Courage the Cowardly Dog is a wonderfully weird Cartoon Network classic, but also one of the scariest and creepiest cartoons for kids ever made.
Courage the Cowardly Dog is a wonderfully weird Cartoon Network classic that follows the titular mutt as he faces spooky supernatural misadventures. The comedy horror series is set at an isolated farmhouse where he lives with the loving Scottish woman Muriel and cruel grump Eustace, and showcases the many frightening foes and forces Courage must protect the duo from. Having made its debut in 1999, the show ran for four chilling seasons and was a smash hit for the network, winning both an Annie and Golden Reel Award during its tenure.
From terrifying demons to flesh-craving zombies, ancient Egyptian curses and even a foul fungus, the program has had its fair share of creepy moments that left audiences both old and young sleeping with the lights on. Fans of the paranoid pooch rejoiced when the character and show headlined a crossover film with Scooby-Doo called Straight Outta Nowhere: Scooby-Doo! Meets Courage the Cowardly Dog in 2021. The series gained a reputation for its spine-tingling content, and is without-a-doubt one of the most memorable and iconic cartoons of the ‘90s and 2000s. These are some of the scariest moments that creeped out kids.
Viewers with a major disdain for feet were further repulsed by the episode “The Clutching Foot”, which depicts the mean-spirited Eustace as he discovers a hideous, bright purple fungus that has begun to take over his entire body after starting at his foot. His swollen and constantly-growing foot hilariously features five talking gangster toes, with Big Toe serving as the leader of the 1930s inspired mobster group.
It gets disturbing when the fungus completely consumes Eustace and threatens to squish Muriel unless Courage helps them rob a bank, leading to an epic showdown between the petrified pooch and the nasty mass of fungus. Making the episode even more disgusting, Courage’s only way to defeat Big Toe and his goons is by licking the foot with his cure-ridden saliva.
- Also, the music during this episode is “The Firebird” by Igor Stravinsky.
- A blue, deformed humanoid which is meant to be Eustaces bugle (or called a fetus by fans), appears in a blue void while ominous music plays. It looks up at the screen and whispers “Youre not perfect.” which then echos a few times in the background. This creature was designed by Jim P. Dilworth, the late brother of creator John R. Dilworth, and was animated in CGI by Pacific Data s animator Keith Chamberlain. This particular sequence is frequently considered to be among the shows creepiest moments by fans.
- Courage dreams of himself as the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion from the Wizard of Oz, showing how little faith he has in himself. The dream ends after the three Courages are shown being overseen by a fourth Courage as the Wicked Witch of the West. This sequence was animated in a simplistic Flash style.
- Courage dreams of a series of cryptic and disturbing s flashing by the screen before a final one, resembling a disturbing angelic figure, along with the words “RIGHT NOW”, flies at the screen. This dream was likely made with simple animation and editing tools, though CGI is possible as well.
- Courage is juggling pies for an audience, while jazz music plays in the background. Suddenly, the audience begins laughing discriminately at him. Courage realizes his lower body has been shaved bald, and, as the music becomes distorted and switches to out-of-tune accordion music, he rushes to cover himself, causing him to be hit in the head by the pies he was carrying. This scene was animated using stop-motion for Courage and CGI for the audience.
- Courage dreams of Muriel handing him a vase only for him to drop it. Instead of the vase breaking, it bounces and lands in Muriels arms, only for her to promptly shatter instead, followed by Courage, looking skyward and screaming an anguished “No!”, shattering as the entire environment breaks apart, ending the dream. This dream was animated in a paper puppet style with CGI and is otherwise crude and minimalistic.
Out in the middle of nowhere, the three frequently run into all manner of monsters, aliens, demons, mad scientists, and zombies. Courage must fend off these threats to save his owners, often with them unaware of what’s really going on. Most of the creatures are scary or creepy but can also be sweet or in distress themselves.
In a 2008 interview, Dilworth was asked if there was any hope of Courage returning. He said, “Well, humans have a tremendous capacity to ‘hope.’ I have written so often on this. There is no corporate economic rational to make any new episodes. I’ve read that there have been petitions signed by many many fans that never even got to Cartoon Network. Maybe a campaign of a substantial nature of this kind, that actually got to an exec, would be a provocation. However, the lack of courage by the merchandisers still remains. ‘Pink’ or ‘fuchsia’ dogs will not sell in a boy dominated market place. This is rather complex, but the undercurrent of conservatism in America is strong and easy to intolerance.”
Courage lives in a farmhouse near the fictional town of Nowhere, Kansas. His parents were sent into space by and evil veterinarian. As a puppy, Courage was adopted by a sweet-natured Scottish woman named Muriel (Thea White). She’s married to a grumpy, greedy farmer named Eustace Bagge (Lionel G. Wilson, then Arthur Anderson) who enjoys mistreating and scaring the pooch with a bright green bug-eyed mask.
Network: Cartoon NetworkEpisodes: 52 (half-hour)Seasons: Four
Performers include: Marty Grabstein, Thea White, Lionel G. Wilson, Arthur Anderson, Simon Prebble, Paul Schoeffler, Billie Lou Watt, Peter Fernandez, Howard Hoffman, and Arnold Stang.
8 Courage the Cowardly Dog: The Demon in the Mattress
Inspired by the 1970s classic horror flick The Exorcist, “The Demon in the Mattress” follows Courage as he desperately tries to save his beloved master Muriel from a mattress-dwelling demon, who possesses her and transforms the doting woman into an evil and sinister being. The freaky episode pays homage to the ‘70s horror staple and its main character Reagan by transforming Muriel’s sweet Scottish drawl into a deep, eerie growl and even making her head spin around, topping off the terrifying tribute by having her vomit all over Eustace. Just like its inspiration material The Exorcist, the episode is downright spooky and gives viewers an ominous feeling throughout its entirety.