The Nightmare Before Christmas This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

   The Nightmare Before Christmas

It has the enchantment of The Little Mermaid, the artistry of Beauty and the Beast, and characters more interesting and (believe it or not) scarier than the Clinton administration, yet it has the music of The Simpsons and the look of Beetlejuice. Is it The Muppets on acid? No, the film going public isn't that lucky, but it's the next best thing, Tim Burton's new film, The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Nightmare is the triumphant return of an animator to Disney who left the company after his works like Frankenweenie, the tale of a young boy who raises his dog from the dead, were left unreleased, and he was forced to work on such animated fare as The Fox and the Hound. Since then, he has become known for conceiving and directing such twisted delights as Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Batman. His display of talent in these films and a management shift in the company had lured him back to the company, giving him all he could ever want -- complete creative freedom and a workable budget.

That freedom abounds in Burton's latest effort, based upon a demented illustrated poem he wrote during his Disney days. When first submitted, the Disney hierarchy turned up their noses at it, but the mid-80s brought new management to Disney and fame to Burton, causing Disney to first release Frankenweenie on videocassette, and then to commission Nightmare for the screen. This time, however, Nightmare was not to be animated, but filmed using a revolutionary technique in stop-motion animation.

Until now, stop-motion animation has been associated with the California Raisins and cheesy Christmas television specials, but comparing those to Nightmare is like comparing Spam to gourmet steak. Nightmare was created by taking still pictures (around 130,000) of statues. In each picture, the statues were altered slightly, so when all 130,000 pictures are displayed quickly in succession, the illusion of movement is conveyed. This, combined with the voices of actors and background music, adds up to a superb cinematic event.

The story of Nightmare is similar to many of Burton's movies. The hero, Jack Skellington, Pumpkin King of mythical Halloweentown, is a loner who has become bored with his life, an endless succession of Halloweens where he is lauded unendingly for his outstanding efforts in making Halloween more horrible every year. One day on a walk through the woods with his red-nosed ghost dog, Zero, he happens upon a clearing where all the holiday-towns meet. Curious, he stumbles into Christmas town and is enchanted by all the happiness around. He runs back to Halloweentown and recruits all the citizens for a quest to rule Christmas. The story was intriguing, but even with a complex sub-plot concerning the mystical Sally, a Frankenstein-style rag doll in love with Skellington, the plot lagged in many sequences.

The special effects are amazing. They range from simple but effective drawn-in ghosts to a complex black-lit musical sequence featuring dancing slot-machines and roulette tables. However, effects do not a movie make.

For the last three years, Disney animated musicals have swept the Academy Awards' music categories. Alas, this year the tradition will be broken. Nightmare's score, written by former Oingo Boingo member Danny Elfman (who also wrote the scores for Batman, The Simpsons, and Beetlejuice) sounds like all the bits of music excluded from the Phantom of the Opera highlights album. With the exception of one jazzy number and a sadistic song about planned violence toward Sandy Claws, it is boring and repetitive, which drags the movie's momentum to a screeching halt.

Although the animation and special effects were spectacular, the mediocre script and score lessen the movie's impact. It had an important message, and was worth the ticket price, but it lacks the emotional bond between audience and characters that was evident in Beauty and the Beast, and does not have the music or comedy of Aladdin to convince the audience to overlook this. Overall, Nightmare is a fine piece of film, but it will never achieve the classic status of Cinderella or Snow White.

Review by D. L., Stoughton, MA

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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Lily">This teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
yesterday at 5:54 pm
i love this so much!
zman1 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 21, 2009 at 7:43 am
This movie is great. I love the soundtrack, the style, and especially the animation. It is truly Tim Burton's trademark style. By the way check out my review of Beetlejuice.
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