THE SKELETON DANCE, The History Of The Danse Macabre And MORE!
svg-facebook svg-twitter svg-email
The Bite #81
svg-facebook svg-twitter svg-email

THE SKELETON DANCE, The History Of The Danse Macabre And MORE!

October 22, 2019

In this Issue:


By Anya Stanley*

This year marks the 90th anniversary of Disney Cartoons’ innovative Silly Symphony series debut, The Skeleton Dance. Directed by the mouse man himself and drawn by Ub Iwerks, the short film features midnight mischief as a group of skeletons rise and dance a gruesome jig in a howling graveyard. Playing tunes on each other’s ribcages and stacking their skulls together, the dead unite for one night only, all to the cheeky tunes of composer Carl W. Stalling.

The term for such a dance is a well-known one: the danse macabre from the French, “dance of death”. In German, it’s known as totentanz or “dance of the dead”. Some scholars posit that the phrase stems from the Arabic word for “cemetery”. Regardless of its beginnings, the danse macabre has figured its way into religious art and music for ages, back to the mid-14th century. Frescoes, murals, and engravings most commonly depict a variety of people in procession towards their graves: labor workers, clergymen, royals, and children. The scene is often peppered with the dead themselves, thinly-robed skeletons joining them in the promenade.

Conceptually, the danse waltzes hand-in-hand with the memento mori (Latin for “remember you must die”) as a statement on man’s mortality. Rather than presenting a dialogue between Death himself and his victims, the danse simply says that we are all connected in death: prince and pauper, liberal and conservative, man, woman, and child.

In Disney’s short, the skeletons spring forth from graves marked with illegible headstones, their worldly identities remaining unknown. For all we know, the four ghouls could quite easily be a pope, a queen, a teen, and a farmer. In that regard, Disney and Iwerks followed a time-honored tradition. As is, The Skeleton Dance remains one of the most lighthearted and beloved meditations on death as a universal unifier. All that unites us is our place in the ether, roaming the earth when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest on Halloween.

*Anya Stanley is a film critic, Dread Central columnist, and Halloween 6 apologist whose sole focus is on the horror genre. Her work has appeared in Rue Morgue, Birth.Movies.Death., and Fangoria Magazine.


Hang Onto Your Head - Bite #81 Image of the Week

Hang Onto Your Head

Fall in love with Billy all over again in this behind-the-scenes picture from the most perfect Halloween movie ever made: Hocus Pocus. The one-and-only Doug Jones can be seen standing in his not-so-final resting place alongside David Kirschner, Tony Gardner, Kenny Ortega, and Ralph Winter. Ain’t no party like a Sanderson Sisters party, because a Sanderson Sisters party is usually grave-side.



Sam Raimi is coming back to horror with his first genre film since 2009’s cult icon Drag Me To Hell. We’re stoked and we’re not the only ones.

Stephen King’s Victorian mansion is being turned into a writer’s retreat and archive for King’s work. We’re packing our bags as we type.

L’Officiel wants you to get stylish this Halloween with these chic horror flicks

… while Refinery29 tries to figure out why horror makes us horny?

From The Exorcist to The Birds and Scream, here are 25 shooting locations from iconic horror movies that you can actually visit. Field trip, anyone?

Nothing’s worse than being a character in a horror movie when your car just won’t start for your dramatic getaway scene. So, dear readers, let us know on social – what would be your perfect horror getaway car?

“If you’re not passionate about what you want to do, you won’t be good at it.” Have a look at this loving tribute to the late, great horror legend Sid Haig.

This week would have been Carrie Fisher’s 63rd birthday, and we miss her wit every day. Especially from her script-doctoring days that lead to this iconic scene in Scream 3.

Slant ranked their top 50 horror movies of the 21st century, and we are eagerly waiting to see what folks think of their intriguing top ten.

Not big on going out for Halloween? Stay in with some friends and these killer horror games. Spooky Trivial Pursuit, anyone?

Fill your Halloween viewing roster with these Korean gems including Bong Joon-Ho’s The Host and the bone-chilling Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum.

Robert Eggers, Guillermo del Toro, Jordan Peele and many more talk about their favorite horror movies on IndieWire.

“Is there a formula for frights?” SyFy Wire looks at how you construct a horror trailer, from the early days of Boris and Bela to the controversial campaigns for films like The Nun.

John Carpenter famously pulled from Psycho (1960) when making Halloween (1978), and the Hitchcockian references are well worth a deep dive in this Psycho-analysis of the film.

Vulture put together this list of incredible black and white horror films from the legendary Cabinet of Dr. Caligari to Bergman’s disturbing Hour of the Wolf and beyond.

9 More Days 'Till Halloween - The Bite #81 Things We Love


Halloween is fast approaching, and we’re head over witchy heels for this Halloween III-inspired card that’s tailor-made for the season from Ghost Girl Greetings. The best part? It’s just one of many options for spooky season and beyond. You’ll never have to struggle to find the perfect horror-themed card again.


On the set and between the pages of the new Creepshow

The Best Scary Movies to Stream Right Now (HalloweenTigers Are Not Afraid)

THE BEST MOVIES OF 2019 (SO FAR) (One Cut of the DeadTigers Are Not Afraid)

Explore Related Articles