“‘Twas a long time ago, longer now than it seems in a place perhaps you’ve seen in your dreams. For the story you’re about to be told began with the holiday worlds of auld. Now you’ve probably wondered where holidays come from. If you haven’t I’d say it’s time you begun…”
In addition to one of the endless versions of A Christmas Carol, and endless showings of A Christmas Story, a tradition I and many other freaks and geeks (and otherwise normal people) keep each year is watching Disney’s enchantingly odd story, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. This quirky tale of Halloween characters trying to take over the Yuletide has built up quite a following since it first sang out in 1993, with everything from music boxes to pajamas to Jack Skellington action figures rolling out each year as decorations and presents, sparking that now-frequent debate: is this a Halloween or a Christmas movie?
(hint: the answer is in the title).
Almost two decades later, the film doesn’t feel dated but actually ages like a fine wine, with excellent direction by Henry Selick, timeless stop-motion animation and the whimsical score by my favorite modern composer, Danny Elfman. The upgraded 3D edition isn’t essential but does add a layer of depth, and the more one views the film you can’t help but wonder what really goes on inside Tim Burton‘s mind. Despite the notion that he lives in a world of imagination all his own, the longings and struggles expressed through the character of Jack Skellington are so familiar and universal that they resonate in all of us.
In light of that truth, for Christmas this year Cinemagogue will look at the ways the Nightmare Before Christmas explores basic aspects of our own condition, grasping with wonder and confusion at this “Christmas” thing and often coming to mixed and muddled conclusions. Instead of the 12 Days of Christmas, we’ll host the 7 Nightmares of Christmas. Hold on to that coffin-shaped sleigh, because we’re going for a ride… (click here!)