Theatrical Release: October 29, 1993
Blu Ray Release: August 30, 2011
Review by James Klein
Ok, so this review is a little late. Halloween is long over. Christmas has just finished. Why did it take me so long to review this holiday classic? I just couldn’t find anyone with a 3-D TV to review the film. Disney’s new blu ray of Nightmare has imported all of the great special features from their last disc (except for director Henry Selick’s audio commentary) and now added an extra bonus: you can watch The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D. Is it worth the double dip? Many online reviews have said this 3-D blu ray is amazing so I would have to say it may be worth it, only if you have a 3-D TV. I, however, have not seen this film since its first release in the early 1990’s. I really enjoyed it when I first saw it and it still holds up, if not it’s even better than I remembered it.
For those who have never seen Nightmare (shame on you) the film is all about a world called Halloweentown where the skies are brown and gray and the entire town is filled with monsters and ghosts and goblins. The person who runs the holiday Halloween for the town is Jack Skellington, a showman who loves to scare and create the best Halloween parties each year. However, it is starting to get old and he doesn’t see much purpose in continuing. After Halloween he wonders into the woods and sees a bunch of trees with door knobs, each one covered in a holiday (an Easter egg, a heart, a four leaf clover, a turkey) but the one that catches his eye has a bright Christmas tree covering it. When Jack opens the door, he is swept into the world of Christmastown and is blown away by this entirely new world. When he goes back to Halloweentown to tell everyone, he tries to come up with his own Christmas and kidnaps Santa Clause so Jack can give presents to the good little boys and girls. This doesn’t go over very well, given that he doesn’t understand that kids don’t like snakes, severed heads and killer robots for Christmas.
Shot entirely in stop motion, this pre-CGI holiday treat is like a dark version of the claymation Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer special. Entire characters and sets are all hand built. Visually speaking, The Nightmare Before Christmas is simply amazing. I can just watch that film over and over again and pick out new and different little details that I never caught before. All of the characters are original and have never been seen before. I especially like the three trick or treaters whose masks look like their actual faces. No film has ever looked like this before and as much as I enjoyed Tim Burton’s follow up film The Corpse Bride, it doesn’t hold a candle to Nightmare in terms of visuals.
Not one for musicals, especially animated musicals, I often found myself humming along with a few of the songs. My favorites were, “This is Halloween” and “What’s This?” but all of the songs are good. I would have liked a little less music as it did tend to get a little distracting at times. It felt like the movie comes to a halt when a musical number begins, no matter how good. But that just might be me as I am not much of a musical fan.
For those who like their blu rays filled with special features, Disney loads up on this disc. We get not only the film on 3-D bly ray, blu ray and DVD but also included are a few of Tim Burton’s short films. One of them, Vincent, is an animated short about a young boy who daydreams of becoming Vincent Price. Price himself even does the narration. The other short, Frankenweenie stars Shelley Duvall, Daniel Stern, Barrett Oliver, Paul Bartel and a very young Sofia Coppola. The story is about a young boy whose dog is killed when it runs out in the street and the young boy is able to bring him back to life, ala The Frankenstein Monster. Shot in black and white, this homage to Universal monster films is terrific but may be too upsetting for smaller children. The short was actually what caused Tim Burton to be fired from Disney when he worked for them. Also included is the original poem “The Nightmare before Christmas” that Tim Burton wrote which is read by Christopher Lee. Throw in a great making of, trailers, deleted storyboards and you’ve got yourself one chock full blu ray disc that is a must have in every collection.