many kids will forever know his single “Spooky Scary Skeletons” from the 1996 novelty album he created with fellow pop star John Waite, Halloween Howls. The song has inspired several remixes and covers, as well as dance and music tutorials and “Spooky Scary Skeletons” Dance Challenges on TikTok.
2. Long before Gold’s hit, Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks created the Silly Symphony animated short “The Skeleton Dance,” which turned 90 years old this year. It was the first picture to get a return engagement showing at the famed Roxy Theatre in New York, but not everyone around the world liked it. The New York Times reported in 1931 the cartoon was banned in Denmark for being “too macabre.”
3. There is plenty of debate on how tall Halloween Town’s feared and loved leader, Jack Skellington, is. When a “life-sized” cardboard cut out of him was released not long after the movie came out, it was only about 5′ 10″, but many fans place his height from 6′ 5″ to a lanky 8 feet tall!
4. Jack, who has been a costumed character and mainstay at Disney’s Haunted Mansion Holidays overlay since 2001, became the host of the Disney’s Not So Spooky Spectacular Halloween fireworks display this year at Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park thanks to a very impressive puppet.
5. Another favorite singing skeleton of Tim Burton fans is the big-jawed Mr. Bonejangles, the jazzy entertainer in the Land of the Dead’s Ball and Socket Pub in The Corpse Bride. It isn’t a surprise his name is a reference to American actor and tap dancer Bill Robinson (Mr. Bojangles). However, some fans might also catch a William Shakespeare’s Hamlet reference when he speaks of a “tragic tale of romance, passion, and a murder most foul.”
6. Another favorite skeleton in Corpse Bride is “Scraps,” Victor Van Dort’s late pet dog, who is still jangling around happily in the Land of the Dead. To see what kind of dog he was, a picture of Victor and a black-and-white spotted Scraps “in the flesh” are seen in the opening titles of the film.
7. The Grateful Dead’s iconic “skull and roses” skeleton logo was created in the 1960s by an artist named Stanley “Mouse” Miller who also designed well-known covers for bands like Journey and Steve Miller Band. Miller and his collaborator Alton Kelley were inspired by an image they saw in the book of poems The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. According to a 2015 interview with Miller in the Washington Post, they saw it and said: “This says Grateful Dead all over it.”
8. In 2007, Irish author Derek Landy released his first Skulduggery Pleasant young adult fantasy novel, starring a 400-year-old witty and arrogant Bentley-driving skeleton detective and his 12-year-old human sidekick, Stephanie. The book was named “Ireland’s Book of the Decade” in 2010 by the Irish Book Awards, beating out favorites such as The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. If any skeleton has the right to brag about something, it’s him.
9. In a 2016 interview, Landy said Warner Bros. was in the stages of making Skulduggery Pleasant a movie, but Landy thought the script was “awful.” It even included, for some reason, a musical number. Landy said if a movie ever gets made, it should be a live-action adaption (with a green screen head for Skulduggery, of course).
10. In the 1970s animated series Groovie Goolies, a monster-filled Laugh-In style show set in the Archie and Sabrina the Teenage Witch universe, the skeleton Boneapart wears a Napoleon Bonaparte hat and frequently falls apart in fear. The show also features the Bare Bones Band in its musical segments, and lead character Frankie plays a xylophone (aka bones) made from actual bones.
11. The always popular Pirates of the Caribbean attraction as Disneyland Park is filled with animatronic skeleton pirates, but according to articles from sites like Mental Floss and Atlas Obscura, some of them may have been made with real human remains. There are several fan theories saying some still are. Most often pointed out as a “real skeleton” is the skull emblem hanging over the skeleton reclining in his big bed.
12. The skeleton with the most complicated name in animated shows has to be Smitty Werbenjagermanjensen of SpongeBob SquarePants fame. Smitty sends an army of undead fish after Krusty Krab owner Mr. Krabs, who took the skeleton’s favorite #1 soda drinking hat from his head hoping to sell it for $1 million. According to Mr. Krabs, Smitty’s name should be “Smitty Werben Jaeger Man Jensen,” although his grave reads “Smitty Werben Man Jensen” because the illustrator forgot the word “Jaeger.”
13. In the popular anime and manga series One Piece, “Soul King” Brook is a rock-star-like member of the Straw Hats Pirate crew. His undead status if from powers he gained from eating a type of Devil Fruit called a Yomi Yomi no Mi. Despite being a skeleton, he still maintains a full mop of hair, which he credits to having “very strong roots.” In spring 2019, a listing for a live-action One Piece series was listed on Netflix but later removed, so there’s no word now who would take on the role of Brook just yet.
14. One of the most popular skeleton villains from 1980s kids toys is the humanoid Skeletor, the nemesis of He-Man in the Masters of the Universe franchise. Skeletor is a favorite for parodies and has made several appearances in the stop-motion series Robot Chicken. He was also seen in foul-mouth tirades “reading angry tweets” in The Wil Wheaton Project on Syfy.
15. When late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson received repeated complaints about not having a “sidekick,” he expressed a desire for his own Robot Skeleton Army. This caught the ear of Mythbusters‘ Grant Imahara, who designed Ferguson his own robot skeleton sidekick with a mohawk, Geoff Peterson. Comic Josh Robert Thompson provided Geoff’s regular voice, although he had a few guest voices like Alfred Molina, Paula Poundstone, and Dominic Monaghan.
Whether they’re frightful or friendly, gruesome of goofy, it wouldn’t be the haunting season without a few bony “Spooky Scary Skeletons” rattling about:
“We’re so sorry, skeletons, you’re so misunderstood.
You only want to socialize, but I don’t think we should.”
Want to know more bony facts about Jack Skellington or how big that giant skeleton was in the Laika film Kubo and the Two Strings? Check out my Random and Geeky Facts About Stop-Motion Animation.