The Nightmare Before Christmas Review and Blu-ray Features
The Nightmare Before Christmas
29 Oct 1993
Behind the Scene and other Major Plot Points
On not doing a Sequel
In 2001, Walt Disney Pictures began to consider producing a sequel, but rather than using stop motion, Disney wanted to use computer animation. Tim Burton convinced Disney to drop the idea. “I was always very protective of [Nightmare] not to do sequels or things of that kind,” Burton explained. “You know, ‘Jack visits Thanksgiving world’ or other kinds of things just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it,” Burton said.
Inspiration for original Poem
Tim Burton has said the original poem was inspired after seeing Halloween merchandise display in a store being taken down and replaced by a Christmas display. The juxtaposition of ghouls and goblins with Santa and his reindeer sparked his imagination.
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Chirstmas
There is something of a controversy over exactly who has the rights to call the story and film their own, Henry Selick is the director and spent more time on the set and production than Tim Burton, however Burton has often claimed he is the owner of the story as it was all his idea, he wrote the original poem and most of the script, created the characters, served as a producer, and even wanted to direct but was simply too busy at the time to do so. However popular culture has long accepted the film as Burton’s as the film heading is “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas”.
The Most Difficult shot to shoot in the film
It is stated in “The Making of…” book that the most difficult shot to film in the entire movie is the shot in which Jack is reaching for the doorknob to Christmasland. Viewers can see the perfect surround reflection of the forest around Jack in the background.
Two items were invented for this film
Two items were invented to facilitate the filming of the movie: One was a “light alarm” which would warn the animators if any of the stage lights failed to come on. The other was a system that enabled a puppeteer to seamlessly switch to a replacement puppet if a puppet broke during a shot. Prior to this, either situation, a light failing to come on or a puppet breaking would destroy a shot.
Released not under Walt Disney Banner
The teaser trailer tells us that the film was originally intended to be released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner, playing the movie heavily as the next generation of filmmaking following in the proud tradition of Walt Disney. By the time the theatrical trailer was released, the release label had changed to Touchstone Pictures, an alternate designation of the Walt Disney Studios. Michael Eisner, the then CEO and Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, found the film to be ‘too dark for kids’ and had it moved to their Touchstone Picture banner. In October 2006, the film was re-released in 3-D under the Walt Disney Pictures banner.
Calculation on Jack’s Blackboard
A crossed-out calculation on Jack’s blackboard seems to equate 3 times the square of pi multiplied by 12 to Christmas Day (a Santa hat). The true numerical answer is approximately 355.31. If the decimal portion is dropped, this then equates to December 21st, the 355th day of the year–hence the crossed-out equation. December 21st however is the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere (winter solstice). It is also the birthday of Jeffrey Katzenberg, the film’s executive producer and most often credited for turning Walt Disney Studios and its animation division around after joining in 1984.
RT/Meta Critic Review
Visually a macabre knockout, this 75-minute fantasy boasts some of the wittiest, most vigorous stop-motion animation effects in the history of the process. (Click here to see)
Never before has Nightmare Before Christmas looked so good. Having seen this film on VHS, DVD, and projected theatrically – both flat and in “Disney Digital 3D,” I can truly say this is the first time that so many small details are actually noticeable. The soulless blank eyes of the vampires. The swamp creature’s blue nails. Zero’s nose is actually a freakin’ jack-o’-lantern! One could never quite make out the detail of the ghost dog’s snout; it always reminded me of an old tungsten light bulb or somesuch.
Encoded in AVC and averaging 30 Mbps, Nightmare is absolutely lovely in all of its 1080p glory. The film is made all the more engrossing by the picture clarity, and the carefully crafted puppets look stunning with such a high amount of detail. For a film with a relatively limited color palette, especially in the grim Edward Gorey-like world of the Hallowe’en holiday, hues are vibrant and really pop from the screen when they are present, such as the neon splendor of Oogie Boogie’s Las Vegas-flavored haven. There of course is a lot of black present throughout, and the levels are well balanced, rich, and deep with no evidence of crush. No video artifacts are present throughout the feature, nor any noticeable compression artifacts. In short, Disney has done it again with a breathtaking, flawless picture presentation.
Being a very musical film – in fact, more of an operetta than a traditional musical – Nightmare Before Christmas obviously relies heavily on its sound presentation. Here the lossless audio – a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 mix – wonderfully complements the stellar picture quality. Well-balanced and boasting incredible clarity, the music, sound, and dialogue have arguably never sounded better. The film’s scoring is spread nicely throughout the channels, and center channel-heavy dialogue is aided by the front speakers here and there. The musical performances are outstanding and feature a nice level of equalization that does not leave one scrambling for the remote control. Ambiance is captured well in the rear channels, and LFE effects for bass instruments and the rumbling effects of cannon fire, for example, are excellent.
In addition to Dolby TrueHD, Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes of English, Spanish, and French are included, as well as a Portuguese track in Dolby Digital 2.0. It is fun and interesting listening to the translated songs, which is quite fun seeing as a film’s music is often left to be performed in English. The clarity of the lossless track, in addition to the wonderful aural variety provided, make this Blu-ray of Nightmare Before Christmas a winner.
This latest release of Nightmare Before Christmas, and its first on Blu-ray Disc, comes supplied with a healthy amount of extra features. Although much of the material has been available on previous editions, it has been fortunately ported over to the BD, along with some interesting new additions.
The first of these is What’s This? Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour, a new behind-the-scenes look at the classic “Haunted Mansion” Disney theme park ride when it gets done up in a Nightmare Before Christmas theme every year for thirteen weeks, starting in October and running until mid-January. Presented in high definition AVC with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, viewers can select from two modes. “On Track” takes you through the entire ride, complete with narration and optional trivia pop-up text. “Off Track” intercuts the ride experience with relevant discussions on the conceptual work and making of specific sections of the ride. The interviewed “Imagineers” enthusiasically relate how certain effects were achieved and reveal interesting trivia; the gingerbread centerpiece in the mansion’s dining hall, for example, is made of real gingerbread and its theme changes every year. I could not help but notice how flippantly the current Imagineering crew seemed to treat the classic ride, however; they speak of the resident animatronic characters as some sort of obstacle to be overcome, rather than respecting their presence and legacy.
A second new feature is Tim Burton’s Original Poem Narrated by Christopher Lee, dramatically read by the renown British thespian and using animated graphic art from Burton’s original conceptual drawings. Another high definition AVC bonus feature presented in Dolby Digital 5.1, it’s admirable just how little was changed or adapted from the poem when converted to a full feature film; the most significant are cast augmentions like Sally, Dr. Finklestein, the Mayor, and a slew of other tertiary characters. An All-New Audio Commentary with producer Tim Burton, director Henry Selick and composer Danny Elfman is offered up next. Although recorded separately, the trio share some genuinely interesting backstory on the film and its subsequent legacy. Elfman’s enthusiasm for the project is especially noticeable, and he was certainly the most fun to listen to during the feature.
Frankenweenie With All-New Intro By Tim Burton is a short film by directed by Burton from 1984. Essentially a re-telling of the classic Frankenstein with a boy and his beloved bull terrier, the film is given a short introduction by Burton, who also mentions the development of a full stop-motion Frankenweenie feature film set for release in 2009. The live action short is presented in AVC standard definition with Dolby Digital 2.0 audio. Likewise, Burton’s stop-motion shortVincent from 1982, about a young boy who fancies himself a dark and tormented Vincent Price, is included in standard definition and Dolby Stereo.
The most substantial of the following ported features is The Making of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – a 25 minute behind-the-scenes featurette encoded in MPEG-4 and presented in Dolby Digital 2.0. Divided into 6 chapters, the program harks back to the film’s theatrical release, with a slight bit of a promotional feel to it. Still, it satisfactorily covers the inspiration for the film, the music, the animation process and art direction, though it would have done some good if it were allowed to be a bit more in-depth.
Deleted Scenes are up next, consisting of three storyboards and four animated sequences. All quite brief and in standard definition, the storyboards contain two pieces cut for time purposes, as well as an alternate ending. The animated sequences show an extended scene with Jack’s Christmas experimentation, an alternate shot of the “puck” among some hockey playing vampires, and two fully excised scenes involving the film’s villain, Oogie Boogie. The Worlds of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas are concept art slideshow galleries categorized by film setting, being Halloween Town, Christmas Town, or The Real World. The Storyboard-to-Film Comparison is a short segment in standard definition showing the “Town Meeting” sequence in a split screen presentation between the final film and the initial storyboards.
The remaining material is rather gimmicky and promotional. Poster and Trailers contains a short slideshow ofNightmare‘s domestic release onesheets, as well as the original teaser and full trailer for the film. The Blu-ray Disc itself contains Sneak Peeks for current Blu-ray releases, as well as the upcoming Tinker Bell, Prince Caspian, Sleeping Beauty, and WALL•E. The theatrical teaser for Beverly Hills Chihuahua, as well as advertisements for the Disney theme parks and its loyalty program Disney Movie Rewards, round out the shameless plug offerings. At least they’re all presented in high definition! Lastly, a second disc is packaged along with the Blu-ray, providing a Digital Copy of the film. In typical Disney home video tradition, the company has re-branded the technology as a Disney File. Slick.