What’s this? What’s this? Tim Burton’s The Nightmare before Christmas was NOT directed by Tim Burton?!
The Nightmare before Christmas (1993) is a stop-motion family musical directed by Henry Selick (still surprised by that) and stars Chris Sarandon and Danny Elfman as the voices for Jack Skellington, the undisputed leader of Halloweentown. After another successful Halloween night, Jack expresses that he feels dissatisfied with his current job, until he discovers the secret entrance to Christmas Town, and decides to recreate Christmas in his image.
As the premise suggests, this is a deeply original and imaginative piece of entertainment. While Burton did not direct this, his gloomy fingerprints are all over it (he did still write and produce it so there’s that) and every frame drips with his unique gothic taste. Sure the plot doesn’t make any real sense, but that’s not the point – its about the visuals and imagination that brings this premise to life.
I cannot overstate this enough – the aesthetic for this film is incredible. The character and environment designs are all perfect, being both endearing and gross in equal measures. The medium of stop-motion fits this idea so well – I doubt it would be anywhere near as impressive in traditional animation. I will admit 23 years have not been kind to the stop-motion, but its a small consort to how visually rich this trip into Halloween town is.
While a musical may initially seem like an odd choice, it only takes a good 30 seconds into the first song before it seems perfectly logical. With the creative genius of Danny Elfman behind it (and front and centre as the excellent singing voice of Jack Skellington), almost every song is either catchy, wondrous, interesting or simply pure magical. Although note I did say almost. Not every song is memorable, and a few numbers feel either out of place or simply not very interesting. But 90% (approximately) is still a damn good hit rate.
If you love Tim Burton, stop-motion animation, musicals, or even just pure imagination, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a must-see. Visually rich, beautifully original and full of memorable songs, this is a nightmare you won’t want to wake up from any time soon.
General Audiences: Must-see
Film Buffs: Must-see
Kids: Highly Recommended