It’s been a few years since director Henry Selick dropped the bomb on fans that The Nightmare Before Christmas was, in fact, a Halloween movie, a revelation that made many fans go “excuse me, Christmas is in the title.”
Fine. Sure. Jack Skellington is the Pumpkin King and all of the ghoulish beasties of Halloween Town are some of the film’s highlights, but what about Sandy Claws? What about Jack’s discovery of snow, presents, and the rest of Christmas’ classic trappings? While creative intent certainly bears a great deal of weight, there is also something to be said about how a film lands with your audience.
A stalwart in Freeform’s Christmas line up, The Nightmare Before Christmas might transcend traditional “Christmas” or “Halloween” classification, but there are certainly some things that point to a December sensibility. While you can certainly enjoy the claymation magic year round or with a bucket of trick or treat glory, there is a case to be made for a more candy cane flavored viewing.
The Best Scenes Are The Christmas Ones
Yes, “This Is Halloween” will stick in your head for days after you watch, but does anything compare to the joy of Jack’s discoveries in “What’s This?” Has there ever been a more hilariously misguided attempt at gift giving than that child’s shrunken head? No. While the best characters may be residents of Halloween Town, Christmas clearly makes everything better. While Christmas Town will largely go on like it always has, Halloween Town will be borrowing some of that trademark Christmas joy.
It’s All About How Awesome Christmas Is
Yes, Halloween is awesome too. Not only does it give you a reason to dress up like your favorite characters (God bless Hot Topic. Don’t @ me.), but the good kind of fear (horror films!) and the bad kind of fat (all the candy!) come together in perfect unison. Still, there is that certain feeling that only occurs around Christmas, and that is what Jack is trying to uncover. How can he bring the joy of Christmas to his native Halloween? Sure, you could call this a blending of the seasons, but it’s really a Christmas take over.
The Themes Feel A Bit More Like A Christmas Film
The kind of charming sentimentality that comes with holiday cheer, not spooks, is rampant through the insightful songs and Jack’s journey. Yes, The Nightmare Before Christmas has plenty of ghoulish spooks and scares, but it’s ultimately about building your own family, responsibility, and purpose. Those are classic Christmas story trappings. The magic of Christmas is what drives Jack to take up his duties with renewed vigor, so it is a goth carol none the less. (Sidenote: Hollywood, make goth versions of every Christmas classic, please and thank you.)
Jack’s Journey Leads Him To Christmas
Poor Skellington is stuck in the boring mundanity of life as the Pumpkin King until he finds out about the magic in the Town next door. While he may return to Halloween Town a better man (er… skeleton), Jack never would have been able to take up his rightful destiny without learning about the joy that comes with tinsel and twinkle lights. While he did throw himself into a new identity pretty willy-nilly, his new passion helped shape him into something better: the union of the two world’s ideals. Jack’s identity may be rooted in Halloween, but his salvation is in Christmas.
The Triumph Of Sandy Claws
If Oogie Boogie had vanquished Santa, then perhaps it would be easy to give this film over to Halloween. But despite the successful kidnapping of Sandy Claws, Jack couldn’t leave Santa to Oogie’s evil plan. Once Oogie is revealed as the bag of bugs that he is, Santa is there to help Jack find a way to save Halloween Town and make it an even better place. Despite being put through the ringer in this world, Santa is still looking to save it.
While this may have been about self-preservation and a guaranteed shot back to his home, it’s still classic Santa behavior. Not only does he save his own holiday, he helps Jack save his.
So, convinced? Still conflicted over if this is a Christmas gift or a Halloween treat? I clearly feel strongly about this, but in the name of the season, I suppose it can just be said that The Nightmare Before Christmas is a good holiday movie (with a uniquely Christmas-y vibe… sorry). Now let’s all go enjoy some nog and candy corn… or candy corn flavored nog! No?