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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 does a good job of depicting the darker aspects of children's overactive imaginations.

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

  • "Arthur and the Real Mr. Ratburn"
    • The scary silhouette of Mr. Ratburn in the Cold Open, making him look like a monster.
    • Prunella messes with the others by telling them Mr. Ratburn will put them on death row and is a hypnotizing vampire. The Imagine Spots that follow show Arthur in jail, chained and forced to do math problems; then the other shows Vampire!Ratburn compelling the kids to hate recess.
    • Arthur and Buster freak out when they hear Mr. Ratburn saying he needs boys' heads. When he buys a saw at the hardware store, they both clutch their necks. (Fortunately, they realize he was referring to making puppets, but still!)
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  • "Arthur's Tooth" has Arthur's brief Imagine Spot involving him restrained in a chair getting his loose tooth forcefully yanked out by a Depraved Dentist, a scene that can be especially terrifying to anybody afraid of dentists.
  • The "Jekyll and Hyde" song in "Arthur's Almost Live Not Real Music Festival." Brain reads Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and has a nightmare where he makes a potion and turns himself into Hyde. The look of Hyde-Brain is rather scary, being green with one red eye.
    This was too much, I simply had to stop!
    I threw that potion away!
    But it didn't matter if I drank the stuff;
    I just kept on changing anyway!
    • The ending of the song. Brain notices that the book is overdue and goes to the library.
    Narration: The book lady said...
    Ms. Turner: Are you returning?
    Narration: I thought, and I said...
    Brain: No... [turns into Hyde] renew! [vanishes]
  • "D.W. Blows The Whistle" has two horrific moments that are Adult Fear worthy:
    • A boy nearly gets run over by a car on camera if not for D.W. blowing her whistle and shouting in alarm. His mother drops her groceries and grabs him just in time.
    • D.W. in the climax climbs a tree to get a vantage point of the race. She realizes too late that she's reached a tall height and can't get back down, and she drops her whistle. The crowd below goes Mass "Oh, Crap!", and Arthur tries to reassure his sister while Muffy goes to get Mr. Ratburn.
  • "Night Fright" deals with Binky confronting some of his long-repressed nightmares. It has a lot of primal fears as well.
    • In the Cold Open, Pal is snoring so loudly that Arthur can't sleep. Neither can the monsters under the bed nor the closet respectively. The one under the bed looks like a cross between the Pokémon Gengar and a deranged version of Stanley, Arthur's teddy bear; while the one in the closet looks like a green, hairless weasel. The two start bickering and tossing Arthur's toys as part of a melee war. All Arthur can do is hide under the covers and wait for it to end, and he mentions he hates it when this happens.
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    • Binky's first nightmare is getting chased by a giant hamburger for trying to eat one of her regular-sized children. First, Binky freezes when the hamburger he's holding starts talking, because he doesn't want to eat anything sentient. Then other fast food cops chase him off a cliff, where he flies for a few minutes only to fall and wake up.
    • Mr. Barnes reveals that Binky has been having terrible nightmares for a while until he got the nightlight. So how often does Binky have these dreams enough to necessitate intervention?
    • Binky taunts Arthur that if his parents don't come, he'll have to spend the night at the school alone, while it's thundering. Arthur looks briefly unnerved at the thought after Mrs. Barnes comes to pick up Binky.
    • When Arthur sleeps over (long story), Binky dreams he's trapped inside his night light, while his friends gather around to mock him. The night light is shaped like a creepy clown, by the way.
  • 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 eats 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 in Latex Perfection masks producing the show itself. The Ending Changes Everything, indeed.
  • The sudden appearance of the giant alien (which was really just a prank by Arthur and Buster) in D.W.'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 blabbing about D.W.'s thinking green potato chips are fatal, and at one point, her head turns into a giant pair of lips that speak faster and faster.
  • 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. Arthur sees many scary faces and the grandfather clock turning into a ferocious monster before he reassures himself that he's just imagining it.
    • Not to mention that Arthur and Francine realize that unless someone knows where they are, no one will open the library until Monday. Arthur's stomach growls as he realizes they don't have anything to eat. He gets so hungry that he eats a magazine page of a roast turkey. Becomes Nightmare Retardant when Francine finds the library's staffroom and snacks for them to eat, but still! Miss Turner is apologetic and horrified for a reason.
    • A similar scene is when Arthur looks in the garage in "Arthur's New Puppy." The various sights he sees in the dark include a vacuum cleaner with menacing eyes.
  • "Francine Redecorates"
    • When Francine goes to sleep alone in her room for the first time with her new bat mobile, she has a dream where the bats come to life and fly into different patterns while ominous music plays. Things truly get frightening when the bats vanish and a bigger, scarier looking bat appears in their place. The bat, sporting a Bela Lugosi accent, says that it's good she no longer shares a room with her sister, and swoops down at her; its evil laughter echoing in the background. The idea of being alone and defenseless in a dark room (or anywhere for that matter) with something or someone that wants to hurt and possibly kill you is chilling enough on its own, but what makes this nightmare sequence truly stand out is that the bat can actually see Francine; and that the scene shifts to Francine's perspective shortly before the bat dives at her, making it seem like the bat is flying directly at the viewer. The bat even gets pretty close to the proverbial camera before the scene ends.
    • It should be noted that the cold-opens for two Season 4 episodes, "The Fright Stuff" and "Prunella's Prediction" also have bats with the exact same scary design as the one from Francine's nightmare. However, they're not on screen as long.
    • Fortunately, a bat-centric episode from Season 12, "Bats in the Belfry" has bats that don't have a scary design.
  • "Lost!"
    • 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. To make matters worse, the other passengers also morph into squid monsters and attack Arthur.
    • Francine's story is no less horrifying: she says she heard a kid was trapped on a bus for forty years because he had no money to pay the fare. The bus driver shows No Sympathy and taunts the "old man".
    • What actually happens is more realistic but much worse: Arthur falls asleep on the bus and misses his stop. He wakes up, and ends up at the edge of town, too shy to ask the bus driver for help before getting off. (Which is what his parents told him he should have done from the start.) Arthur only has a quarter, doesn't know where he is, and the nearest phone — in the diner— is busted. It is very lucky that the waitress who gives him a free meal tells him to explain to the driver what happened when he refuses to borrow the bus fare from her.
    • Meanwhile, Jane receives a call that Arthur never made it to his swimming lesson. She calls the bus company while his dad goes to search for him at school, but it's not until several hours later that they find out Arthur is okay and Sam the bus driver is bringing him home safely. You can't blame Jane for crying as she recounts the moment.
  • "Arthur Babysits"
    • D.W. is pretty tough, all things considered. She's genuinely rattled by the Tibble Twins and how they get away with anything: in this case, covering her head in various fingerpaints.
    • The babysitter running away from the twins shooting water at her. It's never explained how their antics lead up to that point. Prunella also doesn't know what Rubella went through, only that the Tibbles gave her nightmares.
    • Rubella awakes from a Catapult Nightmare shrieking a female Stock Scream with the heads of the Tibbles shooting out of her eyes! It doubles as a Jump Scare because we don't see her face until she wakes up, and she's also staring right into the camera. It turns out to be a Dream Within a Dream.
    • One moment of Adult Fear is when the boys play hide & seek with Arthur, and he freaks out when thinking they got outside and ran away. Cue an Imagine Spot of them releasing all the animals at the zoo, with a bear climbing a tree to attack his friends.
  • "Arthur's Cousin Catastrophe" has a realistic one; Cousin Mo has been bullying Arthur for three years straight at family reunions, and the adults just find it cute because he's her favorite cousin. While she's mellowed this time, the flashbacks are nightmarish when they show her turning toddler Arthur into a sprinkler ornament and tossing him as part of her karate practice as a warmup to "The Headlock of Death". It's hard to blame Arthur for screaming in terror and running away from Mo.
  • "Arthur's Knee"
    • The junkyard scene. Arthur descends into a large pit, occasionally slipping. He is about to make it back unharmed until he scrapes his knee on a lima bean can. The music that plays is just chilling, and D.W. is actually something of an Audience Surrogate during the scene!
    • Also, the episode 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 all look rather creepy.
    • When Arthur is resting in bed, D.W. gets worried because she's worried it'll get worse and he'll die. Brain admits she's right; while getting a cut in the backyard wouldn't be a big deal, getting one at the dump means that all sorts of bacteria will enter his body and make him sick. Sure enough, the doctor gives Arthur a tetanus shot confirming that D.W.'s fears are valid.
  • There's a song that plays during scary or ominous happenings, such as when D.W. throws Arthur's plane out the window in "Arthur's Big Hit." It's a horrific song that starts off as a few drum beats before building up to several scream-like Scare Chords.
  • "Attack of the Turbo Tibbles", 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!" Then, 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 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. Fern ends the story by saying that the thing gets wings with "writhing stingers" and flies into the night.
  • In "Arthur Makes a Movie," while brainstorming for plot ideas, Buster comes up with the idea to have the villain shoot a 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! The other kids have to veto this because they can't create such special effects.
  • "Double Dare" 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.
  • "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.
  • 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. (Hell, the scene may still scare people who get the reference.)
    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.
  • "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.
  • 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.
  • Season 8's "Thanks a Lot, Binky", 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.
    • If you’ve ever been through child abuse or neglect, the episode is almost unwatchable especially since that scene just comes out of nowhere and is played for laughs almost. Though in Real Life CPS would have intervened for Binky and they wouldn’t have been allowed to adopt Mei Lin.
  • 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. All the while, her head is smiling and saying positive things.
    • Also memorialized in song on the album Arthur and Friends: The First Almost Real Not Live CD (or Tape) with this line.
    But even if my head pops off I still won't let them win / My bodyless head will smile and grin.
  • Arthur's Imagine Spot from "Arthur vs. the Very Mean Crossing Guard." Ted jokingly tells Arthur and Brain 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.
    • In the intro to this same episode, D.W. imagines getting sucked down the drain in the bathtub and her sweater growing sharp teeth and growling at her.
  • "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 plan to put James in a machine that spins him around and throws him into the wall, as demonstrated with a teddy bear.
  • "D.W. All Fired Up"
    • D.W. becomes legitimately scared that a fire drill involves setting the school — and kids' clothes— on fire. She starts having nightmares about it, and refuses to go to school.
    • D.W. stares at the fire on a grill, which then forms into an evil face and laughs at her. Its laugh echoes and D.W. stares in horror.
    • During the drill itself, Tommy has a panic attack. He screams that he smells smoke and he can't breathe, freezing in place and coughing. D.W. has to reassure him that there's no smoke, and helps him get outside where he still is having trouble calming down.
  • "What Scared Sue Ellen?":
    • Sue Ellen has an Imagine Spot of a Baba Yaga chasing her through the woods to eat her. The Dream Within a Dream shows that Baba Yaga followed her to her house and is screaming at her to get up for school through the window.
    • Everyone freaks out when they hear the strange noise, which is quite eerie. Even when Sue Ellen convinces everyone to find equipment around their house to wear as armor, they nearly trip each other up with nerves.
    • The Adult Fear that comes with The Reveal: Mrs. Wood's dog, Pal's mother Perky, was trapped under tree roots for several days. Mrs. Wood even says that it could have been for longer if the kids hadn't been so brave as to investigate.
    • The same episode has an Imagine Spot involving the kids encountering a banshee alongside a carriage drawn by a headless skeleton horse. The banshee itself is drawn in a frighteningly realistic way, to near-Uncanny Valley levels, and is made scarier that it's not anthropomorphic - it looks like a human.
  • "Arthur's Underwear":
    • One of Arthur's nightmares features an evil form of Mr. Ratburn torturing his classmates. While it's somewhat Nightmare Retardant that all he does is scratch his nails on a chalkboard, the kids screaming in pain and fear can rattle a person.
    • While under hypnosis, Arthur imagines that his pants have sharp teeth and try to eat him.
    • Arthur's panic attack when Francine, Muffy and Brain reveal they know about his nightmares. He thinks he's in a dream and begs Buster to wake him up.
  • In "Francine Frensky, Superstar" during the rehearsal of the play Francine had changed everything to make the play her way the one scary moment is when Brain and Buster come to her. Buster is in the light bulb costume suffocating to death, breathing hard, and his face is blue. Brain tells Francine that his costume needs air holes in them but Francine tells them that the costume doesn't need air holes because the picture of the light bulb doesn't have air holes either then walks away from them. "Can't breathe!" Buster cries out. Thankfully later on, the costume was fixed with air holes in them and he got back at Francine by spraying water on her. But still, it's the disturbing moment even worse Buster also has asthma making it even worse for him. It was a good thing they fix the costume with air holes in it or otherwise Buster would've died!
    • Hell, Francine in this episode alone can sound rather fierce when she's angry. For instance, "If an incandescent lamp had air holes, it wouldn't work. DON'T YOU (The Brain) KNOW ANYTHING?!" and of course, "If you (Arthur) don't do it right, i'll UN-INVENT YOU AND YOU WON'T BE IN MY PLAY AT ALL!!!!!".
  • "Hide and Snake": There's a lot of Adult Fear regarding the snake in question. Even though it turns out the snake is harmless, it triggers ones herpephobia and Paranoia Fuel.
    • A snake crawls up Arthur's shirt while he's playing hide and seek with his friends. He starts giggling as something is tickling him. Arthur reaches behind him, realizing he's holding a snake, and falls over.
    • Arthur agrees to take the snake home, and brings it to his room. A few minutes later, his friends come and reveal that it could either be a deadly coral snake or a kingsnake. When they go to check, the snake has escaped!
    • D.W. screams that there's a sea serpent in the bathtub. The parents would normally dismiss her, except they see Arthur suddenly washing Pal in D.W.'s bathwater, and Arthur sees the snake slip out through the door. Jane and David immediately realize something is wrong.
    • Offscreen, David finds out how the snake got into the house. His reaction when he realizes is Adult Fear. He tells the kids gently but firmly to let it go, since that is the reptile's proper habitat.
  • "Falafelosophy"
    • How the feud between the circles and the triangles start in Sue Ellen's graphic novel: the circles are minding their own business, while the Triangulops notices that circles have no points. He, ahem "points" this out to the triangles, who start to get mad and start a war. That's right, the battle of the shapes starts out over something the circles couldn't control!
    • Eventually, the circle leader Cantabulous is kidnapped. He's locked in a cage where he can barely do more but move around. While he doesn't lose his spirit and the art mitigates some of the horror, consider that from what we saw, he didn't instigate the battle or even cause any chaos. Then his circle followers engage in violence to rescue him.
  • "April 9th":
    • The fire starts with no warning apart from Mr. Ratburn smelling the smoke. While the kids get out safely, Binky stops in horror to watch the flames in the teacher's lounge. Even worse, David tells Arthur that it was caused by faulty wiring, which means it could have happened at any time. Buster later describes that the heat would be suffocating with how high the flames were even though he missed it.
    • Mr. Morris gets injured trying to close off the fire from spreading to the rest of the school. Binky is horrified on seeing him loaded into an ambulance and asks if he'll be okay. It turns out his leg was broken so badly that he has to retire.
    • Arthur tries to run back inside the school when he realizes his father is still in there, catering for a special breakfast. A firefighter holds him back, just as Mr. Read emerges covered in ash and coughing into an oxygen tank. Arthur realizes how much of a close call it was.
    • Afterward, he has Anxiety Dreams about an aquarium catering gig endangering his dad. Arthur imagines the aquarium is filled with pirates who are brusque with David and don't care when the octopus in the tank grab him. As the octopus starts drowning Mr. Read, the pirates hold back Arthur from saving his dad. No wonder Arthur wakes up terrified and tries to fake a sore throat so his dad won't go to the gig.
    • David also reveals that Grandma Thora was in a car accident when he was a boy. Though she wasn't hurt, David was terrified that he would lose her every time she left the house. It speaks to how when you're a kid, you can't do anything about what can hurt your parents.


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