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Halloween Retro 101: THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS

Jack and Sally
Jack and Sally
Disney

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the greatest films of all time. It was released in 1993 – the first full length stop-motion animated film to come out in years. It was an amazing achievement for the time, providing audiences with something the likes of which they had never seen before.

Over time, The Nightmare Before Christmas has gained a devoted cult following. The impact that this film has on its audience cannot be denied. Once released under the Touchstone banner – a subsidiary of Walt Disney Pictures, which specializes in more adult-themed films – the folks at the mouse house finally owned up to the fact that they had something special on their hands, re-releasing The Nightmare Before Christmas in theatres in 3D on October 20, 2006, under the Walt Disney banner. And why wouldn’t they? The film is a treasure.

Directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas whisks us away to Halloween Town, where ghouls, goblins, ghosts, and other strange creatures each carry out their own unique brand of mischief on Halloween night, scaring the daylights out of children and wreaking all sorts of havoc. As soon as we arrive, we are introduced to the residents by way of the first of many musical numbers from composer, Danny Elfman. Shortly after we become acquainted with this strange new world, we meet Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King who is being applauded for a successful night of mayhem. Afterwards, he sneaks away from the crowd into a far off graveyard and laments. Halloween has lost its luster for Jack. He longs for something new.

His friend and secret crush, Sally Ragdoll, is the only one who seems to understand him. She wishes that Jack could understand exactly how she feels about him. They could be perfect for one another, and she knows this. Sally is quite lonely, locked up in a tower with her creator, the mad scientist Dr. Finklestein. She is constantly scheming, coming up with new ways to evade his smothering grasp. More often than not, she is successful – and when she can get away, she searches for Jack.

Meanwhile, as Jack walks through the woods with his ghost-dog, Zero, he comes upon a forest. Each tree in the forest bears a unique symbol related to a different holiday. Jack approaches the door which is shaped and decorated like a Christmas tree, and looks inside. Almost immediately, Jack is sucked into a strange and colorful vortex which quite literally drops him into a sparkling wintery wonderland.

Jack marvels at the sights before him – elves playing happily with one another, riding on top of wind-up toys, the smell of baked goods lingering in the air – the all around uninhibited joy of Christmas Town. After Jack runs into Santa Claus (or Sandy Claws, as Jack understands) he rushes back to Halloween Town to tell the others of his findings. Christmas becomes an obsession for Jack. He wants his own Christmas, and so he sets out to make this dream a reality. He sends out three trouble-making trick or treaters named Lock, Shock, and Barrel to find and kidnap Santa Claus so that he can take over the holiday in his absence.

Although Sally protests, Jack proceeds to carry out his plans, and before it is all said and done, Jack will have set several events in motion which will ultimately lead to the nightmare before Christmas – and, added to that, he will come face to face with the boogeyman.

The Nightmare Before Christmas was conceived by Tim Burton as a short poem, and the translation to the screen is nothing short of awe-inspiring. It has become a seasonal tradition alongside other films, such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Mad Monster Party. There is so much to love, including the score from Danny Elfman, which is the heart and soul of this film. There is barely a moment here that is not accompanied by Elfman’s majestic and operatic score. Apart from the film, the score itself stands alone as a separate work of musical genius.

The characters which inhabit both Halloween and Christmas Town are all endearing, each getting their own moment in the spotlight. Jack Skellington is a true original – a creation that will go down in history as one of the most beloved figures in all of cinema.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a classic. If you have not seen it, do so as soon as possible. It’s an experience that you will never forget!