Pros:very innovative, quite an original story, interesting characters, a classic in its own right
Cons:personally I wanted it to be more scary
The Bottom Line: An innovative film that is recommended for its interesting premise and intoxicating characters.
The film Nightmare Before Christmas really brought a new genre to the field of Christmas films that had forever relied on the typical candy coated family film. Breaking the mold, you could almost say that the film looked at a possible dark side of the holiday, taking the form of almost a horror film in its presentation. Done in stop-action animation, where the characters are staged, shot, and then re-staged for another shot, its a tougher way to go than a normal film, and shows how much work that Director Henry Selick and Creator Tim Burton were willing to put forth in order to create a success. What they did come away with was an intriguing look at a blend of Halloween and Christmas with a dash of humor and a lot of interesting characters that has made this film really stand by itself as one of Burton's best works.
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Nightmare Before Christmas came out right around Halloween in 1993, and centers on the character of Jack Skellington, who is the King of Halloween town. He is basically in charge of Halloween, from making sure the scares are frequent, to keeping order in the town. The thing is though, he has become bored with the same thing happening every year, and wants to branch out a little bit. While walking through the dark forests near where he lives, he comes across Christmas town, and suddenly he sees a whole new version of life. The people there are much more jolly, and this whole new season completely enthralls the normally scary man from Halloween town. One thing he is not though, is modest, feeling that he can do a better job of Christmas than Santa Claus, and hatches a plot to have him kidnapped and take over the job himself. Thus a plan is unfolded to have the creatures of Halloween take over Christmas.
This is a story that really does carve its own notch in the genre of holiday films. Nothing like it had been seen before, and putting darker characters into the Christmas season really created a classic story. What Burton created here was a very recognizable piece of cinema, and my respect goes out for the meticulously intense level of work that had to go into making the film. Posing the characters only to re-pose them, and then do it again for each and every frame shows how much work goes into stop-animation, and gets extra points from this fan of film for the sheer dedication it took for the creators. I would also have to say that the patience of the director and camera-man had to be at a pretty high level in order to get the final creation to work for the viewing public. I think that all of the hard work did indeed pay off in the end, because anybody who has seen the film will not soon forget about it.
Though this is a darker animated film, its not the typical horror you would expect from some films, but rather a cartoonish representation that works hard at injecting humor and sarcasm to go along with the visual representation. That is why I think it is a film that could be enjoyed by everyone in the family, because it strives to break out of being pigeon-holed, and gives something that nearly any viewer would enjoy watching. I would also be remiss if I didn't point out the great voices and songs that include Chris Sarandon as the voice of Jack, Catherine O'Hara as his interest Sally, and Danny Elfman as the singing voice of Jack. There are a number of songs that connect some of the story elements, and you get your typical score from Elfman in a film that Burton is involved with. If you are looking for something different for the holiday season, this is a great film to see, because it gives you a different perspective, but does so in an interesting and non-threatening fashion.
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