A Nightmare Before Christmas: Special Edition

January 28, 2012 13 Min Read

Review by: Zach B.

Plot: What’s it about?

I never really ever had a favorite movie ever. Sure, I’ve enjoyed many movies a lot, but nothing ever considered to be a “favorite” or “best” or whatever you want to call it. That all changed after I saw “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, which, at the time of writing this, it’s been a good seven years since I originally saw it. I waited a long time to get tickets at Hollywood’s famed El Captian theater where it opened first before expanding the next two weeks, and there were many sold out shows, but I was blown away by it. It was like nothing I had ever seen before. I loved the characters, I loved the music, I loved the story, I loved every little thing about the movie. I was always into claymation/stop-motion too, and the visuals were amazing to me, so that sweetened the deal.

The movie took over three years to make, and if you are not familiar with stop-motion, it’s a painstaking process. Move the models a tiny bit, shoot, stop the camera. It’s tedious, but when on film, it looks really neat. Tim Burton created the characters and outlined the story too. I was pretty surprised to learn in the production booklet included with the disc that Burton was originally going to direct the movie, but due to “Batman Returns” he did not. Still, he produced it and has a lot of creative input and control on the film.

So what exactly is the plot to this movie I can’t (and never will stop) raving about? We begin in Halloweentown, where we meet Jack Skellington, the king of Halloweentown. Every Halloween, and every day, he’s tried of the same old thing. While everyone has a lot of enthusiasm for scary and disgusting things, Jack has just had enough. After a little lamenting to himself, he gets a bit lost and discovers trees with doors on them. Each door represents a holiday, and the one with the Christmas three sticks out to Jack, with it’s pretty and shiny colors. He openes the door and is transported to Christmastown, where Jack is amazed and really excited about the whole idea of Christmas. So, Jack decides to steal Christmas and make it his own, with all the elements of Halloween intact. Of course, things don’t go as planned, and there’s a love subplot with a rag-doll named Sally which is tied right into it.

This movie just plain appeals to me, and every time I watch it, I never fast foward or get bored, it feels like I’m watching something new every time. The characters are all well developed and have a lot of life to them, and the voice actors do a superb job making them even more real. The models and sets are wonderfully detailed and vibrant, they have so much imagination and creativity with them, it’s like watching fireworks, it’s all eye candy. The story is also really, really well drawn out, and teaches the importance of how we shouldn’t take away other people’s joys. Finally, longtime Burton collaborator Danny Elfman weaves a beautiful score and wonderful songs which truly fit the film. In my opinion, it’s pretty easy to screw up writing songs for this movie. There is just so much to capture, and so much to tell without making it stereotypical with the holiday themes and such. Elfman’s music packs a lot of feeling and emotion, and blends perfectly.

I could go on and on about the movie, but I won’t. It truly is a movie to see for all ages, and a wonderful achievement in animation, music, filmmaking and storytelling. If you have negelected to see this movie this long, get yourself out right now and pick this new special edition DVD up. I was really unhappy with the previous version Disney released, and I’m really, really happy they’ve re-released it in a way it really, really deserves.

Video: How does it look?

Basically what keeps this disc from being the best that it really can be is the fact Disney, being lazy, took the same old transfer from the last DVD edition and stuck it on here. The region 2 is anamorphic… I mean, for such a great movie like this, it really annoys the hell out of me. Still, the transfer on this disc is striking. There is some unsaturation of colors and a soft image now and then, as well as just a tiny bit of debris, but detail is really, really good (you can see some strings if you look closley!) and a lot of the characters and sets pop right out at you.

Audio: How does it sound?

While Disney does not give us that anamorphic transfer, they sorta make amends with the audio (but not completley).

A few days before the DVD was set to hit shelves, Disney made an announcment that the disc (as well as James and the Giant Peach), were going to include DTS tracks. This really surprised me and really makes me glad, a movie like “Nightmare” was really made for sound systems with it’s loud sound effects and wonderful music.

First off there is the Dolby Digital 5.1. It sounds really nice, and is definently one of the best Dolby Digital tracks I’ve heard. All of the channels are made to good use here, and it does sound really loud and packs a really good blast. Still, what really makes it stand out is Danny Elfman’s beautiful and wonderous music. The score, the songs, they are mixed correctly and creatively here. It all sounds really nice.

Then comes the DTS 5.1 track, an excellent addition to this disc (or any disc, it’s always nice to choose). I felt the DTS had a little bit more of a tighter sound to it, and had even more of a blast quality to it. Fidelity is very good, and the directional fields the sounds go in really make you feel trapped in Halloweentown and Christmastown. Again, Elfman’s music is brought to full life here, and it is a bit overwhelming. While the Dolby Digital stands really well on its own, I do prefer the DTS.

I have no hesitations to give the Audio a perfect score, it’s really well done. Also included is a French 5.1 Dolby Surround track, plus English and Spanish captions.

Supplements: What are the extras?

I was incredibly disappointed with the original release of “The Nightmare Before Christmas”. Luckily, Disney has answered our prayers with a special edition with some excellent supplements. Though most of them have been lifted from the special edition laserdisc, the extras here are really nice and will definently please any fan of the movie (such as myself).

Despite what the box says, Henry Selick is not the only participant on the Commentary, but Cinematographer Pete Kozachik. The commentary is a really good listen to, especially for a movie with so many effects and movie magic such as this. Both give a really good amount of insight, and me, being a huge fan of the film, ate it all up. Definently worth a listen.

The Gallery is divided up into three specific “worlds”: “Halloween Town,” “Christmas Town” and “The Real World”. Here you’ll find a load of stills, animation tests, storyboards… it’s just really neat to go through. However, if you have checked out or own the making of “The Nightmare Before Christmas” book (my hardbound copy is falling apart), you won’t find so many new stills and pictures here. A Documentary (complete with chapter stops) is included, but sadly, it’s been trimmed by fifteen minutes from the laserdisc. Still, the interviews and behind the scenes footage are worth a look.

Deleted Scenes are included as well, seven of them to be exact. One is an extended version of “Jack’s Experiments” and most of the scenes do appear really rough. A good majority of the sound is not completed either, and sometimes storyboards are stuck in to give you the complete vision, but all in all, it’s great to have them included.

A Storyboard-To-Film comparison of the “Town Meeting” is included, and is interested from first concept to final film. I would have liked to see more scenes with this feature, but at least it is something. I don’t think the laserdisc had this. The Theatrical Trailer and Theatrical Teaser are included on the disc, both in full frame. I haven’t seen these in awhile, and are a good into to the film for those who have never seen it.

Two of Tim Burton’s Early Films have been included on the disc. The first is the black and white, claymation/animation spectacle Vincent, which lasts about six minutes and has a boy who wishes he was Vincent Price. Tim Burton idolized Mr. Price as a boy, so I think maybe some of the film may very well be semi-authobiographical. Vincent Price even narrates it. Still, it’s a good watch. Also on the disc is the favorite Frankenweenie, a whole Frankenstein parody with dogs. The box says it’s uncut, but in truth, is only a tad longer. This is also a good watch and shows off Burton’s talent. Selick’s short film, “Slow Bob In The Lower Dimensions” is not included on the disc due to copyright issues. It only appeared on the first pressing of the special edition laserdisc.

Finally, the insert includes some production notes about the movie, and most of it is lifted right from the interviews from that documentary on the disc. Also, the disc’s menus are highly animated and perfectly fit the mood of Halloween, which is definently a nice plus.

Curse Disney with the lack of anamorphic enhancment! Still, the transfer is as good as non-anamorphic ones get, and the audio will really blow you away. The supplements, though from the laserdisc, are wonderful additions (which a movie like “Nightmare” deserves). The original release was incredibly disappointing, so I’m glad Disney didn’t let it go and put in some time to create a nice, worthy special edition. Definently a cinematic achievment with great storytelling and music, and mind-blowing visuals, if you missed the movie all these years, definently give this DVD a spin.

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