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The Nightmare Before Christmas

The Nightmare Before Christmas

By Patrick Samuel • August 20th, 2013
Static Mass Rating: 5/5
Walt Disney Pictures

Original release: October 29th, 1993
Running time: 73 minutes

Director: Henry Selick
Producers: Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi
Composer: Danny Elfman

Cast: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon and Catherine O’Hara

 The Nightmare Before Christmas

The year was 1994 and it was an early Saturday autumn morning when my best friend James and I made our way to Rio Cinema in Dalston for a screening of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. James’ mum packed us treats and drinks, and as we settled in to watch the movie it suddenly dawned us that at 15 and 16 years of age, we were the oldest “kids” there, but so what, as it started, we were signing along like every other 7 and 8 year old!

Set in Halloween Town where weird and wonderfully frightening creatures celebrate Halloween each year, Jack Skellington, The Pumpkin King, begins to grow tired of the same old routines. When he wanders out into the forest, he accidentally falls through a portal to Christmas Town where he sees their celebrations. Returning to home, Jack convinces the town’s residents to take over Christmas!

As he assumes the role of Santa Claus on Christmas Eve, complete with a sleigh that looks like a coffin, pulled by a skeleton reindeer, Jack’s ready to deliver presents but is completely unprepared for the disaster that will follow. Not only do the presents terrify the children and outrage their parents, but the military are about to launch an attack on Jack for being a Santa impostor. He has little time left to return Christmas back to the way it was before the night is over.

Borrowing heavily on German Expressionism throughout, the film is visually stunning. The worlds of Halloween Town and Christmas Town look like one of those pop-up books which you would have loved to come alive and this is one instance when it does. Filmed using stop-motion, a total of 227 puppets were used in the film, but with Jack having the most animated of expressions, he had to have over 400 heads made!

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Some time in the early 1980’s while he was still working as an animator for Disney, Burton watched Halloween merchandise in a shop window being taken down and replaced with a Christmas display and was inspired to write a three-page poem, titled The Nightmare Before Christmas. He also drew inspiration from television specials such as Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964), How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) and the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas to help create the characters of Jack, Zero and Santa.

After his success with Vincent (1982), Disney began to consider turning The Nightmare Before Christmas into a 30-minute television short but it wasn’t until 1990 when a deal was struck. In that time, Burton was able to flesh out his Nightmare characters and expand his world to what we see in the finished version of the film. The results are amazing and in my opinion his later work could never quite match what he achieved with this.

It’s a wonderful alternative to the traditional Christmas tales and one I’ve never been able to forget. While the ghosts and ghouls hop, dance and sing while taking over the festivities, you can rest assured that it all remains light-hearted and fun for the family whether you choose to watch it on Halloween or at Christmas, or both.

Patrick Samuel

Patrick Samuel

The founder of Static Mass Emporium and one of its Editors in Chief is an emerging artist with a philosophy degree, working primarily with pastels and graphite pencils, but he also enjoys experimenting with water colours, acrylics, glass and oil paints.

Being on the autistic spectrum with Asperger’s Syndrome, he is stimulated by bold, contrasting colours, intricate details, multiple textures, and varying shades of light and dark. Patrick's work extends to sound and video, and when not drawing or painting, he can be found working on projects he shares online with his followers.

Patrick returned to drawing and painting after a prolonged break in December 2016 as part of his daily art therapy, and is now making the transition to being a full-time artist. As a spokesperson for autism awareness, he also gives talks and presentations on the benefits of creative therapy.

Static Mass is where he lives his passion for film and writing about it. A fan of film classics, documentaries and science fiction, Patrick prefers films with an impeccable way of storytelling that reflect on the human condition.

Patrick Samuel ¦ Asperger Artist

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