Last Minute Movie That Settles Post: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Posted: October 31, 2016 in Movies That Settle, Uncategorized

I know that Halloween is practically over, but you have to write when the Muse is with you, so I’m posting this now.

I’m about to admit something that I haven’t admitted to anyone in years, but here goes: I walked out of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas.¬†It almost pains me to admit it now, but also, it was 1993, and I was a cynical high school junior. My friend Brian and I bought a ticket to see it, not really knowing what it was about, but we liked the first two Batman movies enough (and I always had a soft spot for The Fox & The Hound) to see the name Tim Burton and figured it was worth a try. Then there was singing, and we walked out and went into Sylvester Stallone’s Demolition Man instead. And after that we snuck into Judgment Night, starring Emilio Estevez and Denis Leary. Yes, high school juniors. I am unbelievably, retroactively ashamed.

The years, however, have been very kind to this movie. Not only have I gained a great appreciation for Danny Elfman’s music (who also sang the Jack Skellington parts), but thinking about the lost art of stop-animation, which was how this entire movie was made, it’s amazing that people don’t laud this movie even more. Even with all the CGI now, which is cheaper but still doesn’t look as real, The Nightmare Before Christmas holds up extremely well. Certainly better than Demolition Man.

The story is a simple one. Burton was always a fan of those classic Christmas cartoons, but because he was also an obvious fan of the macabre, he asked himself, “What if there was a Halloween version of the Christmas villages and Whoville and what-not?” And so began the story of Jack Skellington, the man about Halloweentown, and the Bone Daddy who plans the Halloween celebration there every year. The only problem is Jack is getting a little bored with the same old Halloween stuff year after year. By sheer luck he stumbles one night into Christmastown, and discovers that there is a holiday where people don’t try to scare each other, but exchange gifts, instead. Jack is swept up in the idea of Christmas, but doesn’t quite grasp the spirit. He tells his fellow townsfolk about his findings, but they don’t grasp it, either.xmas

While agonizing over the spirit of Christmas, Jack builds a sleigh, reanimates some reindeer and decides to have Santa Claus (but since he’s the King of Halloween, he think it’s pronounced “Sandy Claws.) kidnapped, telling him that he can take the night off and Jack will bring presents to all the girls and boys. The real issue (besides kidnapping Santa), is that ¬†Jack had asked everyone in Halloweentown to make the Christmas presents that he wants to give out and, well, they just don’t have the knack:


The other issue is that Santa has been taken by the arch-villain of the movie (re-kidnapped?), the evil Oogie-Boogie, who appears to be nothing more than a burlap sack of bugs. Sally, a bride of Frankenstein-esque doll with the hots for Jack attempts to rescue him, but is also taken hostage, so jack must rescue them both. He does, rather easily, as he really only had to pull a loose string on Oogie and he came apart, literally, at the seams. As Jack is worried that Santa can’t complete his run and he has now ruined Christmas, Santa shows him the true meaning of the holiday by telling him that it ain’t just about the presents. So whether he finishes or not, Christmas will come. Of course, he will do it, because he’s Santa and he’s awesome. Also, Jack realizes that Sally is pretty cool, and that he is actually the Halloween guy, and he should stick to what he knows, which is scaring people.tumblr_mubkfcxgfl1rrhs85o1_500

You can look past the simple plot when you think about how long it must have taken to complete this movie, as the stop-animation wizards would sometimes get mere seconds of the movie filmed in a day. For the uninitiated, a film camera shoots at 24 frames per second, meaning that they animators had to simulate that by physically moving a model of the characters in the tiniest ways and take a picture of them, twenty-four times just for one second of the movie. It’s a wonder that the movie isn’t ten seconds long. You really have to admire the work that went int it, even if you’re the type of person who would walk out of the theater during the first few minutes.

One of the reasons this movie holds up, however, isn’t even the movie-making magic that is taking place, but the themes, and the age-old question, “Is it a Halloween movie or is it a Christmas movie?” At least, it’s an age-old question in my apartment. It definitely has the creepy, crawly characters that you find in most Tim Burton movie. But it also shows Jack discovering the true meaning of Christmas, like a lot of Christmas movies. And it’s because of this duality, because it works as both, that the movie stands the test of time. So watch it whenever you want. Whether you’re young or old, high school junior of grumpy old man. To admire the craftsmanship or enjoy the music or the simple holiday story, there’s really no other movie like it.


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