The Nightmare Before Christmas

I was babysitting my nephews this weekend, and after dinner we got a big bucket of popcorn, drinks in spill-proof containers, and crawled into bed to watch some “scary” Halloween movies together. Brady is newly 8 and Jack is 5 and two thirds so I didn’t want anything that was inappropriately scary, but I wanted to give them a taste of Halloween and who better than Tim Burton to do just that. We watched Frankenweenie, a favourite of mine, and Jack now has some very pervasive ideas about reanimating dead pets with electricity. I suggested to him that this was something that might only work in movies, but no, he assured me, this was not so. Apologies to my sister’s dog, whose corpse may suffer any range of indignities.

Interestingly, The Nightmare Before Christmas didn’t go over quite as well. It wasn’t too scary for them, but it was perhaps too boring. The fault is perhaps mine: they watched it fairly attentively until Herbie The Wonder Dog came up for a cuddle, and then they discovered some of the tricks he was willing to do in order to earn popcorn treats. So that did pull them away from the movie a bit. They were also taken by surprise by its ending – not the content of it, but the timing. And though I hadn’t remembered it being rather short, it is – only 76 minutes, and that’s counting credits. So we may have to try again next year to really give it a fair shake because this movie is quite beloved and dare I say almost cult-worthy…although, is that just among adults?

Jack Skellington (“Is he made of sticks?” Jack asked, and I didn’t exactly want to say bones, so I called him a skeleton and that seemed to appease him) is the pumpkin king, a resident of Halloween Town, where every year they put on a lavish but repetitive display of ghoulish horror. Jack Skellington is bored. So when he finds a clearing in the forest with portals to other holiday towns (and don’t you wish we’d gotten even a glimpse of some of the others?) you bet he opens up the most alluring and steps into the wonder of Christmas Town.

Now, very likely there are residents of Christmas Town who are every bit as bored of doing the same old thing every year as old Jack Skellington is, but we don’t hear from them. Instead we watch Jack’s eyes go round as he is mesmerized by all the merriment. When he eventually returns home, he conscripts Halloween Town’s citizens to put on their own Christmas…but a bunch of ghosts and monsters don’t quite pull off the winter wonderland of Jack’s vision. And the ways in which they get it wrong are quite endearing. Until they kidnap Santa Claus (Sandy Claws, as they mishear the title) and Jack steps into the role clad in trim red velvet suit. (“I’d punch him right in the nose,” says little Jack, quite perturbed by the Santa imposter).

Tim Burton has said that it was a shopping mall that sparked the idea for the film – watching as the Halloween merch gets taken down the day after the holiday and immediately replaced with Christmas stuff (of course, that was back in the 90s when we still had a modicum of decency…today both holidays exist commercially in tandem, as early as August).

Our kids may not have been big fans of the film, at least not yet, but there’s something about it that appeals to many others. Matt, Sean and I are headed to Disney World in a few weeks and we’ll witness Magic Kingdom go from Mickey’s Not So Spooky Halloween to Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas, literally overnight. And the great thing is: Jack and Sally, rarely seen in the parks otherwise, make special appearances over this holiday time. Disney Land’s Haunted Mansion gets a Nightmare before Christmas makeover, and you can purchase specially themed ears to match, and treats too of course, because Disney is a master at getting you to part with your money.

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21 thoughts on “The Nightmare Before Christmas

  1. Often Off Topic

    I’ve always loved Disney but there’s something about NBC that just doesn’t grab me as much as I thought it would. You’re right about it being so widely loved, though!
    Can I join your next movie night? They sound like so much fun!! Can’t wait till my little girl is a little older and we can do this too ❤

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      1. thepunktheory

        When I did a review a while ago I filed it under Christmas. But as soon as I see Halloween decorations in stores “This is Halloween” starts playing in my head. So, I’m not really sure either! It’s a good excuse to just watch the film twice a year 😉

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  2. Invisibly Me

    Hahah, don’t let Jack near a bare electrical wire and a dead animal! 😂 Love a bit of TNBC, it’s Halloween & Christmas at it’s core but I definitely think it has year-round appeal. Oooo so exciting you get to see Halloween brought to life when you go to Disney World, perfect timing and it’s fab Jack & Sally have a feature! xx

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  3. bookbeachbunny

    I’m actually afraid to watch this movie as it’s so beloved among some of my family and friends I worry I’m not going to like it as much or at all since I was bored out of my mind while watch Corpse Bride. Glad to hear the adults like it better! There’s hope for me yet I suppose.

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  4. thoughtsallsorts

    This is such a superb movie! Love it. And managed to introduce my 10 year old daughter to it – great news – she thinks it awesome too. Whew.
    Great post.
    Have a wonderful rest of your week.

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  5. Marsi

    The Nightmare Before Christmas is a classic! I haven’t watched it in a few years, so thanks for the prompting to screen again. I saw it in the theatre when it was first released and had a copy on VHS (Omg I am OLD!). Tim Burton is a mad genius.

    “… and Jack now has some very pervasive ideas about reanimating dead pets with electricity”. Oh dear! I hope Jack hasn’t seen Pet Cemetery. I haven’t watched this movie with kids, but should sit down with my 7-year old niece and watch it.

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  6. J.

    I was thinking about this one today – basically whether or not it’s a good idea for Halloween movie night with my boy. He’s a wee bit younger than your youngest nephew.

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    1. Jay Post author

      I worried it might be a bit scary for them and in fact it was a bit boring to them. I’m going to give it a couple more years. They definitely did better with Frankenweenie.

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