Imagine if our collective image of Santa Claus had been shaped by Allegory of Gluttony and Lust painter Hieronymus Bosch instead of some nameless commercial artist at Coca Cola and you’ll get an idea of the dark edge of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The jolly fat man in the red suit is gone, hijacked by a skeleton in a pinstriped suit.
Although Tim Burton’s name appears above the title The Nightmare Before Christmas was actually directed by stop motion animation legend Henry Selick, but make no mistake every frame of the film bears Burton’s twisted imprimatur. Originally conceived while he was working as an animator on much tamer fare for Disney in the early 1980s, the story of the mayor of Halloweentown who kidnaps and impersonates “Sandy Claws” to bring his own brand of good will to the world, percolated in his head until 1993 when he was powerful and famous enough to get the film made the way he envisioned it. The result is a wonderfully twisted holiday story that is plays like an offbeat Rankin / Bass production.
The film is really wonderful, with creepy songs by Danny Elfman, amazing stop motion visuals (more than 120 animators worked on the project) and warped humor that should appeal to most of the members of the family. Note though, that The Nightmare Before Christmas is a tad too dark for smaller children. It’s a Disney release but it is one of the rare ones that isn’t meant for the entire family.
The Nightmare Before Christmas has been released several times on DVD but this package includes some extras that are worth the shelling out a few additional dollars for. This Special Edition contains the usual stuff—a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film and theatrical trailers—but it also offers up two Tim Burton shorts, Vincent and Frankenweenie; Tim Burton’s original poem narrated by Christopher Lee and all new audio commentaries from Burton and Selick. It’s a great package and highly recommended.