Danny Elfman and Chris Sarandon in The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)


(director: Henry Selick; screenwriters: Michael McDowell/Caroline Thompson/story by Tim Burton; cinematographer: Pete Kozachik; editor: Stan Webb; music: Dan Elfman; cast: the voices of: Danny Elfman (Jack Skellington song, Barrel), Chris Sarandon (Jack Skellington, voice), Catherine O’Hara (Sally/Shock), Glenn Shadix (Mayor), Ed Ivory (Santa), Ken Page (Oogie Boogie), William Hickey (Evil Scientist), Paul Reubens (Lock); Runtime: 76; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Tim Burton/Denise Di Novi; Touchstone Home Video; 1993)

“A well-realized and weirdly amusing animated treat.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Animation director Henry Selick (“Coraline”/”Monkeybone”) was chosen by producer and the pic’s story writer Tim Burton to direct this dazzling groundbreaking stop-motion animated fable that plays nasty with the Christmas tradition of giving. It’s adapted by Michael McDowell and scripted by Caroline Thompson. The inspired dark fable is geared more to adults than the kiddies, and it results in a well-realized and weirdly amusing animated treat. It’s filled with frightful spooks, a shrunken head, brilliant animations, funny gags and beautifully imaginative sets. It veers away somewhat from a traditional Disney family-fare holiday movie, but because it’s humorous it never goes beyond the bounds of good taste, and it affectionately trashes the X-mas tradition until it relents in the name of common decency to become an appealing curio holiday pic for the ages.

Danny Elfman wrote ten original surreal songs, mostly good, and stars as the singing voice of Jack Skellington.

Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon dialogue; Danny Elfman, song), the Pumpkin King of dreary Halloweentown, becomes bored with the annual Halloween celebration and finds a secret passageway in a tree to Christmastown. Jack kidnaps Santa Claus, without the approval of Sally (Catherine O’Hara), the lonely rag doll, and transforms himself into a frightening Santa. Jack scares the kiddies with nasty surprises instead of gifts, until he has a change of heart and brings back the traditional characters responsible for achieving the X-mas spirit.


REVIEWED ON 12/17/2013 GRADE: A-