The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D
By: Trist Jones on September 31, 2006  |  Comments ()  |  Bookmark and Share
Director: Henry Selick
Voices: Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara, Chris Sarandon, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens
Screenplay: Caroline Thompson
Country: USA
Australian Release Date: October 31, 2006
Distributor: Buena Vista
Running Time: 76 minutes
If there's a single person who's visited this site since it first opened it's doors to the lovable oddball masses that are our core audience who didn't enjoy Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, then I will eat my hat…

…not really, but you get where I'm coming from.

When the film was first released it was welcomed with open arms the world over, and remains to this day a classic and favourite amongst audiences of all ages and backgrounds (except maybe extreme orthodox Christians who probably find the idea of both Halloween and "modern traditional" Christmas seasons of heresy). It's stunning use of stop-motion animation, incredible visuals, memorable songs and fantastic characters were all part of what made it so endearing, and now, ten years on, the film has never looked better, as it is presented again in 3D with the help of Pixar Animation Studios.

I shouldn't really have to do this, because I'm pretty damned sure everyone has seen it, but if you're that one in a million (or possibly more) who hasn't, here's a rundown of what it's all about. Jack Skellington is the most respected citizen of Halloween Town, a city inhabited by vampires, ghouls, werewolves, and all the other monsters that hide under your beds and in the shadows. After another successful night of terrifying the people of the real world on Halloween, the town is in high spirits, but Jack on the other hand, is not. He longs for something new, and in a stroll through the woods that border Halloween Town, he finds a clearing surrounded by trees – each with a door representing a different holiday season. Entranced by the Christmas Tree Door in one, he moves to open it and is quickly sucked into Christmas Land, where he is amazed by just about everything (and performs probably the most memorable tune of the whole film). Inspired, he decides to take the Christmas traditions to Halloween Town so they too can try their hand at it. However, when Jack hires three delinquents to bring "Santy Claws" to Halloween Town, things take a turn for the worst, as they decide to deliver the jolly fat man to resident evil-doer Boogeyman: Oogie Boogie. As Jack realises his dream of becoming Santa for a night, he is faced with the reality that he's not exactly cut out for the job and that he must also save Santa and set things right.

Sounds kind of ludicrous when you read it like that, and when you think about it, it is, but The Nightmare Before Christmas manages to touch so many bases that it all just works so perfectly on screen. Take all the best things about Tim Burton's movies (sans Michael Keaton) and smoosh it head on with those classic Rankin and Bass holiday specials and that's The Nightmare Before Christmas - a wonderfully macabre experience. Ten years on, the film still holds up sentimentally, which is great to see in a world where animation has now become completely dominated by computer generated features (I think in the past two months there's been at least one released theatrically each week), but visually it shows it's age, especially after the release of Tim Burton's follow up masterpiece The Corpse Bride.  The animation, while fantastic and a lot of fun to watch, really has come a long way since, but this is really only a gripe for people who study this sort of thing (the guys I saw it with didn't seem to mind or notice the difference). Still, in spite of some choppy moments of animation, the new 3D print is awesome to look at – though there are a couple of minor problems that I'll get out of the way now. The first, and biggest problem, is that the original pint of The Nightmare Before Christmas was not a 3D film. It wasn't made to be seen in 3D, and because of this, there aren't any truly memorable 3D moments, as there were in films like the original House of Wax (paddle ball + 3D = fucking awesome!) and *cough*Jaws3D-and-Friday-the-13th-part-3*cough*. These films all had gimmick shots that made deliberate use of the 3D technology (every single one of which was reduced to hysterically awful shots on video release), and although there are some neat moments utilizing the technology, it really comes down to being just an extremely nice looking print of the film. Kind of a double edged comment but what I mean is this: If you're expecting everything to jump out of the screen at you, you'll be disappointed. The traditional ideas of 3D cinema going are something to put into the back of your mind with this. What you get instead is possibly the best looking version of the film you'll ever see. It seriously is amazing to see how clean the image is and how much depth the 3D technology gives the film. It's as though the models are right there in front of you, in a box that you can just reach into and touch. There's not a trace of aging to be found on the film print, outside of the animation itself.

Seeing it again in the cinema really is a treat, and I can't imagine the experience being the same on your average home theatre system (hell, even a better than average home theatre system). Like those Rankin and Bass specials, watching it again in the cinema was like tripping back to a time when you could just sit and become completely absorbed by a movie and while it's not breaking any new ground, either in terms of the film itself or it's new presentation, it really is worth catching at the cinema, even if you have it one DVD and have watched it however many times over and over again, but especially if you happen to be that odd individual who hasn't.

In the end it's still a five star movie, but four stars for the actual 3D experience, as it's not quite the massive, leap-off-the-screen pile of awesome it could be if it were true 3D.
Movie Score
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