As we near Halloween, what better way to prepare than with one of the most effectively creepy and disturbing cartoons of the classic era. The fact that The Tell-Tale Heart was made at all during the classic era is amazing, but UPA was one of the most adventurous and forward-thinking animation producers in the 1950s, both in terms of content and animation style, and this short is a great example of that. As in the Edgar Allan Poe short story upon which the film is based, the narrator tells of his slow descent toward madness (though he denies, perhaps a bit too vehemently, that he is mad) thanks to his obsession with getting rid of the dead eye of the old man for whom he works.
The animation style is striking, mostly made up of still drawings with only slight movement, or only the movement of light or the camera to lend a sense of motion. The angles are abstract, as is the action when it comes – a murder depicted with a flurry of blankets and distorted shapes. It’s almost avant-garde, and supported by James Mason’s chilling and eventually frantic voice-over, the cartoon is unlike just about anything else that studio-era animation units ever produced. Sixty years later, it still has the power to chill today.