The Nightmare Before Christmas: A ghoulish tale with wicked humour & stunning animation.

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Many of us watched those stop-action animation holiday specials on TV back in the 1970s, and we just did not think it could get any better. We looked forward to seeing the Rankin/Bass specials, but none of them could ever have prepared us for a much darker and creepier version that would come out two decades later. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, just floored me the first time I saw it. This was just as computer graphic animation was just getting started, and I had not been able to see the first Toy Story movie before I had seen this. Even now, though the animations seem a little stiff compared to what we see in the latest releases, this movie never seems to stop being enjoyable.

The tale of Jack Skellington (v.a. Chris Sarandon {singing voice, Danny Elfman}), The Pumpkin King and how he takes on two completely opposite holidays and blends them into one is a magical, yet grisly tale of the worst of bad ideas and how sometimes leaders just need to let the right person do their job and not overstep their own boundaries. Jack has taken on yet another successfully scary and dreadful Halloween, scaring everyone to their delight, and even getting in on some Dias de Muertas action, as portrayed by the skeletons swinging and singing from the Hangman’s Tree. Halloweentown is filled with residents that come from many of the Olde Worlde tales, like werewolves, vampires, mummies, and zombies. There is even a mad scientist, Dr. Finkelstein (William Hickey) and his multi-talented, homemade-golem maid, Sally (Catherine O’Hara), that has an independent streak. If it comes from tales of the undead, dread, and magically evil, it resides in Halloweentown. For Jack, this just is not enough, even though what he really needs to the Pumpkin King’s life complete is a Pumpkin Queen, and Sally is very willing to take the job, but Jack is so obsessed in looking for something new, that he is blind to the obvious.

After taking a very long walk outside of Halloweentown with his ghost-dog, Zero, Jack stumbles into what looks to be a Holiday forest, and in the middle of the forest is a grove of large trees with doors on them. A big red heart, a multi-coloured egg, a shamrock, a turkey, his own pumpkin, and a decorated evergreen tree. Jack gets a case of A.D.O.S (attention deficit… ooh! Shiny!) when he sees the sparklies on the evergreen, and opens the door and is pulled inside. he lands in a big heap of snow and is so excited to find something so bright and new. He is very curious about it all, and just can’t seem to get enough as he spies on the little gnomes in the workshops and bakeries of Santa’s complex.

Meanwhile, back in Halloweentown, everyone is already missing Jack, and can’t even begin to think of where he could be, as they have looked everywhere. Jack soon comes back on a snowmobile with a big pack on a sled. He calls for a town meeting to tell everyone the good news, and after an attempt of explaining Christmastown to them, yet none of them really understanding what is going on, he declares that the residents of Halloweentown are going to take over the Christmas celebrations this year. He immediately puts everyone to work, but once he sends the Boogieman’s henchmen to kidnap “Sandy Claws”, everything just gets more chaotic after that.

Sally has a premonition that Jack’s plans are going to fail, and this holiday celebration is going to be a huge disaster. She does everything to make him sea reason, and even attempts to sabotage the weather to make him stop, but being a stubborn hardhead, and considering that his head is just a skull, it can’t get much harder than that, he goes through with the Christmas Eve run on a sleigh made from a coffin and four undead reindeer. This theory might work in Halloweentown, but once he gets airborne over the skies of the mortal realm, it becomes a theory that is quickly debunked.

This classic tale of two holidays has been a favourite now for many years, and with the seamless stop-action animation which is so rare these days, it will never stop being one. So, if you are already tired of the shopping chaos, and want to go back to the fun of Halloween from two months ago, blend your days together just like Tim Burton did eighteen years ago.

I give this film a Musing review of ★★★★★★ 

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