Thursday, October 31, 2013

In This Town We Call Home, Everyone Hail To The Pumpkin Song

Twas a long time ago, longer now than it seems,
In a place I have often seen in my dreams
For the story that you're about to be told...

...Is that Nightmare Before Christmas is 20 Years Old...this month....

Disney and Tim Burton have long had a weird history. They consistently recognize his talent and then try to bury it when he gives them more than they can handle. It's interesting that even as a kid I remember this movie having very little press, and I was thoroughly uninterested in seeing it based on the miniscule previews we were shown. Ironic then, that my mother took me to see it on a whim and it ended up being one of my favorite films of all time, second only to the Star Wars Saga.

Before I continue, I want to stress what a gigantic pain in the butt this film is to talk about when discussing Tim Burton's work because while Tim wrote the story and was very involved with production, it was actually directed by Henry Selick who would later put his stop-motion expertise to use with such films as "James and the Giant Peach," "Monkeybone," and "Coraline." Naturally, these have all been attributed to Tim Burton at one point or another because trailers like saying "from the director of Nightmare." For the record, Tim was merely a producer of "James" and had nothing whatsoever to do with the other two. And yet "Nightmare" is still very much his baby even if he was too busy with "Batman Returns" to actually direct the thing...

See what I mean? Giant pain in the butt.


I have probably watched this film more than any other film in my life. I have watched this film so much that I have it memorized. No other film do I have memorized shot for shot, line for line, note for note, to the degree and accuracy that I do this film. I rarely even ever feel like watching it because I can just let it run through my head when I close my eyes, all 74 minutes of it.I even wrote a stage script for a college project completely from memory, and when our group watched the film afterwards to check for accuracy, I had it essentially 99% (I think a few pronouns were out of place).

This was the Christmas special for weird kids. And don't be fooled, it's a Christmas movie. It may take place predominantly in Halloweentown. It may have come out in October and I may be writing this to be posted on Halloween. But there is no doubt that this is, first and foremost, a Christmas movie.

This film was the final film of the "Big Three," what I believe are both Tim Burton's and composer Danny Elfman's trio of masterpieces. The other two being "Edward Scissorhands" and "Batman Returns." They've done good work before and since, but these three are in my mind the best of the best. Elfman especially gave this film his all, and was saddened when the studio would only let him sing for Jack Skellington rather than voice the whole character (supposedly this was one of the triggers for the brief falling out Tim and Danny had after this film, resulting in Howard Shore writing the music to "Ed Wood").

While I will usually defend Disney's products, their business practices usually disgust me, and this was one of the most egregious eyebrow-raisers. Scared as always about the movie they were getting, they released it under Touchstone and quickly buried any and all merchandising. Of course, when it celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2003 and Disney saw what a cult following it had, well, it made up for the ten years of drought by saturating the market with Nightmare stuff and slapping the Disney logo onto all future prints of the film. Yeah, for me at least, too little too late.

But still, it's a fantastic movie and if you haven't seen it yet, what the hell's wrong with you? Make it part of your holiday lineup this year.

For it is plain, as anyone can see...we're simply meant to be...


  1. Man, 20? This came out the year I was born...I feel old now.

    Always loved this one, especially as a kid (had the whole thing memorized when I was in middle school, which tends to happen with musicals I'm obsessed with- just ask me to recite Sweeney Todd sometime). Even now, though I think it has slight third act problems, it never fails to make me feel all nostalgic and wistful. We typically watch it some time in November- so it's in the middle of the two holidays, and it also kinda oddly fits that harvest season.

    Interesting on the trio- I typically rate the best as being Nightmare, Returns, and then Big Fish (though extending out of the Elfman collaborations, I think Ed Wood is stronger than Nightmare). Scissorhands has a *sublime* first half but some pretty severe third-act problems, where Big Fish...well, it's Big Fish. My #3 favorite film, incidentally.

    1. Wood and Fish are fantastic films.

    2. Indeed...I remember the last time I watched Big Fish and was just sobbing by the end...I presume that'll be getting its own writeup come December?

    3. Well, it is a Tim Burton movie.

  2. Even though this film isn't my favorite TB movie *gets shot gruesomely* it's good. I feel badly for getting more into it in high school due to the Hot Topic craze. My friend's all "we liked it before it was cool" even though as a child, I only saw part of it once at a sleepover and didn't see it again till I was 16. Reminds me of girls who wear GIR T-shirts and don't know anything about Invader Zim and think he's just a fashion icon.. But hey, it could be worse-there were girls at my high school recently who have been wearing Beatles t-shirts...........AND THEY'VE NEVER HEARD OF THE BEATLES. IDK what's worse, wearing a shirt from a show you don't watch these people never heard of the Beatles??!?

    1. Regardless of personal tastes...why would you wear something - and effectively advertise it - if you have no idea what it is? The level of groupthink and homogenization is downright scary.

  3. Groupthink? You mean like the book 1984? Yeah, it get's pretty scary when it escalates to a level of people endorsing songs, shirts, slogans, shows that present harmful messages of violence, abuse, sexism, racism and the whole nine yards, leading to history repeating. It's disgusting when you look at today there's still bad bad racism. In Indiana they can actually ban African Americans from going into certain businesses. It's awful.