Retro-review Nightmare Before Christmas: a timeless film

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Let’s celebrate Halloween with this retro-review of Nightmare Before Christmas, a perfect cult to celebrate this spooky occasion

ORIGINAL TITLE: Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. GENRE: Animation. COUNTRY: United States. DIRECTOR: Henry Selick. CAST: Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O’Hara, Renato Zero, Ken Page. DURATION: 73 minutes. DISTRIBUTOR IN ITALIAN: Buena Vista International Italia. RELEASED: 1993.

This year too, the period so loved by adults and children has arrived; We are talking about Halloween, an increasingly present event also in our cities. While the shops and our tables are laden with themed decorations and dishes, we at also want to celebrate the anniversary by offering you the retro-review of a film that has remained in the hearts of many spectators. We are talking about Nightmare Before Christmasanimated film by 1993 directed by Henry Selickbut created and co-produced by Tim Burton who created it after seeing, while walking down the street, a shopkeeper replacing the Halloween decorations in the shop window with Christmas ones. From this simple scene of life, the director managed to create a feature film that is still loved today.

Retro-review Nightmare Before Christmas: a timeless film

The Nightmare Before Christmas | Retro-review Nightmare Before Christmas: a timeless film

Nightmare Before Christmas tells the events that revolve around the Halloween country, a dark city, inhabited by vampires, witches, skeletons and other shady figures, who live according to the celebrations of October 31st, the Halloween festival. He also lives here Jack Skeletron, a character loved and esteemed by all for his great skills in celebrating the anniversary. Jack, however, hides a conflicting feeling within himself: he is tired of the usual routine and would like to experience something else. One evening, bored and disconsolate, he finds himself to his enormous surprise in the Christmas country and he was fascinated by it to the point of deciding to bring this atmosphere full of warmth and love to his city too.

Upon its release the film had a good success with the public and critics and was praised for many aspects, first of all the skilful use of the technique stop-motion, with which he was able to impress himself in the hearts of adults and children (at the time not very accustomed to this style). This aspect, together with an excellent soundtrack and well-represented characters, allowed The Nightmare Before Christmas to become a masterpiece to watch and re-watch, even thirty years after its release, without ever appearing dated. The film was nominated for an Oscar for Best Special Effects, the first time for an animated film. Award that was won that year by Jurassic Park.

Retro-review Nightmare Before Christmas: a timeless film

A timeless charm | Retro-review Nightmare Before Christmas: a timeless film

They took part in the creation of this work around 100 artists, between animators and designers, who carried out the project for about three years. A work of incredible size due to the style stop-motion, which required many hours of work. The result was a film with aesthetics unforgettable, where every shot could be considered a gothic work of art. The movements of the characters appear fluid and the environments well characterized, so much so that you would want to discover every alley of the gloomy Halloween Land and the festive Christmas Land. Not to mention the curiosity, left unsatisfied, to know what other landscapes and characters hide behind the tree doors of other holidays. Who wouldn’t be curious to pay a visit to the country of Valentine’s Day, or that of Thanksgiving?

Now we can confidently say that all the hard work has paid off. Nightmare Before Christmas is definitely one of those films capable of creating an irresistible aura of mystery around itself. The gothic yet bizarre characteristics of that dark world fascinate us to the point of being attracted to it like magnets. Don’t forget themusical impact that the soundtrack gave to the film. The deep and incisive songs are masterfully interpreted by Danny Elfman and even more intensely, in the Italian version, by Renato Zero, capable of bringing on stage a theatrical and intense Jack, capable of immediately reaching the hearts of the audience. However, the aesthetic and musical essence alone is not enough to describe a feature film which also carries with it a profound meaning, hidden behind the events.

Retro-review Nightmare Before Christmas: a timeless film

The Essence of Tim Burton | Retro-review Nightmare Before Christmas: a timeless film

Although the Nightmare Before Christmas was created under the direction of Henry Selickfriend and partner of Tim Burton, the film exudes style and themes typical of the latter’s filmography. Conceived and produced by Burton himself, the gothic-tinged director had to rely on Selick’s work for its creation, due to commitments on the set of the second chapter of Batman. We cannot therefore hide Selick’s skill in not distorting Nightmare Before Christmas of its essence.

In addition to the aesthetic aspect, there are various themes addressed and recurring in Burton’s other works. One of them is certainly the sense of isolation that characterizes the protagonist from the rest of his community (as happens to Edward Scissorhands). Jack would like to make him the spirit of Christmas, bringing him into his world, but he can’t due to his nature, which is so different from that of the inhabitants of Christmas Land. Precisely for this reason, the result will be something far from the original: full of macabre and terrifying nuances, typical of the world to which it belongs and whose characteristics it has internalized. Jack’s attempt to change Halloween Land and its inhabitants turns out to be a catastrophic choice. It is precisely respect for everyone’s diversity that makes the world varied, whether you like the gloomy atmosphere of Halloween or whether you are fascinated by the Christmas atmosphere.

Retro-review Nightmare Before Christmas: a timeless film


Nightmare Before Christmas is therefore much more than good aesthetics and great music. Jack is nothing more than the mirror of many of us. We have everything we could want for a good standard of living, and yet, we are always looking for something new and different, that can shake up our routine. We never feel complete. If on the one hand this can be a characteristic that honors our courage, on the other we always risk being dragged into environments contrary to our nature, thus ending up betraying our true being and trampling, at the same time, the essence of what we bring into our world. We simply make it our own, without understanding its meaning. So, no matter how hard monsters, witches and vampires try, they are unable to convey the true essence of Christmas to the world, because they don’t know it.

Irony of fate, this is exactly what happens at the Halloween celebrations in our cities. There are quite a few who reject this festival, precisely because it was born far from Italy. For others, however, it is a nice occasion to celebrate with costumes, parties and sweets, often ignoring its origins. And what do you think of Halloween? Let us know! Inviting you to recover this animated gem if you haven’t already done so, we also recommend this guide of ours, perfect for those who want to celebrate this anniversary in the company of a good film!

The Halloween movie par excellence!

Points in favor

  • Smooth animation
  • Immersive atmosphere
  • Characterization of the main characters
  • Soundtrack
  • Still current issues

Points against

  • The impossibility (for obvious reasons) to explore this world more widely

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