Stop motion animation is a particular poison of mine. I just adore it. It’s just a level of creativity that rarely can be seen and the final products are often ridiculously beautiful and so on and so forth and if I keep rambling the Ed will be on at me for my run on sentences again so I’ll stop this one here. [Good plan. -Ed] Anyway, what’s with the rambling this time? Well, because it’s coming up for that happiest time of year – supposedly – and we’re looking to stuff from fandom that fits the season. I picked Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Part Halloween flick, part Christmas, Nightmare is one of those movies that really has to be seen by anyone who considers themselves to be a fan of animation. The story is simple, you’ve probably heard of it before. Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, has become somewhat disillusioned with his holiday of forte. Seeking a release for the oncoming despair he feels, he stumbles across Christmas Town which puts a new warmth in his bones. This year, the citizens of Halloween Town will take Christmas and do it their way. Disaster ensues, of course, but that would be getting too far into spoiler territory.
Basically take the Grinch, but make the protagonist love everything about Christmas instead of hating it, and you’ve got our lead character in a nutshell. Jack is wonderfully complex, clearly suffering from some mid-death crisis during the early parts of the movie. Actually, as protagonists go, Jack is likely one of the few that we are meant to be cringing a little bit with what it is he’s trying to do. It’s a refreshing change from the protagonists that we’re always meant to agree with, regardless of our personal thoughts on their actions. Burton’s script allows for a character that is three dimensional, and for us to come to our own conclusions about his behaviour.
The same can be said for the majority of the cast actually. In this deliberately monochrome world, Burton’s creativity presents us with a unique cast who proudly state that when it comes to scaring people: “that’s our job, but we’re not mean.” The movie is a good example of the Dark Is Not Evil trope that frequently pops up in Burton’s work. Well, he is King of the Perky Goths when it comes to film making after all. Burton is probably one of the few directors out there with a recognisable style, who borders the line of alternative and mainstream and manages success in both. And whether or not you think he’s become overrated these days, or you prefer his original work, it’s hard to deny that Nightmare Before Christmas is anything other than a little gem of a film.
Originally released under their Touchstone banner, Disney didn’t really want to touch this one until relatively recently. It was originally believed that it was too dark for children, and that was an area that they didn’t really want to go to. Now, if you’ve read the GUST articles we’ve put out until now, you’ll know that Disney really seemed to ignore their own movies with that statement, but they at least put it right in 2006, when they re-released the film in 3D under their own Disney banner. Oh, and if you haven’t had the chance to see the film in 3D, do try to get to a screening. The freaky opening ‘This is Halloween’ is somehow far more weird and mind warping in 3 dimensions. On a general note, stop motion films do seem to work well in 3D, another reason the creative form should be used more.
Overall, I’d say this is one of those films that can help to bring the joy back to Christmas, which can sometimes seem like its missing when you’re busy trying to make preparations and get all the needed shopping done. Seeing how Jack is revitalised by the simple joy of the holiday is something very easy to share in, and you’ll be grinning as you do.
Z McAspurren (hasn’t finished her wrapping)