TBT – Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

animation, Christmas, stop motion, TBT, Tim Burton

Despite spending my last post bemoaning the sudden influx of all things Christmas I’m about to embrace the season of goodwill to all men. You see there’s a secret clause (HA!) in my whole ‘no Christmas movies until December rule’. There is one film that combines the months of October and December in such a way that it’s totally okay to watch it any time during November. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas staple. Not watching it at least once would be like not having a fucking tree or a turkey. It’s also not directed by Tim Burton. I vividly remember during my undergraduate degree nearly getting into an argument about that very fact whilst on a bus. I’d just been to see Coraline with my flatmate and had to bite my tongue as someone behind my started telling his friends that the film, from the director of Nightmare, was such a typical Burton film. I was fucking livid because I’m something of a pretentious twat like that.

I’ve feel bad for Henry Selick. It’s absolutely shitty how often his works gets attributed to Tim Burton. I’ve always liked him more because of this fact. It’s the same way that I used to ‘support’ Ralf Schumacher and say that my favourite member of Boyzone was Mikey. I’m naturally drawn to someone who’s overlooked by everyone. It’ll be a younger twin thing: a psychologist would have a fucking field day with me.

However, there is no denying that, unlike Coraline, The Nightmare Before Christmas is such a Tim Burton film. It is, after all, based on an idea he had back in the early 80s. The film is weird and creepy. It takes inspiration from so many other people but manages to create something unusual and unique. It’s one of the most original and exciting Christmas films that has ever been made and its fucking ridiculous that Disney nearly didn’t let it get made.

The film introduces us to the residents of Halloween town and their ghoulish ways. The town hero, Jack Skellington, is celebrated by his fellow townspeople. Every year he helps create the spectacular Halloween celebrations but Jack is bored of his repetitive life. Thankfully he discovers Christmas town and his eyes are opened to a world of colour, candy and the Sandy Claws.

Getting back home, Jack tells the town all about this new holiday and starts planning his own Christmas party. Clearly things get a bit weird and scary: rather than treats the children are left tricks in their stockings. With Jack getting carried away playing Santa, it is left up to Sally, a rag-doll create by the local mad scientist, to stop Jack from fucking Christmas up for all the boys and girls.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a truly magnificent film and, at only 74 minutes, is the perfect length for the whole family. It has something to appeal to everyone and the stop motion animation is charming. The style changes to fit in with the various settings. It’s fucking beautiful film with influences from all over the worlds of art, film and literature.

Henry Selick has created a world that is totally unrecognisable and unusual but that is so easy to get lost in. It is a visual triumph that stands up a good twenty years after it was first created. There is a reason this film has become a centerpiece of Disney’s annual Christmas festivities. Selick takes the concept of a holiday with such traditional iconography and turns it round so it seems fresh. It’s fucking amazing.

Then you have the music. Burton’s regular collaborator, Danny Elfman, created 10 original songs for the film once Burton decided it should be a musical. Elfman has since said it was one of the easiest jobs he’s ever had and it certainly offers one of the best soundtracks of all time. The lyrics are funny and the orchestration is just perfect. Anyone who doesn’t spend October 31st singing ‘This is Halloween’ on repeat is just a freak as far as I’m concerned.

The Nightmare Before Christmas works so beautifully as a holiday film because it celebrates everything you love about both Halloween and Christmas without being par for the course. It stands out against all the other films portraying portly old men with rosy cheeks and a grandfatherly grin. It was a creative solution to an over-saturated market. It’s also one of the best advocates out there for the endless possibilities of stop-motion animation. It’s no wonder it’s so regularly voted as top Christmas film of all time.

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