The Nightmare Before Christmas
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Now digitally restored and remastered with state-of-the-art technology, The Nightmare Before Christmansis deeper, darker and more brilliant than ever -- just as Tim Burton originally envisioned it. Can Christmas be saved? Bored with the same old scare-and-scream routine, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, longs to spread the joy of Christmas. But his merry mission puts Santa in jeopardy and creates a nightmare for good little boys and girls everywhere!
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What's this? A new "Nightmare Before Christmas" DVD package? Actually there are three versions: this two-disc set that includes a downloadable digital copy, a Blu-ray version, and a collector's edition that comes with a bust of Jack Skellington with a detachable Sandy Claus beard and hat.
Though this version is billed as a two-disc set, it actually has three discs. The third one contains the digital copy. An instruction sheet spells out in clear steps how to download the file to an iPod or similar device.
The movie itself is a feast for the eyes, ears and imagination. A delectable witches' brew of stop-motion animation, catchy show tunes and a seriously warped creative license, it always stays true to its timeless message: to be happy, be yourself. Devilishly nonconformist, it's an enduring holiday musical for the whole Addams family.
Well, almost. Though all of its fright gags are played entirely for laughs, some of the imagery is downright creepy, especially for small children. Anyone older than say, 6, however, should enjoy every minute. Teenagers will love it.
The story -- the citizens of Halloweentown attempt to annex neighboring Christmastown -- comes from the macabre mind of producer Tim Burton, who wrote it in his spare time (as a poem!) while working as a Disney animator in the 1980s. The movie blends the tastiest bits of Burton's earlier Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands with a sprinkling of the stop-motion magic first found in Disney's 1961 Babes in Toyland.
The imaginative cast of characters includes:
* Pumpkin King Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), a mischievous misfit who believes his purpose in life is to merge the holidays of Halloween and Christmas.
* Jack's faithful dog Zero, a ghost with a glowing, jack-o'-lantern nose who, like the hound in How the Grinch Stole Christmas, eventually pulls a sleigh
* Rag-doll heroine Sally (voiced by Catherine O'Hara), Jack's love interest, who sews herself back together when she loses a body part
* Oogie Boogie (Broadway veteran Ken Page), a slimy, singing bag of bugs who channels the cartoon version of Cab Calloway in the old Betty Boop cartoons
* Lock (Paul "Pee-Wee Herman" Reubens), Shock (O'Hara) and Barrel (Danny Elfman, the film's composer), a trio of evil trick-or-treaters who "kidnap the Sandy Claws"
* Wheelchair-bound evil scientist Dr. Finklestein (William Hickey), a duckbilled quack whose flip-top head lets him scratch his brains for inspiration
* A mayor (Glenn Shadix, the interior director Otho in Beetlejuice) who is literally two-faced.
Blessed with the ability to bring adult minds back to child's level, Burton dwells in dark mischief. In fact, some of Nightmare's best scenes include the kidnapping of Santa Claus and Jack's hilarious attempt to replace him on Christmas Eve, when the skeleton gleefully delivers presents such as tree-devouring snakes and severed, shrunken heads.
Director Henry Selick painstakingly created the film over three years. Though he had a production crew of over 100, each minute of footage took a week, as each second required 24 ever-so-slightly different shots.
This 2-disc DVD package has a nice collection of extras:
* An audio commentary with Burton, Selick and Elfman.
* A downloadable digital copy of the film, which you can transfer to an iPod or similar device.
* Burton's first short, 1982's 6-minute "Vincent," a black-and-white stop-action film about a boy who dreams of being Vincent Price, who narrates.
* Burton's 1994 Disney live-action short "Frankenweenie." This 30-minute black-and-white film re-imagines the Frankenstein story as the tale of a young boy and his car-struck pet dog in suburban America. A recently taped introduction by Burton shows some working sketches being used for his full-length version now in development.
* A reading of Burton's original "Nightmare Before Christmas" poem by actor Christopher Lee
* A promotional film for the annual "Nightmare" makeover of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.
* Promotional and making-of featurettes, a storyboard to film comparison, deleted scenes and theatrical trailers and posters
The story is uncomplicated enough. Jack Skellington (Danny Elfman), an emaciated man who is charming in character and sinister in appearance, is the figure head of Halloweentown, and the key figure of the most anticipated holiday of the village. November 1st as one might expect, is a let-down, and a down-cast Jack finds himself wandering through a forest all night long.
At the end of his journey, he discovers the North Pole and all the inhabitants surrounding Christmas's festive figure, Santa Claus. Noting that there is something different abound, he goes back to Halloween Town and brings all he sees back to the people. Feeling inadequate to convey the warmth of the season, he plots with three mischievous children to kidnap Ole Saint Nick and have the secrets of gift giving unfold for his town.
Embellishing the story are some offbeat characters. Ragdoll Sally (Catherine O'Hara) is captive to the nasty Dr. Finkelstein (William Hickey) in a Rapunzel-like subplot.
`The Nightmare Before Christmas' could have been a one note wonder, but what I like about it is the charm factor. In the midst of a cute and macabre background (I'd never thought that would mix until seeing this film.), delightful songs and memorable characters fill the screen. It doesn't exactly come off like Lucille Ball singing "We Need a Little Christmas," but the sojourn from a dark world yearning to be lighter is worth taking indeed.
A J.P.'s Pick 5 *'s =Exceptional
Happy Halloween! ;>)