Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Nightmare Before Christmas, The

(vt Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas) US stop-motion Animated Movie (1993), with some traditional animation. Buena Vista/Touchstone/Burton-Di Novi. Pr Tim Burton, Denise Di Novi. Dir Henry Selick. Spfx Gordon Baker, Dave Bossert, Miguel Domingo Cachuela, Chris Green. Vfx Pete Kozachik. Digital fx Walt Disney Feature Animation. Anim sv Eric Leighton. Character fabricator sv Bonita De Carlo. Screenplay Michael McDowell, Caroline Thompson. Voice actors Danny Elfman (Jack Skellington singing/Barrel/Clown with the Tear Away Face), William Hickey (Evil Scientist), Ed Ivory (Santa), Catherine O'Hara (Sally/Shock), Ken Page (Oogie Boogie), Paul Reubens (Lock), Chris Sarandon (Jack Skellington speaking), Glenn Shadix (Mayor). 76 mins. Colour.

The various festivals – Easter, Hallowe'en, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. – are run by the denizens of individual and mutually unaware towns, sited both in some Otherworld and beneath respective Trees ringing a clearing in a Forest whose location is enigmatic. Hallowe'en over, the leader of the ghoulish Elementals responsible for that festival, Jack Skellington, wanders into the forest and inadvertently stumbles via a treetrunk door into Christmas. He determines that this year the Hallowe'en folk, with himself as Santa Claus, will also run Christmas – and better. After various disasters he Learns Better, and reinstates Santa in his rightful position.

TNBC is a visually riveting movie; it is improbable that any other stop-motion animated movie equals it for technical proficiency. The script, largely in verse and much of it narrated or sung, has a mesmeric, driving quality that is somehow light rather than oppressive; the underlying fantasy premise is fascinating. The voice acting and characterization are superb. And yet, as so often with Burton's work, one comes away with the feeling that it could have been better: for much of its duration it promises as climax something truly spectacular, but then it fails to deliver, as if Burton, nearing the end, were suddenly in a hurry to get the whole thing wrapped up and over with. Nevertheless, viewed as an artwork rather than as a story, TNBC is magnificent. [JG]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.