The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Finally, a film to watch on two different holidays rather than one that is both fun, innovative and exciting to watch. This is Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas and before we go any further, it wasn’t directed by Tim Burton. It was directed by Henry Selick with the story by Tim Burton. It pisses me off to this day that people get this confused, but I’ll deal with it.
Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, Singing voice Danny Elfman) is the Pumpkin King in Halloween Town, yet Jack has grown tired of the same old thing. One night while depressed and walking through the woods, Jack stumbles upon a group of trees with mysterious figure on them representing Thanksgiving, easter and St. Patrick’s Day. The one that stands out to Jack, however, is a Christmas Tree door that leads him to Christmas Town. He wonders “What’s this?” and learns about a man named Sandy Claws (Ed Ivory). Jack, now inspired be the holiday, decides to take it over with the help of the Halloween Town Mayor (Glen Shadix), Dr. Frinklestien (William Hickey) while Sally (Catherine O’Hara) warns Jack of the danger that comes with taking it over. To make matters worse, Oogie Boogie (Ken Page) gets word of Jack’s plan from Lock (Paul Ruebens), Shock (O’Hara), and Barrel (Danny Elfman) and decides to keep Santa for himself. Jack takes over the season to much dismay to realize his misfortune. Lucky, Jack comes back in time to save Christmas by defeating Oogie Boogie and letting Santa be free again.
I remember trying to watch this as a kid and, I’m going to be honest, I was scared. Halloween Town was terrifying to me as a kid and I stayed away from this movie like the plague. Around 5th grade, however, I rewatched the film and loved it. I didn’t know about the cult following at the time and how it was on the pantheon of great Disney films. I was just a curious boy watching the movie, diving into the special features and getting into it. The film itself is one of my favorite animated films and for many reason.
One is how original this story is. A curious leader of one holiday wanting to get a holiday and make it as his own seemed new a different from everything else. It also taught the valuable lesson of not meddling in affairs you don’t understand, but instead, taking time to learn about what it is you want and how to embrace rather than screwing the other out of it. The music is incredible with Elfman’s score and songs making the film shine. “What’s This?” is still on rotation in my Christmas playlist with “Jack’s Lament” stuck in my head with Elfman’s soothing and booming bass. The standout song of the film is the soft and melancholic “Sally’s Song” that is beyond perfect, capturing the feeling that Sally has on her mind. The voice acting is incredible with everyone taking to task their characters with Sarandon breathing a soul into Jack and Page giving a rousing performance as the villainous Oogie Boogie.
The stop-motion animation is also great as it feels like a throwback to the Rankin-Bass shorts, if they were more macabre and morbid. It’s gorgeously done and filled with hours upon hours of dedication. The only complaint I have about the film is that it feels so short. I want to be a part of the world’s created, see what else is in store in the other doors and take in everything, but I guess that’s what makes it a great film. Everyone is probably sick of the film and its constant association to the Emo/Hot Topic phase of the past, but it has cemented itself in history as being a true modern classic for Christmas and animation.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is nothing but a cheery Christmas delight.