There are two different schools of thought on whether Nightmare Before Christmas is more of a Halloween film or a Christmas film. In doubt, we like to watch it for both holidays and so we propose it today for our Forgotten Memories column, although it is not so forgotten.
Nightmare Before Christmas – Plot
Animated musical fantasy set in a parallel world where different lands represent different holiday periods. Our hero is Jack Skellington (voice of Chris Sarandon), a man from Halloween who becomes converted to Christmas and sets out to spread joy in the world. However, when Jack’s new mission leads him to kidnap Santa (voice of Edward Ivory), it becomes clear that he is not really in tune with the Yuletide spirit. Produced and visualised by Tim Burton, this was the first full-length feature to use stop-motion animation throughout.
There are only two types of people in the world: those who know Nightmare Before Christmas and those who lie. Since its release in 1993, the film has come a long way and has certainly established its brand with accompanying merchandise. The secret to its success may lie in a combination of elements that, when brought together, have created an iconic product.
The recipe is simple, really. Take Tim Burton‘s creative genius, Henry Selick‘s direction, and Danny Elfman‘s music, and you get a dark comedy filled with elements of the macabre and grotesque that we love so much.
The story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, who, in search of something more, decides to take over Christmas and bring it to the world of Halloween.
Very different holidays
From the very first moments when Jack tries to describe Christmas to the residents of Halloweentown, it becomes clear how distant and therefore incompatible the two holidays are. Despite his attempts, Jack himself is not able to fully comprehend the meaning of Christmas. He tries, of course. He does everything in his power because that something so unknown and mysterious to him sparks a strong curiosity.
Yet something is not working, something is not right. The gifts created by Jack and his companions are horrifying and scary. And yet, if you think about it, those same objects would have been popular during the so-called spooky season. And maybe that’s the hidden key behind everything. If two such different holidays can bring joy, because let’s face it, Halloween is also a fun-filled holiday for us, then perhaps Jack doesn’t have to change himself, but look around and realize what he truly possesses.
Sally: silent heroine
If Frodo wouldn’t do much without Sam, then Jack wouldn’t have gone anywhere without Sally. Although she accepts her role in the story, the rag doll is never a passive character. She escapes from her creator (and captor), supports Jack, but is also the only one who openly tells him that his idea of Christmas is not the best. She tries to protect the Pumpkin King by sabotaging his departure to the human world. And it’s still Sally who goes spontaneously to Oogie Boogie’s lair to try to save Santa Claus (ending up getting captured, but those are just details).
Sally is an active character and the driving force behind the events more than it seems. The love story that accompanies her doesn’t diminish her, but rather makes her more alive and gives her greater strength. Sally fights in her own way for what she desires and to see her dream come true. Sally is the voice of reason. A modern-day Cassandra who predicts the disastrous effects of her beloved’s choices and, like Cassandra, goes unheard until events take exactly the turn she foresaw. But Sally doesn’t even give up then. Perhaps it’s only thanks to her common sense that a sort of alliance between the inhabitants of Christmas Town and Halloween Town can be created.
Although we’re not experts in the field, let’s take a moment to appreciate the technique used to create the film, which is called stop-motion animation. This involves making small models of the characters and settings, which are then filmed frame by frame and moved incrementally by animators to create an entire scene, and ultimately the entire film. Just imagine the amount of time and dedication that must have gone into making a feature-length film like The Nightmare Before Christmas, from designing the characters to capturing each shot.
For example, the character of Jack was very thin and tall, which made it difficult to keep him upright. The animators had to convey his emotions through his movement, whether he was angry, disappointed, melancholic, or determined, without him ever uttering a word. The scenes featuring Jack’s ghost dog, Zero, were filmed separately and then combined with Jack’s character using a beam splitter, which is essentially a semi-transparent mirror that reflected the image of the canine character.
A final round of applause must be given to Danny Elfman’s soundtrack, who is certainly known for having signed numerous masterpieces, in addition to his collaborations with Burton himself. Here, he offers some of the most unforgettable songs of that time, from “This is Halloween” which we have all included at least once in the soundtrack of this season, to the more melancholic “Sally’s Song” interpreted by Catherine O’Hara in the original version and Marjorie Biondo in the Italian version.
As for Jack, in the singing parts, the voice is provided by Elfman himself in the original version, while here in Italy the choice fell on Renato Zero. The notes of “Jack’s Lament,” which becomes “Re del Blu, Re del Mai” in the Italian version, and “What’s This?” which, let’s not kid ourselves, is impressed in the memory of all of you, are certainly unforgettable.
Nightmare Before Christmas throug the age
The dark nature of the entire screenplay quickly became a symbol of a whole generation and, consequently, of the cultural heritage of social groups. Fashion draws inspiration and creates merchandise with the faces of Jack and Sally, outfits inspired by their clothing, and various objects dedicated to the characters. Because ultimately, we like them and they bring us together.
Perhaps Burton himself did not imagine the success that his story would have when he first proposed it to Disney, and perhaps not even Disney, given that they initially rejected the first poem dedicated to Nightmare. And to think that it all started by chance when Tim Burton saw a shopkeeper removing Halloween decorations to replace them with Christmas ones.
Since then, many years have passed and Nightmare Before Christmas has become a well-established brand, a cultural and generational symbol. At thirty years old, even today, if I see a t-shirt or a mug, I stop to think if I should buy it. We leave you below with the banner for all the official products dedicated to this film. If you decide to buy something, let us know by tagging us in your photos on Instagram or Facebook.
Happy Halloween to everyone