The Nightmare Before Christmas is available now on Disney +
There is an eternally-burning debate around this film – is it a Halloween film or a Christmas film? It’s both when you think about it, but it also doesn’t really matter. No matter your age, The Nightmare Before Christmas seems to be one of those universal films everyone has seen. Henry Sellick does a fantastic job translating the spooky, oddball styling of Tim Burton into a delightful kid-friendly adventure without losing too much of the horror. After all, I’m not sure Jack Skellington would be quite so friendly and charming if we saw him in the (lack of) flesh.
Many may not know that The Nightmare Before Christmas began as a poem written by Burton rather than a script. However, a lot of stalling and eventual rejections from Disney for being “too weird” led Burton to venture into live-action instead. Ironically enough, Burton’s live-action traversal with Beetlejuice and Batman convinced Disney that Burton’s style could work; it just needed a translator.
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Nightmare has such a fun and fantastical energy, with its mysterious forest of holiday doorways implanted into trees, or Zero the ghost dog (whose non-red nose gives strong Mandela Effect energy) floating around like a Christmas spectre. Halloweentown and Christmas Town are the types of worlds you want to dive into, exploring every nook and cranny to see what delights you might find waiting behind a door. Meanwhile, Its stop-motion animation ensures a timeless quality to the film, unlike the typical CG animation often found in Disney and Pixar features nowadays.
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Few modern Christmas songs go as hard as ‘What’s This?’, and the Halloween songs themselves have become iconic; ‘This is Halloween’, ‘Oogie Boogie’s Song’, even the orchestral swells themselves are fantastic. Unlike many Christmas films, it feels like you can throw on The Nightmare Before Christmas at any point during the year, and it still feels right. Without it, we wouldn’t have had James and the Giant Peach or Coraline some years later – Nightmare was truly the blueprint.
To this day, Henry Sellick and Tim Burton are the only creatives to ever encourage Disney to work with stop-motion. It is a strong legacy that solidifies their place as the kooky creatives that finally got Disney to experiment under the Touchstone Pictures brand, even if only briefly.