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The Nightmare Before Christmas Review

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by AVForums Sep 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

    The Nightmare Before Christmas Review
    I think the question that comes to most people after watching a Tim Burton film is “What exactly does go on in his mind?”. Whenever a Burton film starts to roll, it's full of his distinctive trademarks and styling - from the throbbing bass in the theme tune to the characteristic styling of the sets, the lighting and the odd pumpkin turning up here and there...it certainly is some imagination.

    This imagination was groomed as an animator for Walt Disney studios. The frustrated Burton would often make his own films in his spare time and present them to large studios for viewing - often without reward. Poetry was also at the forefront of Burtons brilliant mind and he had previously come up with a poem about a skeleton that ran Halloween. Not quite fulfilled (maybe like the writer...?), the skeleton decides that Halloween wasn't enough this year and sets his sights on Christmas as well.


    Sound familiar? It should do because that poem went on to become Tim Burtons The Nightmare Before Christmas, made in 1993 using the stop motion animation process. Full to the brim with the aforementioned Burton trademarks, it expands the poem to the point of overflowing and introduces us to some of the strangest yet most fantastic characters to ever grace a cinema screen.

    The skeleton is actually Jack Skellington, pumpkin king of Halloweentown. Bored of his mundane life of scaring children once a year, he believes there must be more to life than this. He's out walking through the woods the day after Halloween and he comes across some trees with doors on them - each door has a symbol on it. Jack goes through the one with the Christmas tree on it and ends up in Christmas Town. Here he sees, for the first time, “The Real world” in a totally new light. There's snow on the ground, people are excited and all talking about the man called “Sandy Claws” that's going to visit them soon.

    Jack has the brilliant idea that Halloween town should relieve Sandy of his duties this year and he'll take his place.

    Sandy is kidnapped at the second attempt by the trick or treat kids and handed over to the Oogie Boogie Man. This is Burtons interpretation of the Bogey Man that terrorised us all when we were kids - but being a musical film, The Bogey Man is given a musical make over and is the grooviest sack of maggots that you'll ever see - literally!

    Of course, things don't go according for poor Jack Skellington on Christmas Eve. For some strange reason, the children of the real world don't appreciate the presents he's left for them, which include a giant python and a couple of vampire dolls that come to life and terrorise the poor children and their family. Instead of making Christmas the joyous occasion that it should be, it all goes horribly wrong...and only one man can put it right - but he now needs rescuing from the Oogie Boogie Man!


    I shall cover the picture quality in the appropriate section - but on a separate note, I really do need to mention the visuals. Every single frame is like an individual canvas painted by a master. I have included several stills from the film for those of you that have yet to have the pleasure, but to say they are stunning is simply not praise enough. The amount of detail that's in each and every scene is incredible - and it's all brought to the fore on this Blu-ray disc.

    when Mr Burton introduces the film, it comprises of about twenty five words that say that it's finally available with all the textures on show for the first time. When I heard it, I thought “Gee Tim, thanks for that...must have taken an age to come up with that intro”. Fact is, he had just watched the film and was probably as gob-smacked as I was with what is presented onscreen. I've seen the film at least twenty times (it's a favourite of my youngest daughter Jess) and it really was like watching it for the first time. I'll bleat on a bit more about the picture in the correct section - but needless to say, it's good...


    Partnerships In Hollywood normally come onscreen. However, a significant partnership off-screen has been formed between Tim Burton and the composer Danny Elfman. Elfman has written the score for ten of Burtons films - starting with Pee-Wees Big Adventure back in 1985. He has a very distinctive style of writing music that involves a lot of percussion that seems to suits Burtons style of film making down to the ground. Elfman is also writing the score for next years remake of The Wolf Man, directed by Joe Johnson. Of course, Danny's biggest claim to fame is the fact that he has written the music for over 350 episodes of The Simpsons

    But what of the music for The Nightmare...? In a word? Ingenious! Being a kind of opera, this film was going to live or die by its score - and it's alive and kicking!

    Elfman himself sings the role of Jack Skellington (though his talking scenes are voiced by Chris Sarandon, an American actor best known for small TV parts) - and you can tell that he's having a ball by being able to come out from behind his podium. He also wrote they lyrics that tell the story so well - there's far to many to pick one to quote here - but if you held a loaded skeletal finger to my head, I think it would be this one from Jack Skellington


    There's children throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads. They're busy building toys and absolutely no one's dead!


    That one line probably shows how Burtons mind differentiates between Christmas and Halloween. The characters themselves are works of pure art. There's the trick or treat kids, Lock, Shock and Barrel who are slaves to Jacks every command. The mayor, who has two faces and asks how, as an elected official, he is to be expected to make a decision on his own...?

    Then there's Sally - poor Sally. A creation of Dr Finkelstein who keeps losing various parts of her anatomy as she seems like a rag doll sewn together. If you look closely, I think that you'll agree with me that we see Sally appear Burtons animated tale of The Corpse Bride as the bride herself...what do you reckon...?

    The main character, Jack Skellington, reminded me a little of a character from The Wizard Of Oz - he so wanted a heart so he could do good things. But in the end, it seems that he was actually put here to do evil. The best thing he can do is try and put right one of his wrongs and rescue Santa from the clutches of the Oogie Boogie Man so that Christmas can be saved - before it's too late.


    I've enjoyed many viewings of this film with my daughter Jess - none more so than when we clapped eyes on this superb Blu-ray disc from Disney. We both agreed that it was like watching it for the first time and had spotted many things that were otherwise lost to murky backgrounds.

    Needless to say, I give this film the highest recommendation possible and that each and every one of you should start behaving now - so's that you're not on the naughty list come Christmas time and you might just be lucky enough to get this as a present from Sandy...