The Nightmare Before Christmas


Naomi Shimunov, Reporter

The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite musicals. The film was revolutionary in its soundtrack, visual aesthetics, and characters. Although Tim Burton conceived the initial idea for The Nightmare Before Christmas, the actual director is Henry Selick. You may recognize some of Henry Selick’s other movies such as James and the Giant Peach and Coraline. While Selick and his team of animators were doing their thing, the soundtrack was composed by Oingo Boingo front man and creator of The Simpsons theme song, Danny Elfman.

The story can almost be told entirely in song. “This is Halloween” introduces us to the world of Halloween Town as well as some of its inhabitants, such as “the one hiding under your bed” and “the clown with the tear-away face”. Each character’s unique voice contributes to the detail of the world the audience is arriving to, we discover that there are “tender lump lings everywhere” and that “Jack is the king of the pumpkin patch.” After a few instrumental numbers we get to a song that has a different tone completely, this track is the iconic “What’s this.”  In “What’s This” Jack has fallen into Christmas town, and he finds it amazing, he marvels at laughter and the “frost on every window.” The fact that everything in Christmas town is the diametric opposite of Halloween Town fascinates Jack, after all the children are “throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads.” In the “Town Meeting Song” Jack tells the denizens of Halloween Town about his discovery of Christmas Town. He explains that in Christmas Town people gives presents, however ,the citizens of Halloween Town question why people would ever do such a thing. The people of Halloween Town decide to make presents that spring out and scare children. Jack’s response to all of this can be summed up in one line that he says “at least they’re excited, though they don’t understand that special feeling of Christmas land.”

Finally, we get to one of my songs from the movie, “Kidnap the Sandy Claws.” It’s probably the darkest track since it features children talking about kidnapping Santa Claus and all the different ways they can torture him. In “Oogie Boogie’s Song” Santa has been captured and is brought to Oogie Boogie. “Sally’s Song” is our main female character expressing what she believes to be her unrequited love for Jack. We get to “Poor Jack” where Jack recounts the current events in his life, and realizes that he enjoyed Halloween and damaged Christmas. In the end, we get a reprise where Jack and Sally pronounce their love for each other.

In terms of the visuals of the film could go on a rant about how The Nightmare Before Christmas uses German Expressionism to create a mood through lighting, colors, surrealist scenery, and exaggerated movements by characters, but what I really want to talk about is how seemingly dark it is for a movie with a significant child audience. This movie, which has been a beloved classic since it came out in 1993, has tombstones, features our main character’s sleigh getting shot of the sky, children being harassed by toys, brains, Santa Claus being sandbagged, and one of the characters, Oogie Boogie, is a literal sack of bugs. The movie’s artwork also allows it to make some political satire jokes, among them including an actual two-faced mayor.

The soundtrack of The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of my favorite movie soundtracks of all time. Although the songs do synchronize with the visuals of the film, they are also wonderful standalone songs which can be listened to just about anywhere.