The Nightmare Before Christmas

"It was a long time ago, longer now than it seems, in a place perhaps you've seen in your dreams. For the story you're about to be told began with the holiday worlds of old. Now you've probably wondered where holidays come from. If you haven't, then I'd say its time you've begun. For the holidays are the result of much fuss and hard work for the worlds that create them for us. Well, you see now quite simply that's all that they do, making one unique holiday after another especially for you. But once a calamity ever so great occurred when two holidays met by mistake." --Santa Claus in The Nightmare Before Christmas

I first saw Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas during its original release in 1993, where I was simply mesmerised. I had no idea what to expect (I was actually dragged to it) and I was completely blown away by the stunning animation supporting a surreal and psychedelic fantasy plot, and an amazing soundtrack by Danny Elfman.

Having memorised almost every word on the sound track, I awaited the big screen year 2000 re-release with much anticipation. The theatre I saw it in was literally empty and this presented me the opportunity to sing along with Jack Skellington and the denizens of the town of Halloween.

The films begins with Jack (Danny Elfman and Chris Sarandon), the pumpkin king, basking in praise after throwing the ghouls of Halloween a great bash. But underneath it all, he is tired of his crown and the same old screams. He's longing for something different, something new. As he wanders around dejected, he stumbles onto Christmas Town and marvels at its wonders and peculiarities. Infused with the Christmas customs and spirit, he decides to kidnap its fearsome ruler (with a deep mighty voice and great bulging arms, whom they call Sandy Claws (Ed Ivory)), and appropriate the Christmas holiday for his own.

Needless to say, Jack's idea of Christmas doesn't sit very well with the people in Christmas Town. Meanwhile, Santa, who has been kidnapped by Lock (Paul Reubens), Shock (Catherine O'Hara), and Barrel (Elfman), three cronies of the Oogie Boogie man (Ken Page), is in grave danger. Oogie Boogie puts Santa and Jack's love interest Sally (O'Hara) in a predicament that threatens to erase Christmas once and for all. however, things turn out for the best when Jack realises that factory-produced mass-delivered Christmas presents aren't as much fun as devising up the next carefully hand-crafted scare.

While the film originated with Tim Burton's vision, the director is Henry Selick who uses the stop-action animation technique to its fullest potential. In addition, he has also created a Halloween and Christmas Town (the latter clearly influenced by Dr. Seuss and the former could've been influenced by Edward Gorey's macabre style) that inspires the imagination. Besides the stunning visuals, the sense of humour that pervades this film, like a lot of other works by Tim Burton, is dark and wicked.

The movie however wouldn't be complete without the soundtrack that complements the visuals depicting Jack's self-discovery. From the initial Halloween song to Jack's lament, his discovery and obsessions of the wonders of Christmas, to the kidnapping of Santa Claus and the confrontation with Oogie Boogie, each piece of music heightens the magic in this fable.

"I'm a master of fright, and a demon of light,
 and I'll scare you right out of your pants.
 To a guy in Kentucky, I'm Mister Unlucky,
 and I'm known throughout England and France.

 And since I am dead, I can take off my head
 to recite Shakespearean quotations.
 No animal nor man can scream like I can,
 with the fury of my recitations."
                          --Jack Skellington,
            in The Nightmare Before Christmas

Movie ram-blings || Ram Samudrala ||