Boo! Sorry, wrong holiday!
Or is it?
The excitement and merriment of this Christmas Season got me to thinking, it had been years since we had viewed Tim Burton’s Classic film The Nightmare Before Christmas, and it was high time for a revisit.
And are we ever thankful we did.
For the uninitiated, The Nightmare Before Christmas was the brainchild of Tim Burton, the excellent director behind such movies as Beetlejuice and the Michael Keaton Batman movies. He had created the concept years ago while working for Disney and after his other successes, the idea was revived. Instead of animation, they used stop motion claymation to bring this tale to life.
And what a tale it was. Jack is in charge to the mystical realm of Halloween Town, where all creepy crazy things that go bump in the night for October 31st are formed. But despite Jacks success and the loyal adoration of his people, he grows restless and yearns for a something beyond his reach. Led by fate or the universe or the whims of chance, Jack finds a magical portal in the forest that transports him to Christmas Town. He is mesmerized by the wondrous concept of this place and is determined to fully understand this “Christmas” idea.
Then he takes action. Surprising action. Scary action. Not to spoil the rest, but the remainder of the story spills forth from this twist, with the numerous highs and lows that follow enticing the viewer in.
The story is compact, taking up approximately 116 minutes, and is interlaced with beautiful songs throughout. It is also packed with emotion wallops, from Jacks discovery of Christmas Town with the brilliant melody “What’s this?” to the heartfelt love songs he shares with Sally.
Which brings up Sally. While Jack is the exuberant and leaping headfirst into adventure one, with Sally trying to be the more reasonable organized one. Her repeated pleas of caution to Jack are brushed off or misunderstood by him, making her heartbreak very sorrowful. Like any great love story, you are cheering for the this couple with every beat. Jack would be happier with Sally, if only he realized it.
Behind the backdrop of this love story and main journey is the macabre humour infiltrating the DNA of this tale. To say this is not for the little ones or the squeamish is a massive understatement. But for those who love their tales with a sickly twist topped with gross out weirdness and layered upon strangeness, please go right ahead and follow Jack to Halloween Town.
All these elements combine into an throughly enjoyable journey, with so many ideas percolating forth to make you think and fill you with wonder. The basic story of discontent with your lot in life, seeing true love when it is right in front of you, and truly enjoying your special gifts are the surface of The Nightmare Before Christmas. In many ways this movie harkens back to another Christmas classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Jack and George Bailey share a restless soul and a need for something more. Next year we should watch these gems back to back to get the full experience.
For the geeks among us, the thought of a Halloween Town and Christmas Town and various other ones mentioned or alluded to, remind me of the concept of The Endless from Neil Gaiman’s Sandman comic from the nineties. Each “Town” has an universal function, the same as how each of The Endless fulfill a role in existence. The main character Dream presides over us as we slumber and he is quite a jerk. He is close to his sister Death, distant from brother Destiny, and estranged from other brother Destruction. And William Shakespeare is a supporting player. I’m not kidding. For anyone who loved this movie, travel into The Dreaming and acquaint yourself with its master. You will devour the entire series, and even forage into Death’s mini-series as well.
So for this season, venture into the realm of Jack and Sally with The Nightmare Before Christmas. Sing the songs, dance to young love, and embrace the Christmas Spirit.
See Christmas through Jack’s eyes. As it should be.
P.S. The Nightmare Before Christmas is copyright 1993 to Walt Disney Corp. All images copyright to them as well.