Christmas Classics: ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’



Graphic by Mae Bruce

‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ (1993) tells the tale of Christmas and Halloween combined.

Tim Burton’s 1993 classic stop-motion The Nightmare Before Christmas is a dark fantasy musical which tells the story of how the holidays began. Despite the evil personalities of the monsters who run the town of Halloween, this film touches on topics like finding love and goodness in the world, as well as proving why Christmas is such a wonderful holiday.

In the town where Halloween is the most important day of the year, the beloved Halloween King, Jack Skellington, finds himself unhappy with his life of doing the same things and decides to take a walk with his ghost dog companion Zero. After falling into a holiday portal, he discovers the seemingly magical land of Christmastown and becomes so overwhelmed by the bright colors and warm spirits of everyone he sees that he decides the people of his own town need to experience it too. However, when he tries bringing the holiday spirit to the monsters of Halloween, they simply try to implement the only thing they know into Christmas: terror. Jack, as he quickly gets carried away with his powerful new idea, finds himself focusing on falling in love, something he realizes is of greater importance.

Jack Skellington, a character who goes through a change of finding himself by seeing that happiness does exist outside of Halloween and by finding a newfound love throughout the movie, helps us to understand the beauty in celebrating holidays. Throughout the film, through song, he often questions how something like Christmas could be so great, mainly because he has never experienced anything like it before. The amazement that he, the king of a monstrous town, has at the thing that we all know of as an annual event brings back the childish wonder in all of us that we hold for the Christmas holiday.

The entire film is intensified by the intense instrumental music which can be heard from the background throughout the entire film and often reflects Jack’s mood. When he is feeling like a king, the music is loud and upbeat while when he feels let down, the music is a collection of mellow strings. The songs, which are now widely known, such as This is Halloween and What’s This?, and also some of which aren’t as well known, such as Sally’s Song and Poor Jack, make the story much more dramatic, as they are mostly Jack singing about his feelings.

The setting of the film is meant to resemble Halloween, as that is the most important event for all of the people in the town. To represent the essence of the dark holiday, the ground and plants are dead and curved, as if they have been dead for years, the moon is huge and yellow and the rest of the town is rundown. The stop-motion provides an interesting depth to the film that is not common in most movies. All of the characters, like the jittery Mayor and Jack’s tattered lover Sally, are all very distinct clay-figures, as they are built with a lot of detail. Everything in the background, such as the sky and the setting, all things that are not meant to be the point of focus, is still and drawn, rather than made through stop-motion, which helps make the all of the scenes look more realistic.

The movie, even through it’s dark humor, focus on Halloween, and monster-like characters, beyond the surface is a soft tale of someone once bad being changed into someone good. It allows viewers to understand the pure joy of Christmas, which is represented by Jack’s realization that there is something more to life than the joy of scaring people.