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What’s this? It’s 30 years since The Nightmare Before Christmas combined the Christmas and Halloween spirits! The story was written by Tim Burton, Michael McDowell, and Caroline Thompson. The direction of the film was undertaken by Henry Selick, an American filmmaker and animator also known for 2009’s Coraline. The timeless musical score was composed by American film composer Danny Elfman.
The Nightmare Before Christmas illustrates Jack Skellington’s (Chris Sarandon and Elfman) unhappiness and boredom with the annual tradition of scaring people in the real world. The Pumpkin King wants more for himself outside of the usual Halloween shenanigans. Jack discovers a doorway to the realm of Christmas Town and is enchanted by the winter wonderland. He decides to take over the Christmas holiday and kidnap Santa Claus. Sally (Catherine O’Hara), a rag doll version of Frankenstein, tries to prevent Jack from carrying out his plan.
Even though Jack fails to grasp the genuine essence of Christmas and even takes Santa hostage, his character remains irresistibly charming. Jack realizes that Christmas is incomplete without Santa, much like how Halloween would be incomplete without him. He also saves Santa from the evil clutches of Oogie Boogie (Ken Page) with the help of his three conniving henchmen, Lock, Shock, and Barrel. The villainous Oogie Boogie looks like a burlap bag of insects and believes Halloween should be cruel and harmful to humans.
During its initial release in 1993, Walt Disney Studios opted to release the film through Touchstone Pictures due to concerns that it might be perceived as “too dark and scary for kids.” However, this was a decision limited to the original release, as Walt Disney Pictures assumed ownership of the movie with its 3D reissue. The Nightmare Before Christmas has stood the test of time and is still so prominent that Disneyland renamed Mickey’s Halloween Party, an event where people can wear costumes and go trick-or-treating, to Oogie Boogie Bash in 2019. The event features characters like Jack and Sally, who do meet-and-greet events with Disney parkgoers.
This movie is so creative; I can only imagine how long it must have taken to execute and film each of the character’s movements frame by frame with stop-motion recording. Claymation (clay animation) is a complicated process, and it gives one an appreciation for the effort that animators put into their filmmaking. The designs and development for each character are so unique. The Nightmare Before Christmas has also inspired other filmmakers to explore stop-motion in their film projects as well.
It is amazing to see the waves of creativity that this movie has sparked over the decades. The cross-generational appeal has helped the film maintain its popularity over the years. Everything from character cosplay to makeup transformations to fan art. The film’s dark fantasy genre also unites members of the goth, emo, and alternative communities. Dark aesthetics and elements of the film, such as Jack’s skull design, changed goth fashion. Characters from the film became famous symbols that were associated with Christmas and Halloween.
The Nightmare Before Christmas has also brought families together, and it takes me back to the late ’90s when my family rented the movie from Blockbuster on a VHS tape. We watched it on our clunky, box-like tv. It also reminds me of the times we had to rewind a VHS tape before returning it to the video rental store. And needing to adjust TV antennas to get a better image with all the static crackling on the screen. Straining my eyes to try to see any signs of improvement and my dad asking if the image cleared up.
Do I miss the days of static TVs? I do not. However, I will always cherish watching Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas with my family in the darkness of our living room. Light from the TV dancing around the walls as “Oogie Boogie’s Song” played throughout the house. It is one of my favorite movies, and I will always proudly don my Jack Skellington clothing.
The Nightmare Before Christmas screens starting Monday, December 18th.
Monday, Dec 18th – 3pm
Wednesday, Dec 20th – 3pm
Friday, Dec 22nd – 7:10pm
Saturday, Dec 23rd – 6:30pm