Is Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" Really a Christmas Movie?


Image Courtesy of Disney

By Steph Cannon


Ah, the Holiday Season. Amidst the stress of shopping (especially in these times) and making sure you've bought everything on that unending list, spending quality time with family is needed more than ever. There's no better way to do this than to sit back and relax by the lights of the Christmas tree with a blanket and a cup of hot cocoa and watch... a Halloween movie?

It's clear that all of us here at Creepy Kingdom love to celebrate all things spooky year-round, and Christmastime is no exception. When we find that special something that perfectly combines the macabre with the merry, we can't help but want to highlight it.

Image Courtesy of Disney

In my opinion, no movie blends those two genres together better than Tim Burton's THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. There's no disputing that it has a healthy dose of both holiday cheer and ghostly charm. That does, however, lead to a source of contention amongst fans and Cinephiles alike - is it a Halloween movie, or a Christmas movie? To answer that, let's dive into what the film is about and how it seamlessly utilizes both elements into one cohesive story.

Jack Skellington, the illustrious Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, is the leader and organizer of all Halloween festivities, which encompasses every aspect of the citizens' daily lives. Although he takes pride in delivering the spookiest celebration possible each year, he's begun to grow weary of the same routine. While contemplating this during a walk in the woods, he discovers a door that leads him to Christmas Town, and is enchanted with this newly discovered holiday. He soon becomes obsessed with incorporating all things Christmas themed into Halloween Town, assuring the townspeople that they, too, will love it as much as he does.

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Things quickly go awry when Jack sends three misbehaving children to kidnap Santa Claus, stating that he will be taking over the role this year. Despite rag doll Sally's warnings to him of a vision she had of the night ending in disaster, the well-meaning Pumpkin King sets off to deliver creepy toys to children everywhere. When the toys begin to terrify and attack their recipients, Jack quickly realizes he may not be cut out to represent Santa. He works to rescue the big jolly guy from big baddie Oogie Boogie to right the wrongs he's set into place. In doing this, his love for Halloween and his pride as the Pumpkin King is reignited. The movie ends with Santa bringing a little snow to Halloween Town, and the beloved Jack and Sally proclaiming their love for one another. All is right in both worlds again, with each town's leader having a newfound respect for their holiday.

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So how does all of this help to settle the contested what-kind-of-movie-is-it debate? A recent poll on Creepy Kingdom Instagram showed a slight edge on people considering it a Christmas movie Vs a Halloween movie. The film is full of elements from each, and merchandising and decor for it begin to spring up in the Fall, before both holidays. While a great deal of it is spent focusing on Jack's relentless pursuit of everything Christmas, it's ultimately about the rediscovery of his love for Halloween. The movie is also shown frequently on TV during both the months of October and December. And let's not forget Disneyland's Haunted Mansion overlay, which begins in September and continues throughout the holiday season.

Taking all things into consideration, the consensus from this writer, who is a self-proclaimed THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS Fangirl, is that it is both. Yes, "Christmas" is right in the title, but when you look at the movie at its core, it beautifully and effortlessly combines the feel of each holiday. When you think about how opposite Halloween and Christmas truly are from one another, this is an impressive feat. So if you're looking to get into the Halloween mood once the leaves begin to change color, or if you want to feel the Christmas spirit as soon as the last Trick or Treater rings your doorbell, there's no better movie to experience both. Just grab your PSL or your cup of cocoa and enjoy it over the entire last quarter of the year. Or, if you're like me, be a rebel and watch it all year long.

Image Courtesy of Disney

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