This paper is a critique of Tim Burton's fantastical musical film, The Nightmare Before Christmas, released in 1993 by Touchstone Pictures. This stop-motion animation disguises a quite conventional story about conformity and keeping to the status quo as a tale of mischief, death, and destruction. One critic even argues that JackÆs attempt to co-opt and transform Christmas is really a Freudian exploration of Thanatos, the death drive, an example of the way that horror stories have come to play a powerful and important role in contemporary American cinema. The film continues to draw new audiences and to build a cult following for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it is a charming musical tale about finding oneÆs place in the world, even if that place is filled with dark images, hauntings, and frightening creatures.
BurtonÆs previous films include the weirdly comic Beetlejuice, the very dark Batman and Batman Returns, and the strange and curious Edward Scissorhands. Danny Elfman, who here supplies much more than just the filmÆs score, has been a frequent collaborator, and together the two have crafted another fascinating exploration of a different kind of place.
The opening number, ôThis is Halloween,ö introduces the location, Halloween Town, its inhabitants, and, at the end of the number, the filmÆs hero, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King. The populace has just concluded another successful year representing their personal holiday, scaring and haunting ordinary people, but Jack is discontent. He sings a mournful lament as he walks disconsolately through the woods, followed by his faithful ghost dog, Zero.
His aimless wandering through the night brings him at last to an unfamiliar woods. The trees each hold unfamiliar doors in strange shapes, and he is especially drawn to one in the shape of a Christmas tree, a shape that is both unfamiliar and intriguing. He opens the door, peers inside, and sees n...