Throwback Thursday: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)


Every year, The Nightmare Before Christmas causes a great debate between me and my girlfriend. I think it’s a Christmas film, while my girlfriend thinks it belongs more to the Halloween sub-genre; so each year we’ve had the same debate as to the appropriate time to watch it, whilst in truth it’s actually a mixture of the two. 

This strange combination of Halloween-type horror and heartwarming Christmas joy is what makes Tim Burton’s animated classic so unique, as well as challenging to its younger audience.

The story itself is based on a short poem of Burton’s and is set in Halloweentown, where all types of oozy and ghoulish creatures spend their year planning Halloween. 

They are lead by Jack Skellington, also known as the pumpkin king, who has become fed up of the same old routine. When he stumbles upon Christmastown, he decides to create his very own Christmas but struggles to get the meaning of it across to the monstrous townsfolk.

The Nightmare Before Christmas represents the type of animated film I love. Like more recent fare such as Coraline, Paranorman and The Boxtrolls; it tests young people’s resilience to the dark and the grim. 

The stop motion animation is beautiful and intricate with lots of moving parts on display throughout and still impresses even by today’s computer generated standards. There’s always been a debate surrounding this film that doesn’t concern genre, but who deserves the credit for it. 

Whilst it is based on the short poem by Tim Burton and is name hangs over the films title as ownership, director Henry Selick has always claimed responsibility for much of the creative decisions beyond the initial inspiration.

It’s a debate that I find moot to a point as the film actually owes a great deal of its success to Danny Elfman, Burton’s regular collaborator who takes up singing duties as our lead hero as well composing the music. 

Considering the majority of the story is told through song in operatic fashion, his lyrics and haunting compositions are perhaps the most successful and memorable elements of the whole affair.

It is this blend of tremendous music and striking animation that sets The Nightmare Before Christmas apart from other animated films. Slightly edgy, romantic and filled with wit; it’s a darkly charming and alternative option for Christmas viewing with the whole family.

Trivia Tidbit: Tim Burton has said the original poem 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.

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