The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
December 1, 2014 5:54 PM - Subscribe

'The Nightmare Before Christmas' is a heart-warming tale about Jack, who feels he is stuck in a rut of routine and repetition. In a flash of inspiration, he decides to spread Christmas joy and cheer to all the world, enlisting his friends and neighbors to help. Written by Tim Burton and directed by Henry Sellick, and starring the vocal talents of Danny Elfman (and a score by him), Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Paul Reubens, Ken Page, and many more, it's sure to be a fun Christmas classic for the whole family!

This movie is available for streaming on Netflix and digital rental on many other services. TNBC scores 94 on Rotten Tomatoes,

This movie is part of the Holiday Movie Club
posted by the man of twists and turns (24 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Patrick Stewart did the introduction for the film but for some reason they re-recorded it with another voice and used that in the film, which you can hear on the soundtrack version (IMDb citation).

I much prefer Stewart's reading and have been known to imitate it, tweaking it a bit to make it more outrageously Patrick Stewarty.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 6:06 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

For all the things to enjoy abut this movie ( the design, the stop motion, the songs) I really like it for kind of stubbornly refusing to have a moral. Like, the lesson is..?* Don't kidnap people? Don't charge full ahead into a culture you don't understand? Things just kind of happen and it fits this over the top storybook world in a way that seems charming because of, not despite of, the flimsy narrative.

I mean I think a lot of that is the design, which doesn't fall back on standard fairy/folk tale look and had to invent a whole idea of Halloweentown and Christmas Village.

*WAIT, maybe it's "Just because you're enthusiastic about something doesn't mean it's the right thing to do?" It's a very ..subtle and oddly mature kind of moral for a Disney film, and I think more aimed at the mid life crisis porn parents in the audience.
posted by The Whelk at 6:10 PM on December 1, 2014 [6 favorites]

Does the film even have the spoken introduction/ conclusion? I've listened to the soundtrack so many times now that the Patrick Stewart narration is pretty much burned into memory.

I love that this is unashamedly and full-heartedly a musical: big production numbers and all. (And Elfman's music, and especially his lyrics, are so so good.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:13 PM on December 1, 2014

The film , at least in the version I remember, doesn't have an intro. That's just on the soundtrack.

But yeah it's so UNAPOLOGETICALLY a musical, and the kind of big, sprawling American musical people think about when they thi "classic American musical" It even has a killer "I Wish" song

I am continuously surprised I've never been adapted to the stage, like you wouldn't have to change the book almost at all (maybe a super short seasonal run?)
posted by The Whelk at 6:18 PM on December 1, 2014

Like, the lesson is..? Don't kidnap people?

"Appreciate what you have."
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:26 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

God I love Catherine O'Hara.
posted by roger ackroyd at 8:38 PM on December 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jack can't even maintain the 'ho-ho-ho' without it turning into a cackle.

Watching this movie again, it's the little details that I really appreciate. Jack lying like the Pieta in the cemetery, the moon having Jack's face like the mayor said, the switch to soft focus when Jack notices Sally.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:02 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Exene had a punk tchotchke store in Silverlake in the 90s, which offered TNBC party supplies.
posted by brujita at 11:31 PM on December 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a theme music station on Pandora, and for the last two weeks I have been deluged by covers of the music from Nightmare Before Christmas. I think I may have to avoid that station until after the holidays, lest I hear Marlin Manson on "This is Halloween" again.
posted by happyroach at 12:36 AM on December 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I always thought the moral was that some people will never fit in, and will never be able to be anybody other than themselves, but that can be okay.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:29 AM on December 2, 2014

I re-watched this with my family a couple months ago and I was kind of disapointed. The animation is really good, but there was something that just didn't click for me. I think if I'd really loved the songs it would have worked better for me. I wanted it to be great!
posted by latkes at 8:06 AM on December 2, 2014

The pieta landing on the angel was the thing that made me gasp the first time I saw it. Kind of a "you brilliant bastards!" moment.

Does it have a moral? Maybe "it's ok to have a midlife crisis, but don't screw up everyone else's life in the process." I mean, we sympathize with Jack's desire to try new things. But he makes a shitty Santa. And his people aren't good at being elves. And in a very un-American twist, turns out, just wanting to do something doesn't mean you'll triumph at it. Sometimes you discover, nah, I really need to stick to my strengths.

I don't think it's about "accepting your misfit place," though, there's no sense that Christmas is better than Halloween. Just different. Halloweentown people are good at what they do.

An interesting question might be, how Sally fits into all this. She's the love interest (and a bit of a seer), but now that she and Jack are a thing, what is she? The Stitched-Together Queen? Will he be happy because they are together, or will he occasionally get bored again and wander off to wreak havoc in other holidays?

It's best not to ask, though, because the world of each holiday is very small, and the consciousness of a semi-eternal being who is a personification of a holiday is kind of hard to grasp.
posted by emjaybee at 11:01 AM on December 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I watched this over the weekend with my niece and nephews, who range in age from 3 to 8. All of them were completely into it and not scared at all, which I found a bit surprising because I've always thought Jack's appearance is totally terrifying. I mentioned this to both my sister and husband and they were both flummoxed as to why I consider him scary. So that's weird. I guess I have a Nightmare Before Christmas phobia.
posted by something something at 11:25 AM on December 2, 2014

Perhaps they (at least the children) are too young to pick up on a skeleton as a symbol of human mortality, and/or Jack is too stylized to really come off as a scary skeleton.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:21 PM on December 2, 2014

I never have thought Jack was scary. The melting man, on the other hand (which is a fucking awesome effect in stop-motion) I think is pretty grotesque, and the guy with the axe in his head is pretty damn dark too.

I had a professor in college who used this movie to teach literary theory to senior English majors. I actually wrote my final paper for that class on this movie and did a deconstructive criticism of it. This was several years ago so I don't remember the details, but the paper focused mostly on Jack as the "center" and his inability to define himself and pin himself down to any one specific thing, and over the course of the film he "means" several different things and takes on multiple identities. His surroundings and the people around him define him and give him context as he moves between the 3 main settings (Halloweentown, Christmastown and the "real world"). Even so, by the end of the film, nothing really has changed; he takes his former place, although somewhat tentatively, claiming he has "new ideas that will really make them scream", but never fully answering the question if he can ever be happy in that same role.
posted by Librarypt at 7:46 AM on December 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

My four year old daughter was talking about it this morning and said "It's a great movie because you can watch it for either holiday, Christmas or Halloween."
posted by drezdn at 12:21 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

So when this first came out, I was obsessed with Oingo Boingo.

The band had played in January, and then during the summer, and I had gone to both. They weren't playing Halloween, but that was okay, because this film was coming out. This film with Tim Burton's art and Danny Elfman singing and skeletons and monsters and it was everything I had ever hoped for and so much more.

I saw it seven times in the theatre. I listened to the soundtrack obsessively. My notebooks and sketchbooks and walls were covered in Jack Skellington pictures. And when I went to visit my mother, I discovered that the WalMart by her house had piles of Nightmare toys.

After Christmas.

On sale.

I still have all those toys. They're out of their boxes, and probably covered in dust, but they're at my Dad's house, just sitting there being delightful.

I love this film. I watch it every Christmas. And it's a beautiful thing.
posted by Katemonkey at 3:32 PM on December 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

It will be a long, long time before I can say the words "What's this?" without hearing Jack's voice in my head.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:04 PM on December 3, 2014 [3 favorites]


posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 6:42 AM on December 4, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is one of the few movies I've seen 100+ times, I'd say. My sisters and I loved it as little girls. I certainly know all the words to all the songs, even now. I kind of hate what Disney has done with it from a merchandise perspective but I guess it was inevitable. My high school crush was Sally for Halloween one year and I basically died of desire.

I always thought the moral was "there's no place like home" which I guess made sense to me since The Wizard of Oz is probably the only movie I've seen MORE times.
posted by town of cats at 1:32 PM on December 6, 2014

Watched it again. It *really* holds up.

I've always thought Jack's appearance is totally terrifying.

He's very much modeled on a spider. Segmented head and torso; long spindly black limbs; and they often animate him in crouches and scuttles. He's simultaneously humanoid and insectile.

Also noticed this time: a whole bunch of references:
  • There's a touch of The Wizard of Oz going on with Halloween Town's grey, desaturated pallette versus Christmas Town's bright saturated colors.
  • Jack first seeing Christmas Town from above, nestled amongst hills, a circular village with a Christmas tree in the middle: How The Grinch Stole Christmas.
  • The shot of the bell calling Jack's town meeting: 100% a recreation of the opening shot of It's A Wonderful Life.
  • The clock tower, shown here with the days-until-Halloween-Christmas countdown: Back To The Future.
The greatest trick Tim Burton ever pulled was getting this indelibly associated with his name. "Story By," yes, okay. But it's just as much -- and maybe more -- a product of Henry Selick's direction and Danny Elfman's music.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 10:41 PM on December 22, 2018

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