Disney: ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ is the Perfect Christmas Movie

Screenshot from Henry Selick’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. Copyright goes to Touchstone Pictures, Skellington Productions, and Walt Disney Productions.

Hey! Hallie here!

This movie’s focus on two different holidays has led to a very large debate about when you should watch it. Is it a Halloween movie, or is it a Christmas movie? Back in October I wrote a post about why you should watch this movie during Halloween. But I did say I also believed this movie was a Christmas movie. This movie definitely follows it’s Halloween characters more. You spend much more time in Halloweentown than you do in Christmastown. So what makes this movie so important to the Christmas season? What about this movie will make you want to turn it on to get into the Christmas spirit? I’m going to cover all of the things about this movie that turns the focus away from Halloween and toward Christmas. I’m also going to talk a bit about the things you can enjoy all year because, let’s be honest, it’d be a crime to only watch this movie twice a year.

The Main Plot: This is definitely a very easy thing to love, but I point it out mainly because the plot revolves around the Christmas season. The movie starts out on Halloween day where Jack completes yet another successful Halloween without being satisfied with it. From there, the entire movie turns it’s attention to Christmas. Jack falls into Christmastown immediately after he laments about his frustrations, sings an entire song while surrounded by snow and elves, and then begins to research Christmas. Eventually he decides that he’ll do Christmas himself. His creation of his own version of Christmas, and the repercussions of that, are the major points of the film. While the film does take place in Halloweentown, it takes place in Halloweentown while it’s citizens are making Christmas. It is only through Jack’s attempt at taking over Christmas that he realizes his self worth and becomes happy with who he is. This movie doesn’t have to do much to prove that it’s meant to be watched during the holidays.

The Music: Danny Elfman is known for his creepy soundtracks. He’s known mainly for his work with Tim Burton, after all. Here, though, he strikes a really nice balance between the opposite feelings of each holiday. Through the use of distorted Christmas melodies and generally whimsical scoring, he’s able to remind the audience that both Halloween and Christmas are playing a part in the movie’s events. Whenever Jack is contemplating Christmas in Halloweentown, there’s always a brightness and hopefulness to the melodies being used. Similarly, whenever Jack is immersed in his creation of Christmas, there’s always a darker theme to remind you that Jack is perhaps out of his depth, given the fact that he’s a skeleton. “What’s This” is also an essential song to any Christmas playlist. It’s the most energetic and exciting of all the songs on the soundtrack. It highlights the curiosities of Christmas through the eyes of someone who has never seen it before, while it just so slightly warns the audience of what’s probably going to go wrong. Danny Elfman can do no wrong when it comes to movie scoring, and ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ proves it.

The Use of Santa: I’ve noticed that, as I watch new Christmas movies every year, I’m very picky about the use of Santa as a character. Sometimes writers don’t realize that they have to fully flesh out his personality if they’re going to use this character in their movie. This too often results in a character with no personality, or multiple personalities that are inconsistent throughout the movie. And, let’s be honest, there are a lot of movies where Santa’s entire appearance is just a bit too cheesy to enjoy. This movie is not one of those. The writers decided on a grumpy Santa, which isn’t an entirely new take, but it’s consistent throughout the entire movie. He keeps his morals, even brings Christmas to Jack because he likes it so much, but he doesn’t pull his punches. He calls Halloweentown an “insane asylum” and is very obviously livid with Jack for taking over his holiday. He’s very sensible when he argues with Oogie Boogie, but even when his life is on the line he doesn’t stop scolding him. He’s a good guy, but you know by the end of the movie not to mess with him. It’s really one of the only badass interpretations of Santa I’ve seen on screen. Plus, on the soundtrack, he’s voiced by Sir Patrick Stewart. Enough said.

The Themes: As I said above, it’s through Christmas that Jack learns to be happy with who he is. That’s really the main point of the movie. Jack Skellington gets to a point where he’s never satisfied with what he’s accomplished, and while he knows he’s skilled, he’s convinced that he’s incapable of coming up with anything new that will make Halloween interesting. This is why he falls in love with Christmastown. It’s so different from what he knows, that he’s convinced that if he molds himself to this new image, he’ll become more imaginative and interesting. He entirely loses his sense of self doing so, too. He goes so far as to break a picture of himself over his knee, replacing it with a picture of himself dressed as Santa, or Sandy Claws. And while he believes his grand new ideas all come from the things he learned in Christmastown, it becomes pretty clear to the viewer, and to Sally, that he isn’t really sticking to any actual Christmas ideas. He tends to create, and enjoy creating, creepier things. Unfortunately, Jack doesn’t realize this until he’s shot down by the military. It’s a necessary lesson for him, and one that viewers can definitely learn from, too. A movie telling audiences to love themselves for who they are is one thing, but this movie takes it a step farther. Jack takes pride in his mistakes and notes that they made him a better person. While Christmas was necessary for him to learn these things, they’re important to hear all year long.

And that’s it! I’m always up for watching this movie, so it’s no surprise that I’m advocating for everyone to watch it during both Halloween and Christmas. But, honestly, I think it’s a good movie to watch for both holidays. Labeling this movie as only for October or only for December is doing it a disservice. It does so much work to blend both holidays together, it deserves to be appreciated during both times of the year. So there’s really nothing stopping you from adding it to your watch list for Christmas! It’s better to watch ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ during the holidays than it is to let December pass and regret not including it in your Christmas traditions later.

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!


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