Way back in the early 1990s, Tim Burton was working on an animated film populated with the denizens of his dark imagination. He took a love for Halloween and turned it into an animated musical for the big screen. It was directed by Henry Selick, based on those Burton brain drippings. The end result was nothing short of magic.
The Nightmare Before Christmas was released to the big screen on October 15, 1993, where it did moderately well. Somehow, it slipped under my radar and I had never been able to witness it on the big screen. I discovered it sometime later on home video, and it was love at first sight. The animation, the songs, the weird characters: everything just fell right into place.
Jack Skellington is the most esteemed citizen of Halloweentown. Each year, he leads the holiday festivities, always trying to outdo the previous year's exercises in horror, culminating in a celebration of the year's success. This year finds Jack in a distinctly different state of mind. He has grown weary of the same thing year in and year out. He is depressed, looking for something to fill the hole that has grown inside of him.
He wanders into a nearby forest, and in the midst of a little game of fetch with his ghostly dog, Zero, finds a series of doors in the trees. Each door is marked with a symbol for a holiday, there are doors for Easter and Thanksgiving, and St. Patrick's Day, but there is one that catches his eye above all others: it is the one shaped like a Christmas tree. Upon opening said door, he is plunged into a world of happiness, bright colors, and snow. He is enthralled with this new land, and sets out to make it his.
Jack returns to his home and recruits the entire town to his endeavor. He sees this as a way to fill the emptiness that has overcome him. Of course, nothing ever turns out like it should. The movie builds to its conclusion as Jack realizes what he is and what he needs to do.
Along the way, we meet a variety of characters, large and small, all adding little touches to the film. There is the stitched together ragdoll, Sally, who is infatuated with Jack and seeks to protect him from himself while her creator, Dr. Finkelstein, attempts to keep her locked away. Santa Claus makes an appearance as a captive of the cruel sack known as Oogie Boogie. There are Boogie's kids, Lock, Shock, and Barrel, who are not the nicest of kids and are charged with the kidnapping of "Sandy Claws." The (literally) two-faced mayor is always seeking help: being an elected official, he is not capable of making any decisions. Of course, there are your ghouls and vampires and witches and a zombie jazz trio, all adding a little flavor to the mix.
Now, the film has taken the next step in its evolution and, using a new process, has become the first film not shot for 3-D to reach the big screen in a 3-D version. I believe that George Lucas is using the same process on the original Star Wars films.
The end result is very impressive. I saw it projected using a Sony DLP projector, wearing polarized 3-D glasses, none of that red/blue anaglyph stuff, thank you very much.
The film is given a great amount of depth using this new process. You can see that it was not made for 3-D, as nothing comes off the screen as they do in newer 3-D releases. The process opens up the frame, adding a depth of field, adding layers to the flat frame. It is spectacular.
As I sat in the theater, popcorn in hand, glasses firmly affixed to my face, a big grin spread across my face and did not leave for the entire running time. I do have to admit that it took quite an effort to not sing along and recite every line. There were a couple of times where I caught myself doing just that. The music is so catchy and the words just invite the sing-along.
This was the first time I had seen this movie on the big screen and it was like seeing it for the first time. Sure, I knew everything that was going to happen, but seeing it up there brought the experience around full circle for me.
Bottom line Only a limited number of theaters can play the new 3-D release, but if you are anywhere near one of them, go and see it! From Burton's mind, to Danny Elfman's music and singing (he is Jack's singing voice), to Selick's direction, it is a meeting of talent not to be missed. This is the perfect time of year as well. Round up the family, and head off to Halloweentown.