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Ghosts and ghouls in a Disney film? By the producer who brought you Sweeny Todd: the demon barber and Alice in wonderland is Tim Burton’s spectacular classic: The nightmare before Christmas. In this movie Tim Burton goes back to his roots, opting for stop motion instead of animation and teaming up with Disney to create a beautifully crafted movie. Like many of his previous creations this isn’t a movie for the faint hearted. Of all the Halloween films this is the one that will haunt you in your dreams. A jolly movie for the festive season? You will be very mistaken to think that. This magical tale has a dark twist – as dark and as eccentric as Tim Burton himself. In this dark tale set in the holiday lands of old, Jack Skellington is the pumpkin king. Fed up of the same old routine, Jack’s heart is captured by the joy and laughter of Christmas. He hatches a plan to bring some Christmas spirit to the ghost and ghouls of Halloween town – even if it means kidnapping Santa Clause...
It’s another haunting Halloween thanks to Jack Skellington- the Pumpkin King. He wowed the witches and astounded the ghastly citizens of Halloween town but Jack is tired of the same old routine. Wishing for so much more Jack sorrowfully sings his sad song. In the graveyard Sally, the rag doll listens- her undead heart going out to Jack. Sally herself is hiding from her creator, the deluded mad scientist Dr Finklesteen. Running away into the woods Jack find himself magically taken to Christmas town. There he witnesses the happiness and laughter that the festive season brings. Instead of feeling disgusted Jack’s heart is captured by the spirit of Christmas. Jack returns to Halloween Town, telling its residents of presents, Christmas trees and the dreaded Sandy Claws. Whilst Jack is plotting to bring Christmas to Halloween Town Sally is struggling to free herself form the grasp of her creator- Dr Finklesteen. With the deadline to Christmas looming, Jack hires Lock, Shock and Barrel (three mischievous trick-or-treaters to kidnap Santa Clause). However their disobedient nature means them handover Santa Clause to the evil Ooogie Boogie. Sally predicts that Jack’s plan will end in disaster but Jack simply brushes off her concerns. Jack (dressed up as Santa Clause) heads to Earth to deliver presents to the children. However Jack’s plan for a perfect Christmas is plagued by disaster. With presents that bite and dolls that scream, Jack’s antics bring a nightmare before Christmas and the people pleading for the real Santa Clause to come back and save Christmas. Meanwhile in Halloween Town Santa Clause is being held captive by the infamous Ooogie Boogie. Sally, finally free, tries to free Santa Clause but her plan is foiled by Ooogie Boogie. With Christmas ruined, Jack returns to Halloween Town to free the only person who could save Christmas- Santa Clause. After tricking Ooogie boogie Jack frees both Santa and Sally. Santa Clause saves Christmas and Jack realizes his heart belongs to Sally. The movie ends with a Halloween celebration (similar to the one at the beginning of the movie).
One of the most appealing aspects of this movie is its characters. Each character is unique and plays a part in the story. Here are a few of the main characters:
Jack Skellington is the main anti-hero of the movie. At first he is portrayed as the frightening spirit of Halloween. However Jack’s true feelings are heard when he sings his songs. Jack is tired of the same old routine and after a visit to Christmas Town he is inspired by the decorations, toys and warm spirit that the festive season brings. Jack plans to bring Christmas to the ghastly ghouls of Halloween Town but his plan ends in disaster. With Christmas falling apart it’s up to Jack to save the one person who can save Christmas- Santa Clause. Though Jack may seem an unlikely hero, he is lovable and people of all ages can relate to him.
Sally is the love interest of Jack. Sally is a ragdoll created by the mad genius- Dr Finklesteen. Dr Finklesteen does not let her out of his sight and she tries to escape from him by slipping deadly nightshade into his food. She loves Jack and wishes for him to notice her but Jack is plagued with sadness. Sally is often the voice of wisdom and warns Jack that his plan to bring Christmas to Halloween town will end in disaster. The audience can feel Sally’s sadness as she longs for Jack’s attention and we can all feel her happiness when she is reunited with him.
Dr Finklesteen adds a touch of humour to this dark tale. He claims to be the father of Sally and is often gullible enough to fall for her traps. After realising Sally’s attempts try and escape he locks her up. Later on in the story he creates a new friend and forgets about Sally. The voice actor who plays him truly captures the mad genius he is and is sure to pull in a few laughs.
One of the recurrent characters in the story is the mayor. Though he has no main part in the story he appears often. Though the mayor may have political power over the town he is merely a pawn in Jack’s plans. One of the most freakish things about him is his head. The Mayor has two faces, one that is happy and the other which is frightening. This indicated he has cross personality and is a tongue in cheek way of expressing the cross personalities of many politicians.
Santa Clause is the spirit of Christmas – just like Jack being the spirit of Halloween. Jack describes him as a big red man with claws and creates a frightening image of hm. Jack portrays Santa Clause as Sandy Claws – instilling fear in the residents of Halloween Town. After being kidnapped by the mischievous Lock, Shock and Barrel, Santa is held hostage by the evil Ooogie Boogie. Santa is rescued to save Christmas by Jack.
The main antagonist in the story is Ooogie Boogie the bogeyman. Many children can relate to this and Tim Burton has picked the perfect poltergeist to suit his audience. Many children grow up afraid of the bogeyman under their bed or in their wardrobe so Ooogie Boogie made the perfect baddy. With his evil ways Boogie Ooogie held Santa hostage but he was defeated by Jack who saves the day. He is disloyal Hench men are Lock, Shock and Barrel.
With more and more films opting for animation, the Nightmare before Christmas is a breath of fresh air. Unlike many other animation movies Nightmare before Christmas provides a breathtaking visual display in stop motion. The use of puppetry is beautifully crafted to express characters in a way that is much more frightening than animation. However this does not limit the characters expressions, with each character having over a 100 puppets. The use of stop motion helps retain the childish innocence of the story which could have easily been scarier if stop motion was not used. The use of animation for special effects such as lightning is effective as it retains its purposes and enhances the movie visually.
As well as a well written script the film is accompanied by a variety of songs. The songs help set the scene (e.g. the first song: ‘This is Halloween helped emphasise the madness and excitement of the celebration). The music expresses a lot of the characters thoughts that are often not expresses in their conversations. For example at he beginning Jack seems happy and excited as he is the main star of the Halloween celebrations but we only realize his true feelings when he signs in the graveyard- wishing for something different. This song created a sad, mournful mood and evoked empathy form the audience as Jack expresses his true feelings. The music also told us a lot about what the charters are like (e.g. from Ooogie Boogie’s song you could tell that he was evil and devious). The use of music also helps set the pace and mood for the movie (e.g. at the beginning the song creates a spooky/ slightly excited mood just before the Halloween celebrations). As well as helping us understand the setting the music helps understand characters feelings for each other (e.g. Sally’s feelings for Jack).
If sitting near a warm fire and dipping hot chocolate is not your idea of fun this movie is for you. With frightening moments that will send shivers down the spines of children and adults alike this movie is the perfect festive dose of ghosts and ghouls for those of you who are fed up of the festive season’s dull offering of films. This movie is aimed at adults and kids alike and I assure you that you will fall in love with characters just like I did. The movies effective use of puppetry adds haunting reality to the characters and the movie is enjoyable and funny for the festive season. However this movie might not appeal to everyone, as some may get bored and find the story not frightening enough though I assure you that the songs and talented cast will make up for it.
This is why I’ve rated this movie 4/5- it’s a festive must see for all the family!





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