The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
A ghoulish tale with wicked humour & stunning animation.
If you check these out on a weekly basis, then it should be no surprise to you that this movie comes as the butt of a pun that I've spread across the entire month (showing horror movies dealing with Christmas-time only to be followed up by the Nightmare before Christmas on the night before Christmas). Gotta respect a guy for the effort, right? At this point in time, there is already a pretty sizable audience that has already at the very least heard of this movie, so it seems a bit redundant to even put up opinions for it - but then I always remember that even something as recent as 1993 can be new to someone in a time future, so I do it anyways. Slap on your red suits and rattle your bones, let's see if Halloween took over Christmas, or Christmas took over Halloween.
The holidays each have their own little special place, or towns if you will. You see, it's all true - even the Easter bunny. In Halloweentown, the inhabitants are celebrating another successful holiday run, partying in the plaza with song and dance to the arrival of their hero the pumpkin king Jack. It's a bit funny in a way, since he's really just a spooky skeleton, but the point is pumpkins are a bit of a symbol of Halloween what with you really knowing it's that time of the year when the Jack-o-lanterns come out. Anywho, everyone is happy and excited over the events, looking forward to the next year's event except for Jack himself, who wonders off to sing a song lamenting how Halloween has somehow lost it's magic for him through the routine sameness of it all. His friend watches in hiding from the distance over this, wishing he would be happy before she returns to her house to get in trouble for the poisoning of her Frankenstein-themed dad (yes, the doctor not the monster).
As he's sadly bumbling about in the woods, Jack stumbles upon some strange new trees with holiday themed doors upon them. When he opens the Christmas door, he get's sucked inside and discovers a new world of things - prompting what I imagine is probably the second most remembered song in the movie. As he daisy-chains along his tracks of discovery in this town of Christmas, he slowly becomes more and more excited as he feels something welling up inside. He returns to Halloween town filled with ideas of it to try and pitch to them - but the inhabitants, including Jack, don't really quite get the idea of Christmas and what it's all about even though they are thoroughly roused by Jack's speech. After some time locked away in his house and trying to find out what it is about Christmas that has him so excited, Jack finally has a bit of a mental break and decides that even if he can't understand it, he can take it and make it his own.
This is when things start getting exciting, so to speak, as he riles the town up with a new idea. This year, he is going to be Santa Clause (or Claws as they refer to him) and it will be Halloween town that will not only be hosting Christmas, but improving it. His friend is glad to see him happy again, but has a very bad premonition of how events will end up going up in flames. She tries to tell this to Jack, but Jack can't see how it could go wrong and continues with his plan - which includes kidnapping the real Santa so they can hijack the holiday. They build new (dangerous) presents, skeletal reindeer, and a coffin-sleigh to facilitate their goals, and the kidnappers of Santa end up doing something they shouldn't do and shoving him in to the lair of the real Boogieman. Will Christmas be ruined? Will Santa be eaten? Will Jack and his friend get together by the end of the movie? Is the glowing red nose on the ghost dog going to be the obvious play on Rudolph that we expect it to be?
The movie is dated, but actually holds up very well. How does that make sense you ask? Simple really. There is a lot of claymation in this - as in, practically all of it. That stop motion frame-by-frame style is noticeable in practically every movie that ever used it, but that doesn't mean it can't look and age well considering it's practical and has that added benefit of being physical objects on the screen. They have a bit of depth to them - something that can add to the 3d version of the 20th anniversary edition that I watched. It never feels like it's jumping out at you, but the fact that the cover-art iconic scene of Jack (or any character) on that swirly-shaped hill manages to make the moon actually feel like it's somehow existing behind the movie is actually pretty impressive and even I noticed it (and I seem to have a notorious problem of not getting the full effect out of 3d movies).
The song numbers are catchy, if not good. With the wording inside them, I'd expect much of it to go over the younger audiences head - something that's appreciable if you are an adult, even though one would expect the claymation nature wouldn't draw in most adults to enjoy it. Even without the words however, just the music alone will ring in your ears for some time and is for the most part enjoyable - the "This is Halloween" and "What's this?" tracks being the most likely culprits to have you cursing over their incessant nagging in your brain for weeks. There is a decent enough spread to the songs - some sad and slower, some bristling with excitement, and even one that sounds like it's about to break into some jazz or funk. It's a nice enough spread, and although it might not be the number one soundtrack of any musical to exist, I've by far heard much much worse.
Actors do a pretty good job of conveying their characters as well, considering they are made out of clay. Part of it is animation - and there is quite a deal of expression on (especially the main) characters to go along with the well delivered lines. Colors in scenes play almost as much a role in things as the characters - being very "Burton"-esque in Halloweentown with the greys and the darks, being quite muted. Meanwhile, Christmastown is a huge contrast, bright and vivid and full of light. Still further is the home of the boogieman, filled with black-light colors during his introduction scene that add a level of menace to the pop of colors.
It's as much a tale of holidays getting along as it is one or the other. In a way, it's not even a holiday movie at all, despite the holiday themes - and you can actually think pretty well into this one if your into that sort of thing. For the average person though, it's a claymation visual feast, and the songs are well catchy enough that you may find yourself liking it more than some of the other Disney flicks out there. I'd say it's probably at least worth a rent for most, a buy for some, and for a rare few it may end up being a bit under-impressive (because some folks just don't really like things like claymation and songs). If absolutely nothing else has come out of this movie, the covers of the songs that you can find on youtube alone are impressive, let alone the character of Jack, whose relatively iconic throughout places I feel.