Halloween Town is a dream world filled with dark creatures. Every year Jack Skellington The Pumpkin King leads them in a frightful celebration every Halloween, but he has grown tired of the same routine year after year. Wandering in the forest outside the town with his ghost dog, Zero, he finds a cluster of trees each with a door which represents a certain annual holiday. Jack is drawn to the tree with the Christmas tree-shaped door and opens it which leads to a portal to Christmas Tow. Impressed by the feeling and style of Christmas, Jack presents his findings of the holiday to the Halloween Town residents. They fail to understand Christmas and neither does Jack, but that doesn’t stop him from announcing to Halloween Town that this year they will take over Christmas, even if it means kidnapping Santa……..
Though based on a poem by him, and simply oozing him from every corner, this wonderful stop motion fantasy, possibly one of the all-time great animated movies, was not actually directed by Tim Burton but by Henry Selick. Often criticised for being too dark for kids, I remember distinctly, from the days I worked in a cinema, that it was parents who generally got all bothered about it, not so much the kids. Anyway, it’s good for kids to be scared a little as long as long as things mostly work out all right, and the occasional gruesomeness is of the humorous, harmless variety. The basic idea of combining Christmas with Halloween is an amazing one, and allows for the visual style to go from dark and Gothic to bright and colourful, with the scene where Jack first discovers Christmas Land simply stunning, the colours literally jumping out at you because they are such a contrast with what has gone before. The wondrous array of characters major and minor is incredible and there are some simply brilliant comic bits which still make me ‘crack up’, from Jack’s helpers accidently kidnapping the Easter Bunny to some rather unusual Christmas presents. What is amazing about The Nightmare Before Christmas is how it almost entirely avoids the sentimentality of most Christmas-related movies, whilst still providing children with valuable messages and still leaving you with a warm feeling in your heart. Danny Elfman’s songs, which are often distinctly hummable, are the icing on the cake; the music for this remains one of the composer’s greatest achievements. This is a fantastic movie, as wierd and strange as you could wish for, yet containing all the elements of a great film.