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  • Writer's pictureThomas Duncan

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)


Cast:

  • Henry Selick, Director

  • Caroline Thompson, Screenplay

  • Danny Elfman, Score and Jack's Singing Voice

  • Chris Sarandon as Jack Skellington (speaking voice)

  • Catherine O'Hara as Sally and Shock

  • William Hickey as Doctor Finkelstein

  • Glenn Shadix as the Mayor

  • Ken Page as Oogie Boogie

  • Ed Ivory as Santa Claus

  • Joe Ranft as Igor

  • Paul Reubens as Lock


*Recognition:

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas was wide-released on October 29, 1993.

  • On a rough budget of $24 million, the film would gross over $88 million at the global box office for #21 in 1993.

  • It was met with near universal critical praise, and was nominated for Best Visual Effects by the Academy Awards.

  • The soundtrack for the film was nominated for the 1993 Golden Globe for Best Original Score, and the accompanying album peaked at #64 on the US Billboard 200.

  • Most recently, the film ranked #1 on Rotten Tomatoes' "Top 25 Best Christmas Movies" list.

  • While a sequel or prequel has been often talked about, Tim Burton has adamantly denied that he would ever let anything of the sort go forward.

  • The Nightmare Before Christmas currently holds a 95% among critics on RT, an 82 score on Metacritic, and a 3.9/5 on Letterboxd.


What is this movie about?/Elevator Pitch: Appealing to those that like a little more Gothic in their holidays, it's an Platonian identity movie in that Jack learns he is meant to play the role he already does.


Plot Summary: In Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas," the fantastical meets the macabre in a hauntingly beautiful tale that blurs the lines between two iconic holidays. In the gloomy yet enchanting Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, grows weary of the same old spooky routine. Longing for something more, he stumbles upon Christmas Town and becomes captivated by the joyous spirit of the yuletide season.


Jack's unbridled enthusiasm for Christmas leads him to a fateful decision: he decides to take over the holiday festivities in his own ghoulish way. With the help of Halloween Town's eccentric residents, including the loveable ragdoll Sally, Jack transforms the traditionally jolly holiday into a dark and twisted spectacle. Yet, as he orchestrates his sinister vision of Christmas, Jack inadvertently puts Santa Claus in peril and risks ruining the holiday for children around the world.


A visually stunning stop-motion masterpiece, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" unfolds with an eerie grace, combining Burton's signature gothic aesthetic with Henry Selick's masterful animation. Danny Elfman's haunting musical score adds a whimsical and melancholic dimension to the film, complementing the peculiar yet endearing characters that populate this otherworldly realm. As Jack's well-intentioned escapade spirals into chaos, the film explores themes of identity, self-discovery, and the importance of embracing one's true nature. 


Did You Know:

  • Tim Burton has said the original poem from which the movie spawned was inspired after seeing Halloween merchandise display in a store being taken down and replaced by a Christmas display. The juxtaposition of ghouls and goblins with Santa and his reindeer sparked his imagination.

  • While Danny Elfman was chosen to voice Jack Skellington, it was felt that his singing was great, but his speaking voice was too wooden and stiff. Chris Sarandon was then cast as Jack's speaking voice because he closely matched Elfman's singing voice.

  • It took a group of around 100 people three years to complete this movie. For one second of film, up to 12 stop-motion moves had to be made.

  • According to Henry Selick, Vincent Price was originally cast as Santa Claus. However, after the death of Price's wife, his own health began to fail and his voice performance was very frail and weak. The tracks were deemed unusable which led, much to Selick's regret, to the role being recast. The film premiered at a film festival on October 9th, only 16 days before Price's death and was released on a limited basis four days later. The film's first United States wide release was October 29th, four days after Price passed away.

  • In a test shot of the end where the vampires play hockey on the frozen lake, they originally used a head that resembled the head of the film's creator and producer Tim Burton. However, one of the producers told director Henry Selick that Burton probably wouldn't like that, so it was changed at the last moment and re-shot with a jack o' lantern instead of a head. Selick later said that he believed that Burton would have liked the idea, and regretted not asking the man himself.


Best Performance: Danny Elfman (Composer/Jack's Singing Voice)

Best Secondary Performance: Henry Selick (Director/Animator)/Chris Sarandon (Jack's speaking voice)

Most Charismatic Award: William "Bill" Hickey (Finkelstein)/The Animators

Best Scene:

  • Opening

  • Christmas-town

  • Jack Returns

  • A Special Mission

  • Help from the Citizens of Halloween-town

  • Oogie Boogie

  • Jack Delivers Presents

  • Jack Saves Santa


Favorite Scene: Jack Delivers Presents

Most Indelible Moment: Jack Getting Shot Down/Jack Saves Santa


In Memorium:

  • Shirley Anne Field, 87, English actress (The Entertainer, The Damned, Alfie)

  • Stan Rogow, 75, American television producer (Lizzie McGuire, Flight 29 Down, Fame)

  • Ryan O'Neal, 82, American actor (Love Story, Barry Lyndon, Paper Moon) and boxer.

  • Andre Braugher, 61, American actor (Homicide: Life on the Street, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Glory, Men of a Certain Age) Emmy Winner in 1998


Best Lines/Funniest Lines:

Mayor: Jack, please, I'm only an elected official here, I can't make decisions by myself!


Ghoul: I am the who when you call, "Who's there?"


Jack: Why does nothing ever turn out as it should?


The Stanley Rubric:

Legacy: 7.5

Impact/Significance: 7.75

Novelty: 8.5

Classic-ness: 7.75

Rewatchability: 5.5

Audience Score: 9.1 (90% Google, 92% RT)

Total: 45.6


Remaining Questions:

  • Why don't Oogie Boogie and Jack get along?

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