There are so many magical things about Christmas time. Even if you despise the unnatural smiling and canned merriment, Christmas is a special time of year for those who like to imagine that there is more to the world than electric cables, chemical reactions and expiration dates. Those of us who have ever shared a vision with Guru of Gloom, Tim Burton understand that Christmas is a time when people are open to suggestion, and one such suggestion exists in Burton/Selick masterpiece, The Nightmare Before Christmas.
What if Santa Clause really does exist? Not only this, but what if he exists in a far away land called Christmas Town? And what if a resident of neighbouring Halloween Town stumbled upon this unique concept of Christmas, and decided to take over from ol’ Sandy Claws and reinvent Christmas as only The Pumpkin King can…?
Tim Burton’s astonishing story is one of a kind, but still encloses the classic Christmas tale of love and acceptance.
Watching Jack Skellington (Sarandon) attempt to unravel the ‘meaning’ behind Christmas is fascinating. For those who have grown up surrounded by festive paraphernalia, whether you are a church-goer of not, the concept of Christmas is drummed into your skull.
The act of watching someone who lives in a world where Halloween is the ultimate celebration, trying to understand staples such as the Christmas tree, presents or even the motive behind snow, is alien. It also highlights exactly how much of s formula both Christmas and Halloween are, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We have developed our customs and expectations which mean if Christmas commenced without a tree or lights, the formula would be ruin. Again, what makes The Nightmare Before Christmas so enthralling is watching a town of people put together their own hideously misguided version of each unit in the Christmas equation.
Without Selick’s involvement, however, The Nightmare Before Christmas would be nothing like the film it has become. Selick’s masterful creations are always a joy to behold. From the Clown with The Tear Away Face (Danny Elfman), to each of the elves in Christmas town, every character is a stroke of genius from the team of collaborators, and is brought to life in the most grotesque style.
The characters of Jack and Sally (O’Hara) in particular have quickly become cult icons. Jack Skellington is the most famous man in Halloween Town, but he is also the loneliest. Though he is never without his dog, Zero, he knows that deep inside there is something missing and mistakenly attempts to fill this vortex with his visions of his own Christmas. Sally, a rag doll who is kept prisoner by her mad scientist creator, is just as lonely – though her loneliness stems from her secret feelings towards Jack. The love story that blossoms between the rag doll and the skeleton is as touching as any other, and rather than exposing an extravagant romance like so many Christmas films, The Nightmare Before Christmas brings together two lost souls who have always been destined to spend their lives with one another.
The film has to its advantage that is has been created by somewhat of a dream team in animation. The initial ideas were plucked from the imagination of Burton, which were then crafted into existence by Selick, to finally be set to the songs and music of cinema maestro Danny Elfman. The winning combination of these three artists means The Nightmare Before Christmas was always going to be something special, and is approaching twenty years as a defining animation feature film.
Christmas is a time for tradition, and there are hundreds of movies to choose from to get you in a festive mood. This would be my recommendation because even if you would rather melt your own eyeballs than take part in the organised happiness of Christmas day, you can still find so much to enjoy, and also be shown Christmas from a perspective you are never likely to experience yourself.