"'Twas a long time ago, longer now than it seems..."
It was 1993, and the world's first feature-length stop-motion animated film, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, was released into theaters by Touchstone Pictures. Disney executives were nervous about the odd, dark tone the film possessed and decided to brand it as a "Touchstone" release instead of under the "Walt Disney Pictures" banner.
The film opened and instantly became a cult classic. Over the years that followed, mall shops like Suncoast and Hot Topic began overflowing with Nightmare merchandise. Disney finally embraced the film in 2001 when it converted Disneyland's Haunted Mansion with a temporary holiday make-over featuring the characters from the film.
Just recently, Disney released a new two-disc Collector's Edition DVD set for the film — now branded under the Walt Disney Pictures label unlike the previous Special Edition DVD release. The Special Edition DVD, first released in 2000, contained a bevy of bonus features, but the new two-disc set trumps it. Is the new Collector's Edition worth upgrading to if you still own the previous DVD? Read on and find out.
But first there's the matter of talking about the film itself. While visually it is a startlingly breathtaking achievement, like Jack Skellington's version of Christmas, it does suffer from some very unfortunate flaws.
Jack Skellington is the "Pumpkin King" of Halloweentown and the one responsible for organizing the holiday of Halloween each year. As the film opens, Jack has just successfully finished another horrifying Halloween night, but he's not too happy about it. He's grown bored with Halloween and doing the same old thing year after year. During a walk to clear his head, he stumbles upon a strange door that leads to Christmastown. Jack instantly falls in love with Christmas and decides that this is going to be his new thing; he's going to be in charge of Christmas this year. But his world-view is only that of Halloween, so naturally every attempt he makes at creating Christmas comes across through the nightmarish filter of Halloween.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is a gorgeous film to watch. The stop-motion animation, while done as an homage to the classic old TV Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, remains as fresh and remarkable today as it did in theaters in 1993. The animators did not make things easy on themselves in Nightmare, with complex characters, giant crowd shots, moving cameras and all kinds of effects that leave viewers wondering "How did they do that?!"