Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas:
2 Disc Collector's Edition
Studio: Walt Disney
US Rating: Rated PG
Film Length: 76Mins
Aspect Ratio: 1.66:1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround & English DTS (+ French and Spanish audio tracks)
Subtitles: Optional Spanish & French
The Film - out of
Tim Burton’s singular vision of theatrical Gothicism and creative oddness found a home in the charming, sublime and inventive musical animation triumph, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Such capricious joy and ghoulish wonders abound in this stop-motion phenomenon from Walt Disney studios that has grown a loyal and loving fan base since its original theatrical release in 1993.
After another successful Halloween fright-fest, all the creatures, witches and ghouls of Halloweentown celebrate – except for Jack Skillington, the Pumpkin King. He laments another year of the same routine and longs for something new. He wanders all night and comes across a doorway to another place, a place called Christmas Town – filled with happiness and wonder. With snow falling, trees aglow in red and green and children playing, Jack is enamored with this colorful new town and eagerly reports back to his fellow Halloweentown residents with his discovery. The townsfolk are excited, albeit for different reasons than Jack, and so begins a festive quest for Jack to deliver Christmas with the help of the many strange inhabitants of the grey, creepy town.
There is so much to enjoy in The Nightmare Before Christmas, so many characters and moments that zip by in a dance and a song that no single viewing could bear all the fruit this film has to offer. And what a joy that is. The fantastic stop-motion animation is a credit to the craft, with broad and full sequences to dazzle the eye and a rich sense of off-kilter fairytale environments that explode with unusual and sumptuous imagination. And that is in large part the charm of this great project. Traditional stop-motion animation augmented by hand-drawn and just the right amount of computer generated animation creating a terrific and faithful ode to the tireless art of spending a week creating one minute of film.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is unmistakably straight out of Tim Burton’s mind; a creation of story and characters filled with whimsy, fright and delight that serve his fictional world perfectly. The style and tone are distinctly Burton, so it is with some surprise that he was not the director. That credit goes to Henry Selick who worked from a screenplay by Caroline Thompson. There is fluidity in how the camera moves through this world, and a deep appreciation for the details of character and environment that immerse us in this fairytale. The director honors the materials and with a host of talented animators, brought an unrivaled complexity to the animation.
The voice performances are universally wonderful. The Broadway grandeur of the musical numbers are brought to life by the vocal talents of the film’s composer, Danny Elfman. He of course is the musical king of Tim Burton’s films through the years, providing scores for films like Beetlejuice, Batman and Mars Attacks. His Pumpkin King singing (the speaking voice is performed by Chris Sarandon) is pure gold. The love interest of Sally, a ‘home-made’ companion for a cantankerous and ugly scientist is played by Catherine O’Hara. There are also plenty of other great characters voiced by some recognizable voices such as Paul Reubens as Lock, William Hickey as Dr. Finkelstein and Whose line is it anyway stalwart Greg Proops as Harlequin Demon (and a couple of others). But truly the marvel here is Danny Elfman. This film is as much his as it is Burton’s. His quirky, fun and brilliantly conjured musical excellence breaths life into the death abundant in Halloweentown and deliver a true sense of awe and wonder in the majesty Jack Skellington sees in Christmas.
This was my first viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas and I was delighted. A more satisfying and complete experience than Burton’s Corpse Bride, which was itself a brilliant animated film, and an undeniable modern classic. The stop-motion animation style is a reminder of how that tangible and practical form can delight in ways that C.G.I has yet to master (but Pixar has come close). With echoes of Beetlejuice and nods of the hat to that gothic comedy, as well as films like The Wizard of Oz, there are pleasures abound in this ghoulish and gifted creation.
Filled with twists on the Christmas stories, there are many memorable scenes. Santa Claus’s encounter with the Boogeyman, the first incredible song, the moment where Jack dissects a teddy bear looking to unlock the secrets of the jolly holiday – just magnificent. Altogether a glorious and victorious film and a triumph of wit and heart.
Walt Disney brings The Nightmare Before Christmas back to DVD in glorious form. Released in theaters with an aspect ratio of 1.66:1 and presented that way here, this is a vibrant and lovely looking disc. The detail is superb with any unwanted meddling of the image with distracting edge enhancement or digital noise reduction just about non-existent. A beautiful image with rich colors – such as Halloweentown bathed in the graveyard grey or the snowy white of Christmas – showing off here superbly distinct. The image is clean, clear and free of any noticeable faults. Vivid and spotless, this is just superb.
Even though the cover art indicates just a Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound option, The Nightmare Before Christmas also comes with a rambunctious DTS track that lives and breaths in almost every inch of your speakers. Warm, enveloping and unblemished, this is how movies should sound. It fits the film incredibly well with active surrounds, solid bass and a clarity that delivers every single instrument of Danny Elfman’s fun score. Excellent.
All-New Audio Commentary By Tim Burton, Director Henry Selick And Music Designer Danny Elfman - Tim Burton shares the genesis for his much loved creation, Danny shares the beginning of working on the project and Henry, with less air time, shares thoughts on how he needed to tell the story born from Burton’s mind and from Elfman’s lyrics. There’s good history shared throughout the commentary; never a dull moment and, much like the film, worthy of repeat visits.
I am not a fan of audio commentaries that are recorded separately then weaved together. It can make for more clarity in thoughts and the expression of those thoughts, but cannot beat the reminiscing and sharing of ideas and thoughts that come spontaneously in group recordings.
What’s This? Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour – Here you can experience ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas” version of the Haunted Mansion with ‘actual’ narration in English and also with a trivia track. This is from the California based Disney location. Each version runs 7 minutes and 13 seconds/
Also available is a making of the special version of the Haunted Mansion and how the Haunted Mansion got its Christmas make over. We get a look at the art direction, creative inspiration and a detailed look at the attraction. It runs 37 minutes and 22 seconds.
Frankenweenie (Uncut version) with New Introduction by Tim Burton - (30:01) – Tim Burton’s 1984 short film is presented here with a short introduction by Burton himself. It begins by celebrating the kind of home made movies that many of us film geeks made ourselves growing up. Starring Daniel Stern, Shelly Duvall and Barrett Oliver (the kid from the semi-classic D.A.R.Y.L), it is clearly a Burton creation. It also benefits from a throwback score by composer greats Michael Convertino and David Newman. After the death of a family pet, Sparky, a young boy gets an idea to bring his beloved pet back to life. It is a delightful ode to the Frankenstein story with expert atmosphere created by the cinematography and set designs and Burton’s unflinching vision.
This short is presented in 4:3 aspect ratio.
Vincent – Short Film - (5:51) – An odd but enjoyable animated short about a boy who wishes he were Vincent Price as seen in numerous horror films. Narrated by Vincent Price. Shadowy, a little creepy and filled with dark humor.
Tim Burton’s Original Poem Narrated By Christopher Lee - (10:57) – With an introduction by Tim Burton, his original poem is narrated by the great Christopher Lee accompanied by moving illustrations.
Behind-The-Scenes Making Of “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” - (24:41) – A relatively thorough ‘making of’ broken into six chapters (1. The Beginning, 2. Music, 3. Storyboards, 4. Art Direction, 5. Puppets and 6. Animation). Wonderful behind the scenes footage from the three years it took to create the film with vintage interviews with Burton, Elfman and others. A lot of information you will find repeated in the audio commentary, but regardless, this is an engaging look at the making of.
The World’s Of “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” - This special feature is abound with layers. You can select to explore three worlds (Halloween Town, Christmas Town, The Real World) and within each, you can drill into characters and find designs, animation tests and concept art.
Deleted Scenes - Here you can select to view:
3 deleted storyboards (‘Behemoth Singing’, ‘Oogie Boogie With Dancing Bugs’ and ‘Alternate Identity of Oogie Boogie’) – (2:53)
And 4 deleted animated sequences (‘Jack’s Scientific Experiments’, ‘Vampire Hockey Players’, ‘Lock, Shock and Barrel’ and ‘Oogie Boogie Shadow Dance’). Each are introduced. - (5:03)
Storyboard-To-Film Comparison - (3:46) – Scenes from the film play with the storyboard above for comparison.
Original Theatrical Trailers And Posters – 5 posters, a teaser and theatrical trailer for your viewing pleasure.
Few films do what The Nightmare Before Christmas does. Capture a magic and innocence in a way that has inventiveness and charm bursting at the seams. This Two-Disc collector’s edition, with a third disc containing a digital copy, is among the finest DVD’s I have witnessed for sound and video quality, especially given its age. I joyfully and unequivocally recommend this for anyone and everyone.
*Note: This collector's set comes in a special 3-D collectors box of Jack Skellington's distinct face.