Apparently there is some debate about whether or not The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween Movie. Well, I am here to tell you that it is. How do I know? Well, Danny Elfman said so. But even if he hadn’t, I would maintain that this stop motion animated masterpiece is for the spooky season.
Despite the focus on the Yuletide, and the appearance of Christmas Town and Sanit Nick himself, NBX screams Halloween. It begins in a town full of ghosts, goblins, vampires, werewolves, and other beasties. Jack Skellington rules the town as the Pumpkin King. He’s not the Mistletoe King, nor his he the Tannenbaum King. No, Jack’s title is Pumpkin King. And aside from pies featuring that fruit, there’s not much Christmasy about pumpkins.
Nightmare Before Christmas is full of Tricks, Making it a Halloween Movie
Okay, so we’ve established one reason why Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie. But don’t worry, there are others. The movie is all about tricks and treats. Are those a feature of the Yuletide season?
Jack first tricks the townsfolk by pretending to be into his holiday when he isn’t. No, Jack is tired of scares and spookiness, but he can’t let the others know that. Soon, he finds himself in Christmas Town, where he gets the idea to steal the holiday and replace Santa.
Upon his return to Halloween Town, Jack has to trick his friends. He first tries to sincerely sell them on the idea of Christmas, but they’re not buying it. Or at least, not getting it. They don’t understand the concept of Christmas, and how could they? They’ve never visited it and only have Jack’s description. Plus, they’re monsters so they naturally focus on the scary stuff. And then Jack gives them what they want by telling them of the monster Santa Clause, painting the kindly old gent as a ferocious creature.
Soon, Jack decides to steal Christmas, and begins plotting. This involves yet another trick. Kidnap Santa Clause. And how does he implement this plan? Well, he hires Oogie’s Boys (costumed trick or treates) to kidnap the “The Big Red Lobster Man,” which they do, after accidentally snatching the Easter Bunny. So much trickery.
And then of course, there’s Sally. Sally is the heart and soul of the film, and even she gets in on the trickery. She tricks her creator Doctor Finklestein several times, and even plays a trick on Jack when she makes the fog because she knows what he’s doing is wrong and a disaster.
Far too many tricks in this movie happen to make it a Christmas movie.
Yuletide Elements Can’t Be Ignored
Of course, people who deny The Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie point to the title. It has Christmas in it, so how can it not be a Yuletide movie? Admittedly, this looks like a good point, but it really isn’t a strong one. Yes, there are X-Mas elements in the movie. And yes, it mirrors It’s a Wonderful Life in the sense that Jack learns to appreciate the life he has rather than pine for a different one. There’s even a little but of How the Grinch Stole Christmas in there thanks to Zero, and the residents of Halloween learning what Christmas is all about.
Still, a word in the title and a few connections to Christmas stories are not enough to make this a Christmas movie.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t watch it during the Christmas season. In fact, it’s a good choice because it does remind us of the power of friendship and loved ones. It just does so with zombies and mummies and skeletons instead of family and angels and such.
I say the Nightmare Before Christmas is a Halloween movie that you can watch any time of the year. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.