“That’s twice this month you’ve slipped deadly nightshade into my tea…“
A ‘stop motion musical fantasy-thriller film’ directed by Henry Selick (known more recently for his work on Coraline) and co-written by Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Christmas-themed movie… with a difference. Heralded as a cinematic milestone by some (Roger Ebert felt the film’s visual effects were ‘as revolutionary as Star Wars‘), it makes my list not so much for that; more because it’s such an enjoyable, creative experience filled with light-hearted creepiness.
Such things should be expected from a Disney film of course, though they hesitated to attach their name to it back when it was first released due to concerns that kids would find it too scary. Because of that there is often confusion over where this film stands; is it Disney, or is it technically not? It certainly has their mark of quality, and the film provides its likeness to multiple entries in Disney’s co-produced Kingdom Hearts series, but The Nightmare Before Christmas will always be regarded as something of a black sheep in the family.
Set in the fantasy world of Halloween Town, which is connected to other fictional holiday towns related to Easter, Thanksgiving and even St Patrick’s Day (pushing it a little there I feel), the film’s main character is “The Pumpkin King” Jack Skellington. Seemingly the equivalent of Santa Claus or the Easter bunny, Jack is the figurehead of Halloween who, at the beginning of the film, is seen to be dissatisfied with his own holiday. Stumbling upon the portals to other holidays, he soon takes a liking to the Christmas idea and becomes obsessed to the point where he attempts to take Santa’s place on Christmas Eve. Needless to say, things don’t go so well…
With a cast of memorable characters and an incredibly detailed, stylised environment reminiscent of German Expressionism, The Nightmare Before Christmas is, despite appearances, one for all the family.