The number eleven spot on our Christmas countdown falls in the hands of Tim Burton. I mean honestly, were you really expecting otherwise? With limited competition in the stop-motion festive variety, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” snatches a prime slot in the winter hall of fame. Although it features a cast you’ll almost certainly be unfamiliar with, that only contributes to the flavour – adding a degree of authenticity to otherwise truly phantasmagoric scenes.
Chris Sarandon enters the role of Jack Skellington, a poetic and smiley scrag, who lives in one of six tree kingdoms. Surrounded by ghouls, witches, zombies and vampires (among other creepy crawlies), his gloomy life in Halloween Town seems not quite as exciting as the past remembers. Screams and cries no longer bring Jack a sense of satisfaction, a distinct lack of deeper purpose and dullness haunt his last return home. As a healthy concoction of horror, comedy, romance, fantasy and musical, Tim Burton expresses these feelings in a graveyard song, which romantically changes the course of Skellington’s destiny. Entirely by chance, he stumbles upon Christmas Town, a neighbouring land engulfed with sparkly decorations and hearty laughter. At once, Jack finds himself with a burning obsession in mind. What is this pure bliss and who’s the jolly, old man hauling “Ho-ho-ho!” from a fancy red robe? Soon enough the whole community gets involved, determined to recreate the festivities in their own, sinister way.
As mentioned somewhere in the above lines, I’d point out where, but I want to see you suffer, “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is a stop-motion animation. For the unfamiliar souls on my reader crew, this art form includes miniature figurines, which are manipulated into action still by still, effectively creating a fluid motion. Back in 1993 when the film first made its debut in cinemas, arguably one of the most famous pioneers in the genre were Aardman Animations. You’d know some of their work such as “Wallace and Gromit”, “Chicken Run” and “Flushed Away” from general childhood playground tiddle-taddle. Practices was still developing in order to create the feature films we see released in present day, which flow with admirable smoothness in motion. This means that every now and then you’d be able to spot slightly rougher, chopped up segments, which will send you straight into a nineties throwback. Don’t panic, that’s one of the movie’s biggest positives, embrace the journey and strap in while it lasts. The genuinely charming clumsiness is a gift, rather than a set-back.
The storyline jumps from one action to the next in an engaging string of events. Not a dull moment exists in this swirl of dismal fright and optimistic Yule merriments. Imagine the film like a swirly marshmallow, which ties its flavours to utmost perfection. Thematically, we see notes of compassion, camaraderie and hope, which shines a guiding light into the otherwise dark future of Halloween Town. The songs are poetically written, expressing accurate emotions with few simple lines.
The cuteness factor is brought to us by Zero – a ghost puppy, which is just as cuddly and functional as your own dog, except it features a glowing, red nose, sweetly reminiscent of Rudolph’s knocker. And if that isn’t adorable enough already, he is in the shape of a floating sheet, showcasing the nearly extinct classic portrayal of spirits. The dream pet all ’round! Zero’s as much a part of the plot as master Skellington himself, hovering above the soil like only a loyal friend could.
Catherine O’Hara is in the part of Sally, a toxicologist, runaway experimentation. Despite her frightening rag-doll body, sawn together with thick, blue stitches, she is adorable and lovable just as much as Zero is. Jack inevitably develops affections for her, which culminate in the resolution of the film, so make sure you don’t get drunk enough by then to give slumber priority. It’s a heart-tugging moment of finding love in a hopeless place. It’s two creatures of the night connecting beyond the boundaries of terror.
To conclude, this animation is a film just as much for kids as it is for grown ups. I would dare call “The Nightmare Before Christmas” a timeless classic, full of imagination and creativity. It bursts the seams of traditional festive tales, merging seasons and stories together into a bigger celebration of the life beyond fairytales. I could only finish this off by recommending a nice cup of hot chocolate, impaled with a cinnamon stick and sprinkled with dusting sugar for this one.
Enjoy the nightmarish Christmas, everyone.