Okay, so this one might seem at first to be a Halloween movie but, it’s actually been said that The Nightmare Before Christmas is meant to be a Christmas movie at heart. Besides, I love scary things so throwing scary into Christmas just makes me happy.
About: The Nightmare Before Christmas centers around Jack Skellington, who acts as the King of Halloween for Halloween Town, a place dedicated solely to it’s holiday namesake. The citizens of Halloween Town are comprised of witches, ghouls, monsters and the like as well, but they aren’t mean just there to scare folks from inside your closet and under your bed! Jack, however, is growing tired of scaring people and longs for something different, prompting him to soul search in an attempt to figure out what he’s missing. This leads him and his faithful ghost dog, Zero, into the woods where they discover a mysterious grouping of doors built into trees, all with different designs to them. Upon opening the Christmas Tree one, Jack finds himself in Christmas Town where he is mesmerized by the spirit of Christmas.
Nightmare Before Christmas was created by Tim Burton but directed by Henry Selick while Burton worked on other films. It was highly acclaimed and a financial success but was released originally under the Touchstone Pictures banner for fear it was too dark. The movie is entirely stop-motion animation and a 3D version has also been made that is often shown annually around Christmas time in the movie theater. Not only that, but at least two Disney parks convert their Haunted Mansion into a Nightmare Before Christmas themed house yearly. It’s also featured as a world in the Kingdom Hearts series.
Warning! Potential Spoilers Ahead!
The Plot/Characters: Jack Skellington is soul searching after becoming bored with the mundane, every day situations in his life in Halloween Town. Sure, he’s the Skeleton King and the King of Halloween Town (despite them also having a Mayor?) but he wants more out of life. This leads him to wander frustratingly through the woods, leading him to discover the door to Christmas Town where he is absolutely amazed by the sights, sounds and newness of it all. So fascinated is he that he wants to bring what he has learned from Christmas Town over to Halloween Town and even do his own celebration. After all, Santa Claus works hard year after year, he deserves a break right? Not only that, but Jack at the core believes he can improve on the holiday and that Christmas belongs to everyone. Jack’s intentions, however, as good as they may be are misguided and could lead to Christmas this year being completely destroyed for children all over the globe.
The characters in this movie are interesting, for sure. Jack, rather than being a one dimensional character bent on just scaring people, is curious and able to soul search which leads him to his fascination with Christmas Town. He’s scientifically and mathematically intelligent as well. But he also has huge flaws such as his controlling nature and head in the clouds (inability to listen). Sally, his love interest, is almost the opposite of Jack in a lot of ways. She’s more emotionally driven and has compassion for others; particularly Jack. She’s smart as well, able to deceive and uses tricks to get out of a situation. The romantic element between Jack and Sally is also a very nice addition to the story that instead of impeding the movie, adds more emotional impact to the story. Even the villain of the movie, Oogie Boogie, is possibly one of my favorite animated villains due to his colorful nature. He risks things on a gamble and likes to have fun with his torture processes, rather than simply kill someone. He spends time taunting Santa Claus after getting his clutches on him. Other characters, like the Mayor and Lock, Shock and Barrel aren’t as well developed and are more flat, but serve as some good comedic relief throughout the movie.
Spirit of Christmas: While everything about this movie seems at first to be the opposite of a Christmas Movie, what with all the skeletons and spooky atmosphere, Nightmare Before Christmas at it’s center or core of the movie, is still a Christmas Movie. The movie centers around Jack finding Christmas Town and then wanting to embody the holiday, bringing it over to Halloween. He spends a good portion of the movie examining artifacts he lifted from Christmas Town, trying to get down to the root of what caused him to be so happy and carefree while visiting Christmas Town. Similar in a way to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, Jack ends up stealing Christmas as well. Only, instead of having malicious intent, he is trying to take over for Santa Claus (Sandy Claws) so he doesn’t have to work that year as well as to improve the holiday, feeling he could do a better job. This leads to Christmas almost being ruined and Jack having to realize that he is the Pumpkin King and not meant to run Christmas but rather, only Santa should be in charge of the holiday.
The Score: There are many catchy musical numbers in The Nightmare Before Christmas. After all, the music was composed by Danny Elfman who even sung any of the numbers that featured Jack Skellington, as the actor, Chris Sarandon. Some of the most popular songs for the movie include This is Halloween, which has had a cover done by Marilyn Manson, What’s This? and Jack and Sally’s Montage. Besides, who hasn’t gotten What’s This? stuck in their head after listening to it. It’s possibly as bad as The Lego Movie’s Everything Is Awesome.
Overall: I’m definitely heading this year to the movie theater to watch this one in 3D if I can rope someone into coming with me. The Nightmare Before Christmas blends two awesome things together, Halloween and Christmas, and does it in a way that is just perfect. I couldn’t think of a single way to improve on this movie either.
Have you seen The Nightmare Before Christmas? If so, what did you think?