Deechelle Discuss: Nightmare Before Christmas

Posted: December 16, 2011 by Dee in Dee, Deechelle, Holiday, Jach, Movies
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This is one of those Christmas movies we both completely agree on, and because of that we decided to look at it together and talk about what makes the Nightmare Before Christmas such a fantastic holiday movie.

The Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1993 and it was based off of a poem Tim Burton wrote when he was a Disney animator. At first they planned on doing it as a short or a special, but once Burton started to get some fame they put money behind it and he was a co-writer/producer. The director however is Henry Selick, which a lot of people forget because Tim Burton’s name is otherwise all over this movie. Danny Elfman considered this a very personal project and he not only did the music, he is the singing voice of the main character. The story is about Jack Skellington, the hero and leader of Halloween Town. They plan every year for a scary Halloween, and the town is made up of witches, monsters, werewolves, vampires, and other creepy looking creatures. Jack is bored of doing the same thing every year, and he feels like he’s in a rut. He stumbles into a mysterious set of trees where there’s a door leading to different locations. He goes for the Christmas tree and finds himself in Christmas Town. He falls in love and ends up deciding to steal Christmas for himself, convincing the rest of the town to take over Christmas with him. They arrange for Santa to be kidnapped, all the toys are made by them, and Jack himself plans to deliver everything to the unsuspecting houses. This goes about as terribly as you can imagine with a bunch of monsters trying to understand Christmas. The only sane person in the entire town, Sally, tries to save Santa from the villainous Oogie Boogie and wake Jack up to the reality of what he’s doing before it’s too late.

First Memory of This Movie

Dee: I saw it in in the theaters when it came out. I was 9 years old. My parents didn’t know much about it but they heard Disney and Halloween movie and thought ‘why not.’ They were both absolutely horrified by the movie and thought I would be terrified as it went. Instead they got more concerned because I was laughing out loud and clapping my hands in excitement. I loved every second of it. The only time I got upset in the movie was when Jack got shot down, of course! My favorite scene growing up was pulling the decapitated head out of the box. Even as a child I had a macabre sense of humor. My parents ended up scarred, and I ended up with a new favorite Disney movie.

Jach: I’ll be the first to admit it- I was a WUSS when I was a kid. I got scared of everything. Seriously. It’s a well-loved tale in my family that on a trip to Disneyland, I was so terrified by the Queen of Hearts on the Alice in Wonderland ride, that I ran out and tried to warn all the kids in line not to go in. Yeah. That happened. Needless to say, I was not lining up to see Nightmare when it was in theatres. It wasn’t until it was out on VHS that I ever sat down to watch it. I was around 10 at the time, and although I was a little late to the party, I did fall in love with the movie as soon as I saw it. I adored all the colorful characters in Halloween Town, and as a kid, (okay, as an adult too) I LOVE the holidays, so the idea that there were different worlds dedicated to a single holiday really appealed to me.

Adult Reflection of This Movie

Dee: I’ve seen this movie a lot since I was a child, and as I grew up I think I only came to appreciate the genius in it more. Pixar, in my opinion, owes a lot of its ability to test limits to something like Nightmare. It proved a truly excellent movie could be made about adult subjects. I mentioned in my Christmas movies blog that the essence of this story is about a mid-life crisis, and it has a lot of existential questioning from Jack when he’s trying to figure out Christmas. This isn’t really something that children would understand, but adults can really connect to. Pixar makes all its money handling adult situations for children, but this is one of the first films for kids I can remember actually doing it very well. Looking back I really attach myself to Jack and his quest for something greater than what he’s known. He truly regrets his selfishness and learns to appreciate what he has. I think that’s a message anyone can understand. I love it more now than I did then.

Jach: Dee touched on a lot of my feelings regarding the adult subjects running throughout the film. I absolutely agree that Nightmare paved the way for intelligent children’s movies that can be enjoyed by adults as well. So, instead or reiterating everything she just said, I’ll touch on some other aspects that make this film such a stand-out for me. Namely the visuals and the music. The choice to create this film with stop-motion instead of the traditional animation was right on the money. I can’t imagine seeing this movie any other way. It just wouldn’t be the same. The landscapes and the towns created for the settings are like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and it’s honestly breathtaking. I’m still not surprised to find new things each and every time I watch. And the music, dear lord, the music. Danny Elfman outdid himself with the music in this film. So often in children’s movies we’re given cutesy simple little songs that are easy for kids to remember and sing along to. But Nightmare gives us so much more than that. The lyrics are clever and witty, and Elfman wasn’t afraid to add a little melancholy and real meaning to them. The  end result is just stunning. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to appreciate everything that goes into the films I watch, and this movie is definitely the whole package. Great story, characters I can connect with, amazing visuals, fantastic music. As much as I loved this movie as a kid, I means so much more to me as an adult.

Favorite Song

Dee: Jack’s Lament
Jach: This Is Halloween. Both the original version in the movie, and the Marilyn Manson version that was recorded with the movie’s re-release.

Least Favorite Song

Dee: Town Meeting Song
Jach: Sally’s Song

Favorite Character

Dee: Jack (I know obvious)
Jach: The Mayor

Least Favorite Character

Dee: Doctor Finklestein
Jach: Doctor Finklestein

Favorite Scene

Dee: The ending sequence with Jack and Sally. It’s just so freaking beautiful.
Jach: Jack discovering Christmas Town. I love the childlike wonder he has about it all.

Least Favorite Scene

Dee: The actual capture of Santa Claus. After the song about kidnapping him, I was disappointed it turned out to be so simple. They had a chance here to do a really fun visual gag.
Jach: This was really hard to choose! I’m going with the scene where Jack is handing out jobs to the townspeople. Just because I hate when Sally tries to talk to him and he brushes her off.

Where It Ranks As Favorite Animated (Stop-Motion or otherwise) Movie

Dee: This is usually listed as my favorite animated movie of all time, and I think it stands true. I’ve seen it so many times by now I can’t imagine another one beating it out.
Jach: I’m not sure if I’m willing to bestow top ranking to Nightmare, because I’m a huge fan of animated films, and there are so many that I love. It’s hard for me to pick an absolute favorite. But this one is definitely up there. Absolutely in the top three. It is so amazingly well done relevant to kids and adults alike. It’s a film I know I am always going to enjoy, no matter how many times I’ve seen it, or how old I get.

If you haven’t seen this video we greatly recommend it:

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