Revisiting Disney: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a film that I have always been reluctant to say I enjoy. Does that have to do with the film itself? Absolutely not. It does, however, have to do with the culture surrounding the film. I’ve noticed a trend. Those that love The Nightmare Before Christmas really LOVE The Nightmare Before Christmas and it seems to become nearly their entire personality. The diehard fans of this film feel that it needs to be protected at all costs. Now, don’t misunderstand me: I think loving something and being passionate about it is great. But, when that thing you love becomes your entire personality, then it becomes, for lack of a better term, annoying. That being said, let me move on to talking about the actual film. 

Directed by Henry Selick, The Nightmare Before Christmas, in simplest termsis about a skeleton named Jack Skellington, who has an existential crisis about his “life” (he’s dead, so having an existential crisis is literally an oxymoron here). He proceeds to try and solve that crisis by stealing a holiday he knows very little about, nearly ruining it entirely for everyone involved, solving his existential crisis, and literally suffering no consequences or really learning why what he did was wrong. That’s it. That’s the movie. Oh, and there’s some pretty wonderful music written by Danny Elfman. 

It bothers me endlessly that more credit goes to Tim Burton in regards to this film than to Henry Selick. Yes, the film is based on a poem Tim Burton wrote, and he created the characters. He is not credited with the adaptation of said poem or even credited with the screenplay. He produced the film. But, he was very smart in striking the deal with Disney to make sure that the full title of the film was Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. But, if this film gets lumped in with Burton’s films one more time, I’m going to throw a fit. I like Tim Burton, don’t get me wrong (although I prefer early Burton as opposed to his more recent work), but Henry Selick worked so hard on this film. And, stop motion films are the furthest thing from easy. 

Danny Elfman composed the music and lyrics for this film and, honestly, I think it’s some of his best work, next to his score for 1989’s Batman. The songs are catchy and lyrically clever. 

As far as the actual story, I have two issues: the “love” story between Jack and Sally and Oogie Boogie, the villain, Nightmare before christmas jack skellington jack and sally GIF - Find on  GIFERseemingly being color coded, despite being a literal bag of bugs. I’ll start with the former. The “love” story between Jack and Sally feels completely incomplete. It feels as if it was thrown in there to tie the film up with a nice little bow. And, probably for marketing purposes. It’s one of the aspects of this film that drives me nuts. I hate half-assed love stories. Now, the other issue I mentioned, which is clearly the more important of the two, is that the character of Oogie Boogie seems to be color coded, and I’m not just referencing the fact that Oogie Boogie is played by one of the only POC in the whole cast. Look at his entire introduction scene: the style of music he sings is drastically different from the rest of the film, as well as the decor/style of his scenes. It all just varies so much that it’s hard not to look at that as being color coded. Which is so unbelievably unnecessary. 

Anyway, I like the film. It’s aesthetically pleasing. In particular, I’ve always like any of the scenes involving the cooking ingredients or the chemistry set. I’m not entirely sure why. And I will forever hate the line “Nice work, Bone Daddy” that is said towards the beginning of the film because it has spawned some really cringeworthy merchandise. 

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