An animated skeleton is a type of physically manifested undead often found in fantasy, horror fiction, and mythical art. Though most are human skeletons, they can also be from any creature or fantasy race found on Earth or in a fantasy world.
- Animated human skeletons are known to be personified death in Western culture since the Middle Ages.
- The Grim Reaper is often depicted as a hooded skeleton holding a scythe and occasionally an hourglass.
- Death as one of the biblical Four horsemen of the Apocalypse has been depicted as a skeleton riding a horse.
- Figurines and images of skeletons doing routine things are common in Mexico's Day of the Dead celebration where skulls symbolize life and their familiar circumstances invite levity.
Undead skeletons play a more active, and less symbolic, role in modern fantasy fiction. Skeletons are fallen creatures that have been summoned from beyond the grave normally of fallen warriors on battles of long past. Skeletons might be given 'life' by a more powerful undead or necromancer.
Reanimated by dark magic powers; skeleton follow their master’s orders without questioning. They appear 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. Since most skeletons are controlled by something else, they cannot make their own intelligent decisions, and can easily be led into ambushes, traps, or hazardous terrain.Certain abilities are lost when creatures are animated, such as naga and snake venom.
Fairly weak individually, their strength lies in numbers, like zombies.
- In the 1963 film Jason and the Argonauts, whose 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 of a cliff into the ocean.
- 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 Krueger's zombie is 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 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: Island Of Lost Dreams(2002) features animated skeletons very similar to those in Jason and the Argonauts.
- In Dungeons & Dragons (and games it inspired), animated skeletons are undead similar to zombies, but completely devoid of flesh and do not feed on the living.
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 many effects of spells and combat; they cannot be unconscious or tired.
- In the computer game Serious Sam and it's sequels Kleer Skeletons are one of the most frequently encountered and one of the most dangerous enemies of all.
- The 1998 computer game Grim Fandango was about animated skeletons.
- In a Game Boy Advance game, Spider-Man: Mysterio's Menace, the skeletons are the enemies. Like Spider-Man himself, they could climb through ceilings.
- Killer Instinct is a fighting game that spawned a sequel, Killer Instinct 2 .
Both games contained Spinal, a animated skeleton that fights with a sword and shield.
- The Super Mario Bros. Nintendo games feature creatures called Dry Bones who are the reanimated skeletons of koopas.
- 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 cartoon TV shows Tiny Toon Adventures and Animaniacs featured Mr. Skullhead, an animated skeleton.
- The 1994 animated series Skeleton Warriors was about animated skeletons.