Stop motion animation is the ugly stepchild of animation styles. There are a few that work their way into my heart, but it’s hard to love something that makes me so uncomfortable. I am passionate, however, about Jack Skellington kicking off the Christmas season each year.
Other holidays have their moment, of course. Everyone dresses up in wild costumes for Halloween. We all gorge ourselves with way too much food come Thanksgiving day. Christmas, though, isn’t just a day; it’s a season. There’s music, movies, an entire culture around the time of year, and The Nightmare Before Christmas fits right into that culture.
So, yes, I’m arguing with the director, Henry Selick, on this one: The Nightmare Before Christmas is, in every way possible, a Christmas movie.
While the movie does in fact center on Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King and eccentric figure of Halloween Town, the story itself focuses on his journey with Christmas. Halloween isn’t what moves the plot forward; it’s merely the starting point and backdrop to a film that’s really about a skeleton becoming obsessed with the joy of Christmas and wanting to spread that joy to those he cares about.
Yes, the film has creepy elements to it. But it’s Tim Burton, what else would you possibly expect from the man? It’s a Tim Burton Christmas movie. And those Halloween-inspired Burton creations spend the film learning about Christmas, which is pretty much the basis of any classic that’s on television 20 times a day during the month of December.
The synopsis of this movie could be written in a way that sounds more like an interpretation of The Santa Clause. But, instead of Tim Allen, you get a stop motion skeleton.
The movie plays into every classic Christmas movie trope and follows that joyful thematic thread. While Jack fails in certain ways, like giving out horrific gifts and kidnapping Santa, he also goes on a journey of self-discovery. A journey in which he develops an appreciation for the Christmas season. He ends up seeing it not just as an outlet or something he can recreate, but as something that’s uniquely its own and much too big and vital to ever be duplicated.
And through it all, the audience is treated to that feel-good holiday movie moment where the main character ends up finding an even deeper love for who they really are and where they come from. Christmas makes Jack a better person and helps him find a greater appreciation for Halloween Town and his place in it.
Not to mention, even after all he’s been through, there’s a Santa flyby over Halloween Town. If that doesn’t scream Christmas movie, I don’t know what does.
So while some may want to add the movie to the very small list of what you could construe as Halloween movies, it more so acts as the gateway into the holiday season. Tim Burton takes his creepy mind and the imagery and spookiness of Halloween and uses them to create one of the best Christmas classics of all time.
Jackson Horvat is a sophomore studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Do you agree? Tell Jackson by tweeting him at @horvatjackson.