The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993. Make Halloween Town Great Again?
Is it a Halloween film…or a Christmas film?
The age-old debate that has everyone weighing up the amount of happy, jolly Christmass-y content, versus the ghoulish undercurrent of the film
Jack Skellington resides in Halloween Town with a whole community of wonderfully weird beings. One day he stumbles upon Christmas Town and becomes instantly transfixes with the whole thing. He returns to Halloween town with an obsessive fixation on stealing Christmas for himself and making their town, great again.
The aesthetic of the stop-motion animated musical has become so recognizable due to the hyper commercialization of the merchandise.
I hadn’t watched the whole film all the way through before researching for this blog post and I somehow felt like I knew it so well. The saturated marketisation of the imagery has instilled itself in my brain that I automatically think ‘oh yeah. of course, I love this film’.., but do I really?
Or have I been force fed the adoration of it?
It’s famously titled ‘Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas’, with Tim Burton being the writer of the original poem that inspired the screenplay. However, director Henry Sellick’s style is all over this film.
I’m accustomed to the dark fantasy visuals, being a fan of Selick’s, 2009 Coraline which I simply adore. The cinematography perfectly illuminates the strange features and bone structure’s of the characters – those infamous Burton-esque characters. The two creatives are quite possibly a match made in dark fantasy heaven.
The hyperbolic versions of both holidays add an interesting spotlight onto the stark contrast of the two. Burton apparently got the inspiration for the original poem when he was a department shop changed its Christmas decorations to Halloween in front of his eyes.
My partner will laugh, as this is what its like in our home. You may or may not be able to tell, I love a theme. So holidays are approached with respect and dedication. It is quite bizarre to think about the fact that we dress up as ghouls, go trick or treating adorn our homes with fakes spiderwebs, to a mere month later – spraying our windows with fake snow, sprinkling glitter around our homes and providing our cats with multiple ornaments to play with and demolish…
Jack, the gothic, cultural appropriator, upon entering Christmas Town is mesmerized by the celebration and wants it for himself. He is bored of the same old Halloween shenanigans in his own town and wants a revamp. He calls a town meeting to convince his community to give up everything they know in place of a holly, jolly Christmas.
The people of Halloween Town cannot comprehend Jack’s explanation of Christmas Town without adding a ghoulish flare to it.
Sock for presents….do they still have the foot inside?
Presents…ah, animal heads?
Santa Clause becomes……
Jack, in the midst of his identity crisis goes along with their devilish understanding of it all, resulting in the kidnapping of Santa Clause of Christmas Town.
The juxtaposition of the sentiments at the heart of these two holidays is so starkly portrayed in the film. To me both places are a bit eery. That may sound strange, but there is something a little uneasy about a town that exists primarily for Christmas and the planning of the celebration, all year round.
Christmas is over the top ‘happiness’, Halloween is dark and fear inducing. But at the heart of both has now become about, commercialism.
The hauntingly infectious score and soundtrack is written by Danny Elfman. If I’m being totally honest, I can’t watch the film in its entirely in one go, due to the musical aspect. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with musicals, only tolerating the ‘quirky, dark’ ones such as; The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Wicked with an exceptional love of Hairspray (the songs are just brilliant). But I found when watching The Nightmare Before Christmas for this blog post, I struggled to get through it. I found it quite overwhelming to go through the catharsis of the plot when 99% of it is explained through song, songs which, by the way are wordy as hell. It’s not that I don’t understand the genius there, I just wish the songs were spread out a bit and let the character’s dialogue breath.
Perhaps that’s why I love the ‘other Father’s song in Coraline. It makes total sense for the plot and expresses views in a better, quicker and more interesting way than simple dialogue could.
Although the subject matter in The Nightmare Before Christmas is relatable to of people; the two holidays I mean, I just don’t relate to a single character and that is quite odd for me. Before I saw the film, I thought for sure the red headed, melancholically blue skinned, stitched up lass; Sally would be the one I relate to. But I felt disconnected from the essence of her character throughout.
I suppose she represents the plight many women face, being the voice of reason and being blatantly ignored by the male counterpart. When Jack returns from his field trip to Christmas Town and declares this master plan to hold the Christmas celebrations in Halloween town this year, Sally knows it’s a god awful idea, although she knows through a vision (which is an aspect that isn’t’ explained nor explored).
Some points on Sally:
– She continuously poisons her creator multiple times with deadly nightshade, which is kind of weird yet funny.
– She has a ‘vision’ that the Christmas in Halloween Town will go horribly wrong. However, the ‘vision’ thing is neither explained or explored.
– She is stuffed with fall leaves, a sweet seasonal reference to the town within which she lives.
– She waits around for Jack to come to his senses and accepts his love. Admirable or naïve?
Perhaps I persist in my attempt to find a connection with Sally because I was gifted a knitted ragdoll by my late grandmother who passed away when I was only four years old. She hand crafted this beautifully sweet doll, named Sally and adorned her with a hat which could put on top of her head with a tie or left undone. Sally was stuffed with…stuffing and I just adored her and would play with her for hours.
It’s not necessarily that my disconnect lies in the fact that she is Frankenstein’-d, and can fling herself out of a window resulting in torn limbs that she stiches back together herself ( because that’s undoubtedly badass) but that, aside from the repeat offence of poisonings, she is the most sane character, yet at the end of it all, wins only the affection of the egotistical cultural appropriator.
*I understand the excessiveness of my cynicism towards a harmless children’s animation may seem out of a place for the festive theme of An EyeLyd Christmas, I have to be real with you guys’.
The character progression and tropes in a way mimic the idea that, ‘Behind every powerful man is a strong woman’.
I don’t know that much about Melania Trump, but for all we know, behind the scenes perhaps she was the Sally of the White House, warning Donald that it may not be such a great idea to be a massive douche but has ended up staying by his side, mesmerized by his power and authority.
Upon finishing the film, I was left with many unanswered questions due to the fact that it’s quite short , lacking character exploration. I found no solace in any of the characters but would maybe watch again for the genius stop-motion animation, as I did enjoy the visuals of ghoulish creatures slithering about a cute and eerie little town.
Now I’m sorry for the Trump correlation but you have to admit, it would be so out of place to hear Jack (Danny Elfman) sing…Make Halloween Town Great Again?
Hello. This article was extremely fascinating, especially because I was investigating for thoughts on this topic last Tuesday. Renie Frederigo Jepson
Hi! That’s really cool to hear 🙂 glad you enjoyed
I was curious if you ever considered changing the structure of your site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?| Jessamine Roley Laurence
That’s really great feedback, thank you.
This blog was posted prior to a migration from an old blog, so the format got a little out of whack. Check out some of the more recent posts as they are structured a little clearer, I hope 🙂