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Nightmare Fuel / Arthur

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Ever wonder why kids are advised to have an adult present when they're doing science experiments?

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.

As a Moments subpage, all spoilers are unmarked as per policy. You Have Been Warned.

  • The sound of the laughing germs in "Germophobia" comes off as very disturbing. Even worse if you have seen and can remember the Invader Zim episode where Zim kills a baby germ!
    • Reason, some parts are in a minor key and it's about The Brain who turns into a mean person and does terrible things.
    • In that same song, if you were to pause the video after the Brain drinks the formula at the beginning at the right time, you get what you see in the current page image: The Brain's head turns into two twisted, gnarled earthworms. The bird head afterwards is almost a relief.
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    • YMMV, some might find it catchy due to the resemblence of "Here it Goes Again" by OK Go.
  • 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 (yet hilarious at the same time, given the absurdity of the whole dream), 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 creepy clown, by the way.
    • Double points for the night light, since to some viewers it could look like Binky is burning inside it. The electrical sound effects don't help.
      • The giant purple orange, also a part of one of Binky's dreams, from the episode "Rhyme For Your Life." While it may seem silly written down, it is pretty scary. It roars, has sharp teeth, and even ate somebody.
  • 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.
    • The possibility of a comet crashing into the earth is heavily discussed in this episode, which for anybody who grew up with the disaster movies of the late 1990s is sure to find a deeply unsettling prospect.
  • If you have Asperger's Syndrome, Carl going into Freak Out! in "When Carl Met George" might bring back unpleasant memories...
    • Not to mention the "Uh..uh..." noises that he makes while freaking out that are sort of like halfway between sobs and grunts, but are so rhythmic and monotonous that they have an Uncanny Valley effect.
  • The giant squid in Arthur's nightmare in the episode April 9th, although this one is almost more of a Tearjerker considering Arthur's nightmare is coming from the fear that he was shaken up because his dad was still in the burning building and he was worried he'd get killed. Heck, the episode itself is some very realistic Nightmare Fuel, from the fire at school to the aftermath.
    • Even Binky had grown a fear of another fire breaking out. He gets better later on, but still... seeing someone like Binky acting scared out of their mind is rather strangely unexpected, yet still understandable.
  • The episode "DW's Name Game" features Arthur melting after DW calls him "the ultimate insult" in a dream of hers.
    Arthur (melted into goop and now inside DW's glass): Calling people names can be dangerous to their health.
    • Even D.W., who wanted to get back at Arthur in the worst way possible, was rightly horrified when this happened.
    • Plus, Tommy's fantasy shows a hypnotized Arthur doing D.W.'s chores, with these red, swirly, DISTURBING eyes...
  • 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!
    • Strangely, Ms. Turner has always seemed rather demonic in fantasy form. In "D.W.'s Library Card", D.W. has a nightmare where the book she wants to read rips and then explodes in her hands. What we get is a wrathful Ms. Turner revoking her card as punishment for her crime.
    Tibble Twins: More books for us!
  • The episode "Locked In The Library" has plenty of disturbing imagery from Arthur's fear when he and Francine are, well... locked in the library.
    • Hell, imagine being shut in without food or contact for possibly two days.
    Arthur: I just remembered something.
    Francine: What?
    Arthur: Today's Saturday, which means... the library will be closed until...
    Francine: (gasps)
    Both: MONDAY!!! (echoes)
  • There is an episode where Arthur gets lost while taking the bus across town. While listening to Buster tell him a story about someone who rode the bus, he has an imagine spot 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.
  • In "Sue Ellen's Lost Diary", Francine is paranoid that Sue Ellen is writing bad things about her in her diary. This leads to an Imagine Spot where Sue Ellen is telling a child psychologist how mean Francine is to her. The psychologist diagnoses Francine with "ogre-ism" and has her thrown into some kind of mental health facility, where the staff tell her she can no longer play with her friends.
    Dr. Zimmer: I'm afraid there is no help for her. We must keep her away from the other children!
  • 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. The scene speaks for itself... to say the least. Rubella awakes from a Catapult Nightmare with the heads of the Tibbles shooting out of her eyes! It turns out to be a Dream Within a Dream.
  • 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.
    • Of course, there's also the rather infamous junkyard scene earlier in the episode. The music that plays is just chilling, and D.W. is actually something of an Audience Surrogate during the scene!
    • Heck, just the title of the episode is pretty scary-sounding. One's reaction to it will probably be, "Arthur's Knee? Um...what about it, exactly...?"
    • Also the beginning opens on anthropomorphized versions of Arthur's intestines, heart, kidneys, lungs and stomach (the latter of whom is complaining that Arthur ate too much cake), which provides a great deal of Body Horror. Also counts as Squick.
  • 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* (though Mom and Dad instead repeat "Duh! Duh! Duh!") 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)
  • In "Mom and Dad Have a Great Big Fight", Arthur and D.W. have a series of Imagine Spots about what will happen if their parents divorce. The most unsettling is when they ask their mother what's for breakfast, and she cheerfully tells them that she can't cook, so they won't be eating at all.
  • "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, 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 it singing "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 note , 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's Monster" 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.
  • "Buster's Growing Grudge" 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 it turned out to be a harmless 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 In the Style of... Beavis and Butt-Head. 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 collection 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...
  • A few moments from Just Desserts would qualify.
    Arthur: It's me, Arthur!
    Buster: No, it isn't! You're a grandma-eating wolf disguised as Arthur. Or maybe you're a grandma-eating alien disguised as a wolf disguised as Arthur. (lifts axe) Either way...
    • In Arthur's second dream, he's chased by a giant made of food, specifically everything Arthur has ever eaten in his life. Though a bit silly, the idea of being attacked by an anthropomorphic version of all the food you've ever eaten is a frightening concept. Especially if you're a Big Eater.
  • "The Perfect Brother" sees D.W. lamenting that Brain will be spending the weekend at their house as it means they'll have "two" Arthurs in the house. She then imagines Arthur and the Brain, now transformed into Arthur, laughing evilly as they chase her down the halls, intending to wrap her up into a mummy! She begins screaming for Mom before snapping out of it and deciding she wants to stay with Grandma Thora. While might find that to be delicious karma for D.W. if it were real, the image of them grinning maniacally as they chase her like a pair of evil clones is more disturbing than you might think.
  • Several of the Sick Episodes can be this.
    • In "Arthur's Chicken Pox", when Arthur hallucinates about blue elephants.
      • When you think about it, Kate sure got off lucky when both her older siblings got chicken pox and she didn't. After all, she's just a baby and chicken pox is very contagious.
    • "Buster's Breathless", while not as bad, does imply that Buster has asthma which makes it hard to, well, breathe. It doesn't help that at one point, he suffers an attack due to not taking his medication like he's supposed to.
    • "The Great McGrady" has Mrs. McGrady having cancer. Yes, she gets better, but still... The gross food doesn't help.
    • "Binky Goes Nuts", especially Binky's allergic reaction from cashews and when Mrs. Barnes mentions anaphylaxis.
    • "Sick as a Dog", especially seeing Pal act lethargic and Arthur having a nightmare where he went missing.
    • "Is There a Doctor in the House?", especially D.W.'s Imagine Spot of Jane and David never getting better, and if you weren't expecting them to get sick, the shock from them getting sick.
  • In "Bugged", everyone is angry at Brain for being an insufferable know-it-all, and Francine labels him a "pest". Sure enough, that night Brain imagines himself turned into a giant bug and is ostracized by his friends and teachers alike for it. The next time he so much as opens his mouth, his friends gang up on him and in classic comic book villain fashion strap him to a conveyor belt to be squashed by a giant flyswatter! And while Brain begs to be spared, his friends just look on his misfortune in absolute glee. Brain is so unnerved he opts not to speak the next day. He gets better, but the scenario is enough to rattle any child to see their own friends turn on them.
    • To hammer the point home, the entire Imagine Spot is based on Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis, where the main character finds himself similarly transformed with no explanation given as to why, and is similarly shunned by those around him. Those familiar with the story know it does not end well.
    • And if Brain's Transformation Trauma weren't enough, at the end of the episode after all seems well again, Francine is similarly called out as a "bigmouth" by Buster. She wakes up to find she has grown a pelican's beak, and screams in horror. It may be Laser-Guided Karma for her poor treatment of Brain in the episode, but the moment is no less unsettling.
  • The lice in "A Lousy Week" can be a combination of this and Squick. It shows lice that talk and act like soldiers on Gross-Up Close-Up shots of the students' heads. Possibly the worst scenes are the scenes on Buster's head. There are cartoon stink lines and the lice have oxygen masks. And when their leader writes in his diary that he's the last one alive.
    • And when he attempts to go back to Buster's head, the only kid unaffected by the outbreak, he ends up falling to the floor, screaming for help until he is squished to death. The accompanying sound effect does not help.
  • The episode "Shelter From the Storm" has the nightmarish subplot of Brain developing a Why Did It Have to Be Snakes? for the wind. Probably the worst part is that he has to visit an actual therapist, which implies it's more serious than regular fear.
  • The WGBH logo that closes the series is still a factor, though it's much tamer without that synth and normal animation.
  • In "Three is a Crowd" Prunella tries to outdo Marina in yoga by trying a new move, namely forcing her leg behind her head. She gets herself stuck and needs help to come undone. Her mother's alarm at what she's doing is quite justified.
    • Similarly in "D.W. Flips" D.W. gets annoyed at Emily showing off and decides to try and do a cartwheel on the balance beam(Despite the instructor saying they weren't ready to use the beam yet) D.W. then loses her balance and is about to fall over and screams in terror and her mom comes in just in time for D.W. to jump into her arms.
  • In "D.W. Blows the Whistle" D.W. wants to see if the Ratburn Rally is "safe"(after being obsessed with safety to the point of absurdity, including worrying about Pal running down the stairs without using the handrail, something which he's completely incapable of doing)so she decides to climb a very tall tree in order to see better which results in her getting stuck at the top and yelling for help, fortunately a fireman does get her down, but it's still a legitimately terrifying scene because D.W. could have gotten seriously injured or killed if she fell from that height.
  • The Teaser to "Binky Rules" uses a spoof of the Animated Credits Opening to the PBS series Mystery!, which itself is nightmare fuel. (Sesame Street also spoofed it with their "Mysterious Theater" segments of the early 90s, with similar creepy results.)
  • In "Meet Binky", Arthur and his friends finally get the chance to meet Binky, a highly secretive band at their first live concert in Elwood City, where their music has been a huge hit. Arthur walks up to shake the hand of the lead singer, except she remains absolutely motionless and her hand sparkles when Arthur touches it. As it turns out, the band's four members are all holograms. Makes for some hardcore Uncanny Valley as they remain absolutely expressionless and the kids seem rather turned off by the entire thing when they return to their seats.
  • Season 8's "Thanks a Lot, Binky" has Binky going through Adult Fear twice.
    • The first time is where Binky has a horrible Imagine Spot where his friend Rattles messes up a dangerous rollerblading stunt by tripping on a pebble, and falling onto the bikes lined up between the ramps, likely breaking every bone in his body. Binky is so terrified by this that he runs off to tell Mr. Haney.
    • The second time is after Binky is told off by Rattles for "squealing" on him causing him to think No Good Deed Goes Unpunished - he has an Opinion-Changing Dream that tells him what would happen if no one cared: Litter would be everywhere, Rattles would be in the hospital wearing a full body cast because no one stopped him from doing that stunt, and Binky's parents would constantly leave their house and children (possibly Mei Lin if they decided to adopt her) in extreme neglect as they fritter away their funds on lavish vacations and cruises.
  • In "Meek For a Week", Francine is trying to be nice for a week due to a bet she made with Muffy. When her friends notice she's being nicer, the Brain says that if she does that, she'll hold in her anger and eventually "pop" like a soda bottle that's been shaken and it could happen at any time. He then has an Imagine Spot of it being a seemingly normal school day but then Francine stretches her neck out, looking like she has a headache, and then it falls off, while soda comes out of her neck and the head flies up through the ceiling and into a random kid's yard.
  • Arthur's Imagine Spot from "Arthur vs. the Very Mean Crossing Guard." Ted jokingly tells the boys he'll have to send his goons after them if they fail to pay the street crossing fee, and that night, Arthur has a nightmare about his room being ransacked by baboons. Creepy enough, but one of them says they're just the warm-up, and that the real goons are scarier.
  • Pictured on the PBS Kids Nightmare Fuel page, the cold opening of "Arthur's Toy Trouble." Arthur is given a present that he can't open until midnight, but when he opens it, D.W. clones pop out and surround Arthur! D.W. is so furious, she smiles. It's creepy.
  • Even the "Now A Word From Us Kids" segments that air on PBS aren't immune. For example the first tune during the segment following Arthur's Baby is perhaps the most chilling.
  • During "Buster's Growing Grudge", Buster is mad at Binky for "stealing" a joke he made up. While the episode was not scary in general, Buster does say he "feels better already" when Binky falls in the mud and says that he won't be happy until Binky "is miserable all the time". The idea of Buster Baxter wishing misery on someone is pretty chilling.
  • The movie in "The Squirrels" that made Arthur, Buster and the Brain and (possibly indirectly) all their classmates except Binky afraid of squirrels: it begins with some picnickers seeing a squirrel but then when it jumps on them, we don't see what happens but they're screaming and shouting "no!" and it scares Arthur and Buster. The next thing you know, they've taken over the world. It's enough so that even Bitzi (Buster's mom) doesn't want to see it again.
  • In the beginning of "D.W. Swims with the Fishes", the Brain is seen being angry at Buster for tripping on the cord and unplugging the video game he was about to beat. It's how he expresses his anger that's the kicker. He stands there silently, looking annoyed and not responding when Buster apologizes and offers popcorn...then he growls and starts chasing Buster.
  • "Night of the Tibble" has an Imagine Spot of what James thinks the Tibbles' house is like. This includes an angry dog in the basement and worms for dinner. They even put James in a machine that spins him around and throws him into the wall.


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