Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas turns 25
At the time of its initial release, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas wasn’t deemed a huge hit but rather a modest success. This stop-motion animated musical masterpiece opened in theaters on Wednesday, October 13, 1993, and on September 30, 1994, was released on VHS. After being released on home video, the film rapidly grew in popularity and within a few years, was considered as a cult classic.
I fondly remember seeing the film on opening night with my mother and father at a packed theater in Mays Landing, NJ. In 1993, I was ten years old but already considered myself a big fan of Tim Burton as a filmmaker and storyteller. I believed then and still to this day that Burton is one of the most influential filmmakers of the 80s and 90s. Throughout my childhood, I loved going to the movies, and I loved so many films including Back to the Future, E.T., Ghostbusters, The Goonies, and hundreds of others. However, I always had this unexplainable fascination with the work of Tim Burton as I found myself drawn toward his work because of all the strange characters that he brought to life. I remember being so intrigued by his films including Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Batman, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands. There was just something about this man’s work and vision that spoke to me, but it wasn’t until October 13, 1993, where my love for cinema was forever changed.
The Nightmare Before Christmas impacted my life in so many ways. The film not only gave me a whole new appreciation for filmmaking but it spoke to me in ways that no other film had ever done before. To say that I was obsessed with The Nightmare Before Christmas would be somewhat of an understatement. After leaving the theater, I immediately begged my mother and father to take me to see the film again. While I was fascinated with the film, my mom and dad didn’t feel the same way that I did. They didn’t want to see the film again and even tried to offer me a hundred dollars for my birthday, so they didn’t have to take me to the theater to see it again. I, of course, refused the money and went to see it on my birthday for the second time.
It is rather hard for me to put into words how and why this film affected me the way that it did even 25 years later. I just remember being obsessed with the film and because of it found myself wanting to seek out more creative outlets to express my love for these characters, the music, and the story. A few months after seeing the film, my mom enrolled me in an animation class so I could learn how to draw professionally and for a short period, I even wanted to become an animator. I owned the soundtrack on audio cassette and listened to it every single day for months. My mom bought me a book called Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas: The Film, the Art, the Vision which I read over and over again and brought to school every day as though it was my bible. It was strange to me and still is to this day that a film had this big of an impact on me because it pushed me to explore other creative art forms such as drawing, reading, music, and of course, writing.
Another thing that The Nightmare Before Christmas did was that it turned me into an avid collector. I remember when Burger King released four Nightmare Before Christmas watches (which I still own to this day). I begged my mom to drive around to all the Burger Kings in the area so that I could collect all four of these watches. I remember when Hasbro released the action figure line which was incredibly hard to find but once again, I begged my mom to drive all around the state to look for the figures. I had the poster, I had the movie theater cup, and I even had the bendable Jack applause figure. Just like everything else about the film, I became obsessed with buying things related to the movie from a coffee mug to a snowglobe, if it was Nightmare Before Christmas, I wanted it.
Now, 25 years later, looking back at the film and my love for it is this weird trip down memory lane. On the one hand, I think it is silly that a film had such a significant impact on my life but on the other, I don’t think I would be the person I am today if the film didn’t exist. I know that sounds weird, but I do believe its true. What’s even more shocking about that statement is the fact that I probably am not alone. I still can’t believe that there are thousands, if not millions of other people in this world that love this film just as much, if not, even more than I do. To think that every year for the past 25 years, there are stores that have released merchandise and that the El Capitan Theatre, here in Los Angeles, plays the film year after year, several times a day for several weeks a year leading up to Halloween. What is even crazier is that now, I can be part of an almost yearly tradition at the Hollywood Bowl where I am joined by 17,000 fans, who love this film as much as I do. Not to mention that I get the chance to see and hear Danny Elfman, Paul Reubens, Catherine O’Hara, and Ken Page sing the songs from the soundtrack live while the film plays in the background. This is all just so surreal to me.
With all that being said, it does prove that Tim Burton and Henry Selick have without question created something truly special and one-of-a-kind. The Nightmare Before Christmas has stood the test of time and year after year continues to make new fans. Back in 1993, this was a film unlike any other and still, to this day, there hasn’t been another film made that is quite like it. The Nightmare Before Christmas now 25 years old is still one of the most creative and unique films ever made. In a lot of ways, The Nightmare Before Christmas is like Star Wars. It is a film that dared to be different and as a result, had a huge impact on the world and was a game changer for the world of animation. This is a film that took years upon years to bring to life and even though it was initially underappreciated and overlooked by many, it has since gone on to become a cult classic that millions of people every year revisit and share with future generations.
I am so incredibly thankful to the thousands of passionate men and women who poured their hearts and souls and several years of their lives to bring this film to life. It truly changed my life, and I don’t think I would have ever pursued a career in film if it wasn’t for this film. A lot of people don’t know this about The Nightmare Before Christmas production, but it came to life with the help of some of the folks at Pixar. There are even rumors that if The Nightmare Before Christmas didn’t happen, there might never have been a Toy Story.
So, as I bring this retrospective to a close, I want to say thank you, Tim Burton, for sharing your vision with the world and thank you, Henry Selick, for bringing this crazy story to life so that millions of people like myself could fall in love with the characters, music, and story.