This is Halloween: the power of fantasy in Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas

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I am the “who” when you call, “Who’s there?”
I am the wind blowing through your hair

>I am the shadow on the moon at night
Filling your dreams to the brim with fright

Tender lumplings everywhere
Life’s no fun without a good scare

This is Halloween, this is Halloween

Halloween is the one night of the year. Autumn sky colors the sky with grey and the leaves with orange. It seems that Tim Burton, walking the streets of Burbank, once saw a shopkeeper replacing Halloween decorations with Christmas ones. That triggered in him the idea that will give life to the magical stop-motion world of Nightmare Before Christmas. Despite directing and production are carried out mainly by animator Henry Selick and his team of collaborators, this is one of the most Burtonian movies ever. And it’s easy to understand why.

Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King who, bored by the routine of the usual preparations for Halloween, discovers by chance the existence of Christmas. Fascinated, he would like to engage his city to celebrate this mysterious celebration, trying to explain the meaning to the various monsters, witches and vampires under his reign. Meaning that is not very clear even to him – in one scene we see him writing on a blackboard an equation made of hollies and gift packs – and scares Sally, the rag doll secretly in love with him. To take something you don’t know, like pretending to be someone you’re not, it’s dangerous but fun: it’s pure escapism.

Despite back in the days the Gothic style hasn’t been considered compatible with the idea of a children movie (indeed Disney found less risky to distribute it with Touchstone), today Nightmare has become a timeless classic. The choice of stop-motion implementation was a challenge, the processing time has lengthened considerably, but the goal was clear. For Burton that type of animation was crucial, as the only one that can keep the “physicality” of those characters, in the border between fantasy and “human”.

The expression of feelings is completely delegated to the music, composed by Danny Elfman, who gives voice to Jack. Each song is adapted to the characters and if helps to explain the complexity of each role. The musical portraits, also when they are deliberately caricaturist, constitute a rich and variegate mosaic. The line between good and bad is clear or non-existent, depending on your point of view, and even something unacceptable like “stealing Christmas” becomes forgivable and understandable, if it is a cute skeleton to do it.

It’s a disturbing story about fears and desires, both familiar in the same way. The glade and the pumpkin-shaped tree that we want to enter, with This is Halloween in the background.

Now, you’ve probably wondered where holidays come from.
If you haven’t, I’d say it’s time you begun

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