CGB Halloween Special: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

(Commencing musical mode) Boys and girls of every age, would you like to see something strange?  Come with me and you will see, this my blog called CGB.  This is CGB, this is CGB, movies screened in the dead of night.  This is CGB, everybody make a scene with good dialogue and pacing, too.  La, la, la, la-la la, la, la, la-la la, la, la, la-la la, la-la la, Wheeeeeee!

This is my review of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas!

Jack Skelllington is the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, who keeps the town in order along with the Mayor.  He has a serious case of Disney Princess syndrome, in which he longs for a life that is greater than his current existence.  One day he finds a series of doors, each marked with the symbol of different holidays.  He opens a Christmas tree door and ends up in Christmastown. Enchanted with the wonder and whimsy of the Christmas season, Jack decides to bring some of that Christmasness to Halloweentown.
Oh, yes, I have a history with The Nightmare Before Christmas.  When this movie came out, I was a wee little tyke.

Baby CGB! ^_^
Baby CGB! ^_^

According to my Mom, any time Sally the ragdoll popped up in a TV ad for the movie, I would bawl my eyes out while holding on to her [Mom] for dear life.  Also Jack’s empty eye sockets didn’t make things much better.  To put it simply, I wanted nothing to do with this movie.
Now I have watched it as an adult and gave it my undivided attention.  Here are the Hits and Misses.

The Hits
Good Lord Almighty, the animation is spectacular!   The opening song “This is Halloween” is catchy and establishes the world very well.  Halloweentown is definitely a character in its own right.  It’s scary in a playful way.  The goblins and ghouls are creepy, but never menancing.  Scares are done all in good fun.  Also it is pretty funny when a character says “it’s a terrible day,” what they really mean is, “it’s a good day.”  It’s like a never-ending opposite day!
Sally made me cry as a child.  As an adult, Sally is my favorite character.  Even though she’s supposed to be Jack’s love interest, she is written as a guardian angel who helps Jack and just happens to become a love interest later on.  There’s an adage in writing, “No one sees themselves as a supporting character.”  This movie takes this adage to heart and keeps Sally from being a generic supporting love interest.  I would argue that Sally is the only character who develops naturally.
This movie was made in a time where movies weren’t bloated with clunky exposition and heavy-handed dialogue (I’m looking at you, Jupiter Ascending!) This structure works to an extent because the story gets right to the point and Jack discovers Christmastown five minutes after the film’s prologue.
This movie has Christian allegory all over the place.  I don’t know if Tim Burton (producer) or Henry Selick (director) had some Christian leanings, but someone on set was awfully familiar with Christianity, as well as the lives of the Saints. Jack’s Christmastown discovery is like Saint Paul’s conversion minus being struck blind.  In the second act, there’s a whole montage of Jack trying to understand the “science” of Christmas.  If you listen to the song “Jack’s Obsession,” the lyrics are like listening to Edith Stein or Augustine of Hippo’s thoughts right after they converted to Catholicism.  When Jack tries to introduce his fellow Halloween denizens to Christmas elements, it plays like Saint Paul explaining Christianity to the Corinthians.  As for the third act/climax, it’s basically a reenactment of the Crucifixion and Resurrection, right down to when Jack goes down to Oogie Boogie’s Hellish lair to rescue Sally and Santa Claus, reminiscent of Jesus’ descent into Hell.

The Misses
I really like Jack, but I feel that his character develops too rapidly.  Because all of his revelations come through his songs, they never naturally progress with his evolution.  I have no issue with hearing his thoughts through a song, but maybe one or two quiet moments where his facial expressions are used to show us how he’s feeling without musical accompaniment would have been nice.
The villain Oogie Boogie feels very shoehorned into the story.  I’m not too well-versed on the making of this movie, so I wouldn’t know if Oogie was always in the story or was added during production, but he’s not developed enough to have much presence as an antagonistic force.  The whole “bringing Christmas to Halloweentown” conflict works well on its own to where a villain isn’t necessary. Maybe an earlier scene where Oogie is seen mocking Jack’s efforts to his face would have established a tangible rivalry between the two.
I said how the plot’s get-to-the-point structure works to an extent.  I say this because the only downside is the story feels like it is going by a bit too fast at times.  Emotional reactions aren’t given a lot of time to sink in with the audience.

When I was in junior high, I came across quite a few people who were passionate about drawing and becoming animators.  When I would ask them why, they all answered something to the effect of, “I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas and it inspired me.”  To this day, these same friends are working to become professional animators.  After seeing this movie, I totally get why Nightmare Before Christmas is the crowned jewel of animation culture.  It’s a beautifully realized film with an innovative story to go along with it.  The Nightmare Before Christmas is an inspired dream that any animation fan will want to revisit again and again.

Saint Nicholas, pray for us.

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