I realized the other day, as I was stuck in WV under mounds and mounds of snow that, in all the careful planning and organizing of Christmas movies for each day of this blog, I had nearly forgotten one of the best ones of the darker persuasion. It is a film that I took to at a very early age, upon its original release in 1993, because I had always enjoyed things of the macabre nature...especially the dark things which this artist constantly seemed to be thinking up. The film itself wasn't hugely successful as a children's film (mainly due to its macabre nature) but it did manage to be successful enough to be memorable...and would eventually be made more successful after the fact by the goth and emo crowd who seemed to relate to its outcast leads. The film is, The Nightmare Before Christmas, which began life as a Tim Burton poem (with illustrations) when he worked as an animator at Walt Disney Studios, and was finally given filmic life when he became a household name following the success of Beetlejuice, Batman, Edward Scissorhands, and Batman Returns.
I've known a lot of people who didn't take to the movie, which isn't surprising. A truly discriminating viewer will notice plot holes here and there, they might also wonder why the leader of Halloweentown is such an emotional sap rather than being someone fearsome and ghoulish, and they also might be put off by the techniques of stop-motion animation. Whatever the reasons, these people just don't care for this movie. I'm not going to tell them their wrong...that will be as silly as someone trying to convince me why I shouldn't like it as much as I do. I would like to say that I'm not one of those emo kids who brought it back...no, I liked it way back when I was 9 and it was new. It was something a little different and a little dark, which was nice next to all the bright and happy animated musicals that the Mouse House was producing at that point. Oh yes, this dark little fairy tale is definitely a musical...with wonderfully clever tunes written by (and in several instances) sung by Danny Elfman. The story, I think, is rather ingenious. It first invents the idea that every holiday inhabits its own world where its preparations take place for an entire year, and we are first shown Halloweentown, where everything is dark and spooky and it is run by Jack Skellington...the Pumpkin King. Jack is a very talented scaremaster and everyone in Halloweentown adores him (despite his nemisis, Oogie-Boogie)...but yet, Jack is bored and unsatisfied with his life. It seems that all he ever does is the same old thing, and he feels empty inside...but soon he comes across the different entrances to the different holiday towns and stumbles into Christmastown...where he becomes enamored with the secular trappings of the treasured winter holiday. After trying to make some sense of why it makes him feel so strongly, he decides to hijack Christmas from Santa Claus and run it himself. Not out of evil intentions mind you, just because he wants to be a part of all the joy....unfortunately, things go horribly wrong. Its a grand modern fairy tale and one I enjoy revisiting every year (though usually as a transitional film to get from the Fall holidays into December...so I'm a little late this year)...I hope I get to share it with children of my own someday.