The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – Henry Selick


The final recommendation from The Great Movies – 100 Years of Film book following my screening of It’s A Wonderful Life is this modern day cult classic, that has found its way into the mainstream consciousness and has been stuck there since the film’s initial release, celebrating Christmas and Halloween in that macabre and morbid Tim Burton way.

Based on characters and a story by Tim Burton, today the film remains a magical tale, though one forgets how short it actually is and not tons happens, though there are some great moments filled with lots of dark humor.

The fantastically put together stop-motion tale (as well as moments of some conventional animation) follows Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, singing voice provided by Danny Elfman) – who was Slender Man before it was cool, he is the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, but he finds that even though he is as popular as he is, that they town scored yet another wonderful Halloween, there is something missing.

As he wanders the night searching his soul, Sally (Catherine O’Hara), a bit of a Frankenstein creation, tries to get away from an Evil Scientist (William Hickey) yet again, recognizing her own yearning in Jack.

In his wanders, accompanied by his jack-o-lantern-nosed, ghost of a dog, Zero, Jack stumbles into Christmas Town and discovers the warmth and wonder that has been missing from his life.

Consequently, he decides to appropriate the holiday for his own, and Halloween Town decides to do Christmas in their own way, as Jack educates them about presents, Sandy Claws, and reindeer.

As the whole town pitches in, with the best of intentions, though very mistaken, as what child would want a severed head for Christmas, things spiral out of control. Add in to all the troubles that Jack and his friends stir up, the menace of Oogie Boogie (Ken Page) who once he gets his hands on Santa poses a threat to the holidays.

The film still looks amazing, and the stop-motion animation, the character designs, and the songs are all engaging and obviously escaped from the mind of Burton and Elfman, who have had a very productive time together.

This is one of those films that bridges the holidays, and families, there’s enough to keep everyone interested and occupied, and some of the monsters of Halloween Town are just a joy to watch, my personal favorites are the family of vampires.

I have always loved stop-motion animation when it comes to films, because just the amount of work to bring a single moment to life, a single move, or tilt of a head, takes so much work, and the everyday viewer doesn’t see that, they just see the magic of the characters brought to life.

Jack has endured because of the purity of his story, his desire to be more, and recognizes that in himself, and of course, the wonderful array of characters that he brings with them.

Sure, it’s the middle of summer, but a Christmas movie like this, as far as I’m concerned, can be watched anytime.



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