An animated skeleton is a type of physically manifested undead often found in fantasy, gothic and horror fiction, and mythical art. Most are human skeletons, but they can also be from any creature or race found on Earth or in the fantasy world.
Myth and folklore
The animated skeleton featured in some Gothic fiction. Probably its most terrifying appearance was in "Thurnley Abbey" (1908) by Perceval Landon, originally published in his short story collection Raw Edges. It is reprinted in many modern anthologies, such as The 2nd Fontana Book of Great Ghost Stories and The Penguin Book of Horror Stories.
Undead skeletons play a more active, and less symbolic, role in modern fantasy fiction. Skeletons might be given 'life' by a more powerful undead or necromancer. When raised by another, skeletons are a mindless set of animated bones, brutal and virtually immune to a piercing attack that would only harm the flesh they lack. In many stories, legions of undead skeletons are raised as perfectly obedient and expendable foot-soldiers or guards. Unlike zombies, skeletons are rarely portrayed as self-directing or independently mobile. Since most skeletons are controlled by another source, they cannot make their own intelligent decisions, and can easily be led into ambushes, traps, or hazardous terrain. Fairly weak individually, their strength lies in numbers, like zombies.
In old cartoons and old dark rides, a running gag personifies the old saying 'skeletons in the closet' by actual skeletons in the closet.
- In Lilith, the 1895 fantasy novel by George MacDonald: "Vane's father refused to sleep there and is, instead, forced to do battle with skeletons in a haunted wood."
- Skeletons dance and play musical instruments in the 1929 Walt Disney cartoon The Skeleton Dance.
- In the climax of the 1959 film House on Haunted Hill, a man falls into a vat of acid and emerges as a walking skeleton.
- The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958) features a fight between Sinbad and an animated skeleton.
- Skeleton pirates feature in the Disneyland and Magic Kingdom water rides the Pirates of the Caribbean. They would later reappear in Disney's The Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
- In the Legend of Zelda gaming series there are many enemies who take the form of animated skeletons, the most well known being Stalfos. Similar characters also appear in God of War II.
- In the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, the crew of the Black Pearl are cursed to transform into animated skeletons and zombies when exposed to moonlight by a cursed chest of Aztec coins.
- In the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts, whose stop motion animation techniques were accomplished by Ray Harryhausen, a number of skeletons are animated against the Argonauts. These skeletons are capable of reassembling themselves when their bones are scattered, and are only defeated when they are led off a cliff into the ocean.
- In Dungeons & Dragons (and games it inspired), animated skeletons are undead similar to zombies, but skeletons are completely devoid of flesh. Edged and piercing weapons, such as swords and arrows, are mostly ineffective against skeletons; only blunt weapons, such as war hammers, are effective at knocking the bones apart. Liches, which are typically intelligent and powerful spellcasters, might be mistaken for a simple animated skeleton. Clerics often have the ability to repel or destroy undead creatures, of which animated skeletons are usually the weakest such adversaries. Animated skeletons are not coerced by mind affecting spells; they cannot be rendered unconscious and cannot tire.
- They are often used in fictional undead armies as standard troops, for example in the Vampire Counts and Tomb Kings armies of Warhammer Fantasy Battle.
- The arcade game Dragon's Lair contains a swarm of animated biting skulls.
- Skeletor is the skeleton villain in The Masters of the Universe cartoon series and movie.
- In the 1985 movie Return of the Living Dead, the zombie at the end is an animated skeleton who, despite his other organs and tissues having rotted away, still has eyes.
- In the 1987 movie A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors, Freddy's zombie is an animated skeleton.
- An army of Skeleton pirates plays a crucial role in the computer game Curse of Monkey Island.
- In the computer game Serious Sam and its sequels, Kleer Skeletons are one of the most frequently encountered and one of the most dangerous enemies of all.
- The cartoon TV shows Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs featured Mr. Skullhead, an animated skeleton.
- The 1993 movie Army of Darkness features an army of deadites who, unlike those in the rest of the series, are animated skeletons.
- In the 1993 Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas, the main character, Jack Skellington, is a walking skeleton. In Burton's later film Corpse Bride, many skeletons were depicted dancing or playing jazz instruments, similar to Disney's The Skeleton Dance.
- The Hercules TV series, starring Kevin Sorbo, featured an episode in which Hercules fights computer animated skeletons.
- The 1994 animated series Skeleton Warriors was about animated skeletons.
- The 1998 computer game Grim Fandango was about animated skeletons.
- In the 1999 movie The Mummy, Imhotep controls skeletons for this purpose. With no free will or fear of death, they cannot disobey commands.
- Spy Kids 2 features animated skeletons very similar to those in Jason and the Argonauts.
- Ace Lightning features an undead skeleton villain, Lord Fear.
- In the final volume of Megan Lerseth's Sadie Sequence, King Richard III re-enters his own exhumed remains, briefly becoming an animated skeleton.
- The Revenant from the Doom series are skeletons that shoot rockets at the player.
- In the Sega Saturn game Mr. Bones, the main character is an undead blues musician trying to save the world from destruction at the hands of the evil Da Goulian.
- Killer Instinct is a fighting game that spawned a sequel, Killer Instinct 2. Both games contained Spinal, an animated skeleton that fights with a sword and shield.
- In the Xbox game Grabbed by the Ghoulies, skeletons are among the various "ghoulie" enemies that the player encounters.
- The anime Shakugan no Shana has a character named Merihim who trained the titicular character in the form of a skeleton named Shiro.
- The Super Mario Bros. Nintendo games feature creatures called Dry Bones who are the reanimated skeletons of koopas.
- The hero of the MediEvil series of Playstation games, Sir Daniel Fortesque, is a skeleton that was accidentally animated when the evil sorcerer Zarok conquered the game world with armies of zombies.
- The game Puzzle Pirates features skeletons (referred to as "skellies" in the game), which roam random islands and fight swordfights with the players.
- The show The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy is a cartoon that features the Grim Reaper as a skeleton, the Reaper named "Grim" in the show has been forced to be Billy and Mandy's best friend forever because he lost a game of limbo on the first episode of the series.
- The manga and anime One Piece features a undead skeleton pirate named Brook.
- 2006 saw the release of a new genre of screensaver, with the release of Skeleton Adventures by Anasoft Consulting. Telling the story of Sly Slim from Shale County, using fully rendered 3D animation and Dolby Digital sound, Sly is seen in various scenes spending his nights sleeping, dancing or scaring children.
- The character Skulduggery Pleasant, from the book of the same name written by Derek Landy, is a re-animated skeleton.Who's skull he won in a poker game.
- In the MMORPG Runescape, there are various levels of dangerous skeletons roaming around different regions.
- In the Alexandria levels of the game Tomb Raider: The Last Revelation, the player will repeatedly encounter undead skeletons.
- In the series Castlevania, the player constantly deals with bone-throwing skeletons throughout all of the series' games. There are numerous variations of the skeletons in the series, including lightning-casting skeletons, beam-firing skeletons, and skeletons imitating Simon Belmont.
- In the game Skate (video game) an unlockable skater "Dem Bones" can be achieved after you break every body part on your character. Dem Bones is a character that appears only as a skeleton and wears no clothing.