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3 things that make ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ classic

(Left) Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) in Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved
Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), left, in Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Disney Enterprises Inc.

Editor’s note: Do the Christmas classics still hold up in 2020? We take a look.

Tim Burton’s 1993 film “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has been out for less than 30 years, but in that time it has become classic. Here are three reasons why:

It’s a visual masterpiece

First, the movie is a visual masterpiece. The more I watch “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the more I am in awe of the painstaking work that must have gone into the film’s stop-motion animation. Every little movement and facial expression had to be meticulously planned and executed for a wide variety of characters. The extraordinary payoff of that unique level of precision and dedication is part of what I think makes this movie a classic.

Detailed backgrounds also contribute to the film’s visual effect. For example, there’s a clear contrast between how warm and happy Christmas Town feels in comparison to the cold and creepy mood of Halloween Town. (That said, parents may want to preview the movie and consider whether certain elements of Halloween Town would be too scary for their children.) The filmmakers have done a great job of using what I imagine must be a difficult visual style to create a compelling and immersive movie-watching experience.

The music still hits

The second thing that makes “The Nightmare Before Christmas” a classic is Danny Elfman’s brilliant score. The music is definitely one of the highlights for me, from favorite singable songs like “This Is Halloween” to engaging background music that perfectly suits the film. Like the visual elements, the score reflects the brightness of Christmas Town and darkness of Halloween Town. Elfman himself provides Jack Skellington’s singing voice, and Catherine O’Hara sings “Sally’s Song.” This movie wouldn’t be the same without its excellent soundtrack.

(L-R) Sally (Catherine O’Hara), Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) in “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.” ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Sally (Catherine O’Hara), left, and Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon) in Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Disney Enterprises Inc.

The creative story (and its lesson) matter

Third, the film’s story of two holidays colliding is creative and interesting. This idea has even become the inspiration for a seasonal makeover of the “Haunted Mansion” ride at Disneyland based on “The Nightmare Before Christmas.” By the same token, the movie doubles as both a Halloween and Christmas film.

The lesson Skellington learns throughout the course of the movie is also an important one. The saying goes, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” and Skellington feels this when he discovers Christmas Town after years of being the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. But in the end, he discovers he had everything he needed all along. I like that takeaway of not taking for granted what one has. An attitude of gratitude can go a long way, especially amid the various challenges that have come with 2020.