The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tired of scaring humans every October 31 with the same old bag of tricks, Jack Skellington, the spindly king of Halloween Town, kidnaps Santa Claus and plans to deliver shrunken heads and other ghoulish gifts to children on Christmas morning. But as Christmas approaches, Jack's rag-doll girlfriend, Sally, tries to foil his misguided plans.
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With its pioneering use of stop-motion animation, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" will always have its hard-earned place in the annals of film animation history. Conceptually birthed by gothic master Tim Burton and brought to life with the most incredible vision and detail by Henry Selick, it stands as an incredible marriage of creative energy and top-notch artistry.Released in 1993, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" actually predates the collaboration that truly saved Walt Disney Pictures - Pixar's "Toy Story." Both films were groundbreaking in their own right - "Nightmare" for stop-motion and "Toy Story" for computer-generated animation - though as the latter became mainstream, the former continues to be underrated, even today. Regardless, both films show the world-building ingenuity that we've come to expect from animated films in the 21st century.What helps keep "Nightmare" timeless and relevant, however, is that it's steeped in holiday spirit. Halloween and Christmas are two holidays that evoke their own special, unique energy and Burton's story pounces on marrying their two wildly different aesthetics. It's Selick of course, who really sees (and seizes) this opportunity in bringing Halloween Town to life with aplomb.Of the film's many vivid components, however, its story doesn't hold up as well nearly 25 years later. Fortunately, at an unusually brisk 76-minute runtime (likely due to stop-motion's time-consuming nature) it doesn't need to. The film can afford to survive on its whimsy, artistic sight gags and inventive musical numbers. That said, it's not among the more emotionally compelling holiday-themed films either. Yet anyone who has ever been in position to be jealous of Christmas or idyllic depictions of Christmas celebrations might identify with Pumpkin King Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, singing vocals by Danny Elfman) and his longing to do something different and truly extraordinary. Or if not Jack, then Sally (Catherine O'Hara), a Frankensteinian creation longing to serve her own desires for once, not just that of her maker, the Evil Scientist (William Hickey). Helping us better acquaint ourselves with these characters are Elfman's songs. Although most of them do serve an expository purpose, a few take a moment to bring us closer to Jack and Sally.The musical nature of "Nightmare" shows the film's ambition. It's hard enough to make a film requiring this much detail, let alone set it all to music. Elfman and Burton have been a perfect pair throughout their respective careers; Elfman simply gets the fantastical gothic tone Burton has made his career on. His songs are a great match for the material, even if you can't recall how most of them go in the same way you can the songs of the traditional animation musicals of that time period.In family entertainment, story generally proves to be most important. "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a remarkable exception, getting by on its tone, visual effects, creative world-building and the Halloween and Christmas spirit. At times when it feels like a glorified animated short film, best to just remember all the ground it broke as the first mainstream and widely successful stop-motion animated feature.~Steven CThanks for reading! Visit Movie Muse Reviews for more
I find a lot of Tim Burton's movies hard to get into; rented this one, but couldn't get into it. The animation is really weird. I like the characters & Jack Skellington merchandise; but I just can't get into the movie itself. The drawings are also really odd looking; for example, I have seen Coraline & Frankenweenie; I did like Frankenweenie, but that's the only Tim Burton movie I like. I also like the song "This is Halloween", but Tim Burton's work overall is too odd & weird for me to be able to sit through his movies.
This is certainly a pleasant surprise. Tim Burton, purveyor of the wacko, has created, along with his amazing team, a real classic work. Seldom does a film bank on so much originality, from the incredible creation of Halloween Town, with its denizens, marvelous in their diversity and variety, to a really interesting plot. The character of Jack Skellington is a scene-stealer. Considering he pretty much a stick with a round, skeletal head, he has amazing expression and energy. He is an artist and a rebel, dissatisfied with the continuing shortsightedness of his frightening peers. When his world opens up through an accidental fall into another town, paralleling his own, he tries to bring Christmas back with him. The problem is that he really doesn't understand the concept well enough. He mixes his own social foundation with an alien one and the results are hilarious. Wonderful to look at with some of the finest animation you will ever see, each moment carefully scripted and produced.
First of all, don't tell me this is a kid's movie and you're not supposed to think about it. You can take that attitude outside right now. Obviously, this movie looks fantastic. It really makes you realize how boring these CGI Pixar kiddie flicks have become when you see highly detailed, real-life animation like this. That's the beginning and end of what makes this movie good.In one scene, we see Jack Skellington singing on a hillside about how bored he is with Halloween. You can see a full moon behind him. The next night we see the night sky and it's a crescent moon. Moon phases don't happen that quickly. Jack Skellington wanders into the woods and finds doorways into other Holiday worlds. How has nobody discovered these doors before? He steps through a door and falls into Christmas world. You see no doorways back, but somehow he gets back. How??The Halloween crew kidnap Santy Clause and bring him back to Halloween world. There's a scene where they have to shove his fat butt down a ventilation shaft. They have a difficult time and you see the shaft buldge out as he gets sucked down. Uh, this is Santa Clause. He drops down chimneys effortlessly. Why is he having a hard time here?Santa is completely helpless during this whole movie. Why? Doesn't he have magic powers? Why doesn't he fight back? At the VERY end, when they save Santa, you know what he does? Just flies away! He smashes through the ceiling! Why didn't he do that to begin with??Most sane people would agree that Tim Burton can't make good movies anymore. Many people who hold this opinion will include "Nightmare Before Christmas" as one of his last good films. Well, I beg to differ, boys and girls. I give this movie an F+.