3-D Blu-ray review: The Nightmare Before Christmas

[Released on 3-D Blu-ray in South Africa by Disney/Ster-Kinekor]

Rating: ***½ (out of 5)

Bonus features rating: *****

This 1993 stop-frame animation feature (converted – in 2008, I believe – to 3-D) tells of Jack Skellington from Halloween Land, who covets the conventions of Christmas (decorations, presents, Santa, etc) and inspires his peers to hijack Christmas. The trigger for this story came to its creator, Tim Burton, whilst he was watching a department store change their window display from a Halloween to a Christmas theme. The sight of this conceptual crossover prompted Burton to write a poem – a send-up of the beloved ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’ (‘Twas The Night Before Christmas). Next was the movie (see Bonus Feature # 2, below].

Although this is widely regarded to be “a Tim Burton movie” and is undeniably his brainchild, Burton was very busy with other projects at the time, so the director’s duties were handed to Henry Selick, who more recently gave us that superior stop-frame animated 3-D movie, Coraline. The project couldn’t have been put in safer hands.

Nightmare is a musical; a bizarre crossover between Sondheim and Gilbert & Sullivan, with songs by Danny Elfman, who’s perhaps best known for the theme of the TV show The Simpsons, though he’s also provided magical scores for numerous A-list Hollywood movies. He has almost exclusively scored Burton’s movies, and I would venture that these films would’ve been diminished without Elfman’s whimsical, eccentric input. And here’s a bit of trivia: the head you see inside the street band’s double bass is modelled upon Elfman – oh, and Elfman also provided Jack Skellington’s singing voice, as Chris Sarandon, who voiced the lead character, wasn’t confident with the singing.

The Disney company had initially released The Nightmare Before Christmas under their more adult Touchstone banner – understandable, as I wouldn’t recommend this gothic tale for the wee ones. This wicked, difficult-to-pigeonhole conceit is certainly entertaining, and it’s unique enough to warrant collecting, even though it doesn’t, in my book, make the ‘classic’ league.

Bonus features: These accompany the 2-D Blu-ray version of the film on the second disc of this set:

1) Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour
Every year from mid-October to January, DisneyLand’s Haunted Mansion ride gets Nightmare Before Christmas-themed. This extra gives you two options; the “On Track” (i.e the ride as seen from your ride buggy) and “Off Track”, which is a 37-minute documentary on the Nightmare Before Christmas-reboot of the ride; something that, as a Disney purist, I’m not wild about, incidentally. The “On Track” option allows for selectable trivia subtitles.

2) Tim Burton’s Original Poem
Read by the horror legend Christopher Lee, and accompanied by Burton’s original concept art. Well worth a visit.

3) Selectable Audio Commentary by Tim Burton, Henry Selick and Danny Elfman 

4) Selectable On-Screen Introduction by Tim Burton
This is no more than a sentence, during which Burton reassures us that this high-definition rendition of the film captures the artists’ every nuance.

5) Frankenweenie
Burton’s half-hour-long 1984 black & white short. It could be said that Burton was propelled him into the world of feature filmmaking on the reputation of this film. Daniel Stern and Shelley Duvall play the parents of a boy who decides to resurrect his beloved dead dog, Sparky. Naturally, their surname is Frankenstein… This silly yet still quite stirring little Frankenstein homage is worth the price of the disc alone.
Look out for Burton’s feature-length, stop-frame reboot of Frankenweenie – in 3-D yet – later this year.

6) Vincent
A wildly expressionistic 1982 black and white cartoon by Tim Burton, about a young lad called Vincent Malloy who has macabre fantasies about being like the horror legend Vincent Price. Naturally, it’s narrated by Vincent Price himself…

7) Deleted Storyboard Sequences

8) Deleted Animated Sequences
Some interesting material here.

9)  The Making of Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
A 25-minute behind-the-scenes featurette.

10) The World of Tim Burton’s  ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
a) Concept artwork on Halloween Town, Christmas Town and The Real World (within the movie, that is!),
b) A storyboard-to-film comparison sequence,
c) Posters and trailers. 

Soundtrack options: 
English 7.1 Dolby True HD
English 5.1 Dolby Digital
English 2.0 Dolby Surround Audio Descriptive
French 5.1 DTS-HD HR
Italian 5.1 DTS
German 5.1 DTS-HD HR
Spanish 5.1 DTS


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