The Nightmare Before Christmas introduced stop-motion animation to brand new audiences and managed to be creepy, funny and rollicking good fun in the process.
Fifteen years on from its original release, Nightmare has lost none of its ability to amuse and beguile and I would be happy to recommend anyone to file this next to his or her Harry Potter boxsets.
The film tells the story of Jack Skellington, Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. Bored of a life of scaring the wits out of people, he yearns to see what else is out there and gets his wish when he chances upon a portal to Christmas Town, home of jolly old Saint Nick, a bunch of shiny, happy people and bucket loads of snow. Longing to experience more, he decides to hijack Christmas for himself and the people of Halloween Town, kidnapping Santa in the process. Naturally, all hell breaks loose come Christmas Eve and it’s up to Jack to puts things right.
The phrase ‘movie magic’ is thrown around all too easily in many film reviews but they’re two words that couldn’t be more appropriate here. Within its relatively tight running time (clocking in at just 76 minutes), The Nightmare Before Christmas expertly weaves together a genuine seasonal classic, featuring scene after scene of now classic imagery. It’s packed full of memorable characters (including my favourites the mischievous trick or treaters Lock, Shock and Barrel), amazing songs and fantastical set designs.
Just focussing on those songs for a second, The Nightmare Before Christmas owes a great deal to Danny Elfman. His work in this film must rank as some of his best ever. His vocal performance as the singing voice of Jack Skellington (the spoken parts come courtesy of Chris Sarandon) is excellent, as are the songs and compositions on display. Best of the lot has to be either What’s This? or the Town Meeting Song, both perfectly married by excellent animated set pieces.
Setting the movie in fantastical worlds allows the animators to go on flights of fancy and it pays off time and time again. Whether it’s the creepy Oogie Boogie, the (literally) two-faced Mayor or the mad scientist, Doctor Finkelstein, almost every character has been carefully thought out and constructed.
Great for kids, even better for adults, The Nightmare Before Christmas went against the grain, proving that you could make scary movies that children could enjoy.
As for extras, this collector’s edition is a bit of a cheat, with most of the included features having been previously released in the special edition of the film. The extras are mightily impressive though. As well as a smattering of deleted scenes and animated sequences, there are also posters, original trailers, a storyboard-to-film comparison and a brief behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film. Best of all, though, are the small films included: Vincent, an animated short narrated by the great Vincent Price, and Frankenweenie, a live action short that Burton gives a brief introduction to, explaining that it’s in the process of being turned into a full animated feature, due for release in 2009.
The only other new extras to this edition are a new audio commentary by Tim Burton, director Henry Selick and Danny Elfman, and Tim Burton’s original poem that was the inspiration behind the film. Read by Christopher Lee, and illustrated by concept art, it’s a definite highlight if, like me, you’ve never heard or read it before. Finally, there’s a blatant bit of marketing for Disney via the Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour, which looks at how the attraction at Disney’s theme parks are revamped over the Christmas period to reflect the film.
Obviously there are an awful lot of extras included with the film and for anyone, like me, who doesn’t already own the special edition, this is a no-brainer. However, if you do own the special edition already and aren’t dying to get hold of the admittedly impressive packaging of this collector’s disc, it might be worth sticking with what you’ve got.
What we have here then is the best edition yet of one of Tim Burton’s greatest films (and he didn’t even direct it!). A fantastic 5.1 soundtrack and wonderful, crisp colours finish things off perfectly. Christmas has never looked, or sounded, so dark.
Feature:Extras: (take off two if you’ve got the special edition already)