The Nightmare Before Christmas Review: Celebration of Scares and Joy

Staff Writer: David McCallister

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stop-motion animated film directed by Henry Selick and produced by Tim Burton. Burton’s style and characters are present throughout the film, even if he didn’t direct the picture.

The story of Nightmare revolves around Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King who wants to branch out from his routine of scaring the world to try something new. As he stumbles into Christmastown, he realizes his new venture and plans to do Christmas himself. 

This animated musical is a classic in pop culture and as a film. With a little over an hour runtime, the film flies through the story, but it manages to work since the story and writing coincide with the short runtime. It’s a musical with bridging scenes, but every scene is important to set up the next and to also add lore with characters and setting.

The world of Nightmare offers interesting takes on the holidays, with visually pleasing characters and settings that really capture the feel of Halloween. Nightmare is a stunning film to watch, as the stop-motion is perfectly captured with the help of Pete Kozachik’s cinematography and shooting the film in 35mm to help give a wondrous feeling to watching the film.

The music is composed and sometimes even sung by Danny Elfman (who was the singing voice for Jack). The iconic “This is Halloween” has been a staple of October music since the film was released, and other notable songs like “What’s This?” are crafted incredibly well. The best part about the film is the soundtrack and remains one of Disney’s most memorable soundtracks to this day.

The characters in Nightmare create a great ensemble. Each design was crafted so well, once the characters show up on the screen the audience can assume their mannerisms and who they are as characters just from the designs. Burton’s style really bleeds into the film and is captured so well that most people don’t even realize he wasn’t the one directing. 

Lastly, Jack Skellington’s prominence and lessons he learns throughout the film are important. As he obsesses over his desire to try new things and be different, he loses his human aspect of friendship and what made him the Pumpkin King in the first place. 

The lessons of Nightmare are prominent for both young and old. It’s okay to try new things, but don’t lose sight of those around you and what you stand for in your beliefs. It’s a powerful message that doesn’t get addressed often and is powerful in the way the film expresses the message in the final act.

When Nightmare was initially released, it wasn’t considered a Disney film. Disney was afraid the dark tone and characters would be too much for their general audience, but soon after the film was praised and loved by audiences, it was re-released with Disney association.

This caused the film to be a sleeper hit initially, but thanks to the multiple re-releases and home video sales, The Nightmare Before Christmas has become massively popular and loved by millions around the world. 

Even though Nightmare is on Disney+, try to watch the film at your nearest local theater. Most theaters are playing the film throughout Halloween, and the quality of the film needs to be seen on the largest screen available. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a wonderful holiday film throughout the fall season. Full of wonderful characters, fast pacing, and beautiful animation, it stands the test of time as a great movie for both kids and adults, and is a fantastic watch for the Halloween and Christmas season. 

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