Nightmare Before Christmas works because it’s more nuanced than it initially appears – that helps movies grab onto popular culture, the repeat viewings offering different concepts and ideas that go beyond a Halloween/Christmas fairy tale.
Jack Skellington is an interesting, even fascinating character. Danny Elman’s soft, tender voice comes from a character that so clearly cares about doing the right thing for the right reasons, just in the wrong way. He misunderstands the holiday’s purpose; Jack only sees things from the perspective of what he knows. That’s unique because Jack isn’t wrong, rather misguided by the promise of discovering something new when he steps into Christmas Town.
Nightmare Before Christmas understands culture shock
Nightmare Before Christmas understands culture shock
The script treats Jack like a child, hyper-enthusiastic but bored until he discovers lights, snow, and more. Nightmare Before Christmas catches a glimmer of the holiday, Jack akin to a kid whose old toys become dull once the new ones are unwrapped. Living with only Halloween his entire life, he doesn’t know any better, applying his own rules to a different world.
Though this, Nightmare Before Christmas understands culture shock, and suggests there’s no wrong way to celebrate, but to respect others own methods too. Kids expect toys in the real world (or at least, what qualifies as real in this movie), but in Jack’s world, they receive shrunken heads. That’s what he gives them, scaring and shocking recipients, but without any understanding as why. It’s a weird, surreal allegory for cultural appropriation, presented with an unmatched, even clashing Gothic aesthetic.
In a more contained way, this is Jack’s story, that of a person (skeleton?) trying to find himself, to broaden his perspective, and give his world something different. Importantly, Nightmare Before Christmas never says what Jack does is inherently wrong – it’s entirely possible to mix Halloween and Christmas should one choose – but rather it’s his forcefulness in doing so.
Go further and Nightmare Before Christmas mocks the political process through an utterly useless mayor who, without Jack, can’t plan anything. He blindly follows believing in Jack to net him votes and stay in power. There’s Oogie Boogie, a bloated potato sack living underground, festering, but something the people ignore until it’s too late. Boogie is the perfect campaign foil – bring an end to his menace and earn the town’s respect. But no, he continues to reign in his lair because no one in this town wants to change anything or change. That’s the difference Jack makes, but make the error of trying so too fast.
Finally given the chance to look as it should at home, Nightmare Before Christmas makes a stunning improvement over prior DVDs and Blu-rays. This doesn’t only mean the obvious ways – resolution, color, depth – but the overall natural aesthetic. Previous discs used a master bogged down by edge enhancement and murky grain replication. That’s not the case here. Nightmare Before Christmas isn’t bothered by halos, and grain looks appealingly sharp.
Texture thrives in this environment. The puppets and their cloth costumes (along with the environments) show magnificent definition. Every bit of detail on the miniature stage is revealed, no matter how minuscule. Even snow appears marvelously crisp.
While Halloween town sports some impeccable black levels, the better showcase comes from the Christmas side, the reds and greens gloriously rich, and the lights make full use of the HDR pass. While some crush is inherent to the cinematography, the depth gained in this presentation makes this release worthwhile on its own.
Enveloping is the easiest way to describe this 7.1 DTS-HD mix, the only change from the Blu-ray being the codec choice (it was TrueHD there). The opening musical number hits the viewer from every angle, both from the music and sound cues. Ghosts fly cleanly through the soundfield. It feels incredibly full and rich, even if the bass seems muted. Despite that, when the action kicks in later (as Jack is being shot at), it becomes a front-loaded mix. Cannons provide the bass, and not much else. It sounds flat and uninspired when it should be alive with audio.
Extras here are in-depth, if too brief, and the same as the previous Blu-ray. An interesting pop-up feature lets people see how Disney transforms the Haunted Mansion ride into one based on this film each year. A commentary by Burton, Elfman, and director Henry Selik details all of the challenges the film brought with it. The original poem written by Burton is read by Christopher Lee, assisted with visuals.
Two of Burton’s earlier shorts, Frankenweenie and Vincent, are included. Storyboards for deleted scenes, including a few that were animated, are here. An all-too brief making-of is split into six chapters, and runs around 25 minutes. While it’s a great piece, there’s certainly more to discuss here. Loads of art galleries are contained in specific sections (Christmas Town, Halloween, etc.), and round off the disc with a storyboard comparisons and trailers.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Nightmare Before Christmas explores identity, culture, and understanding in ways few films can or do.
User Review( vote)
The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 47 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: