Length: 76 minutes
Release Date: October 29, 1993
Directed by: Henry Selick
Genre: Animation/ Family/ Fantasy
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Inspired by a variety of classic Christmas cartoons, including “Frosty the Snowman,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” Tim Burton created a visually stimulating stop-motion animated fantasy film for the holidays with “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” This story stars an ambitious skeleton known as Jack the Pumpkin King (Danny Elfman), who lives in Halloween Town with his friends Sally (Catherine O’Hara) and Mayor (Glenn Shadix). Going through a mid-life crisis, Jack has become increasingly disenchanted with his reign year after year, even though he is the very essence of the Halloween spirit. After the town’s big Halloween celebration,Jack finds himself depressed and wandering through unfamiliar woods. Meanwhile, morning has come at home, and his friends are beginning to wonder where he is.
As Jack continues to walk, he discovers a circle of trees with doors on the side. Each door features a hand-carved picture painted with a symbol of a specific holiday, including St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Valentine’s Day, and Christmas. Intrigued by the colorful door with the decorated green tree, he turns the shiny gold knob and falls into a dark hole that leads him to a place of wonder known as ChristmasTown. He runs through the town exploring the snow, the decorations, and the newness of it all. Jack becomes so enthralled with Christmas Town and trying to recreate it, he decides one of the best ways to bring the spirit to Halloween Town is by kidnapping Santa Claus, which eventually causes trouble for Santa and the rest of the world in the strangest of ways. He doesn’t understand that the true meaning of Christmas lies beyond the commercial aspects.
This is a story of friendship, loyalty, and how easy it is to get wrapped up in the holidays. Jack is seen as a leader. He is an icon his community looks up to, so when he starts making plans for a Christmas celebration of Halloween Town’s own, the community follows him even though they aren’t excited about it. It is Christmas, and it is not what they’re used to.They blindly follow Jack’s lead, thus causing a frightening take on a merry holiday.
Sally is quickly established as the voice of reason behind Jack’s antics while still being a supportive friend. Ironically, Sally is the property of the evil Dr. Finklestein (William Hickey). She was handmade by him, so one would think she would rely on his hand to guide her. The irony with Sally is that she’s perceived as the one character who should follow someone else, and yet, she decides to step back and live by her own thoughts and opinions about Christmas. Sadly, Sally has the closest real perception of who Santa Claus is and what he stands for. However, she is the one often most alone and ignored by the others.
The story also expounds on the freakish nature of the secrecy behind Santa Claus and his bag of toys. For every boy and girl who runs to Santa in the toy store for pictures and a jolly laugh, there is the small child who is frightened at the very sight of his white beard and round belly. Apparently, the horror behind this one child is enough to develop a story of parallel fear reminiscent of the fear one feels of creepy clowns and monsters that hide under the bed. The things that go “bump in the night”, such as a green Grinch with a dressed-up dog, Oogie Boogie, and a spider-like man named Jack, are all supposed to be scary, but as it goes with most children’s chilling tales, these creatures aren’t scary at all, they are simply misunderstood. The beautiful doors in the woods are symbolic of the fact that every holiday has its own place, and there is a time for each one. It is with these mystical little doors that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” shows viewers that they should appreciate where they come from and to be thankful for what they have. Jack is apart of a supportive community that tries its best to make Jack’s vision come to life, but in spite of the effort, everyone realizes they can’t change who they are down deep inside. The ending has a delightful twist, and overall, the film features an outstanding musical score with fun and clever lyrics and beautiful graphics. The eye-catching visual effects are incredibly appealing, and the never-ending energy creates a spark for the imagination.