Cinematic Flashback: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Review
‘Twas a long time ago, longer now than it seems in a place perhaps you’ve seen in your dreams. For the story you’re about to be told began with the holiday worlds of auld. Now, you’re probably wondered where holidays come from If you haven’t, I’d say its time you begun as Jason’s Movie Blog’s present the “cinematic flashback” for the 1993 classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
“A Ghoulish Tale with Wicked Humor & Stunning Animation”
Director: Henry Selick
Writer: Tim Burton, Michael McDowell, Caroline Thompson
Starring: Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, Ken Page, William Hickey
Run Time: 76 minutes
Release Date: October 29th, 1993
It is the same routine every year in Halloween Town, on Halloween the monsters come out and perform a real scare. This particular Halloween, the pumpkin king Jack Skellington, bored of the idea, saunters off into the woods with his dog Zero after Halloween night. Upon the break of dawn, he discovers a clearing of trees with different doors representing various holidays. The Christmas Tree door attracts his attention and upon entrance into the world of Christmas, Jack is fascinated with this new idea of Christmas that he must absolutely share with the citizens of Halloween Town.
I always remember this movie. It’s one of the films that actually I liked at a very young age, despite it being a little scary for kids. I first remember seeing the trailer for the movie during one of the opening previews of a Disney VHS home release tape (I think it was on the Honey, I Shrunk the Kids VHS tape). Like many, I was caught up on in the style of animation, which was quite different as well as the idea of Halloween and Christmas sort of colliding together. Of course, being young, I didn’t get the chance to see the movie in theaters, but I did get the chance the following year when it got a VHS home release (I believe my grandparents returned it at Blockbuster. Yes, I’m that old and I was nine at the time). What did I think of it? Well, I did and still enjoy watching The Nightmare Before Christmas; a hallmark achievement in animation and quite possibly in its popular fanbase.
While the movie is produced by imaginative mind of Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas is directed by Henry Selick, who went on to direct other stop-motion animated features such as 1996’s James and the Giant Peach and Coraline. Burton, who created the concept idea for the film and pitched / developed the feature with a deal from Walt Disney Studios, seems like an ideal choice for a movie such as this. Burton’s imagination has always been quirky, odd, and sometimes can wander into the macabre nuances, which definitely fits the bill for The Nightmare Before Christmas story and presentation. Thus, the harmonious marriage between Burton and Selick seemed to definitely work in creating a ghoulishly fun and engaging animated motion picture endeavor. The story, of course, is definitely a fun premise to exam…. a sort of “what if” scenario if a person who lives in a Halloween world stumbles upon a Christmas world (exploring the different ideology themes between the holiday seasons).
Perhaps the most interesting and poignant aspect that makes The Nightmare before Christmas stand out is in its animation. Because this was the first full-length stop-motion animated feature, the movie is something quite unique, utilizing this style of animation to its full extent and paving the way for other similar feature film endeavors in the industry. Even with the film’s runtime only being 76 minutes long, the movie really packed with character filled moments and time to singing and technical achievements in visuals. There’s plenty to like about the film and its animation is definitely one of the main ones, especially since this was the first of its type.
There wasn’t a whole lot that I didn’t like about this movie. Naturally, i knew that the movie was gonna be a little dark and scary (even for an animated movie of that era), so I wasn’t “turned off” by the macabre stuff. Well, if I’m being honest, I was little bit spooked out by Oogie Boogie (mostly because of what he’s actually made out of) and few other scary nuances. I always kind of wanted to see more of the other holiday themed lands than just Halloween and Christmas. Maybe that’s my biggest gripe that I wanted the movie to expand upon.
The voice talents in the movie are solid and definitely bring these characters to life in a colorful and animated type of way; finding each one to be “perfectly matched” in their respective characters. Of course, the voices of Chris Sarandon (Jack Skellington), Catherine O’Hara (Sally), Ken Page (Oogie Boogie), William Hickey (Dr. Finklestein), and Glenn Shadix (Mayor of Halloween Town) all provide some excellent voicework for their characters, especially Sarandon and Page as hero / villain of the feature. Plus, Danny Elfman, who does Jack’s singing voice, rendition of the song “What’s this?” is just so darn catchy and timeless. Plus, even though he doesn’t talk in the movie, who could not but love Jack’s faithful ghost dog Zero.
Even in today’s world, the legacy of The Nightmare Before Christmas lives on with great a cult fanbase that’s still enchanted within this 1993 classic. The movie was met with both critical and financial success after its release, garnishing $76.2 million at the box office (against its $18 million production budget), which is awesome for a film’s release circa 1993. Additionally, the film story / characters have appeared in other various mediums, including the Kingdom Hearts video games series, with Sarandon, Page, Shadix reprising their respective roles in the subsequent video game installments of the series.
In the end, The Nightmare Before Christmas is truly a hallmark movie that deserves its praise and accolade attention that it has been receiving. From its storytelling, to its animation, and to voice talents, and to its imaginative concept from Tim Burton, the film provides to be a ghoulish fun and a trademark staple for the Halloween movie season. With the film’s occasionally re-release every five years or so, The Nightmare Before Christmas continues to be relevant, with new viewers (as well as old ones) returning to revisit the tale of Jack Skellington and his passion for trying a hand at being Santa Claus.
Cinematic Flashback Score: 4.5 Out of 5
Fun Fact: According to Henry Selick, Vincent Price was originally cast as Santa Claus. However, after the death of Price’s wife, his own health began to fail and his voice performance was very frail and weak. The tracks were deemed unusable which led, much to Selick’s regret, to the role being recast (Ed Ivory).