The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray Review
PictureWhen you first spin this disc, you'll notice that the aspect ratio may not look quite right - instead of having black bars at the top and bottom of the picture, they're at the side. Fear not! There's nothing wrong with your equipment - it was made that way. It has been presented in it's theatrically correct aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and encoded at 1080P using the AVC-MPEG4 coding system - and what a glorious transfer it is!
There's lots to get excited about with this BD-50 dual layered disc, and the first of those should be the amount of detail that's visible onscreen at any one time - its groundbreaking!
Tim Burton opens the film with a 25 word introduction about how the detail is visible for the first time - and he's not wrong. Textures stand out from the screen in a kind of three dimensional ways that I have never seen before. One of the characters, Sally, is a kind of monster put together by the evil Dr Finkelstein. Every now again, one of her limbs will be torn off - much to the bemusement of the evil Doctor who has to sew it back on...when you get a close up of the thread, you can see each and every individual strand used to make up that thread - and the fluff coming off it! The attention to detail is incredible.
The clothing that's worn by the characters takes on a life of it's own as we see the detail put into by the animators properly for the first time. Check the blood vessels in the wings of the bat that Jack wears as a bow tie...
Being a dark film in almost every sense of the word, unbalanced black and white levels could have spoilt the film completely - but I'm glad to say they are spot on. The pin stripes on Jacks jet black suit stand out brilliantly even as he moves around the screen.
In the graveyard scene at the beginning, Jacks head glows like the moon while his black suit is still visible against an even blacker background.
Originally shot on film, Nightmare still has the odd speck of grain dotted throughout. It's also not the sharpest picture I've seen, but carrying out some research, I discovered that this is wholly intentional and it adds to the effect of the film.
When we follow Jack to Christmas Town, things never really brighten up. Sure there's snow on the ground and houses are lit with metre upon metre of Christmas lighting, but it's still night time. However, the contrast in the colours between the two worlds is startling. Each Christmas light is given a kind of haze around it to make it glow - this bleeds slightly into the snow behind it - but again it's intentional.
When we move into peoples houses, there are fires burning brightly that look realistic enough to make you feel warm and festive inside.
Shadows are used to good effect throughout to hide spiders and the like - and nothing disappears into the background.
This would have been a perfect ten for me apart from a few speckles in the source material - it's nothing to get excited about and doesn't detract from the enjoyment of the film - but it does take away the perfection that would have led to a ten...
SoundI remember all those years ago when my copy of the Region 1 SD DVD dropped onto my doormat - I tore open the envelope like a kid on Christmas morning and danced a merry jig when I saw the letters DTS on the back! I was certain that it could never be bettered - boy was I wrong!
Christmas has come early for Blu-ray owners that buy this disc that own full 7.1 home cinema systems. Disney have deemed us worth of a lossless Dolby TrueHD 7.1 soundtrack that is simply out of this world.
I said in my review of the film that it would live or die by it's score. This Dolby TrueHD brings that score to life like never before. You can pinpoint each and every instrument in the orchestra - it's that good.
Of course, a film wouldn't be worth watching if the audience couldn't follow the story. Dialogue, both sung and spoken, is crisp and clear and anchored firmly to the centre channel. It's never drowned out by the action from other speakers and the story is easy to follow.
The surround channels are used to great effect to carry snippets of the score and sound effects. Stand out scene here is the when the Oogie Boogie Man gets his cloth hands on Sandy Claws and sings a brilliant jazz number accompanied by all kinds of monsters and nasties. The engineering in this scene alone is worth the price of the disc...
Being a Danny Elfman score, bass gets more than it's fair share of the proceedings. Most films use the action scenes to scare the pants of it's audience - Burton uses Elfmans ability to produce notes from an organ that are normally only heard in a church...it really does have the desired effect of making you feel slightly uneasy when things are getting a bit hairy onscreen...
All in all, a brilliant soundtrack that in all it's guises, has never sounded better.
ExtrasNightmare comes bundled with most of the extras that were on the Region 1 SD DVD - but does add one or two of its own - notably a couple of appearances by Burton himself introducing various things, but more impressively, a brand new commentary put together specifically for this Blu-ray disc.
Let's take a look at them in detail then...
What's This? Jacks Haunted Mansion Tour is a look at the various haunted mansion rides around the four Disneyland theme parks. Every year, from October to January Jack Skellington takes them over as Nightmare Before Christmas becomes the theme for them all.
This can be viewed one of three ways:
On Track - this a standard seven minute feature showing the four parks.
Off Track - a more comprehensive 37 minute long feature that includes the shorter version plus interviews with engineers from the parks describing how they change the theme each year.
Trivia Track - this can be opened during the shorter version. Various niff naff and trivia pops up at certain times detailing the history of the ride.
Tim Burtons Original Poem (HD 11.37). The film is actually based on a poem by the Burton-meister himself. It's read here by Christopher Lee (who seems to take a couple of minutes to actually get into it...) and accompanied by Burtons concept art for the film. To be honest, I found it a little to “Dr Seuss” for my liking.
Commentary by Producer Tim Burton, Director Henry Selleck and Composer Danny Elfman is a bit of a mish mash of three different commentaries (badly) spliced together. Danny Elfmans enthusiasm for the project shines through throughout - the directors part is taken from the SD DVD commentary - and Tim Burton pops up whenever anybody else has said anything interesting to clarify the matter...
Frankenweenie (SD 30.05).This is the original Tim Burton short made in 1994 about a boy who puts his dog back together after it's been run over. It's introduced by Tim Burton who tells us that a full length version is in pre-production - which for me, was excellent news!
Vincent is another of Burtons older short films about a young boy who worships Vincent Price - it's in the form of a poem read by Price himself and is animated using the stop motion technique. Could do with a bit of cleaning up to be honest - but it's a great piece.
Deleted Storyboards includes the storyboards for three scenes that never made it to the animation shop. These are:
Oogie boogie With Dancing Bugs
Alternate Identity Of old Oogie boogie
Deleted Animated Sequences features four scenes that made it to the animation shop but were deleted for timing reasons - all have a commentary in which Burton expresses his wish that they could have all been left in - particularly as though they were only a matter of seconds long...the scenes are:
Jacks Scientific Experiments - which I swear blind I saw in the film!
Vampire Hockey Players which is an amusing scene involving Tim Burtons head!
Lock Shock & Barrel which involves the trick or treat kids.
Oogie Boogie Shadow Dance which is the scene Burton really wanted left in the film - it's only 17 seconds long and it was removed to keep the time down!
The Making Of Tim Burtons Nightmare before Christmas (SD 24.44) is a fantastic documentary that goes into minute detail of the stop motion process. But don't watch this before you watch the film - it does contain one or two small spoilers - but DO watch it - it's one of the best “Making ofs” I've ever seen...
Halloween Town which could quite easily have been called “How Jack Skellington Came About”. It goes from the concept art to the animation tests that were shown to the Disney suits to get the film made.
Christmas Town which does the same for characters of Christmas town.
The Real World - as above - but for the scenes where Jack takes over Santa's job for the night...
Storyboard To Film Comparisons of a few scenes from the film set to Danny Elfmans music.
Posters And Trailers shows us the various posters that were used to advertise the film on its release.
These are backed up by the original teaser and theatrical trailers for the film - sadly these are presented in Standard Definition.
Digital Copy of the main feature to put on your PC or your ipod.
So there you have it. If you thought that the previous releases of this film were jam packed with extra features, in the words of one of Tim Burtons characters from a different film - Wait until You Get A Load Of These..(Ok, I changed the last word...). The commentary is a bit of a let down but there really is some fascinating stuff in there.
VerdictIf ever a film has benefited from a High Definition makeover, Tim Burtons The nightmare Before Christmas is it. Boasting never before seen detail it's a revelation and like watching the film for the first time
As a Blu-ray package, it benefits from a highly detailed almost glowing picture quality. There are things visible onscreen that I have never seen before - and, along with my teenage daughter, I must have watched this film at least twenty times before.
The soundtrack has been given a lossless makeover in the form of a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 track that does justice to Danny Elfmans wonderful score and Richard L Andersons sound engineering alike.
The extras package contains one or two items especially put together for this disc plus all the good stuff from previous releases. The commentary is a bit mish mash - but the rest more than make up for it. There's also a digital copy of the film for you to put on your ipod so that you can watch the movie on your way to work...
I think that where Disney may have shot themselves in the foot is with the pricing - leaving the digital copy out (does anybody use them...?) would have brought the price down a bit and made it a little more affordable...but it's not going to detract from my very high recommendation. It even comes in a delightful 3D slipcase, which I normally loathe...go buy now.
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