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The Nightmare Before Christmas(1993)
When the king of Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, gets bored of his job preparing for Halloween every year, he discovers Christmas Town and is inspired to take control of Christmas season for a change. Unfortunately his ghoulish subjects have difficulty getting the festive holiday quite right. Meanwhile, Sally, a pretty maid who takes care of her creator, Dr. Finklestein, is trying to escape from her confines. She worries for Jack and foresees his plans will end in ruin.
For more about The Nightmare Before Christmas and the The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray release, see the The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray Review published by Lindsay Mayer on August 29, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Director: Henry Selick
Writers: Michael McDowell, Caroline Thompson, Tim Burton
Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Catherine O'Hara, Paul Reubens
» See full cast & crew
The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Lindsay Mayer, August 29, 2008
It is easy to see why a film like The Nightmare Before Christmas has become as exceedingly popular as it has. Combining a classic musical formula with a signature Tim Burton style, the film only gets better upon repeat viewings. So much love and intricate detail composes every shot of the stop-motion feature. Intense emotion oozes from the musical performances. And throughout it all, a macabre but lighthearted tone permeates the picture. This solid film has transcended the usual audiences and expectations, given its darkness and its "seasonal" themes within the story. It is a film that quite literally can be enjoyed by anyone, at any time of the year, regardless of whether it falls around Hallowe'en or Christmas; I always thought it was a good Thanksgiving movie, myself! Well-produced and unusual, especially for mainstream animation in the U.S., The Nightmare Before Christmas is truly a diamond in the rough.
Producer Tim Burton was first inspired to write a poem when he happened to see Hallowe'en decorations being taken down from a store display window to make room for Christmas trappings. Writing in a limerick style and illustrating the characters himself, Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas was a personal favorite of the filmmaker. Desiring to take it to the next step, Burton pitched the story for a film adaptation. He was quite adamant about making the film with a stop-motion technique, recalling the old Rankin-Bass Christmas television specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. The project languished for several years, however. Only when Burton achieved widespread recognition with the Batman films did Disney all of a sudden think a film adaptation was a good idea. Being too busy at that time to helm the film himself, Burton as a producer instead, finding a group of then small-timers like Henry Selick and Danny Elfman, inspiring them with his visions of the film's premise and story arc.
Henry Selick, a friend of Burton's who had mostly worked on television station IDs and other small commercial projects, signed on as the director of the project. Danny Elfman of offbeat band Oingo Boingo fame, is especially due a bit of credit for the overall success of the film, in my opinion. With neither a solid story nor a script to work from, Elfman wrote and performed the majority of the film's songs based on major plot beats and Burton's vague inputs alone. Not much changed on the way from scratch track to final recording. Elfman, not considering himself the best singer, nonetheless became so close to the material that he himself became the main character's singing voice. His masterful intonations and emotive performance made it a wise choice.
Eventually, Nightmare was wound into a cohesive whole. The story centers around one Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King and undisputed leader of a motley group of creatures who reside in the holiday world of Hallowe'en Town. They are Hallowe'en incarnate - the contemporary concept of it, anyway - in all of its ghoulish, morbid delight. And while every vampire, witch, and undead beast may love their purpose with a fiery passion, Jack himself has a horrible case of ennui. He no longer finds any enjoyment in terrorizing hapless victims every year. Accompanied by his faithful canine apparition, Zero, Jack stumbles into the colorful holiday realm of Christmas, embodied by the imaginateively named Christmas Town. A frozen, candy-colored wonderland, Jack has never seen anything like it, as his own world is a wasteland with a stark palette of black, white, and orange.
Finally finding something that brings him happiness, the skeleton lord brings many a token from the bright happy world back to Hallowe'en Town. Upon presenting them to the bewildered residents, Jack gets them excited on the idea of wrapped gifts and ornate trees, but no one understands the warmth and joy which is the holiday's purpose. No one, perhaps, except Sally, a beautiful rag doll of a woman, stuffed with leaves and stitched together by the mad scientist Dr. Finklestein. Though she was created to be a companion to the doctor, Sally pines over Jack instead; though Jack is oblivious, the two share the same heartache and emptiness. It because of her intuitive understanding of Jack that Sally begins to worry about him when he begins to obsess over the concept of Christmas, finally concluding that he will play the part of Santa Claus himself.
Although Jack has the best and most sincerest of intentions, he is nonetheless far more adept at frightening people than bringing them happiness. Despite several attempts by Sally to sabotage his plans, Jack usurps Christmas and creates a slew of chaos, "mocking and mangling [the] joyous holiday" with the possessed and frightening toys he leaves in his wake. When his delusions come to an abrupt and painful stop, Jack must work to pull himself out of his stupor and salvage the holiday before it's too late.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray, Video Quality
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.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray, Audio Quality
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.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
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 short Vincent 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 of Nightmare'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.
The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The Nightmare Before Christmas only continues a meticulous ascent in popularity and renown. It is little why - the film's fantastic elements consist of a fascinating, lighthearted macabre world full populated by distinctly Burtonesque characters. They are at once horrid and lovable, and the film's stop motion technique lends a unique, surreal feel to the entire affair. Elfman's heartfelt score and emotive songs are quite memorable, as all good music should be. The Blu-ray Disc presents the film in a beautiful light, helping it to shine like never before. The disc is only boosted all the more by a great amount of bonus material than any fan will be happy to sink their teeth into. A lovely, dark little gem sure to stand the test of time, Nightmare is a must-own title on Blu-ray Disc!
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Other Editions
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The Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Today on Blu-ray - August 26th - August 26, 2008
Stop-motion animation is somewhat of a rare entertainment medium nowadays. The amount of effort needed to create a feature-length presentation is so massive that even legendary claymation studio Aardman used CGI for their latest feature film 'Flushed Away' (which ...
• Disney Specs Nightmare Before Christmas Blu-ray - June 3, 2008
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has revealed the final specs of the upcoming Blu-ray release of the Tim Burton classic 'Nightmare Before Christmas', due to hit store shelves on August 26th. Video will be presented in 1.66:1 (OAR) 1080p AVC accompanied by ...
• Nightmare Before Christmas Gets Blu-ray Date - June 2, 2008
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has announced that they will bring Tim Burton's claymation classic 'Nightmare Before Christmas' to Blu-ray on August 26th in a collector's edition form. No technical specs have been announced at this time, but you can expect ...
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