Nightmare Fuel: Arthur

Being a slice-of-life cartoon (albeit using anthropomorphic animals) about the lives of young children, Arthur had a few moments that did a good job of depicting the dark sides of children's overactive imaginations.

  • For a kid's show, the series can be overripe with some pretty traumatizing examples, particularly "Night Fright", which deals with Binky confronting some of his long repressed nightmares. The monstrous hamburgers, attacking fries, and giant lips on a billboard are freaky enough, but probably the most terrifying moment in the episode was where Binky dreams he's trapped inside his nightlight, while his friends gather around to mock his nightmarish plight. The nightlight is shaped like a clown, by the way.
  • The giant purple orange, also a part of one of Binky's dreams from the episode "Rhyme For Your Life."
  • The Gainax Ending of The Boy Who Cried Comet would've probably caused nightmares with a few of the fans as well. It shows the cast as aliens producing the show itself. The Ending Changes Everything, indeed.
  • If you have Asperger's Syndrome, Carl's panic attack in "When Carl Met George" might bring back unpleasant memories...
  • The giant squid in Arthur's nightmare in the episode April 9th.
    • Heck, the school fire. Arthur was shaken up because his dad was in there and he was worried he'd get killed.
  • The episode "DW's Name Game" features Arthur melting after DW calls him "the ultimate insult" in a dream of hers.
    Arthur: Calling people names can be dangerous to their health.
  • The sudden appearance of the giant alien (which was really just a prank by Arthur and Buster) in DW's window in "Arthur's First Sleepover."
  • In the episode "Revenge Of The Chip" there's a scene where Arthur's mom is on the phone and at one point her head turns into a giant pair of lips. Talk about Body Horror!
  • The episode "Arthur's Lost Library Book." Arthur loses a library book and has a series of disturbing nightmares as a result of his guilt, including one where Ms. Turner (the librarian) forcibly pries him out of his bed via a chain and drags him to the library to be punished for losing the book.
    Ms. Turner: Next time, don't make me USE THE CRANK!
  • The episode "Locked In The Library" has plenty of disturbing imagery from Arthur's fear when he and Francine are trapped overnight in the library.
    • Hell, imagine being shut in without food or contact for possibly two days.
    Arthur: I just realized something.
    Francine: What?
    Arthur: Today's Saturday, which means...the library will be closed until...
    Both: MONDAY!!! (echoes)
  • There is an episode where Arthur gets lost while taking the wrong bus across town. Because of a story his friends told him about the bus driver, he has a nightmare where the bus driver refuses to let him off the bus and randomly morphs into a disgusting-looking squid monster.
  • "Francine's Pilfered Paper" is so forceful in the delivery of its message that it seems more like a television adaptation of The Tell-Tale Heart. Plagiarism is a serious offense, but the production team tries so hard to scare us straight that it winds up being scary.
  • The scene in Kate's debut episode where she cries at the top of her lungs, keeping D.W. awake. The closeup of her dead eyes wide open, mixed with Kate's crying (they even add reverb) is bone-chilling.
    • There's a similar scene in "Arthur Babysits" involving Rubella and the Tibble twins.
  • In "Arthur's Knee" Brain informs Arthur about all the possible complications that can arise from his injury. What he lists is pretty disturbing. It includes tetanus, encephalitis, staphylococcus, conjunctivitis, and other such unpleasantries. Even D.W. was freaked out.
  • Every now and then, there's a song that will play that usually plays when something bad happens to one of the cast. It's ominous and chilling and certainly will creep some people out every time they hear it. Starts at about 3:41.
  • Before the title card for "I Wanna Hold Your Hand", Binky glares down the audience when he thinks they're making fun of him. It's not a pleasant sight.
  • The spinach heads scene from "I'd Rather Read It Myself". The way their skin turns green and their heads slowly turn into giant spinach leaves and the creepy zombie like *bleahs* can scare a lot of kids from eating their vegetables.
  • There is an episode where the Tibble Twins watch a TV show about robot superheroes. They become completely obsessed with it, up to and including wearing homemade costumes to preschool and acting out scenes from the show. This takes a turn for the terrifying when the Tibbles chase after D.W. (who they are pretending is a bad guy) and throw a swing into her face. D.W. goes down into a heap on the grass, crying her eyes out, with her face out of view. Emily then rushes over in alarm to D.W. only to recoil in horror and scream: Blood! D.W.'s face is bleeding, I think it's broken!. And then after your seven-year-old mind is reeling from that, it cuts to D.W. at the hospital with a lip full of stitches.
  • In the episode "D.W Aims High" when D.W. dreams of being an astronaut, the Tibbles scare her by telling her that there are skyscraper-sized Martian dinosaurs that eat their own species. They go on to tell her that the reason they call Mars the "red planet" is because of the Martian blood that glows at night - how's that for Cosmic Horror! Even though it's not true it's pretty scary for a kid to think about.
  • The intro to "How the Cookie Crumbles" features Arthur, Francine, Binky, and Brain as living cookies, and Muffy trying to eat her friends. Her apathy and the scene as Cookie!Arthur backs against a glass of milk make an unnerving segue into the episode.
  • In "D.W. All Wet", D.W. has a dream where Arthur is trapped and essentially being drowned by an octopus in its tank. And she's smiling in her sleep.
  • In the episode "Arthur's Mystery Envelope", Arthur has a nightmare in which the envelope he hid in the kitchen (that he got from Mr. Haney but was afraid to give to his Mom) keeps growing every time he tries to hide it, until he finally gets his confused mother out of the house with him as it breaks out of the house and even towers over the city.
    • Not to mention D.W. popping out of the envelope and asking "Didn't you tell Mom yet?" (echoes)
  • "The Tales of Grotesquely Grim Bunny", in which Arthur gets scared by a horror comic. It's unsettling, to say the least.
  • The intro to "D.W's Very Bad Mood", where a perfect family scene the likes of "Leave It To Beaver" is ruined by a gigantic D.W. showing up destroying the house and terrorizing the town and the intro going into the title card with a shot of the giant D.W. reaching right for the camera.
  • H.U.G.O., a blatant Hal 9000 Expy, in "Get Smart". His Villainous Breakdown and death, complete with "Daisy, Daisy", is very unsettling.
  • Even if you don't think about the loads of Fridge Horror involved with it, "To Eat or Not to Eat" is still an episode about a very addictive and very dangerous candy bar being marketed to children. Even worse, it's said to be radioactive, the creator himself runs away when pushed to eat one, and several kids were shown hoarding the stuff.
    • The hyper kids' cries of "Sparkles!" and "More sparkles, please!" doesn't help, nor does Binky selling the candy to kids for money.
    • It also didn't help that the 2 most shown addicts were Fern and George, 2 of the more quiet and calm-natured characters. Their crash shown while Buster is trying and failing to figure out what's in the bars doesn't help (the room spinning is mentioned).
  • The episode "Fernkenstein" has Fern telling a rather frightening story about an umbrella-shaped monster known only as The Thing, with the rest of the cast becoming obsessively afraid of the imagery, and for good reason. "Horrified shrieks" and "satisfied slurps" are PRETTY gruesome ways to describe someone's death in a horror story, especially on a children's show.
  • Brain's nightmare about the world being overtaken by giant, cycloptic worm monsters.
  • One episode has Arthur and friends trying to make a James Hound fan film. While brainstorming for plot ideas, Buster comes up with the idea to have the Bond villain shoot a fish hypnotic ray to hypnotize the fish of the ocean to EAT people!
    • What really sells it is the fishes' creepy voices as they chant "We must eat the land people, we must eat the land people." And then they actually try to get up onto the beach to get the humans! Jesus, Buster.
  • Annoyed by Arthur's Neat Freak tendencies in "Opposites Distract", Buster briefly attempts to reassure Arthur that he's not annoyed with a rather disturbing (and toothy) Unsmile.
  • Both Virtual Goose episodes have this in some form, especially for younger kids.
  • One episode mentions the Batman Expy Dark Bunny fight against a giant clam who spews digestive juices. Later, Arthur has a nightmare where he and Buster are trapped in said clam and the exit is sealed. Suddenly, green liquid starts pooling at their feet and Arthur and Buster realize they're about to be digested with no way out. The dream ends right before this happens but still, it's terrifying. This show definitely doesn't pull its punches with the Nightmare Sequences.
  • One episode does a good point of getting across the anxiety people might feel when they need to speak in front of a large audience. Too well. Because the faces of everyone in class turns into giant, hyper-realistic Faceless Eyes with a lovingly animated close-up of Mr. Ratburn blinking in this state. And all they're doing is staring.
  • The episode "Hide and Snake" could be unsettling for people who are afraid of snakes; in it, Arthur and his friends find what they believe is a coral snake. Though the snake turned out to be a king snake, the idea that a poisonous snake ending up in somebody's house is frightening.
  • The episode "The Contest" shows Arthur and friends animated in various styles, one of them showing Buster and Arthur as Beavis And Butthead. Their appearance definitely goes into Uncanny Valley territory.
  • In "Binky Barnes, Wingman," Binky has been collecting butterflies for a school project, and finally catches a rare, blue butterfly he's been chasing throughout the episode. He then invites Sue Ellen to come with him to a nearby butterfly museum to take the blue butterfly...but then things take an ominous turn when Binky sees that the museum is full of motionless butterflies in glass cases, and there is an empty one for the blue butterfly.
    Binky: They're not moving.
    Sue Ellen: Of course not. What did you expect? Haven't you seen a real butterfly museum before?
    Binky: No...
  • At the beginning of "Buster's Back," Arthur has a bad dream about Buster returning from a trip to Jupiter. However, when Arthur goes down to greet him, Buster's body parts suddenly begin mutating in various ways (one of his feet bursts into flames, one of his arms turns to rubber, etc.). Then, without warning, Buster starts growing to gigantic size...and throughout this whole process, Buster's carefree mood never changes. It's a spoof of the origin story of the Fantastic Four, but if you're a little kid watching on TV, you're probably not going to understand the context.
    "'Buster:"' *in a distorted voice* Gee, you think it's those cosmic rays I went through?
    Arthur: I don't think this is going to be like old times.
  • Something about Art Garfunkel as the singing moose in "The Ballad of Buster Baxter" appearing out of nowhere and singing is rather unnerving...