(movie review written in 1999)
"Nightmare Before Christmas" is the remarkable production from the mind of Tim Burton and the skills of director Henry Selick. Working together to wrap the package up perfectly is the wonderful score from composer Danny Elfman. The film is so many things; it's a smart kids film, it's got wonderful animation and so much imagination in every detail of its presentation of this amazing world that's been created. The stop-motion animation is absolutely stunning - you look at every frame and ponder how long it took to prepare even that second of the picture.
The main character in the film is Jack Skellington, a character who is the head of a little town that is in charge of Halloween. One day, he stumbles into Christmastown and is amazed by what he sees. So, he decides to kidnap Santa Claus and prepare Christmas on his own, and his attempt is, to say the least, an awkward one.
The film is haunting and strange and yet, there's a beauty to the marvelously gloomy sets. The voice work gets the tone of the characters right, as well. All-in-all, "Nightmare" may give some of the youngest kids nightmares, but older children and adults will likely appreciate the level of talent that went into bringing this wild world to life.
VIDEO: "Nightmare Before Christmas" is presented by Disney in 1.66:1 anamorphic widescreen, which in itself is an improvement over the previous non-anamorphic editions. The presentation quality of this new release is certainly anything but a nightmare, as the film looks particularly crisp and detailed, with greater depth to the image than before. The presentation showed few flaws, aside from a couple of slight instances of edge enhancement and a speck or two on the print used. Overall, much of the film appeared surprisingly clean and fresh. The film's color palette is largely subdued (although brighter colors occasionally appeared, and looked quite nice) and colors looked accurate and natural. Overall, this was a very solid new presentation of the film that exceeded my expectations.
SOUND: The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 or DTS 5.1 - the same options as the previous DVD release. The star on display here is the wonderful score from Danny Elfman, which fills the listening space wonderfully here. Surrounds come into play mainly to offer Elfman's score, but some effects as well.
The DTS soundtrack does sound fuller and warmer than the Dolby Digital version, but not hugely so. The Elfman score really deserves to be heard on this DVD; it sounds wonderfully rich and dynamic, with remarkable clarity (which makes me wish an isolated score was included). Dialogue is also clear and easily heard.
EXTRAS: The main new extra is a commentary from producer Tim Burton, director Henry Selick, and composer Danny Elfman. The three do not sit together for this commentary and their comments have been edited together nicely for this track. While Burton has not always been the most chatty commentator on some of his previous films (although when he does speak, it is usually very informative), he actually has a lot to offer here - and having the other two participants fills out the commentary quite well. The commentary is edited well and comments from the different speakers are tied together well. Throughout the track, we get a good deal of information on various topics, including Burton's experiences at Disney, how Selick became involved with the project, the technical details of some of the scenes, the project's lengthy development process and much more. This was one of the better commentaries I've heard lately.
"Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour" allows viewers to experience the "Haunted Mansion" ride, which is given a "Nightmare Before Christmas" make-over once a year. "On Track" allows viewers to take a tour of the ride (there is also a trivia track option), while "Off Track" offers a lengthy look behind-the-scenes as some of the folks who have worked on the ride both came up with the idea to transform the ride and how they tried to merge "Nightmare" and "Haunted Mansion" in a smooth way that appealed to fans. While I thought this section was going to be entirely devoted to promoting the ride, I was pleased to find that it was actually quite a fun and informative look at what goes into an effort like this.
Additionally, also new here is a narration of Tim Burton's original poem by Christopher Lee, as well as a digital copy of the film. On the second disc, "Frankenweenie" has a new intro from Burton.
Carried over from the prior release:
Making Of "Nightmare Before Christmas": This fascinating documentary takes the viewer behind-the-scenes of the history of the movie, which took place over a three year period. During a moment of the documentary, we find that a minute worth of film with this process takes about a week to finish. Where the commentary lead us through the film and pointed out tidbits about animation, this is a visual look at the elements that were talked about, and we also hear from many of those responsible in a series of interviews. The documentary lasts 25 minutes.
Deleted Material: First, the disc allows the ability to go through three storyboard versions of deleted sequences ("Behemoth Singing", "Oogie Boogie With Dancing Boys", "Alternate Identity Of Oogie Boogie".) These storyboard scenes do have audio, as well. There are also 4 deleted animated sequences; "Jack's Scientific Experiments", "Vampire Hockey Players", "Lock, Shock and Barrel" and "Oogie Boogie Shadow Dance". All of this material has little audio intros from director Selick.
Image Gallery: This area provides a wealth of different images dealing with the film, from character designs, to animation to concept art. This section is at first broken up into "Halloween Town", "Christmas Town", "The Real World". Once you choose your path, you are presented with additional choices.
Ads: A small poster gallery, teaser trailer and full trailer.
Also: Tim Burton's early films, "Vincent and "Frankenweenie"; storyboard to film comparison of a scene.
Final Thoughts: A classic collaboration from Tim Burton and Henry Selick, "Nightmare" remains a charming, engaging family film fifteen years after its release. It has also never looked better than it does on this DVD edition, which boasts excellent video quality, fine audio and a few terrific new supplemental features. Recommended.
The Film A