top of page
  • Writer's pictureCollin Souter

Week # 41: "Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas"

(Originally published on 10/14/22)


Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas

Run time: 78 min.

Release Date: October 13, 1993.

Where/when I first saw it: October 13th, 1993, One Schaumburg Place

How I watched it today: Blu-ray, late Tuesday evening

While at the time of its release it wasn’t considered a Disney movie (with the Walt Disney logo above the title and all), today the studio claims it as its own, even though its more “grown-up” division, Touchstone, released it initially. When watched after viewing “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beat” and “Aladdin,” it feels like the right movie for the studio to release at this time, a darker, nastier, more sinister antidote to the few films that preceded it. Not that there was anything wrong with that crop of films (far from it), but there is something refreshing about watching it in this context (a different Disney animated movie every week for a year, in order of release). It’s a palette cleanser for those of us who really don’t need another fairy tale.

Tim Burton’s film is also an anomaly during this period. It’s still a musical and full of colorful characters, but the storyline is decidedly adult, dealing with a midlife crisis, disillusionment, disappointment and making huge mistakes by attempting to reinvent yourself by taking on another persona. It’s a lot for a young audience to process, but Burton and director Henry Selick do such a great job at presenting it as a mere fable that it’s actually not a lot to ask of a young audience to appreciate the scope of Jack Skellington’s blunder. They’ll get it, and that's because the characters and imagery are grounded in Burton’s imagination, which comes from a childlike place. It also helps that the stop-motion animation (which had gone out of style decades ago) allows this world and its inhabitants to breathe and live through a space that has a tangibility to it, very uncommon for this time. It’s quite an accomplishment.

The film still dazzles, but it also comes up a bit short in the songwriting department. There’s no question Danny Elfman can write a melody and a robust and entertaining score, but the lyrics always leave me wishing he had done another draft. This is where the movie doesn’t quite match the quality of what Menken and Ashman could do during this time. Still, it’s nice to hear Elfman give “Minnie The Moocher” one more go-around after his devilish performance in this movie’s bastard cousin, “Forbidden Zone.” The blacklight effect for that sequence is one of the movie’s many visual delights and this movie is nothing if not one big piece of joyous eye candy.

bottom of page