Nightmare Before Christmas

Of all the American movie directors practicing their craft today – either with live action or animation, Tim Burton is hands down the most distinctive in a visual sense. Knowing nothing else of plot, title or characters, I think any observer could unerringly identify a collection of stills from his movies jumbled in with hundreds of others.

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” is the ultimate Tim Burton movie – a witty, complicated feast for the eyes – and done in that most complicated and painstaking way imaginable, through stop-motion photography. The story is as simple as a child’s picture book, and the moral of it equally straight forward; best to be yourself than to be something you are not. Jack Skellington, the doyen of Halloween town, is bored with it all, and tries out being Santa Claus, with comically disastrous results. Plot in a nutshell, but ornamented with such baroque and deliciously dark detail!

This set, which includes a completely remastered version of the movie and a disc of extra features, plus a digital version for your PC, comes in an ornate case about the size of a single VHS. This negates some of the space-saving advantage of a DVD library, but it is a very attractive cover at that. The bonus features include the usual ‘making’ of feature, which goes into painstaking detail over how the character puppets were created and jointed, placed into the set and photographed one tiny motion at a time. There is a close look at the sets – Halloween Town, Christmas Town and ‘the real world’, a collection of omitted scenes, and a comparison of the storyboard version to the completed release. There are two standouts in the extras. The first is a short animated film by Tim Burton of his own poem “Vincent” –about a little boy equally obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe and being Vincent Price, which is narrated by Vincent Price himself. The second is a black and white version of the Frankenstein story; Frankenweenie, in which a boy reanimates his beloved dog. Both shorts can be spotted as Tim Burton movies from a mile away, especially in “Frankenweenie’s” cemetery scene.

Nightmare Before Christmas is available at and at other retail outlets.

Sgt. Mom is a free-lance writer and member of the Independent Authors Guild who lives in San Antonio and blogs at The Daily Brief. Her current book “To Truckee’s Trail” is available here. Her next book project, “The Adelsverein Trilogy” will be released in December, 2008. More about her books is at her website

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