We’ll be counting down to Halloween with a new post each day about our personal favorite Halloween inspired and horror movies. To read our past lead up to Halloween coverage, click here.
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, like Hocus Pocus, is another cult classic from 1993 and is remarkably able to blend the joy of Christmas with the spooky thrill of Halloween. Jack Skellington, a resident of Halloween Town that’s “grown so tired of the same old thing”, stumbles upon Christmas Town. He falls in love with his new findings, and disastrously attempts to share it with his fellow denizens of Halloween Town.
The thought of mixing Halloween and Christmas almost seems like a cheap ploy by Hallmark to sell a new type of greeting card, but it works. Originally a poem by Tim Burton, he, screenwriter Caroline Thompson, and director Henry Selick were able to make a visually stunning and emotionally poignant film. The songs are catchy and the stop-motion puppetry is a delightful treat amongst so many traditionally and computer-animated films. Every scene feels like a glimpse from one of Tim Burton’s dreams.
Originality is a key to Nightmare’s success. With so many films, even in the 90s, being adaptations of classic stories, sequels, spinoffs, or reboots, it is incomparable to any other film. Although the title defines it by Halloween and Christmas, it stands out as more than a ‘holiday’ film. All the cogs of the film, the story, stop-motion, music, etc., work together to create not just a film, but an unconventional piece of art.
Nightmare resonates with viewers because it is a film about passions: Sally’s passion for Jack, and Jack’s passion for Halloween and Christmas. It also sends a message to viewers to celebrate those passions. While Jack isn’t successful with sharing Christmas with Halloween Town, his attempts and subsequent hijinks reinvigorate his passion for Halloween. The idea of being passionate about something and the joy can come from is a message applicable to anyone.
The film also helped pave the way for future “darker” Disney films. The film was originally released under Touchstone Pictures, a film distribution label of Disney’s. But, after popularity increased, the film was rereleased in the mid 2000s under the Disney name (cue the opening castle sequence). Nightmare showed the studio that they could be successful with creating darker films with the “family-friendly” Disney name attached. Since then, Disney has forayed into other darker films, like the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise.
Unlike other cult classic film, Nightmare can add timeless to its definition. It is able to avoid dating itself with styles and technology due to the fictional lands the story takes place in and the stop-motion animation. It allows younger audiences to fully engage with the story without the sometimes cheesy campiness other films retrospectively bank on. While it works for other films, Nightmare functions better without it.
Although not directed by Burton, this film showcases his creativity and imagination. Burton’s last entirely original film was Corpse Bride, which was released more than 10 years ago. Although his recent works are enjoyable and have the macabre Burton flare, there’s something missing in comparison to his own original content. Nightmare is a full serving of that Burton originally, which truly stands out both in his collective works and the history of cinema.