When Tales from the Crypt premiered on HBO in June of 1989, it was the dawn of a new era for Horror fans. Based on the EC Comics series of the same name, the anthology series mixed humor, Horror, and satire into weekly episodes that lasted for 7 seasons and 93 episodes. A hit, much of Tales from the Crypt’s success was due to the stellar cast of well-known actors/actresses and filmmakers who worked on many of the episodes, but largely thanks to the character known as The Cryptkeeper.
A decaying little man usually shrouded in a robe, The Cryptkeeper was distinctive with pale yellow-brown skin, long scraggly gray hair, light blue eyes, and rotting teeth, always standing out with a ‘deadly personality.’ Portrayed by the talented Actor John Kassir, who created the voice and tone for The Cryptkeeper, in Horror history, he is unmistakable. Sarcastic, humorous, and full of morbid puns, some would say Tales from the Crypt’s x-factor was Kassir’s Cryptkeeper.
This in mind, the popularity of The Cryptkeeper, while meant for an older audience, still attracted younger ones because he was just so hilarious, and dare we say, cute. That is why it made sense to branch off from the Tales from the Crypt series into something more kid friendly… which is what happened with Tales from the Cryptkeeper. An animated series which premiered on September 18th of 1993 with the episode While the Cat’s Away, Tales from the Cryptkeeper became a hit with little Horror fans, and we now look back as the series celebrates its 30th anniversary.
At first, translating Tales from the Crypt into an animated series may have seemed a little far-fetched to make a reality; because the HBO series was very much mostly for mature audiences. However, thanks to the charisma of The Cryptkeeper, Writer/Animator Peter Sauder had plenty of material in-hand; partnering with Canadian animation studio Nelvana to create an animated series based around the character and Tales from the Crypt.
Looking back, Sauder had successfully done the same when writing for the beloved Beetlejuice animated series (which ran four seasons). He also had worked on other favorite animated series; including 1983’s Inspector Gadget, 1984’s The Get Along Gang, 1986’s The Care Bear Family, as well as 1987’s My Pet Monster. Joining him for Tales from the Cryptkeeper was long-time collaborating Director Laura Shepherd. Also accomplished, she had previously worked on 1988’s Care Bears series, as well as 1989’s Babar.
Together, Sauder and Shepherd would team with a list of talented writers to create stories that were free of graphic violence, profanity, and other inappropriate content for children. Assuring it was suitable, a child psychologist even had to approve the scripts to make sure they were not too scary for the kids. That in mind, the creators even toyed with using the live-action puppet from Tales from the Crypt as the host… but decided it was too scary for the younger children.
Thus, the cartoonish Cryptkeeper was created, and while he bore resemblance to the live action Cryptkeeper, he was most distinguishable thanks to John Kassir’s voice. Rightfully bringing Kassir on to give life to the character, he did so like only he could. Kassir, obviously perfect for the job, once again stole the show as The Cryptkeeper; making his signature remarks that still shined brightly, even while working with G-rated material. Acting as the host of Tales from the Cryptkeeper, the opening was similar to Tales from the Crypt’s, but again, toned down in a very Looney Tune’s fashion.
These components in place, Tales from the Cryptkeeper aired at 9 AM for ABC’s Saturday Morning Cartoon lineup in the Fall of ’93 between The Addams Family and The Bugs Bunny And Tweety Show series. From here it moved around; airing between The Addams Family and Land of the Lost series in the Spring of ’94, and lastly, between Bump In The Night and The Bugs Bunny And Tweety Show in Fall of ’94.
Initially lasting only two seasons, Season One included 13 episodes, with Season Two 26 episodes. A strong, but abbreviated run, what is really interesting to learn is that much of Season One’s stories were actually based on original EC Comic Tales from the Crypt and The Haunt of Fear issues. Something some may not realize, Season Two continued to pay homage to the comic’s origins. This was done so with actually introducing other original EC Comics characters to join The Cryptkeeper; including fellow Horror hosts The Vault-Keeper and The Old Witch. With this, The Cryptkeeper would look at them as rivals in Season Two, but always prevailed… much like the sleek Bugs Bunny always did over any ever thrown against him, such as Daffy Duck or Marvin the Martian.
Overall, while Tales from the Cryptkeeper may be a marginal historic footnote in ABC’s Saturday Morning cartoon lineup, in the hearts of many, it is a classic which should have run longer. It gave kids who were eager to watch Tales from the Crypt, but were forbidden by their parents to do so, an outlet to have their own time with the character. Beloved so much, Tales from the Cryptkeeper even launched a really cool toy line with a bundle of action figures, Freaky Balls, storybooks, and even a board game called Tales from the Cryptkeeper Search For The Lost Tales!
Interestingly enough, Tales from the Cryptkeeper did actually return 5 years later in 1999 on NBC for one final season called The New Tales from the Cryptkeeper. Different from the original animated series, in this one The Cryptkeeper takes on a more interactive role in the episodes. In all, this last hurrah bookmarked the Tales from the Cryptkeeper series which can still be viewed today through Nelvana’s “Retro ReRun” YouTube channel, as well as free streaming platforms such as Pluto and Tubi. Unfortunately, beyond this, only Season One has ever had an official DVD release in various packages between 2007 and 2014. Hopefully at some point the entire series will be packed together for a proper release; because fans would love to own it.
Fun, featuring great stories, colorful animation, and most of all The Cryptkeeper himself, it is safe to say that even 30 years later Tales from the Cryptkeeper remains one of the best animated monster series of all-time.