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  Directed by
  Starring
  Specs
  • Widescreen 1.66:1
  • 16:9 Enhanced
  • Dual Layer ( )
  Languages
  • English: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Spanish: Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround
  • Commentary - English: Dolby Digital Stereo
  Subtitles
    English, French, Spanish, German, Italian, Czech, Polish, Croatian, Slovenian
  Extras
  • Deleted scenes - And Deleted Storyboards
  • Teaser trailer
  • Theatrical trailer
  • Audio commentary
  • Featurette - The Making Of
  • Photo gallery - Numerous
  • Storyboards
  • 2 Short film - 'Vincent' + 'Frankenweenie'

The Nightmare Before Christmas: SE

Buena Vista/Buena Vista . R4 . COLOR . 73 mins . G . PAL

  Feature
Contract

At animation school, this film is revered most highly and spoken of lowly in darkened corridors or whispered about behind decaying mensrooms. And why, dear reader? It remains a classic for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the dark god of all things Gothic and mainstream, Tim Burton, is the evil genius behind it all.

In the spidery scrawl of the streets of Halloween Town, or the creepy angles of the sharp-nosed characters, can be found that which appeals to us all; the allure of our deepest fears. All sterilised nicely and animated superbly to create a delicious glimpse into that part of ourselves that lies dormant, waiting, and is never truly forgotten.
Our imagination.
Remember when you were a kid and the horror of the darkness at the end of the hall was full of all manner of ghoulish creatures concocted in the deepest reaches of your own mind? Where the black murders of crows gathered to watch you fight for your life against the ravening beast, then picking at your dying body as you lay beaten and bloody before the silent Cyclops of the television?

Well, maybe not you, but thatís how my long nights lying awake were filled.

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Danny Elfman's lanky alter-ego

Every horror clichť is cheerfully and honestly brought to life to fill the rotten burg of Halloween Town, the place where the holiday of Halloween is organised and planned to meticulous degrees. Upon completion of yet another successful October 31st, Jack Skellington, The Pumpkin King, loses faith in his own holiday. Bored by the usual unusual, Jack dreams of something more... and to his surprise, during a late night wander, he stumbles upon Christmas Town where everything is very, very different. No one is dying or screaming and everyone is happy. Seeing hope, Jack chooses to have his own Christmas and in his comically inept manner (and perhaps only knowing crime as a cure-all) kidnaps Santa Claus with the intent of replacing him and enjoying a different holiday for a change.

"This is Halloween!"

Unfortunately, Jackís plans come unstuck with the intervention of Oogie Boogie, the gambling overlord of the undergound in Halloween Town and the Evil Scientistís macabre doll Sally, who has a secret crush on Jack. When Jack takes over the reins of his grisly team of skeletal reindeer and begins distributing Christmas presents that are less than the expected, the Real World fights back and Christmas itself is in danger of being lost!

As a fantasy work this is simply stunning in its execution (haha) and every frame resonates with the master vision of Tim Burtonís evil design. Watching this film is as important as sucking air in animation school; for its excellence in animation, its consistently authentic design and just its overall appeal, this film is an instant classic which bears the unbelievable title of being the first feature-length stop-motion film. Certainly paving the way for other greats like James and the Giant Peach and Chicken Run, Nightmare manages to capture that undeniable Christmas feeling while blending perfectly with the maudlin imagination of childhood.

Burtonís influences can obviously be drawn to fevered animators of lesser repute (though by no means lesser talent) like the Brothers Quay and the Bolex Brothers who have both utilised darker imagery to gather a mood, but the influences certainly donít stop there. Animation history is littered with darker visions throughout the last hundred years. From Ladislas Starevichís early films with dead insects to Fred Stuhrís animated earlier film clips for music group Tool, there has always been appeal for this sweet darkness and Burton has captured this perfectly for a mainstream market in The Nightmare Before Christmas.

  Video
Contract

Disney loves its 1.66:1 format and this is again what we receive here, anamorphically enhanced for the widescreen. A beautifully clean transfer can usually be expected from Buena Vista and we are not disappointed here with this razor sharp picture. No artefacts pop up, although there may be some I missed. However, I doubt theyíd upset the theme of the film at any rate.

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So this is what Tim Burton's mind looks like...

Burtonís instructions for this film were that the colour palette for design was Ďblack, white and orangeí, so naturally there are more blacks than usually given in an animated feature. They look superb here, as does the shadow detail throughout. In fact, such attention to detail as far as lighting goes brings this picture quality up yet another notch. All 230 sets used throughout the film look spectacular with no loss of detail at all.

Allover, the picture quality here is magnificent and cannot be faulted.

  Audio
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"What's this, what's this?" Ah the specs for this re-release of the re-release of The Nightmare Before Christmas
The quality keeps coming with the Dolby Digital 5.1 surround mix granted us. While not overtaxed, it gets a reasonable roundabout workout particularly in crowd scenes (numerous) and when Jack is on his sleigh with some nice wind-whipping-by sounds. Naturally, dialogue is clean and well spoken and easily understood (the Spanish mix sounds good too and is an interesting way to watch the film!). Sound effects are perfectly placed and well synched giving the whole sound package a complete feeling of contentment.

  Extras
Contract

The previous version of this film I had was just the movie and nothing else, but here thereís a mountain of things to enjoy and fill out the discís value. First up, thereís an audio commentary from director Henry Selick and Pete Kozachick, director of photography. This is interesting and informative, but a little dull. Had they have gotten Burton in with them it may well have been a different thing. However, if this gets a listen at your house, itíll probably be the only time.

Next on the Christmas list is the making-of featurette, which runs for 24:45. Interviews with Burton, Selick and composer Danny Elfman among others are included, plus some original concept art and the usual stuff. Only in 4:3, sadly, but interesting viewing all the same.

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The starting point

A 3:48 storyboard to film comparison has been well handled here with a split screen running both consecutively for a good length of time. Follow that with three deleted storyboard sequences, which are worth the look, but sorta filler material, and deleted scenes of which there are but four. Theyíre only 4:3 and are extended scenes in some regards, but are well worth examining. They are pretty artefacty and not properly rendered, but are great nonetheless.

The Worlds of Tim Burtonís The Nightmare Before Christmas features three sub menus of Halloween Town, Christmas Town and The Real World. Within these we get to explore mostly concept art galleries of varying sizes and a couple of animation tests for Jackís character which are the highlight without doubt. A very nice and bulky inclusion.

Posters and trailers are next, but we only get five posters, unfortunately. As to trailers we get two; a teaser at 4:3 for 1:44 and a theatrical also at 4:3 for 1:27. Donít ask me why a teaser would be longer than the theatrical, because I donít know.

Finally, the ultimate highlight of the extras; Tim Burtonís two earliest short films! The first is Vincent, a very similar almost precursor to Nightmare that runs for 5:56. Narrated by Vincent Price, this is the story of a little boy named Vincent Malloy who wants to be Vincent Price. Shot in 1982, this is very nice in black and white and 4:3.

The second is Frankenweenie, another black and white effort starring Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern in a suburban horror story. Not animated, this is, however, a very nice inclusion running for 30:05 and made in 1984.

So, that sure beats the last version of this film I had on DVD. The two short films are an awesome inclusion and there is so much here that will be interesting to all the animation nerds like me out there, if not the youngsters.

  Overall  
Contract

Like Iíve said before, this is required viewing in animation school. Classic imagery, groundbreaking merging of digital and stop motion plus some new inventions for armatures and models (particularly in the scarecrow stick thin body of Jack) all contribute to a modern classic of animation that will continue to remain so for quite a few years yet. Being the first feature-length stop-motion film also gives it a certain importance, and for this and many other reasons Iíve noted, this is one no animation fan can live without.


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  •  DVD NET Gold Review List 
      And I quote...
    "Unmissable animation for quality, design and content. A nice sound package and killer extras make this DVD absolutely unbeatable value."
    - Jules Faber
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          Nintaus DVD-N9901
    • TV:
          Sony 51cm
    • Receiver:
          Diamond
    • Speakers:
          Diamond
    • Surrounds:
          No Name
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard Optical
    • Video Cables:
          Standard Component RCA
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