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The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Tim Burtons The Nightmare Before Christmas

A ghoulish tale with wicked humour & stunning animation.

Directed by:

Henry Selick

Rating: 9/10

Running Time: 76 minutes

UK Certificate: PG

On DVD

If you were to lop off the top of Tim Burton’s head and take a peek inside – not something I’m in any way advocating by the way – I like to think the contents would look something like ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’.

This animated masterpiece is the full embodiment of the worlds hinted at in previous Burton projects such as ‘Beetlejuice’, ‘Edward Scissorhands’ and the first two ‘Batman’ movies. But it’s also much more than that. It’s the antidote to every overly-sugary Chrimbo-flick ever made. It’s the number one example of how good quality animation can be used to make any stretch of the imagination seem real. And, like so many of Burton’s movies, it’s macabre and morbid, but also surprisingly uplifting.

Chris Sarandon is the voice of Jack Skellington, the spindly-legged resident of the ghoulish Halloween Town. While walking in the woods one day, he discovers a doorway to Christmas Town, where he’s overcome by the spirit of goodwill shown by the cheery residents with their decorated trees and snow-covered streets. In fact, so taken is he by the idea of Chrimbo, that upon returning home he convinces his fellow townsfolk to abandon Halloween and start preparing for yuletide instead.

The only trouble is, his plans – which include having “San-dee Claws” kidnapped – aren’t entirely appreciated by the rest of the world. Particularly when small children discover severed heads and giant snakes in their stockings instead of the usual array of pressies.

Director Henry Selick (you can also see his work in ‘James and the Giant Peach’) is the man behind making Burton’s vision come true, using the stop-start animation technique to brilliantly create a world packed with creepy characters.

Danny Elfman, meanwhile, chips in with a string of marvellous songs with razor-sharp lyrics to turn this into a dark musical from the same file as ‘Little Shop of Horrors’. Elfman also supplies several of the voices, including that of Jack himself when it’s time for another song.

Coming in at a short 76 minutes, you needn’t worry about kids losing interest. Every scene is both a visual and a musical treat, and there’s so much going on in the shadows that you’ll be happy to watch it over and over again. But be warned – although it’s a PG, you can bet that some kids (and quite possibly some adults) will find it just a teensy-weensy bit too scary. Personally, that’s just another one of the many things I love about it.

It's Got: Santa Claus being chased around an underground casino by a gambling boogie man.

It Needs: To be watched every year – at Christmas AND Halloween.

DVD Extras Deleted scenes, animated sequences, behind-the-scenes featurette, storyboards and image gallery, an audio commentary, and some excellent original trailers. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10

Alternatives:

Batman Returns, Beetlejuice, James and the Giant Peach, Little Shop of Horrors

Summary

If there’s a more wickedly funny, inventive and totally engrossing festive flick than this, I’ve yet to see it. Tremendous.

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