Ages 2-5Ages 6-9Media & Technology

Is Mr. Oogie Boogie Really that Scary?

I love my kids. They’re great kids. But they’re scaredy cats.

  • When The Muppets came out a few years ago, I had to take the then-five-year-old out of the theater because he was screaming in terror whenever ominous music indicated a bad guy was about to speak.
  • After begging us for months to watch Cars 2, they ended up hiding their eyes and demanding we turn off the TV during the movie.
  • They have spent the last two autumns avidly listening to the soundtrack to The Nightmare Before Christmas, but they both refuse to watch the movie quite yet. “Maybe next year,” they say, “when we’re six and eight.”
  • Recently the five-year-old cowered in fear during The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That because a friendly cartoon gorilla was making a bed. Making a bed.

This gets annoying. I have friends whose seven-year-olds have read the whole Harry Potter series multiple times, but my boys don’t want to start on the first book. I would love to reward their interest in Darth Vader and Yoda Legos by introducing them to the source material, but they’re too timid to watch the movies yet.

But you know what? The kids are all right, and my impatient desire to share these stories with the boys needs to wait. As much as I want to expose them to Middle Earth, Prydain, and even Narnia (with a watchful eye for the religious influence), they know that they’re not ready for it. And that’s OK. Heck, maybe they’re even right to be scared by some of these movies. After all, Cars 2 included a scene of a car being literally tortured to death. WTF, Disney??? Seriously? Torture in a G-Rated cartoon?

Other kids are ready for stories with peril and danger and death and music in minor keys, but mine aren’t yet. Soon enough, though, they’ll dig into those books and movies and everything else, but they’re getting there at their own pace. They’ll have many years of adolescence and even adulthood to dive into the classics their old man loves and all the other stories out there, but they’re not ready for it. Yet.

I just have to be patient. Eventually, they will be ready to learn from the stories that currently scare them. And when they are ready, the fantastic lessons in science and critical thinking in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality will be waiting for them, and I’ll be happy to watch them take those steps on their own.

Featured Image credit: Capture Queen


Lance is the father of two boys, a software developer, and an occasional world traveler. Now an active member of the Ethical Society of St. Louis, he grew up in an Evangelical Lutheran home in which he took Christianity very seriously. Fortunately, going to college helped him break through to see that he believed because he thought he was supposed to, not because it makes sense. Now he's glad to be more than just a SIWOTI skeptic. @LMFinney

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  1. Yes, Mr. Oogie Boogie is really that scary. I can’t speak to some of the other issues, but Oogie Boogie is the real deal. That movie is one I would be hesitant about showing to young children, not just because of Oogie Boogie, but he’s a part of it. I’m a huge fan of the movie and its soundtrack, but most of the inhabitants of Halloween Town are offputting or frightening.

    1. Of course, you’re right. I don’t want it to be true, and I keep thinking that listening to the songs for two years will be enough inoculation, but I know that the visual presentation can be much scarier.

      They’ll be ready someday.

  2. Yeah, Oogie Boogie is terrifying. I’m presuming I won’t have this same problem, since my 16 month old squeals in delight when she sees orks and goblins fighting in Middle Earth. Maybe that’s a separate problem….

    1. I concede that Oogie Boogie could really be terrifying – I actually get that. But some of the other things surprise me, like when they want to turn off the TV because a cartoon gorilla is making a bed.


  3. I vividly remember when my son was four and my wife and I took him to see Aladdin. We lasted about two minutes when some kind of magical creature came up out of the sand and the little guy grabbed my hand and said very emphatically “we need to leave”. Considering how much online gaming carnage he’s now involved in I find the memory very amusing. And I also recall how pleased I was when he became an adolescent and wanted to see scifi and more violent movies my wife wasn’t interested in. He’s now 23 and we still enjoy going out to see an occasional movie.

  4. Yeah, the Gorilla and a few of the other things you mentioned are a little (ok, a lot) more extreme than I’ve seen before. Since you didn’t mention there being a reason, I will feel fair in assuming they don’t have any past experiences that would give them ptsd or anything, Are they somewhere on the spectrum? I’m not at all saying there’s something “wrong” (using that term so loosely, no one hurt me) with them, they just may well be more sensitive than most.

    1. To our knowledge, there’s no reason to think that there’s ptsd or a triggering event. I think it’s just sensitivity. It also may be in part that the younger one has learned it from his older brother.

  5. My daughter made me turn off the Aquarium piece from Saint-Saens Carnival of the Animals when she was little. Then we took her to see Mononoke Hime when she was three (because we loved Kiki and Totoro) and she made it through most of it, until the gorillas. After that she was very picky about her viewing and listening. Now at 16 they don’t make things creepy enough for her and she adores the art in the game Alice: Madness Returns. Patience.

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