Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #237
Diretor: Henry Selick
Starring: Danny Elfman and Chris Sarandon
I was thinking about waiting to do this one until either Halloween or Christmas Eve or Christmas, any of which would have been more relevant than August 12th, but oh well – I worked from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. today, and I did not at all feel like watching a movie when I got home. Instead, I'll be covering a movie that I've probably seen twenty times since its release. It's a minor holiday classic, and probably my favorite animated film of all time, so I shouldn't have any problem singing its praises for a few paragraphs.
The Nightmare Before Christmas follows Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown, as he faces a midlife crisis and finds himself questioning the merits of Halloween. Feeling empty, he stumbles upon Christmas Town and becomes immediately obsessed with that cheery holiday. He decides he and his Halloween cronies will try to pull off Christmas this year, and while his intentions are in the right place, the execution is painfully flawed, and he very nearly ruins the holiday. All this is driven by a classic Disney soundtrack written (and primarily sung) by former Oingo Boingo mainman and frequent Tim Burton collaborator Danny Elfman. Naturally, though, with Elfman and producer Burton pulling the strings, the result is much darker and much more tongue-in-cheek than the typical Disney fare, and it gives the film a dimension that helps to thrust it head-and-shoulders above films like Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid.
The most notable thing about this movie is the animation. For the first time in history, stop motion photography looked seamless and gorgeous, and actually suggested that there might be a real future in feature-length animated movies that weren't hand-drawn. (Toy Story confirmed this two years later.) I won't pretend to fully understand how stop-motion animation works, but the team behind Nightmare did an amazing job of moving their little figurines around and photographing them to create the illusion of motion. The illusion is so convincing, in fact, that the movie could pass for rudimentary computer animation – unlike the tragic current trend of making a film with rudimentary computer animation and trying to pass it off as stop-motion. 9, I'm looking straight at you.
The only real tragedy in this movie is that even though it was Tim Burton's baby – he wrote the poem it was based on when he was working as an animator for Disney in the early 1980s – he didn't get the chance to direct it because of his obligations behind the camera on Batman Returns. If he did, it probably would have been even better than it already is, and it undoubtedly would have become his best film. As it stands, The Nightmare Before Christmas is still my favorite animated movie of all time, and a true classic of the genre that we should kiss Disney's feet every day for boldly distributing.
The Good: The animation.
The Bad: A few of the songs have some laughable lyrics, but if you consider them tongue-in-cheek – which they are – everything is alright. But still, "I am the clown with the tear-away face!"
The Skinny: Way higher than my 237th favorite, probably in my top 25. But yes, it deserves to be on the list.