It is not often that you can watch a cinematic melding of two completely different holidays. Halloween and Christmas are some of the most fun holidays to be enjoyed when especially when you are a child but the themes that are in both could not be more different. One, Christmas, boasts cheer and good will towards man…while Halloween’s main catchphrase is “Trick or Treat” and many of the motifs and themes around the holiday tend to be about scares. But hot dog, Tim Burton, with his ever-so creative nature, was able to meld the two together in an amalgam of joy, terror, the holiday spirit and Halloween darkness all into one great film that is The Nightmare Before Christmas. And, like many of the movies on my Christmas list this year, there is great controversy and to whether or not this film is a “Christmas movie” or whether it is a “Halloween movie”– to which I ask…. why not both?
The film follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the “real world.” When Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he gets a new lease on life — he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. But Jack soon discovers even the best-laid plans of mice and skeleton men can go seriously awry.
Now, whether you like this film for the Christmas aspect or the Halloween aspect, there is no question that this movie is extremely creative and fun while still allowing it to feel eerie and creepy at times. Part of that has to do with the visuals. It is tough to see jolly tones mixed with skeletons and ghosts and bugs galore– and that’s the point of the film. Jack falls in love with the idea of Christmas and wants his townfolk, who have only ever been exposed to scares and ghastly things, take over the holiday. And it is so much fun to see them try their very best to make the holiday absolutely perfect only to have it blow up in their faces. You watch the entire time thinking “oh man, this won’t end well!” and yeah… it doesn’t… ends exactly as disastrous and awesome as you thought it would!
But Jack does share the spirit of Christmas, he is captivates by its themes and joy and honestly doesn’t even know how to describe it all. And in a terribly vain and idiotic move, he decides to steal the holiday from Santa– kidnapping him in the process. He has, however, good will during it all and only wants to get his old self back– the young Jack Skeleton that he feels has been gone for a long long time. And then a Christmas miracle happens… after failing and nearly ruining Christmas, Jack finds himself again and resolves to make Halloween, once again, the best it can be next year. And with new vigor and self confidence- he sets out to free Santa Claus and fix Christmas.
So yeah, is it a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie? It really doesn’t matter which– it fits perfectly in between both. It is not overly Halloween-y or overly Christmas-themed. Watch it on both holidays and enjoy it during each! This is a great family film– but maybe not great for kids that are too young as they might find some of the guts or bugs a little too gross but hey, they have to see the film sometime right!?
Danny Elfman found writing Nightmare’s 10 songs as “one of the easiest jobs I’ve ever had. I had a lot in common with Jack Skellington.”
In 2001, Walt Disney Pictures began to consider producing a sequel, but rather than using stop motion, Disney wanted to use computer animation. Tim Burton convinced Disney to drop the idea. “I was always very protective of [Nightmare] not to do sequels or things of that kind,” Burton explained. “You know, ‘Jack visits Thanksgiving world’ or other kinds of things just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it,” Burton said.
It took a group of around 100 people three years to complete this movie. For one second of film, up to 12 stop-motion moves had to be made.
There are only two shots in the entire film that were filmed at normal speed (24fps), one is the opening overhead shot of the trees in the forest and the other is the bugs falling into the molten pit in Oogie Boogie’s lair.