The Nightmare Before Christmas – USA, 1993

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 American stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy film conceived and produced by Tim Burton (Corpse BrideEd Wood; Mars Attacks!; Sleepy Hollow; Beetlejuice; et al) and directed by Henry Selick. Danny Elfman wrote the songs and score, and provided the singing voice of Jack. The principal voice cast also includes Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Ken Page, Paul Reubens, Glenn Shadix and Ed Ivory.

The Nightmare Before Christmas originated in a poem written by Tim Burton in 1982 while he was working as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation. With the success of animated short Vincent, Burton began to consider developing The Nightmare Before Christmas. In 1990, he made a development deal and production began in July 1991.

Disney released the film via its adult-orientated Touchstone Pictures banner because they thought the film would be “too dark and scary for kids”, Selick remembered. “Their biggest fear, and why it was kind of a stepchild project, [was] they were afraid of their core audience hating the film and not coming.” To attract a wider audience, it was marketed as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Plot:

Halloween Town is a fantasy world filled with monsters, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, zombies, demons, mummies, vampires, werewolves, and witches. Jack Skellington, the “Pumpkin King” and leader of the town, leads them in organising the annual Halloween celebrations. However, privately Jack has grown weary of the same routine year after year and wants something new.

Wandering in the woods the morning after Halloween, he stumbles across seven trees containing doors leading to towns representing various holidays, and opens a portal to Christmas Town. Awed by the unfamiliar holiday, Jack returns to Halloween Town to show the residents his findings, but they fail to grasp the idea of Christmas and compare everything to their ideas of Halloween, although they do relate to one Christmas Town character; a red lobster-like king who flies at night named “Sandy Claws”.

Jack sequesters himself in his tower to study Christmas and find a way to rationally explain it, but cannot. He ultimately decides that it’s unfair for Christmas Town alone to enjoy the holiday and announces that he and the citizens of Halloween Town will take over Christmas this year. Thus, Jack assigns the citizens of Halloween Town Christmas-themed jobs.

Jack departs to deliver presents to the world, but the Halloween-styled gifts terrify and attack the populace. As concerns over “Santa’s” behaviour grows, the military takes action and shoots down Jack, causing him to crash in a cemetery. As Jack bemoans the disaster he has made of Christmas, he finds he enjoyed the experience nonetheless, reigniting his love of Halloween.

Jack returns to Halloween Town and finds Oogie’s lair. Oogie tries to kill Jack, but Jack pulls apart the thread holding his cloth form together, revealing a massive pile of bugs that fall into Oogie’s cauldron and are killed. Jack apologises to Santa for his actions, and Santa assures Jack that he can fix things and returns to Christmas Town.

As Santa replaces the Halloween-style presents with genuine ones, the townspeople of Halloween Town celebrate Jack’s return. Santa then visits Halloween Town and brings them a snowfall for the residents to play with. In the graveyard, Jack and Sally declare their love for each other.

Reviews:

” …Nightmare occasionally seems short on story. What it offers instead—morbid whimsy, a winning sweetness, and an abundance of imagination—makes those flaws easy to overlook. Deftly crafted enough to make a skeleton dissecting a teddy bear or the sight of children terrorized by an evil toy duck seem cute, Nightmare taps directly into Burton’s unique sensibility, bringing it to life with highly memorable results.” AV Club

“What a beautifully detailed and beautifully alive world has been created for this film, a film in which every character nuance is perfectly created and every small touch adds to the world of the characters […] The film has clearly been made with love and care…” Flickfeast

“While the over saturation and marketing exploitation surrounding the film may have cheapened the film for some, it really is quite an impressive achievement and judged on its own merits (rather than as the cash cow it seems to have become – just walk into a Hot Topic and take a look around to see for yourself!) the film is still fantastic.” Rock! Shock! Pop!

“One of the many pleasures of Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas is that there is not a single recognizable landscape within it. Everything looks strange and haunting. Even Santa Claus would be difficult to recognize without his red-and-white uniform.” Roger Ebert

“It’s kind of like Mad Monster Party, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas all rolled into one.  While the plot may be as thin as Jack is, the film is visually dazzling, fast-paced, and enormously entertaining.” The Video Vacuum

Running time:

76 minutes

Box office:

The film’s reported budget was $18 million. It earned $50 million in the United States on its first theatrical run and a further $8.7 million in box office gross in its 2006 reissue. The 2007 and 2008 reissues earned $14.5 million and $1.1 million, respectively, increasing the film’s total box office gross to $76.2 million.

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