The Nightmare Before Christmas – Tim Burton at his best.

I’m sure you already know about Tim Burton’s classic gothic movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas, but it’s Halloween today, so it’s pretty much required viewing. As such, I thought it might be something interesting to talk about. Tim Burton has made many other great gothic film like Edward Scissorhands and Corpse Bride, but I feel none of them were quite as fantastic as The Nightmare Before Christmas.

The movie emulates the Disney musical format in a way, but with a dark and gothic twist visually. I found it made the movie very artistically appealing and set it apart from other similarly themed films–aside from Corpse Bride that is, which was basically just a rehash of it’s animation style because the devoted fans just wouldn’t let it end with just one movie. The movie makes use of a sort of claymation appearance, which is a very uncommon animation style. Because of this it allowed a more ‘real’ look to it while remaining surreal in it’s content.

The story follows Jack Skellington, also knowns as Pumpkin Jack–he is looked up to by all the fellow residents of his zany home of Halloween Town. Every year the townsfolk make intricate and elaborate plans to make October 31st the scariest day of the year. Jack is depressed by living this same life every year, planning Halloween. He wishes for something different–he desires variety in his repetitive life. He begins to wonder if there is more to life than Halloween and begins to search for somethiing different.

While wandering in the woods, Jack and his ghostly pet dog, Zero find several trees with doors on them leading to to other holiday-themed worlds. Jack, in his curiousity, accidentally enters Christmas Town, a land of joy and holiday spirit. Jack, fascinated by this unique new world, quickly returns to Halloween Town, where he presents the townspeople with his slightly inaccurate impressions of Christmas. The townspeople, who also become interested in the holiday, agree to celebrate Christmas. Jack leads the attempted festivities as Santa Claus but Sally, Jack’s secret admirer, sees only disaster in his plans.With the unusual Christmas gifts and decorations they create , being more frightening and grotesque than pleasing, it is apparent that she assumes correctly. Jack ignores Sally’s concerns and asks her to create his Santa Claus outfit. Jack then assigns Lock, Shock and Barrel, a trio of mischevious, child-like monsters, to transport Santa to Halloween Town. They, after mistakenly capturing the Easter Bunny, successfully kidnap Santa Claus. Against Jack’s wishes and largely for their own amusement, the trio deliver Santa to the lair of Ogie Boogie, a sadistic, compulsive gambler who plots to play a game with Santa’s life.

Christmas soon arrives and, although Sally attempts to stop him, Jack embarks into the sky on a coffin-like sled pulled by skeletal reindeer, hoping to deliver presents to children around the world; although the townspeople are overjoyed, Sally wanders off alone; defeated. As Jack begins delivering gifts, children are horrified by their monstrous, animated presents, while their parents believe Jack to be a monster attempting to imitate Santa Claus. The military shoot him out of the sky, destroying his sleigh. Although Jack is initially depressed, he realizes he is still the ruler of Halloween Town and can bring joy to the world in his own way.

Sally attempts to free Santa, only to be captured by Oogie Boogie. Just as they are about to be killed by immersion in a foul stew, Jack arrives and challenges their captor. Oogie Boogie flees, placing his complex, sophisticated, deadly gaming machines in Jack’s path as obstacles. However, Oogie Boogie becomes tangled in one of his own machines and is split open, revealing himself to be merely an animated sackful of insects. Most of Oogie’s “bugs” fall into the stew and are boiled alive.

Santa Claus, freed, reprimands Jack, then sets off to correct Christmas by exchanging Jack’s frightening toys for more pleasant hings. This he does successfully. Jack and Sally return to Halloween Town, aided by a reformed Lock, Shock, and Barrel. There, they embrace atop a spiral-shaped, flexible extension of land, while Zero looks on from afar. Sally has been replaced in Dr. Finklestein’s service by another mannequin, leaving her free to live with Jack.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a very unusual movie and is definitely required viewing among your Halloween festivities! If you happen to have not yet seen this wonderful holiday classic I suggest you go check it out!

You can buy the Japanese version and some cool merch at Play-Asia.

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