The Nightmare Before Christmas
Director: Henry Selick
Year: 1993
TRT: 1:16

Reviewed: 8/24/03

Essentially a Tim Burton movie, this is a definite must-see for any who is unawares. I've been putting off writing this for a bit, as I find it difficult to heap praises on a movie that is essentially a musical (but a macabre, demented, and visually entertaining one at that). The plot can run between amusingly creative to standard fare, but the package it's wrapped in makes it a gruesomely delightful tale for both children and adults (though I imagine it may spook out the tinier of the tikes considering the nature of Halloween Town, though they are actually just well-meaning "people").

Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, in charge of continually scaring the shit out of kids the world over when it comes time for their holiday. But Jack's grown a bit disenchanted with the drudgery of the job, so when he accidentally stumbles into Christmas Town, he finds a new challenge to take on to fill the void in his life. Unfortunately he and his cohorts don't quite "get" the spirit of this odd new holiday.

This really is an amazing transition of Burton's drawings into an animated form, with the production being absolutely top-notch. The songs sung aren't totally annoying, and thinking about it, really is the perfect vehicle for the film, taking Dr. Suess to the next level in certain ways. It should be noted that Burton's long-time musical collaborator Danny "Oingo Boingo" Elfman not only scored the film, but sings the part of Jack Skellington. Great for first-time viewing or revisited, particularly as Halloween approaches.

Great Scene: The film has such great attention to detail, but my favorites are Jack's scientific breakdown of Christmas, a one-eyed mummy kid sending out the call to the town through the wailing of a cat siren, and a giant snake gorging on a Christmas tree. Priceless.

Great Character: There's so many unique ones in this, but for whatever reason I love the big, bug-eyed oaf with a small hatchet wedged in his head.

Media Notes: Released through Disney's Touchstone division, it's definitely worth picking up the "Special Edition" of the DVD. While it includes a shitload of extras, they also include Burton's pleasantly demented early films, the animated Vincent, a short that is kind of the precursor to this in terms of style about a 7 year old boy who fantasizes he's Vincent Price, narrated in verse by, well, Vincent Price! Also included is the live-action short Burton did for Disney called Frankenweenie, in which a very inventive boy takes the loss of his dog a little too seriously, much to the horror of the suburbia neighbors. The other extras are all worthy viewing, including a 25 minute "making of," a 4 minute scene with storyboard comparison, some deleted scenes in various stages, a huge collection of sketches on everything from the denizens of Halloweentown to animation tests of Jack, Sally, and Zero (with commentary). Last but not least is a collection of teaser posters and trailer, the trailer itself (as well as for Selick's follow-up film using mostly the same techinique, James and the Giant Peach), and a spliced-together commentary with director Selick and director of photography Pete Kozachik, which is heavy on the technical aspects of the film (no shit?), probably a bit dry for the average viewer but nicely informative for the techniques used. All is nicely packaged with some printed history on the film and nicely integrated DVD menus.


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