For those who never thought Disney would release a film in which Santa Claus is kidnapped and tortured, well, here it is. The full title is Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, which should give you an idea of the tone of this stop-action animated musical/fantasy/horror/comedy. It is based on characters created by Burton, the former Disney animator best known as the director of Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands and the first two Batman movies. His benignly scary-funny sensibility dominates the story of Halloweentown resident Jack Skellington (voice by Danny Elfman, who also wrote the songs), who stumbles on a bizarre and fascinating alternative universe called ... Christmastown! Directed by Henry Selick (who later made the delightful James and the Giant Peach), this PG-rated picture has a reassuringly light touch. As Roger Ebert noted in his review, "some of the Halloween creatures might be a tad scary for smaller children, but this is the kind of movie older kids will eat up; it has the kind of offbeat, subversive energy that tells them wonderful things are likely to happen." --Jim Emerson
On the DVD:This Special edition is a must for all Burton fans with the biggest gem to be found on a DVD release--"Tim Burtons Early Films" which holds his first two works. Vincent is clear predecessor of Nightmare before Christmas using the same stop-animation style and voiced superbly by Vincent Price himself; and Frankenweenie--a B&W live-action flick--takes you back to early B-movie territory seen through the eyes of a boy. Added to these films is a great special-features menu including a short documentary offering an interview with Burton, which exposes the inspiration for this magical animation and presents the three-year task of making the "Nightmare". On top of this is an in-depth commentary by director Henry Selick and Art director Pete Kozachik and layer upon layer of "character development" offering an insight into the intensity of thought that went into making these animated figures real. You also get a great selection of storyboards along with the sequences they manifest into, deleted storyboards and an animated sequence with a surprise alternative ending. The menu is beautifully animated in keeping with the style of artwork in the film. With a 1.66:1 widescreen format and Dolby digital transfer this charming DVD is perfect for Halloween, Christmas and beyond! --Nikki Disney
As fresh, engaging and original as it was when it was first released over 15 years ago, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a showcase not just for the creative work of Mr Burton himself, but also the directorial genius of Henry Selick. For while it’s often assumed that Burton directed the film, it’s actually Selick behind the camera calling the shots. The same Henry Selick, incidentally, who directed the equally stunning Coraline more recently. That’s a film worth picking up too.
But it’s, with some justification, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas for which he’s best known. It almost feels like a timeless tale already, as Jack Skellington, bored of arranging his usual successful Halloween, has a stab at Christmas instead. As you might expect, things don’t go quite to plan, which gives Selick and Burton the chance to introduce a macabre set of terrific characters. And, set to some superb music from Danny Elfman, one of the more unusual festive fairytales goes about its business.
And for such a visually striking film, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas benefits heavily from high definition. The attention to detail with the stop motion animation is gloriously highlighted here, and with Elfman’s aforementioned music eating up the breadth of the soundstage afforded by Blu-ray, it’s a genuine home cinema treat. It’s also the kind of film that, as the past 15 years have proven, is set to be spun again and again. And this Blu-ray edition is unquestionably the best version of it you can have in your home. Whether you find it a Halloween or a Christmas treat, it’s strongly recommended. --Jon Foster