Believe it or not, it has now been twenty-five years since Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas first hit theaters. Since then it has become a cult hit which has more than its share of merchandise and as most Disney visitors know, the Disney parks get a yearly makeover as fall begins and lasts until the New Year. The Haunted Mansion gets a makeover and the grim grinning ghosts are replaced with characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas and the audio is changed. While this may not sit well with purists such as myself who would rather see the Mansion left as it should be (and this includes many of the unnecessary changes over the years) the ride sees just as many if not more visitors during its four-month alteration.
I remember going to see the film shortly after it opened and unless my memory isn’t what it once was, I seem to recall that the original trailers didn’t elude to the fact that the movie was in fact a musical. I just saw a stop-motion animated feature film that drew from classic horror and perhaps may have been something of interest. While The Nightmare Before Christmas has continued to inspire and thrill fans around the world, I am perhaps in the minority. It has never been a movie that I have loved, and I simply don’t have the same obsessive attraction to the movie as what others do. Nevertheless, it is also something that has been in my video collection for years in a variety of forms. My wife enjoys it and has purchased several collectables over the years. My daughter also found at around the age of two she enjoyed the movie and it has long been one of her favorites along with Frankenweenie, The Corpse Bride and a few other similar films such as Coraline. In fact her first trip to Disney saw her coming back with two stuffed toys; Sally and Sparky from Frankenweenie.
The Nightmare Before Christmas finds Burton creating an interesting twist on the holidays. There are different realms where characters associated with them live and the film takes us to Halloween Town, the home of Jack Skellington. He and the other residents celebrate a lively, frightening version of Halloween every year but Jack it seems, may be getting a little tired of doing the same thing each year. While he and the others try to outdo the festivities, Jack is longing for something new. Jack inadvertently finds himself in land of Christmas Town and is amazed by the things that he discovers. He returns with news and stories of the wonders he has experienced. It is his decision that the town will celebrate a Christmas of their own. News of this new Christmas thing soon reaches Oogie Boogie, a nemesis of Jack’s who soon has a devious plan of his own. He not only intends on trying to ruin the celebration but sends his accomplices to kidnap “Sandy Claws.” This soon leaves Jack to rescue the person who inspired his nightmarish Christmas and put a stop to Oogie Boogie’s plans before he can ruin the celebration.
The Nightmare Before Christmas at the time of its release could have been considered something of an oddity in the film world. Instead of going with a traditional animation approach, Burton opted to use stop-motion animation. At one point in cinematic history this was a very widely used form of special effects although most often it was used for science fiction and fantasy. However, over the years as technology improved, there wasn’t such a need for it and it was seemingly headed towards becoming a lost artform save for those few commercials and music videos that might come along. The Nightmare Before Christmas might not have necessarily resurrected it but it became an inspiration to others in the years to follow, most notably Laika Studios who only does stop-motion features and has improved it over the years.
The concept of merging Halloween with Christmas may seem like an unlikely combination but as any fan of the movie will tell you, it works. Burton’s approach relies heavily on the Halloween aspect but not in such a way where it is scary. Instead it’s a more fun and lively group of monsters. Instead of trying to take classic horror monsters and work them into the film, Burton imagined a very memorable assortment of creatures. Some of these do have nods to Universal Monsters, Sally being the most evident. Jack’s love interest was created and is merely a collection of stitched together body parts but unlike the Monster that inspired her, she doesn’t have the frightening look to her. The Nightmare Before Christmas in many ways shows that while some individuals may come across in a certain way, that’s not necessarily who they are. Our initial meeting with Jack shows him as being someone who loves to frighten and scare but deep down, he simply wants to have more in his life. Halloween is fun for him, but that’s all he has in his life.
The Nightmare Before Christmas however is one of those movies where you really, really need to like musicals to enjoy what it has to offer. Most Disney animated films have their share of songs, but Nightmare outdoes them. It seems like there is constantly a musical number to help tell the story. This doesn’t mean that they aren’t well composed, and most are familiar with the man who was behind the music; Danny Elfman. His music is typically part of every Tim Burton movie, but he has become one of the recognized names in the industry. There is something about his style that stands out above other music. This is yet another part of what has made The Nightmare Before Christmas become such a favorite film.
Disney of course has released The Nightmare Before Christmas several times on home video which has also included a few different collector’s edition. That has been one thing that even I couldn’t pass up and many years ago I didn’t show much hesitation in purchasing a version of the DVD which came in a talking Jack Skellington bust which still is a part of my movie collection. Disney however is a studio that will never pass up an opportunity to re-issue a movie when there’s an anniversary to be celebrated. I suppose that’s not completely true as I did expect to see a 10th anniversary edition a Toy Story a few years ago but it never materialized. The real question is what does this version have that the others might not?
The only real difference between this blu-ray and the one which was released previously is that this is the sing-a-long edition. This simply means that you can follow the bouncing ball during each song in the film, not that most fans don’t already know the lyrics but for those who don’t, or perhaps for younger viewers like my daughter, this is the perfect way to learn them. The blu-ray also includes an exclusive Tim Burton short, Vincent, but this has found its way onto blu-ray in the past. There is also a look at the various movie posters which is found only on the blu-ray as well.
Aside from these thing, everything else as far as bonus features are concerned is what has been seen in the past. These include:
The Making of The Nightmare Before Christmas
Deleted Animated Sequences
Time Burton’s Early Film: Frankenweenie
“What’s This?” Jack’s Haunted Mansion Tour
Tim Burton’s Original Poem Narrated by Christopher Lee
Those who already own The Nightmare Before Christmas may find that this anniversary edition of the movie is worth passing on unless you really want to sing-a-long version. There are various retailers who have exclusive bonuses when you buy the blu-ray which in some cases may prove to be the enticement you need but otherwise, this is just the same version of the blu-ray that has been seen in the past. I am a little shocked that Disney didn’t do any new bonus features such as interviews with celebrities and how the film has impacted them or even the impact that it has had on fans, even a 25th anniversary retrospective with Burton and the voice cast would have been a nice addition to this but sadly, this feels more like it’s just another -re-release without many extra goodies and unlike other films in the Disney library, I don’t believe that The Nightmare Before Christmas is a movie that is ever going to go “back in the vaults.”
Mike is the resident reviewer for Couponing to Disney and his own site Underland Online. He has a toddler daughter and is obsessed with Haunted Mansion and all things Disney. You can read Mike’s complete bio here.