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Saturday, October 30, 2010

Movie #2: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

"Kidnap Mr. Sandy Claws?"



Family-Friendliness


  • Rating: PG "for some scary images"

  • Minimum Recommended Age: 8 (Common Sense Media: On for ages 7 and up, KIDS FIRST! Juror Recommended Age: 10-18, Kids Pick Flicks: 7 and up, Kaboose: Ages 8 and up)

  • Quality Rating: 68% (Common Sense Media: 5 stars, Parent Previews Overall Grade: C, Kids Pick Flicks: 2 stars, Rotten Tomatoes rating: 8.2)

  • Number of Lists Recommend: 12

  • Sex/Violence/Profanity:
    Kids-in-Mind:

    VIOLENCE/GORE - The film is filled with pseudo-scary visuals, but little actual harm is done. For instance: one character has a hatchet embedded in his head, but it might just as well be a hat. The characters are mostly toys, or, could be interpreted as un-dead creatures. Santa Claus is kidnapped and held in a dungeon with manacles. Oogie-Boogie is a creature who appears to be a walking burlap bag. The bag is revealed to be full of bugs. Kinda' gross-looking. Jack, dressed as Santa, is blasted out of the sky with missiles and falls to the ground (he is unhurt). A mad doctor has a skull that flips open to reveal his brain, which he massages. Later, he removes half of his brain to place it in a mate he has created. The heroine, Sally the rag doll, has arms and legs that come off and operate by themselves. She feeds the doctor a soup laced with Deadly Night Shade, a poison, which knocks him out. The instances of "scary" visuals literally number in the hundreds, but they are all of the Charles Addams cartoon-variety.

    Dove.org:
    A jack-o-lantern swallows fire and is almost consumed before leaping into some water; a guillotine slices a pumpkin head; a character pulls off his own head; a song about kidnapping Santa and chopping him up or beating him up but Santa survives; Santa is held up by a hook at one point; a sleigh is hit with a missile; a snake eats a Christmas tree.

    Screen It!:

    Profanity: A song includes the phrases "By God" and "My God."

  • Running Time: 76 minutes

  • What does it have to do with Halloween? Most of the events take place in Halloween Town

Summary


In Halloween Town, Jack Skellington is bored and unhappy with the life of being "The Pumpkin King". He sets out to find something exciting and discovers Christmas Town. He takes it upon himself to take over the duties of Santa to deliver toys to children across the world.

Watch Out For


Common Sense Media:
Parents need to know that this offbeat, stop motion-animated movie is one of the great family films for all ages. That said, it does have scary Halloween creatures in it -- characters take off their own heads and limbs, and there are skeletons, nasty toys, and a creepy villain named Oogie Boogie. A Christmas tree even burns up. Some little kids who aren't old enough to distinguish this fantasy from the goings on at Halloween (or those prone to nightmares) might steer clear, although you can always pause the TV and talk about what's scaring them. The special 3D version is identical in content and storyline to the original, but the enhanced visuals may add marginal spookiness and could further blur the line between fantasy and reality for some younger kids.

Dove.org:
Although the film is not gory, it is a dark animated fantasy, made up of such scenes as a character walking around live with an ax in his head, and a stitched-up woman named Sally who pulls her own stitches from her arm. Her arm promptly falls off. This is obviously a total fantasy with Halloween meeting Christmas, and although we do award the film our Dove Seal for ages twelve plus, parents should consult the content chart below. This movie is filled with visually stunning images, such as some of the characters and the Halloween and Christmas Towns. It also has scenes such as a teddy bear being opened up and the stuffing popping out.

Parent Previews:
Besides the usual ghosts and graveyards, expect portrayals of living skeletons, exposed internal organs and brains, as well as a sackcloth boogieman whose decaying inners are being devoured by wriggling worms. Ongoing slapstick violence accompanies the story line, but occasionally the intent becomes more vicious and characters are threatened with torture, gunshots, cannon fire, flames and fast-moving mechanical blades. A rag doll is constantly sewing back on her dismembered arms and legs. A male character represses a woman in his care, forces her to labor and locks her in her room. In retaliation, she poisons his food. A woman seductively shows her leg to lure a man. Terms of deity are used as expletives.

Screen It!:
Some cartoon-style violence is present, with the most coming near the end where anti-aircraft guns fire at a character flying through the sky and in another scene where a malevolent character tries to harm others. A few colorful phrases are present, while one song is sung by three kids and involves kidnapping Santa and doing bad things to him. As such, various characters exhibit varying degrees of bad attitudes.

Beyond that, there's one tiny bit where a woman's leg is alluringly/seductively used to distract a monster, as well as some imitative behavior that might prove enticing to some impressionable kids.

I am the one hiding under your bed, teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red
"I am the one hiding under your bed, teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red"

I am the one hiding under your stairs, fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair
"I am the one hiding under your stairs, fingers like snakes and spiders in my hair"

Skeletons hung by nooses
Skeletons hung by nooses

Jack Skellington takes off his head
Jack Skellington takes off his head

Doctor Finklestein has a skull that flips open to reveal his brain
Doctor Finklestein has a skull that flips open to reveal his brain

Sally feeds Doctor Finklestein soup laced with Deadly Night Shade, a poison, which knocks him out
Sally feeds Doctor Finklestein soup laced with Deadly Night Shade, a poison, which knocks him out

Behemoth has an axe stuck in his head
Behemoth has an axe stuck in his head

Jack cuts open a stuffed animal
Jack cuts open a stuffed animal

Sally, after jumping from the tower
Sally, after jumping from the tower

Sally stitches herself back up after jumping from the tower
Sally stitches herself back up after jumping from the tower

Lock, Shock and Barrel throw things at the Mayor
Lock, Shock and Barrel throw things at the Mayor

Lock, Shock and Barrel kidnap the Easter Bunny
Lock, Shock and Barrel kidnap the Easter Bunny

Jack makes a scary face
Jack makes a scary face

Lock, Shock and Barrel are scared by Jack's face
Lock, Shock and Barrel are scared by Jack's face

Lock, Shock and Barrel kidnap Santa Claus
Lock, Shock and Barrel kidnap Santa Claus

Doctor Finklestein removes half of his brain to place it in a mate he has created
Doctor Finklestein removes half of his brain to place it in a mate he has created

Santa Claus' hands are bound
Santa Claus' hands are bound

Lock, Shock and Barrel torture Santa Claus
Lock, Shock and Barrel torture Santa Claus

Mr. Oogie Boogie
Mr. Oogie Boogie

A boy gets a shrunken head for Christmas
A boy gets a shrunken head for Christmas

A snake eats a Christmas tree
A snake eats a Christmas tree

A child gets a jack o' lantern jack in the box
A child gets a jack o' lantern jack in the box

Oogie Boogie holds Santa Claus captive
Oogie Boogie holds Santa Claus captive

To distract Oogie Boogie, Sally suggestively places her leg around a corner
To distract Oogie Boogie, Sally suggestively places her leg around a corner

Anti-aircraft guns fire shots at Jack as he flies through the sky on his sleigh
Anti-aircraft guns fire shots at Jack as he flies through the sky on his sleigh

Oogie Boogie has Sally and Santa tied up
Oogie Boogie has Sally and Santa tied up

Jack unravels Oogie Boogie's outer covering to spill out all the bugs that live inside him
Jack unravels Oogie Boogie's outer covering to spill out all the bugs that live inside him


Screencaps courtesy of newsie__nympho

Talk About It


Common Sense Media:
* Families can talk about why we celebrate the holidays we do. What does your favorite holiday mean to you? Has anyone ever tried to ruin one of your holiday experiences, and how did you overcome that? When you get tired of something, what are some creative ways to bring excitement back into it?
* Why did Jack's experiment fail? Is it fair to expect people who have done something the same way for a long time to change quickly? Could Jack have tried his ideas a different way?

Kids-in-Mind:
Kidnapping, mid-life crisis

Parent Previews:
What do you think is the magic ingredient that gives Christmas it’s warmth and joy?

In what ways does the character of the town mayor allow the moviemakers to poke fun at political figures? Why do you think they created him with two faces—one on the front and back of his head? What other satirical points do they make?

Screen It!:
# Kids might be nervous that Santa (if they believe in him) might be in danger of being kidnapped or that they'll receive gifts that will be dangerous, scary or mean toward them (as happens here).
# Sally repeatedly tries poisoning the evil scientist by adding poison to his tea or soup (some kids might get the same idea).
# Sally, who's "grounded," throws herself from her tower window and lands on the ground, breaking into various pieces (but she stitches herself back up and is okay, thus possibly making some kids think they could do the same thing).

Plugged In:
There are two ways to look at their creation: from a secular viewpoint and from a Christian one. First, the former. If you think of the holidays in The Nightmare Before Christmas as completely secularized, you can concentrate on the positive messages that arise. Namely, that Jack has no ill motive in mind when he takes over Christmas. He truly does want to "help" spread good will, joy and peace. Then, when he bumbles it, he rushes to set things right again by rescuing Sandy Claws and begging him to save the day.

Now, for the latter. The movie begins with the narrator intoning, "You probably wondered where holidays come from. If you haven't, then I'd say it's time you'd begun." Taking that admonition seriously, Jack searches high and low for the true meaning of the blessed event Christmas. And the best he can come up with is that a portly, bearded fellow who flies around with reindeer and on a single night delivers gifts to all the world's deserving boys and girls. The bric-a-brac he studies so intently doesn't point him to the birth of the Savior, Jesus Christ. It points him to candy, cards, holly and mistletoe.

Those things make him feel happy. But they don't do him any real good. And they don't do viewers much good, either—at home watching the DVD or at the multiplex taking in the 3-D "experience" each October.

Of Note


  • In James and the Giant Peach, Jack appears as the captain, in the pirate scene. Upon seeing him, the Centipede even says "It's Captain Skellington"
  • In Coraline, Jack appears as the egg yolk
  • During the last minutes of Beetlejuice, Jack's head appears at the top of Betelgeuse's hat, when he turns into a carousel-like creature.
  • An early version of Jack Skellington appears as one of the phantasmic imaginisms of the titular character, during the final minutes of Vincent
  • During the opening scene of Sleepy Hollow, Jack's scarecrow outfit can be seen

  • Burton wrote a three-page poem titled The Nightmare Before Christmas when he was a Disney animator in the early-1980s. Burton took inspiration from television specials of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas.
  • In 2001, Walt Disney Pictures began to consider producing a sequel, but rather than using stop motion, Disney wanted to use computer animation. Burton convinced Disney to drop the idea. "I was always very protective of [Nightmare] not to do sequels or things of that kind", Burton explained. "You know, 'Jack visits Thanksgiving world' or other kinds of things just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it", Burton said.
  • Behemoth is based on B-movie actor/Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson.
  • Tim Burton has said the original poem was inspired after seeing Halloween merchandise display in a store being taken down and replaced by a Christmas display. The juxtaposition of ghouls and goblins with Santa and his reindeer sparked his imagination.
  • Danny Elfman did the singing voice for Jack because Chris Sarandon said he did not have a good singing voice.


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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

this place is awesome was looking for some inspiration for my tat only wish there were more pics of sally sewing herself together otherwise awesome

BunBun4life said...

Almost 20 years ago when my son was 3.5 yrs old, we were looking at some videos for sale at the grocery store, and, of course, he wanted to get Jurassic Park. NO way. He then saw Nightmare Before Christmas and said he wanted THAT one then. You know the drill 'MOM, I won't get sce-wewd. (versus scaRed). I rolled my eyes and looked at the box, and honestly, this was 1994 - who's Tim Burton? What's Nightmare before Christmas? The animation looks really cool, though. So I got it.

BEST output of money in relation to entertainment value EVER. Contrary to being scared, he was engrossed. He watched it virtually every day for 6 straight months. He started singing along to the music. He wanted to know who did the voice for Jack Skellington and the following halloween I made a Jack Skellington costume out of a black sweat suit and white fabric paint that comes out of a squeezy tube in a thin line, reproducing the thin white lines of Jack's 'Tuxedo' as best I could. I made his bat bowtie out of posterboard, cloth, and sharpie, and painted his face like Jack.

Keep in mind, pretty much nobody really knew what the movie was, and nobody recognized his costume. So at every single house, they would say 'what are you?' and he'd smile real big and say JACK SKELLINGTON, to which they would reply 'A Skeleton?' in response to which he would scream NO! juACK skuELLINGTON! and I would then say 'jack skellington' a character blah blah blah. Still happy as a clam at the next house.

After the 6 month mark he still watched it frequently; we found out that a different actor did the speaking voice from the singing voice. The singer was Danny Elfman, who also wrote all the musical scores, etc. THEN we noticed Danny Elfman wrote the theme song from The Simpsons.

When Men in Black came out, a few years after buying NightmareB4Xmas, he was very excited (me too). While we sat in the theater and the movie began with a cool, upbeat, orchestral score - my son said 'That music sounds like Danny Elfman!' and a few seconds later, the words 'Music by Danny Elfman' popped up. He was so proud, and so was I. Unbelievable. He was 6.5 yrs old, and instantly recognized the composition style of his favorite 'composer'.

I swear, I think that movie is one of the reasons he eventually had such an incredible ear for music, eclectic taste, and was generally very creative. By the time he was 13-14, he was wearing his 'Nightmare before Christmas Hoodie' and he wouldn't go see Corpse Bride with me at the movies because he promised his girlfriend he'd see it with her first. haha

I think kids are different. Of course at the time I had no idea what was up with that movie - as it turned out he barely blinked or moved the entire time he watched it for the first time. Wheels started to turn, questions were asked, songs were sung, and I would not trade that experience for anything.

A more timid child might be disturbed by it, but considering what's on TV nowadays, I doubt many 6 or 7 year olds would be scared or upset by it.

 
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