Hey, it’s the movie where people unfairly credit Tim Burton for Henry Selick’s greatness!
Screenplay By: Caroline Thompson
Directed By: Henry Selick
The above byline has bugged me throughout the years to no end. I understand Tim Burton’s name was in the original movie title, and still is in a lot of places to this day, and that The Nightmare Before Christmas was based on ideas from Burton. But, it isn’t Burton’s movie. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Henry Selick movie through and through, all one need do is watch James And The Giant Peach and this becomes crystal clear. The reason the misappropriation of credit for The Nightmare Before Christmas has bugged me is because it is quite the achievement in stop motion animation and the man responsible for that achievement is Selick and not Burton. I know it’s something that shouldn’t bug me, but it does, just give the right man his credit, it’s as simple as that. The Nightmare Before Christmas is the baby of Henry Selick, and next time you praise the movie make sure you are praising the right man.
Now that my befuddlement is out of the way, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of why The Nightmare Before Christmas is a great movie. First and foremost The Nightmare Before Christmas is aided by its wonderful visual design. Not only does it look great, the stop motion animation looks gorgeous, but it is full of all kinds of neat details and touches. The pumpkin face on the moon, the carved turkey and Christmas tree doors, candy cane window panes, etc.. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a wonderful visual treat, from said little touches to the basics of character design. Sally is a simple design, but she plays beautifully, losing limbs here and there, having to tie herself back together, looking plain as can be yet hiding her true emotion behind her eyes. From character design to world design, The Nightmare Before Christmas plays like a visual fun-o-rama.
It’s odd to label The Nightmare Before Christmas a musical, because I never remember it that way, but it is a musical. Each song is catchy but at the same time propels the story forward. Catchy songs are one thing, but tying the songs into the story was a nice touch. Too often the songs in musicals come across as in a different world from the rest of the movie, but that isn’t the case in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Each song is a part of the world, you never feel like you are watching a different part of the movie, each song is catchy and plenty of fun. Without feeling like a musical, The Nightmare Before Christmas ends up a musical that can stand with any other musical.
The story in The Nightmare Before Christmas is very simple, but within its running time it works to perfection. The Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t a movie that feels bloated or stretched out, it has a short running time and it tailors the story to fit that run time. That doesn’t mean the story is neutered in any way, it means that the story is streamlined, the fat has been cut off and the very best of the story is being presented. Using Halloween to subvert the idea of Christmas is a simple idea and a simple story, but it works for every minute of The Nightmare Before Christmas. It is all kinds of fun, with engaging and likable characters, and in sly ways it raises the holidays of both Halloween and Christmas to even loftier pedestals than they previously occupied. The Nightmare Before Christmas is fast paced and right to the point with musical numbers and comic bits that hit you in the gut and move right on, it is a movie that knows what it need to do and gets it done as quickly as possible.
I have yet to see Coraline, but I would put The Nightmare Before Christmas on a slightly higher level than James And The Giant Peach. It is a great movie that is fun, whether you are a child or an adult. It is slickly make with a wildly imaginative world and a simple concept and story that hides plenty of sophistication within its folds. Just remember, the man behind the film is Henry Selick, not that other dude!