The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

the nightmare before christmas

“There are children throwing snowballs instead of heads!”

The Scoop: 1993 PG, directed by Henry Selick and starring Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara

Tagline: A ghoulish tale with wicked humour & stunning animation.

Summary Capsule: Halloween kidnaps Christmas and puts on their own twisted holiday.

Justin’s rating: If only the Blair Witch was made in Claymation

Justin’s review: One of my favorite attractions at Disney World is the Haunted Mansion. It’s so ooky and non-threatening for a true scare experience, still it manages to bring off a great atmosphere of, well, Halloween. What I associate with Halloween, at least: full moon nights in the middle of cornfields, ghost-infested castles, and cheezy optical illusions. Did anyone else try to pick the nose of that hologram ghost that appears in your carriage mid-way through the ride?

Anyway, it’s that kind of attitude that treats the whole death/horror thing fully tongue-in-cheek that is brought so faithfully to the screen with Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Incidentally, this isn’t a Tim Burton-directed film, although many have mistaken it to be. Actually, the story, songs and designs do come from Burton’s mind, but a different person actually directed the film. Ironically, Nightmare has become one of the calling cards of a Burton Goth-wannabe. Go easy on them, when you reveal the sordid truth behind this film. It takes a loooong time to put on that makeup, and we don’t want to ruin it with tears.

The world of this movie is one in which I would love to live, except that the average height of these freaky clay figures is about four inches, and I would appear to be the Jolly Italian Giant to them, remolding entire continents at will. It’s a world where Halloween exists perpetually, although the subject of candy really never comes up. Where’s the Candy Fairy, I asks ya? No, I refuse to believe it’s a mere myth!

Our protagonist is Jack the skeleton pumpkin king, who has a head that outweighs the rest of his body by a ratio of four to one. Jack is not truly content with his role of… um… inspirational speaking? He has a guest voice that comes in any time the movie launches into song and dance (about every six minutes) and mopes around all depressed that Halloween is depressing. One day, Jack stumbles upon Christmasland, promptly takes it over, and throws the holiday worlds out of balance.

Frankly, Christmas is almost more scary in truth than Halloween. It promotes obese burglars who plant God-knows-what in our living rooms, snarfing up all our cookies and dairy products without a single concern to whatever child might not be getting food the next day. There are flying horse-things, evil midgets, endless showings of It’s A Wonderful Yet Boring Life on TV, mall parking problems, little kids boosting the sale of Pokémon Power Rangers through the roof, trees butchered to be placed on display as they slowly wither away, and egg nog, a mysterious substance that hasn’t quite convinced me that monkey brains aren’t involved.

The moral of Nightmare Before Christmas is that if you’re not satisfied with the world, just take it over and you’ll somehow make it worse. Or was that the Nazis and World War 2? Hm. So, yay, here’s a great non-spooky yet wonderfully atmospheric haunted house of a movie. You need some of that in your life. Trust me.

Ooh, a head bag! Chock-full of heady goodness.


  • In the song, “This is Halloween,” the lyrics “…tender lumplings everywhere…” refers to “Tender Lumplings,” a song done by composer-singer Danny Elfman when he was with Oingo Boingo.
  • The character Sally was animated to look like Tim Burton’s girlfriend Lisa Marie, who appears in other Burton films Ed Wood, Mars Attacks, and Sleepy Hollow.
  • Lenny P. writes in, “When all of the bats are flying around, you can see the strings/wires that are attached to the bats.”
  • The cat from Tim Burton’s first film, Vincent, is present in the beginning of the film. It’s the cat that jumps onto the garbage can.
  • No adult faces are shown
  • The snake seen in the movie, is the Saturn Sandworm from Beetlejuice
  • The Mayor of Halloweentown’s fingernails are painted red. [Thanks TheOogieBoogieMan]
  • In the original Tim Burton poem on which the movie is based, no characters appear besides Jack, Zero, and Santa.

Groovy Quotes

    • Jack Skellington: [singing] There’s children busy throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads. There’s people building toys, absolutely no one’s dead!

Police officer: Attacked by Christmas toys. That’s strange, that’s the second toy complaint we’ve had.

[To the Easter Bunny]
Behemoth: BUNNY!

Jack Skellington: And they call him Sandy Claws!

Dr. Finkelstein: Sally, that’s twice this month you’ve slipped deadly nightshade into my tea and run off.
Sally: Three times!

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