“You know, I think this Christmas thing / is not as tricky as it seems / And why should they have all the fun? / It should belong to anyone / Not anyone, in fact, but me! / Why, I could make a Christmas tree / And there’s no reason I can find / I couldn’t handle Christmas time / I bet I could improve it, too! / And that’s exactly what I’ll do!” – Danny Elfman, “Jack’s Obsession,” The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
It’s time for By Night’s first animated movie post: The Nightmare Before Christmas! Like many who love all things spooky, this movie has been a part of my holiday traditions for a long time. For now, let’s put our Halloween-or-Christmas-movie debate aside and enjoy this spooky, charming, and lovable classic.
The movie opens on Halloween Town and their annual celebration of the holiday. Halloween Town is inhabited by various monsters and spooky characters. The “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town is Jack Skellington. After the celebrations, Jack feels dejected. He wants to do something new, but he cannot figure out what. Jack walks all night and wanders into a circle of trees in the forest. Each tree features a single holiday item painted on the trunk (a Thanksgiving turkey, an Easter egg, etc.). He is mesmerized by the painting of a Christmas tree. When he approaches the tree, he sees that the painting is a door. Jack opens the door and leans inside. He is pulled through the doorway by a snowy breeze. When he lands inside, he encounters a world covered in snow and colorful lights. The people and customs are unlike anything he has ever known. He learns that the strange place is called Christmas Town. He decides to bring what he has learned back to Halloween Town.
Jack returns to Halloween Town with a new enthusiasm. Calling an emergency town meeting, Jack shares all of the wonders he witnessed in Christmas Town. His friends and neighbors are not quite as impressed as Jack is. By twisting the details a bit, Jack eventually gets Halloween Town on board with Christmas. His excitement for his new discovery sparks his leadership in Halloween Town taking over Christmas that same year. When these two holiday worlds collide, Jack discovers that his vision for Christmas is not what he expected.
I came upon Nightmare later in life. I was never allowed to watch it when I was a kid. Either way, I have so many great memories associated with this movie. The story, the characters, the soundtrack, the artistry of the animation, and its many iconic features quickly made it a lifelong favorite. Even though I rewatch it year-round, I always turn to this movie to get me in the Christmas spirit. Whether you see Nightmare as a Halloween movie, a Christmas movie, or an all-the-time movie, there is so much to love.
Until next time,