retro movie review – THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)

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“What’s this, I see…” sings JACK SKELLINGTON, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town in TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

This would be the holiday film for the tweens. They aren’t quite young enough to enjoy the regular cartoons and traditional Christmas fare. But they aren’t too old to NOT celebrate the Holidays.

While this film may be a little spooky for the younger children, it’s still got a great message and some amazing songs to enjoy.

TIM BURTON gets all the credit for this cult classic, but really it’s director HENRY SELICK and musician DANNY ELFMAN who I feel are more responsible and deserve more recognition.

They deserve equal credit for the success of NIGHTMARE. It’s got that Burton vibe all over it. The story is his. The character creations are his. But the stop motion animation, and the gruelling task of capturing this phenomenal art form was supervised by the director. He had to manage this talented crew over months and months of work.

Danny ELFMAN is JACK Skellington

ELFMAN is mainly known as a composer. And an excellent one at that. In NIGHTMARE; however, he writes the lyrics to go with his music, and he voices our hero JACK. The man is probably just as essential as Burton and the director, Selick.

A lot of the charm and whimsy comes from the music. During the first snowfall, I still can’t help but imagine that song in my head.


The humour is a strong selling point with this movie. It’s all the creative spins on the Holiday. Making Christmas dark and scary has never been so much fun. Each and every familiar Holiday tradition gets turned on its (decapitated) head as it’s reimagined in a creepy Halloween sort of way.

Oogie Boogie

The actual story involves rescuing Santa from the Oogie Boogie Man. This plot sounds more frightening than it actually is. If your child has enjoyed current movies like PARANORMAN or BOX TROLLS, they’ll definitely enjoy NIGHTMARE. It’s not as spooky as the director’s other film CORALINE. But CHRISTMAS has that same stop-motion puppetry. The aesthetic is what draws a lot of the audience.

There is a great appreciation that comes with knowing someone physically moved every little piece one frame at a time. 24 times for 1 second of film. This gets really crazy when you realize how many individual elements may move in a single frame. Children interested in film making or art will enjoy learning how this movie was made. It’s a big draw to why I still enjoy stop-motion animation.


For a bonus feature, you could make a movie with your child in this manner. Use a digital camera (mounted) and snap one picture at a time, as you slowly move about one of their toys. Watch these images in a slideshow and you have just created a cartoon. You wouldn’t need to capture 24 images for 1 second – this is only to mimic real motion. It can be herky jerky when it’s just you and your child. I’m sure they would really love it. And who knows what you may inspire within them.

In this hyper fast ADHD world, this activity would teach patience in a fun way. They could see how one little step impacts the whole. How if you spend a little time (a little hard work), in the long run you’ll have something great. If you make one and post it, make sure to send me a LINK… But I digress…


For me, when it comes to classic holiday films NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS ranks right up there with the best. I can watch it as an adult and still be whisked away into this imaginary realm. It’s also nice to have a sing-along film which isn’t totally annoying and only for kids. The darker elements may feel like your children are “getting away with something.”



What do you think?

Is this movie too scary and inappropriate for children?

Do you love the songs? Do you sing along?

Do you like the stop-motion technique? Or the darker character designs and the world setting?

Would you like to see a sequel (finally)? Or is it unwise to mess with the infinite?

the CHRISTOPHER NOLAN treatment… I jest

NERD ALERT 2000: Bonus features on the disc include the making-of and behind the scenes documentaries, and an excellent commentary. But make sure to watch the original poem by Burton – as read by CHRISTOPHER LEE… Check it out here…

2 thoughts on “retro movie review – THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993)

  1. this is one of my most popular posts here on SLIP/THROUGH… what do you guys think… I’d love to know what connects with you… Or are you just in as much love with NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS as i am?

    Have any of you taken my suggestion and made your own STOP-MOTION VIDEO? If you have, please post a link here… I’m sure I’m not the only one that would love to see it… there be stop-motion animation nerds afoot around here


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