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Western Animation: The Nightmare Before Christmas

"Boys and girls of every age, wouldn't you like to see something strange?
Come with us and you will see, this our town of Halloween!"

Released to cinemas in 1993, this stop-motion animation film produced and conceived by Tim Burton, though actually scripted by Caroline Thompson and directed by Henry Selick (as Burton himself was busy with Batman Returns at the time), starts with the citizens of Halloween Town celebrating (you guessed it) Halloween in the grandest fashion possible, due to their love of (all right, unnerving obsession with) scaring everyone senseless. However, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, has grown rather tired of the same old thing, and yearns for something new in his life.

After the current year's celebration of Halloween, the morose Jack goes for a long walk out of town into the forest, where he happens to walk into a circle of trees he's never seen before. Each tree bears a portal which leads to another holiday town. Immediately attracted by the Christmas tree shaped one, he ventures into Christmas Town. There he discovers the wonders of the bright and jolly, and becomes obsessed with understanding Christmas.

He returns to Halloween town and informs the townsfolk of Christmas, but both his and their understanding of the holiday is limited by their experience of Halloween. In a Perspective Flip of the typical Christmas Special plot of "monsters try to steal Christmas," Jack has perfectly good intentions — he thinks taking over Christmas for a year will be great fun for everyone involved, both in Halloween Town and the human world, and it'll give "Sandy Claws" a year off for vacation once some homicidal children kidnap him and bring him to Halloween Town to sit Christmas out.

The whole town groups together to create Christmas, but Sally the rag doll, who is secretly in love with Jack, has a vision that it will be a disaster. She's right, of course.

Throw all that in with a boogie man fashioned from a burlap sack filled with insects, rousing musical numbers, scares a-plenty for the young ones, and some truly brilliant imagery and directing, and you get the now classic film The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Starting in 2006, it's gotten a theatrical re-release once a year at Halloween time, with a somewhat disappointingly light-handed makeover into a 3-D Movie. Compare Coraline, which is from the same director. The difference likely has to do with the fact that Coraline was intended to be a 3-D film from the time it began filming. The 3-D version of The Nightmare Before Christmas was retrofitted approximately thirteen years after its original release.

It has a ridiculously large and well-documented article on Wikipedia. Seriously, just look at it. It also has a fan website called the Pumpkin Patch.

The series would later gain a sequel in video game form on the PlayStation 2 titled The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge and a prequel, The Pumpkin King on the Game Boy Advance. Halloween Town and Jack also appear in almost every game in the Kingdom Hearts series. Disneyland has added movie-themed attractions in the Haunted Mansion just in time for Halloween in the past years.

Now has a character sheet and Fan Fic Recommendations.


The Film provides examples of:

  • 3-D Movie: The theatrical re-release.
  • Accidental Misnaming: Jack, and by extension everyone in Halloween Town, calls Santa Claus "Sandy Claws". In a deleted scene and in the dialogue when Jack first meets Santa, it's shown that Jack took the "Claws" part literally.
  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Several, but one that takes the cake is Sally picking the flower which transforms into a tiny Christmas tree, and then tragically bursts into flames right before her eyes.
  • Adaptation Expansion: Nightmare was originally a poem by Burton, with the only named characters being Jack, Zero, and Santa.
  • An Aesop: Several, most of which are rather family-unfriendly.
    • The movie illustrates that good intentions pave the road to Hell...
    • "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence".
    • "Look before you leap" strained through a mesh made of "make sure you know what you're doing".
    • "Jack's Lament" has a coat of "fame is overrated" painted over it.
    • Be Yourself.
    • A change of scenery is a terrific cure for burnout.
    • Being leader in one area doesn't mean you can take over anything that catches your eye.
    • A Deconstruction of the classic Disney Aesop "You can be whatever you dream to be".
    • Your best friend is the one who'll tell you the truth about yourself.
    • Trying to copy another person's talents instead of focusing your own results in your work becoming a shoddy, offensive copy reviled by everyone.
    • Some of Jack's lines near the end of "Poor Jack" have the Aesop "Even if you try something new and it doesn't work out, you can still learn something worthwhile from it."
  • Affably Evil: Lock, Shock and Barrel.
  • All There in the Manual: The last track on some prints of the soundtrack is a spoken word epilogue where Santa goes to visit Jack a few years later, and we learn Jack and Sally had a few kids.
  • Ambiguously Gay:
    • The Mayor. He is voiced by Glenn Shadix, who was openly gay.
    • The vampires are a bit effeminate and they seem to crush on Jack.
    • That one monster. You know, the one that was going to make a hat out of a rat. Have you heard its voice? Voiced by Greg Proops and its name is Harlequin Demon.
  • Animated Musical
  • Anthropomorphic Personification:
    • Jack could possibly be the Personification of Halloween.
    • The opening song features vocal representations of the wind, the shadow on the moon, and the "who" in "Who's there?".
  • Anti Christmas Song: Kidnap. The. Sandy. Claws. And this is made even more disturbing by Korn.
  • Applied Mathematics: Jack puts a number of unconventional "equations" on a blackboard to try and understand Christmas, including various Stealth Puns, like "Roasting Chestnuts/Open Fire".
  • Artistic License - Astronomy: If the moon is full on Halloween, then it will be waxing on Christmas Eve, not full.
  • Artistic License - Biology: If Finklestein, especially at his age, removed half his brain like he does to create his "wife", he would lose motion on one side of his body (and since he's already a Genius Cripple, that would mean he has only one working limb) and would, depending on which side he removed, develop speech problems. At the same time, his wife would be equally crippled. Not to mention hemispherectomies are very delicate procedures; you don't break apart a brain like a loaf of bread.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: Jack is the Pumpkin King not just because he's the scariest creature, but because he's also the toughest.
  • Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: "What's this?!" Jack having ADD is actually a fairly popular fan theory.
  • Babies Ever After: Not in the film proper, but on the original film soundtrack released in 1993, as well as the subsequent re-release "Nightmare Revisited", there's a epilogue poem where Santa visits Jack and Jack has "four or five skeleton children at hand, playing strange tunes in their xylophone band." There is much debate on whether they are Jack and Sally's kids and how they could have them, since, you know, one's dead and the other's a rag doll.
  • Bad Santa: Jack, albeit unwittingly.
  • Beneath the Mask: To the citizens of Halloween Town, Jack's the charismatic, self-confident, terrifying Pumpkin King. What they don't know is that Jack is very unhappy and bored about doing the same thing every year and longs for something different. Then he discovers Christmastown . . .
  • Berserk Button: Jack doesn't react well when he finds out Oogie Boogie is hurting his friends.
  • Beware the Nice Ones:
    • Jack is extremely genial, but even Oogie is frightened when Jack is pissed at him.
    • Jolly St. Nick himself. It's fairly startling when Santa Claus squishes what remains of Oogie under his boot. He then puts Jack in his place - mind you, Jack is The Dreaded of Halloween Town.
  • Big Damn Heroes: "Hello, Oogie!" Badass. It's unusual that you have a BDH moment where the bad situation is the hero's fault in the first place, but even so.
  • Big Electric Switch: Jack uses one to turn on his electric chair (which is covered with festive Christmas lights).
  • Bilingual Bonus: Jack's ghost-dog's name is Zero. In Japanese, Zero can be translated as "Rei", which can also mean "Ghost".
  • Blessed with Suck: Jack. He's the King of Halloween, yet it's always about Halloween, every single day, which is problematic when you want something different. Taking a break is not an option, as shown when Jack disappears for only two days, everyone is in a panic. Jack seems to not be able to give the crown to anyone else if he wanted ("But who here would ever understand/That the Pumpkin King with the skeleton grin/Would tire of his crown, if they only understood/He'd give it all up if he only could . . . "), so he's stuck with the job. And if the scenes after "This Is Halloween" is any indication, due to being the biggest in-universe celebrity, Jack can't even having a decent conversation with anyone. And who knows how long Jack's been doing the Halloween job? He could be Really 700 Years Old for all we know. When you think about it, you can't blame the guy for desperately wanting to try out Christmas.
  • The Blind Leading the Blind: Jack: "At least they're excited but they don't understand/that special kind of feeling in Christmasland."
  • Blue and Orange Morality: The people of Halloweentown are macabre, disturbing, and scary, and enjoy things that are dangerous and unpleasant to regular people, but that's just because it's their nature. In their world, these things are all quite positive. This is the primary source of conflict in the movie, because although the Halloween creatures think they understand Christmas, it's impossible for them to do so. Not even Jack really gets it.
  • A Skeleton and His Ghost Dog: Jack and Zero, his faithful companion.
  • BSOD Song: "Poor Jack" starts out this way. It can also count as both a dark and triumphant reprise of "Jack's Lament".
  • Camp Straight: Jack. At the end of "Making Christmas", he even swings his hips.
  • Cannot Spit It Out:
    • The movie Could Have Avoided This Plot if only Sally had clarified to Jack a) her understanding of his emotional turmoil, and b) her premonition about his Christmas takeover. That's assuming Jack would even have listened to her concerns. Indeed, she did her best to tell him about them, he was just unstoppable.
    • Sally is unable to tell Jack how she feels about him for fear of rejection, as she details in her song.
  • Cassandra Truth: Sally tries to tell Jack that his Christmas will be a disaster. Guess what happens.
  • CCG Importance Dissonance - The short-lived card game had cards for every item and background character in the movie - even ones that didn't have names (which the CCG was mostly comprised of) such as "Gift-Wrapping Elf" and "Ghost on the Left".
  • Chekhov's Skill
    • When Jack gives in and plays fetch with Zero, his dog lights up where Jack's rib landed with his nose.
    • When Doctor Finkelstein is holding Sally's detached arm, she (specifically, her arm that he's holding) bops him on the head repeatedly while the rest of her escapes.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: Jack has this mixed with Slasher Smile as his default smile. Sally gets a good one when she tricks the doctor into eating the poisoned soup.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Christmas Town, Halloween Town, "The Normal World", and the Forest all have different color palettes, making them easier to distinguish from one another.
  • Comforting Comforter: Sally takes the time to tuck Dr Finklestein in after she drugs him unconscious so she can leave.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Things might have gone more smoothly if Jack and the Halloween Town citizens actually understood Christmas...
  • Cover Version: As part of the 2006 re-release marketing thing, Nightmare Revisited was released. It is a full album's worth of covers of varying quality.
  • Creepy Long Fingers: Jack.
  • Crowd Song: "This Is Halloween", "The Town Meeting Song", "Making Christmas", and "Finale/Reprise".
  • Curiosity Causes Conversion: Deconstructed, as this didn't turn out so well.
  • Dark Is Not Evil:
    • Although the denizens of Halloween Town are folks you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley (because they arose from the muck puddles at the bottom of said alley), they clearly aren't intending to be harmful, just scary (with the exception of Oogie Boogie and his posse.) "It's our job but we're not mean/in this town of Halloween..."
      • To make a brilliant contrast, while the colors of the town and its characters are not so bright (even Sally's red hair doesn't stand out very much) they are not mean or evil, while Oogie Boogie first appears being of a very bright (and poisonous) green color and his lair is a bright, colorful death-themed casino - and he is the one who takes pleasure not only in killing, but in torturing his victims with games first.
    • In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, Jack even tells Sora that the citizens of Halloween Town enjoy scaring people, not hurting them.
  • The Darkness Gazes Back: One of the characters in the opening song "This Is Halloween" is the monster devoted to this "job".
    I am the one hiding under your bed
    Teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red
  • The Dead Have Eyes: Jack has no problem seeing and hearing, though he obviously has no eyes or ears.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Jack is sarcastic a couple times.
  • Death by Irony: Oogie planned to make Santa and later Sally into snake-and-spider stew and ends up having all his bugs fall into the concoction, becoming stew himself.
  • Death Glare: When Jack arrives at Oogie Boogie's place, he's pretty pissed already, but when Jack hears Sally scream (thus telling him that she was down there), he gives a Death Glare that signed Oogie's death warrant. A slightly scarier example is when Oogie's bugs are falling into the pit, Jack's facial expression quite clearly says, "You deserve this."
  • Defanged Horrors: Outright stated (in the first song) that the people of the town love to scare, but have no malicious feelings towards people. Their creepy Boogieman (whom even the Halloween folks avoid!) and his rather cowardly cronies are quite the exception. Even though Lock, Shock, and Barrel claim to only work for Oogie out of fear, they sure do show pleasure at the thoughts of mauling 'Sandy Claws' in their star song...
  • Deliberately Monochrome: According to the special features of the DVD re-release, Halloweentown.
  • Dem Bones: Jack, aka Bone Daddy and the doctor's Undead Reindeer Fleet, the hangman skeletons in the tree during the opening song, and the tortured luminescent singing skeletons in Boogie's place.
  • Didn't Think This Through:
    • Oogie and the gunmen. When he hits the button for the saw, a thread gets caught...
    • Jack's plan. Let's have a town who has only known scares for their afterlife take over a cheerful holiday that you barely understand.
  • Disney Death: Jack. Fortunately, he recovers, which makes Oogie ticked off.
    Oogie: J-J-J-Jack! But they said you were dead. You must be double dead!
  • Disney Villain Death: Oogie Boogie ends up like this when his sack is torn.
  • The Dog Was the Mastermind: Averted, it was originally planned that Dr. Finklestein was actually Oogie Boogie's true identity, leaving Jack Skellington confused, but it was cut because apparently Tim Burton acknowledged the reveal would have been too confusing.
  • Don't You Like It?: The reaction of Jack's Christmas.
  • Dressed in Layers: When Jack rips off his Santa costume, he has his normal tuxedo on underneath.
  • Dutch Angle: Several, from the subtle to the very obvious. Granted that it's a Tim Burton-produced film.
  • Early-Bird Cameo:
    • Jack appears in Tim Burton's 1982 short stop-motion film Vincent and as a skull on top of Beetlejuice's carnival hat.
    • In the skeleton pirate scene in James and the Giant Peach.
  • Efficient Displacement: Jack falls into the Christmas Town snow, leaving behind a perfect outline. His rail-thin stature justifies it.
  • Enfant Terrible: A trio of them: Lock, Shock, and Barrel, three professional trick or treaters and kidnappers.
  • Epic Fail: Instead of giving presents that give children joy during his Christmas run, Jack Skellington gives them presents that traumatize them.
  • Eureka Moment: "Jack's Obsession" leads to one. Jack even shouts "EUREKA!"
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: Subverted, since the people of Halloween Town are not actually evil; however, their innate inability to really understand the concept or point of Christmas is a big part of the reason that Jack's plans don't pan out.
  • Evil Laugh:
    • Jack has a nice one—as his natural laugh. A reminder that he is a resident of Halloween Town.
    • Oogie Boogie gives a villainous laugh at the end of his Villain Song.
  • Evil Sounds Deep:
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Sally's (Or possibly Finklestein's) potions, and Jack's books take this to a ridiculous extreme.
  • The Faceless: None of the adult humans faces are seen in the movie.
  • Face Palm: Jack covers his face with his hand after Lock, Shock, and Barrel brings back the Easter Bunny instead of Santa and start fighting over it.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Oogie Boogie tries to appear friendly and jolly, but he's WICKED.
  • Final Love Duet: Jack and Sally.
  • Foil:
    • Some believe that Jack and Oogie are foils to each other, the former being thin, artistic, and thoughtful, the latter fat, rude, and sadistic.
    • Sally might be a foil for Jack, since he's outgoing, energetic, loud, and usually enthusiastic while she's shy, reserved, quiet and usually sad.
  • For the Evulz: Oogie Boogie's motivation. During his Villain Song he carefreely sing out that he does all the bad things because "It's much more fun" when "lives are on the line".
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Jack's first visit to Christmastown in the song "What's This?" Among other things, we see him unintentionally smashing a snowflake, destroying a snowman and scaring a little sleeping elf - a taste of the unwitting destruction that Jack's curiosity in Christmas will bring.
    • When he's trying to understand Christmas scientifically, he attempts to cut a paper snowflake and finds that he's made a spider. The rest of the same scene. His tries to understand the paraphernalia of Christmas only results in the items of his experiments being destroyed. "Jack's Obsession" also ends with him smashing several Christmas ornaments, and causing a string of lights to explode.
    • During the Town Hall meeting in which Jack reveals the inhabitants of Halloweentown what Christmas is, the Mayor says cheerfully, "This will be the most terrifying Christmas ever!"
    • There's Sally's premonition with the burning Christmas tree.
    • "This Is Halloween" has the "shadow of the moon at night" taking the form of Oogie Boogie. This is later confirmed to be his shadow in Oogie's Revenge.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Oogie Boogie has the ability to suck in everything like a gigantic vacuum, which is how he recaptured Santa and Sally. He never thought to use this in his battle against Jack Skellington, though this is somewhat justified, as Oogie was trying to get away from Jack. Still could have eaten him, though.
  • Four-Fingered Hands:
    • Jack is the most noticeable since he's humanoid.
    • The werewolf holds up four fingers ("Three-sixty-*four*!") and it's his entire hand.
    • Some of the human children have four-fingered hands as well.
    • Avoided on Jack's part in the animated short on the DVD of The Nightmare Before Christmas poem narrated by Christopher Lee.
  • Funny Background Event: Remember that boy whose parents screamed when they saw his Christmas present was a shrunken head? Next time we see him, his parents have fainted in the hallway. His dad's hand twitches.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • There's the whole Show Some Leg thing
    • After "This Is Halloween" when everyone is heaping praise on Jack, the short witch gets a little... affectionate... with Jack's leg.
    • When Jack revealed himself to Oogie, that the way Jack was keeping himself on the platform was a bit suggestive.
    • There's Oogie's Shout-Out comment to Santa, which sounds pretty rape-y both in and out of context.
      Oogie:: And now with your permission, I'm going to do my stuff.
      Santa: What are you going to do?
      Oogie: I'm going to do the best I can...
    • Speaking of Oogie... When trying to save Santa, Sally took off BOTH of her hands and one leg... Next scene that we see her, she is tied up with Santa and about to be cooked alive... Little question: Who must have sewed her back together? Yeeah, let's let that sink for a while and you get pretty creepy possibilities.
    • There's the question of why Dr. Finklestein made Sally... He more than likely made her to be a daughter/servant/caretaker to him, seeing as she makes all his soup. Though he could make her to be his spouse... He later does create a wife, but luckily the thing he's most excited about is the great conversations they'll have!
    • After Finklestein awakens from Sally poisoning him for the fourth time in a little over a month he reacts to his doorbell the same way any hung over person would react to a loud noise.
  • Gone Horribly Wrong: Poor Jack, all he wanted was to try his hand at another holiday...
  • Guile Heroine/The Smart Girl: Sally uses her brain most of all to get out of tight spots.
  • Halloween Town: The Trope Namer!
  • Heel Realization: In "Poor Jack".
  • He's Back: "That's right... I AM the Pumpkin King!"
  • He Who Must Not Be Seen:
    • The faces of the adults in the human world are not shown.
    • Oogie Boogie, who appears as the shadow on the moon in "This is Halloween" and as a shadow on the wall in "Kidnap the Sandy Claws", but he himself doesn't appear himself until his own song.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Jack owns Zero, a cute ghost dog.
  • Hero Antagonist: Sally.
  • Heroic BSOD: Jack undergoes two, once during "Jack's Lament" and again once he realizes that he was accidentally ruining Christmas for the entire human realm.
  • Heroes Want Redheads: Jack wants Sally.
  • Hive Mind: Oogie Boogie is made of insects and worms and yet he manages to move, speak and do all kinds of evil stuff. It's debatable if there is a Hive Queen (if there is, it's probably a little, white, earwig-like bug). This is confirmed in Oogie's Revenge.
  • Homage: Halloweentown looks an awful lot like Holstenwall.
  • Hub Level: The circle of trees with holiday-themed doors, which allow passage between the various holidays' realms.
  • Hufflepuff House: The holiday dimensions besides Halloween Town and Christmas Town
  • I Am What I Am: After his disaster at being Santa Claus, Jack finally realizes what his true calling is, as he sums it up in five words: I AM THE PUMPKIN KING!
  • Iconic Outfit: Jack's pin-striped tuxedo and bat bow-tie; also Sally's dress. Both have even been made available as Halloween costumes for adults through the Disney company.
  • Idiot Hero: Jack is probably one of the more justified examples, as his idiotic moments come from not being an idiot, but from either not understanding concepts outside of Halloween (the whole Christmas fiasco, thinking the shells were fireworks, etc.) or being so excited for Christmas that he doesn't listen to reason (Sally and her prediction). The only thing he does that is just plain stupid is trusting Lock, Shock, and Barrel to take care of Santa Claus.
  • The Igor: Mad Scientist Doctor Finkelstein has one. He likes doggy treats.
  • Impact Silhouette: When Jack hits the Christmas Town sign and falls into a foot of snow.
  • Impairment Shot: Used after Jack runs face-first into a candy-cane-striped pole. And when Santa first sets eyes on Halloween Town, having been roughly hauled out of a sack previously.
  • In Case You Forgot Who Wrote It: Oh, it was Tim Burton by the way. (Conceived rather than written, to be exact; it was expanded by others.) This trope combined with the advertising ("From the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas") inadvertently caused people who aren't aware of Henry Selick's involvement with Nightmare to think that Coraline was directed by Burton (it was Selick who directed that film too).
  • Incendiary Exponent: Jack sets himself on fire, while dressed as a scarecrow, at the end of "This Is Halloween". Naturally, it is one of the most awesome entrances in Disney history.
  • Incoming Ham: "Well, well, well! What have we here? Santa Claus?! Ha! Oooooh, I'm really scared!"
  • Ironic Echo: The first time Jack sings "And I, Jack, the Pumpkin King" (during Jack's Lament), he is angsting over how Halloween has stopped being special to him. The second time (during the second half of Poor Jack) he is getting over his angst about ruining Christmas and how he "just can't wait until next Halloween".
  • Irony: You know how loads of hateers contribute their dislike of this movie because of all the merchandise at Hot Topic? Considering Jack's reaction to the way the Halloween Town citizens ("Thank you. Thank you! Very much!!") it's highly likely that Jack would hate all the merchandise at Hot Topic too.
  • "I Want" Song:
    • "Jack's Lament" Also counts as an "I Am" Song, as he describes how he is the Master of Fright and a Demon of Light, amongst other things. It can be divided verse-by-verse into each of those. The verses in 4/4 are almost entirely self-description while the slower, 3/4 time verses are "I Want" verses.
    • "What's This" climaxes with the line "I want it! Oh I want it! Oh I want it for my own!"
  • Skeletons Prefer Boxes: Jack is obsessed with the concept of a "present" (particularly in Kingdom Hearts II), but doesn't understand that the present is what's INSIDE the pretty wrapped box with the bow.
  • Karma Houdini: Lock, Shock and Barrel receive precisely no come-uppance for trying to feed Santa to Oogie Boogie, although admittedly they were serving him out of fear, and did go and get the Mayor to show that Jack was alive.
    • Actually, in a deleted scene, Jack did scare Lock, Shock and Barrel when they were watching Oogie Boogie trying to put Sally and Santa Claus in the stew. So that was probably the closest thing to Lock, Shock and Barrel getting punished for what they did.
  • The Kindnapper: Jack Skellington has part of this being a Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant. His way of indulging himself in his new passion for Christmas not only involves planning to run the show himself, but kidnapping the one who already does to enable his doing so. And he sees it as a favor for Santa, too! Despite Jack's unquestionable status as The Hero, though, his kindnapping is clearly shown as not being a good thing, especially because of what it leads to...
    Santa: (bursts out of the bag) Let me out! (the Halloween Town citizens gasp in awe)
    Jack Skellington: Sandy Claws - in person. What a pleasure to meet you. (prepares to shake but then looks down when their HANDS touch)
    Jack Skellington: Wh — ! Why, you have hands! You don't have claws at all!
    Santa: (dazed) Where am I?
    Jack Skellington: Surprised, aren't you? I knew you would be. You don't have to worry about another Christmas this year.
    Santa: Wh-what?
    Jack Skellington: Consider this a vacation, Sandy. A reward. It's your turn to take it easy.
    Santa: B-But there must be some mistake!
    Jack Skellington: See that he's comfortable... (the minions start to close up the bag, but then stop) Just a second, fellas! Of course! That's what I'm missing! (takes Santa's hat)
    Santa: B-But...
    Jack Skellington: (as he's putting on the hat) Thanks.
    Santa: Hang on - you just can't - (has the bag thrown over him again) - Hold on! Where are we going now?
  • Large Ham:
    • Oogie Boogie.
    • Jack is a bit more subtle, but still can be pretty hammy.
    • It's kind of par for the course when one lives in Halloween Town.
    • The mayor. "The king of Halloween has been blown to smitherEEEns!!! Skeleton Jack is now a PILE of Dust!"
  • Large and in Charge: Easy to overlook due to his bean-pole physique, but when one really sizes him up to his surroundings, Jack appears to be around 7-8 feet tall!
  • Last Minute Hookup: Jack and Sally.
  • Leitmotif:
    • "This Is Halloween" for the citizens of Halloweentown
    • "Kidnap The Sandy Claws" for Lock, Shock, and Barrel.
    • Sally's leitmotif plays every single time she's onscreen. (at one point, even when she's not: it's the street band's first tune) About 3/4ths into the movie she finally sings to the tune of it.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Like bringing skeletal reindeer to life and in the prequel game heal Jack.
  • Limited Wardrobe: The only time Jack ever changed out of his tuxedo is when he imitates Santa Claus (well, and one scene when he's in bed and wearing off-white pajamas, but that's only for a couple of minutes). Possibly even taken Up to Eleven, since in "Poor Jack", when Jack declares that HE IS THE PUMPKIN KING!!!, he rips off the tatters of his Santa outfit to reveal that he's been wearing his tux underneath the suit all this time. Sally also wears the same dress throughout the film, though considering that either she's locked up by Dr. Finklestein or stalking Jack, this is more justified.
  • The Lost Woods: The Hinterlands.
  • A Love to Dismember: Perhaps the only unwitting example yet - see Show Some Leg below.
  • Lying Finger Cross: Lock, Shock, and Barrel do this after Jack tells them to leave Oogie Boogie out of their plot to capture Santa Claus.
  • Made of Iron:
    • Jack manages to get shot down by flak guns without being blown to pieces. This could be justified, however, by the coffin sleigh taking most of the blow. However, this does not explain how at least a mile-high fall onto a stone angel didn't break any of his bones (the impact from the fall did seem to be strong enough to knock off his jawbone, however). This all still could be justified by the fact that Jack's undead, so he would not feel pain, if it weren't for an earlier scene where Sally accidentally pokes Jack's finger with a needle, and he yelps in pain. It's a little confusing. Perhaps it's important that he was caught by an angel.
      • He's the Anthropomorphic Personification of Halloween. He's probably very hard to kill, especially with mortal weapons. Doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like Hell. He's very shaken.
    • Sally - while she's made of cloth and stuffed with leaves, she's very hard to hurt. At one point she throws herself out of a window, and then puts herself back together again.
  • Mad Scientist: Doctor Finkelstein.
  • Mad Scientist's Beautiful Daughter: In the "artificial creation" sense of "daughter", with an Overprotective Dad. Other theories are that he made her as a housemaid, or even with the intention of wooing her.
  • Magic Pants: Jack's outfit may count. When he rises out of the fountain and his collar visibly straightens. When Jack is shot down, the Sandy Claws outfit is shredded, but the tux is completely unscathed, as is Santa's hat. Maybe the official outfit of a Holiday Ruler is indestructible?
  • Magic Versus Science: Sort of. Santa can do magic (flying reindeer, flying away at the end followed by a trail of sparkly magic stuff), while Jack's way of going at Christmas is more scientific (employing Dr. Finklestein, reading books on the Scientific Method). However, Jack can and does do magic in his own realm. It's probably a question of spheres of influence: Jack has no power over Christmas, so he has to use different tools than Santa.
  • Malevolent Masked Men: Subverted. As trick-or-treaters, Lock, Shock and Barrel wear costume masks all the time, but in their introductory scene they take them off, revealing faces that look exactly the same as (or worse than) their masks.
  • Meaningful Background Event: While Oogie Boogie is taunting Sally and Santa Claus, if you look behind him, you can see Jack Skellington sneaking into the lair all spider-like. Doubles as a Chekhov's Skill in the scene immediately following.
  • Meaningful Name: Jack's name is likely a reference to jack o'lanterns and Skellington resembles skeleton.
  • Melancholy Moon
  • Mind Screw: "This Is Halloween". It's so surreal that bats have strings attached to them. They digitally removed those strings in the Blu-Ray versions, though.
  • Minion Shipping: Lock and Shock.
  • Modest Royalty: Jack, the Pumpkin King. He wears a snappy tuxedo, but no crown or other royal insignia.
  • Moment Killer: The Mayor near the end, with a spotlight.
  • Monster Clown: One of the recurring townsfolk. Subverted in that he is not actually evil
  • Mood-Swinger: Jack Skellington. Until the third act, he is either depressed, extremely enthusiastic, or concentrating intensely on his obsession. He is at his calmest only at the end, during his and Sally's duet.
  • The Multiverse: There's apparently a dimension for every holiday celebrated in America (though it's not clear if any of these dimensions consist of much more than one town).
  • Must Make Amends: Jack and Oogie's fight is about Jack trying to fix things.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: At the start of the song "Poor Jack."
  • My Hero Zero
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Santa Claus is in trouble and Christmas is ruined. Three guesses to who is responsible. First two don't count.
  • Nightmare Face: Expected from the King of Halloween.
    • Then there's that scary face Jack does to scare Lock, Shock and Barrel into doing their job right.
    • And "the clown with the tear-away face"...
  • Nightmare Fuel Station Attendant: Jack. The entire town consists of Nightmare Fetishists, but even Jack's attempts at innocent merriment turn scary.
  • No Name Given: The Mayor (though some of the merch calls him Hizzonor). Most of the citizens also seem to not have names (The Clown With The-Tear-Away-Face, The Wolf Man, etc). Awesomely used with one off-screen horror who proclaims "I am the "who" when you call "Who's there?"".
  • Noodle Incident: In "Jack's Lament", some of the lyrics are thus: "To a guy in Kentucky, I'm Mister Unlucky! And I'm known throughout England and France!"
  • Noodle People
  • No Peripheral Vision: After Oogie Boogie realizes that the knife-wielding king cards wasn't going to stop Jack from kicking his ass, Oogie pulls a rope that stops the murderous cards. Jack goes for Oogie, never noticing the gun-wielding gambling game cowboy skeletons approaching to his left and nearly getting shot. However, considering that Jack doesn't have proper eyeballs, it's entirely possible that Jack really doesn't have peripheral vision, therefore justifying him not seeing the weapons.
    • There's a less WMG-y reason he didn't see the gunmen: Jack was focused solely on whooping Oogie's stitched behind, so he just didn't notice the gunmen. It isn't the first time in the movie that Jack's tuned out everything other than his goal to the detriment of his own health.
  • Not Now, We're Too Busy Crying Over You: Jack is hit by a rocket. Oogie Boogie is, therefore, understandably shocked when he appears in the nick of time to rescue Sally and Santa Claus moments after they hear the news.
  • Obliviously Evil: Jack. His actions do drive the central conflict and cause needless strife, but he never acts maliciously in any of them.
  • Oblivious to Love: Jack — though to be fair, the only overt gesture Sally is seen to make is easily explained by the fact that they're friends (which they clearly are). And he does catch on eventually.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: When Jack goes to rescue Sally and Santa from Oogie Boogie. Last we see Jack before the Final Battle, he was sneaking in behind Oogie's back, quite a ways away from the platform where Santa and Sally were. With the way the scene is set up, it would have been impossible for Jack to get to the platform without Oogie seeing him, no matter what sneaking skills being the Pumpkin King would get you.
  • Oh Crap: Jack, when he realize that those shells are not fireworks. "They're trying to hit us!"
    • Oogie gets two big ones: 1) when he sees Jack on the platform instead of Sally and Santa and 2) when Jack pulls the thread that keeps him together. He has several smaller one as Jack passes each of his deathtraps, but these may be feigned, as he always has another trap ready.
  • Oh My Gods!: Averted, as during "Poor Jack", Jack refers to God twice ("And, by God, I really tasted something swell!" "And, by God, I'm really going to give it all my might!").
  • Only Sane Woman: Sally seems to be the only denizen of Halloween Town who even approaches the realization that people don't want to be scared or attacked on Christmas.
    Santa Claus: "The next time you get the urge to take over someone else's holiday, I'd listen to her. She's the only one who makes any sense in this insane asylum!"
  • Opening Chorus: "This Is Halloween".
  • Opening Narration: Narrated by Santa, and this would have qualified for Book Ends if they had kept the epilogue under Babies Ever After. (The ending narration can be heard on the soundtrack, and it's read by Patrick Stewart for extra awesome points.)
    • The Other Darrin: The opening narration in the theatrical release of the film, and on the original soundtrack, was also read by Patrick Stewart, but it was changed to Santa for the home video release and subsequent soundtracks.
  • Our Demons Are Different: There's the stereotypical Devil for one (though him being The Devil is probably unlikely), and Jack in "Jack's Lament" says he's a "Demon Of Light," indicating he's some sort of Noble Demon. In some of the foreign dubs, Jack actually declares himself the Devil. There's also the Harlequin Demon.
  • Our Hero Is Dead: Used with the Halloween Town citizens when Jack's flying sleigh is shot down in the human world.
  • Our Monsters Are Different: Every resident of Halloween Town is some kind of horrible monster, yet nearly all of them are good-natured in their own way. The creepy nature they all have is just how they are, as they don't technically mean to bring harm to anyone...unless you ask for it.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Jack must have been really delusional if he thought a red suit and deep voice would hide the fact that he's a seven-foot tall skeleton trying to be Santa.
  • Pass the Popcorn: In a deleted scene, Lock, Shock, and Barrel grab candy, pop, and — yes — popcorn to eat while they watch Oogie tormenting Sandy and Sally. This scene was deleted due to both timing issues and that Burton and Selick feel that having Lock, Shock, and Barrel enjoying Sandy and Sally's torture would put the trio beyond just "playful tricksters" to "evil little bastards"note .
  • Perky Goth: Jack, if not most of the citizens of Halloween Town.
  • Pietŗ Plagiarism: Nearing the end of the film, Jack lies defeated in the arms of a graveyard statue of an angel.
  • Planet of Hats: Every (American) holiday has an alternate reality devoted to that one holiday.
  • Portal Crossroad World: The grove of trees with doors to various holiday-towns is a small-scale, specialized example.
  • Power Trio: Lock is in the middle role, with female Shock being the smartest and Barrel as the dumb one who gets smacked, or The Radar, depending on who you ask.
  • Pre-Asskicking One-Liner: "Hello, Oogie."
  • Precognition: Sally has a vision representing Jack's Christmas going to hell by a Christmas Tree going up into flames. It's unclear if this is a one-time thing or not; however, she does remark to Jack that she had a vision, and the implication seems to be that this has happened before.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: WHAT! IS! THIS! * smack*
  • Putting a Hand Over His Mouth: Sally's disembodied hand does this to Santa Claus when she's rescuing him.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: Lock, Shock, and Barrel.
  • The Radar: Barrel. Maybe.
  • Rage Against the Reflection: When Sally tries to talk Jack out of Subbing for Santa by showing a picture of Jack as the Pumpkin King, Jack simply takes the picture and breaks it over his knee.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Sally usually manages to duck this, but a number of fans still ignore the major role she plays in the story to bash her feminine appearance or call her Dr. Finklestein's sex toy.
  • Recycled Trailer Music : The song "What's This?" is used in lots of trailers. The trailers for the movie itself were scored with John Williams' theme to Hook and "The End" from Edward Scissorhands.
  • Red Alert: Occurs twice, when Jack goes missing (he's in Christmas Town) and while he's delivering toys on Christmas Eve.
  • Refrain from Assuming: "Jack's Lament" is sometimes referred to as "The Pumpkin King" or simply "Jack's Song".note 
  • The Renaissance Age of Animation
  • Santa Claus: The unwitting MacGuffin is the king of Christmas Town.
  • Saving Christmas: Subverted in that the hero is the one to kidnap Santa, but then played straight after things go pear-shaped.
  • Scary Black Man: Oogie Boogie's voice actor is black, but as he is a sentient sack of insects, he himself has no actual race.
  • Scary Scorpions: The box of scorpions in 'Kidnap the Sandy Claws'.
  • The Scientific Method: Jack has a book about the subject, apparently keeping it under his pillow.
  • Screw Yourself: Not only does the wife Dr. Finklestein made for himself look like a female version of himself, he gave her half of his own brain. Jack's shocked expression upon seeing them is pretty understandable, really.
  • Severed Head Sports: The vampires are seen playing hockey with a shrunken head.
  • Shout-Out: Oogie and Santa echo a line from the Betty Boop cartoon "The Old Man of the Mountain", which stars Cab Calloway, the inspiration for Oogie Boogie. Oogie's gyrating dance bears a strong resemblance to that of the Walrus rotoscoped over Calloway in the Betty cartoon "Minne the Moocher."
    Santa: "What are you going to do?"
    Oogie: "I'm going to do the best I can . . ."
  • Show Some Leg: Played with: Sally shows off a bit of leg to attract Oogie's attention, but it later turns out the leg is unattached, serving to distract Oogie while the rest of Sally unties Santa.
  • Shrunken Head: The first boy to get a visit from Jack as Santa gets a shrunken head as a present.
  • Simple Score of Sadness: "Sally's Song".
  • Slasher Smile: Oogie Boogie and Barrel. Jack's is a borderline between a Slasher Smile and a Cheshire Cat Grin.
  • Snow Means Love: Jack and Sally kiss on the snow-covered Spiral Hill.
  • The Song Before The Storm: "Making Christmas".
  • Spiritual Successor: Corpse Bride. Made even more obvious by the fact that its trailer ended up with Recycled Trailer Music from this film.
    • Wreck-It Ralph essentially has the same plot as this film, just set around video games, made in CGI and without the gothic styles.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Sally is a good-natured version, which leads to...
  • Stalking Is Love: It's not played out straight though, since while most of the examples find out and are flattered rather then creeped out, Jack never finds out that Sally stalked him. Then again, he's such a Nightmare Fetishist he probably would love it.
    • Considering everyone in the town is a Nightmare Fetishist, it's very probable that in Halloween Town stalking actually is a way to show love.
  • Status Quo Is God: First deconstructed and by the end of the movie reconstructed.
  • Stop Motion: It's even widely believed to be the first full-length three-dimensional stop-motion feature, but according to Wikipedia, this is not the case. The animation is of such quality that a viewer unfamiliar with the film's age could easily mistake it for an All-CGI Cartoon.
  • Subbing for Santa: Played with.
  • Take That: "I'm only an elected official here, I can't make decisions by myself!" The DVD Commentary and the Mayor's actual two-faced head draws parallels with the Mayor to two-faced politicians.
    • To The Grinch. The two play out similarly up to the fight with Oogie, but Jack had only good intentions and got the Grinch equivalent of a sad ending, in spite of being a better person than the Grinch.
  • Tear Off Your Face: There's a clown with a tear-away face.
  • That Man Is Dead: "But you're the Pumpkin King!" "Not anymore!" *breaks picture* "I feel so much better now!" Makes one wonder what Jack's long-term plans for Christmas were . . .
  • There Are No Therapists: Seriously, just look at Jack. He's dealing with both depression and a mid-death  crisis, and possibly bi-polar disorder and ADD. The bone man is in desperate need of a therapist.
  • Theme Tune Cameo: The Mayor finds "This Is Halloween" so catchy, we find him humming it later as he brings Jack the plans for next year's Halloween.
  • Traveling-Pipe Bulge: Santa's little trip to Oogie Boogie's lair.
  • Triumphant Reprise: At least two: "This Is Halloween" and "Sally's Song" both get them.
    • Along with "What's This?"
  • Two-Faced: The Mayor, who has two faces — one colorful and happy, one ashen and distressed. It's more of a facial mood ring than a split personality, though.
  • Ultimate Authority Mayor: The mayor. Justified as there really isn't any higher authority that exists in... where ever Halloweentown is. And Jack does all the real work anyway.
  • Uncommon Time: The song "Jack's Obsession" is partly in 7/4 ('Christmas time is buzzing in my skull...').
  • Up to Eleven: How scary is Oogie? He even scares the other people in Halloweentown! Oogie Boogie is scary because he's the only one in Halloween Town who would ever think of using violence against other people.
    • You think that is bad? Take a deep look into his M.O, if you will. He is a gambler, so you may even "bet" against him and have hopes to win (after all, there is 50% of chance of winning)... Oh, yes, there is the tiny little detail that Oogie loves to gamble, but he always cheats. What is the fun of gambling or playing anything if you don't have the risk of losing? His "fun" doesn't come exactly of gambling itself. His pleasure comes from watching his victims struggle in despair and fear, letting them have HOPES of winning (and surviving) and then crushing it. Plus, have you noticed all the torture devices of his lair? It's like Cassino Las Vegas meet the Medieval Inquisition. Anyone STILL wonders why everyone is scared of this guy?
    • Lock, Shock and Barrel sing about how they work for him out of fear. The fact they point out that if they blew up Santa into pieces and lost some, Jack would beat them up... Jack HARDLY seems the type to use violence, especially against children, so where did they get the idea they would be harmed?
  • Vague Age: Jack. He seems to be in his late twenties-early thirties, yet since he's Dem Bones, he could always be Really 700 Years Old.
    • How about Oogie? Honestly, how can anyone tell exactly how old that guy is?
  • Villainous Lament: "Jack's Lament" and the first half of "Poor Jack", though this trope is subverted by Jack not being evil.
  • Villain Song: "Oogie Boogie's Song". It's sung by Ken Page, the same fellow who voiced King Gator in All Dogs Go to Heaven and played Old Deuteronomy in the video version of Cats. As such, it's amazing.
  • Visual Pun: The Mayor is two-faced.
    • There are a lot of puns on Christmas songs on Jack's blackboard full of equations, such as "chestnut/open fire".
  • Weird Moon/Sun: The moon is pretty big and doesn't have any craters, while the sun has the face of a jack-o-lantern.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Santa gives Jack a hefty chewing-out when he comes to apologize. In the original poem, he's much more understanding (maybe because he hadn't just escaped from a sapient burlap sack gloating about how it intended to turn him into stew and eat him).
  • Where The Hell Is Springfield?: The unnamed city Jack visits.
  • Who Even Needs a Brain?: Dr. Finklestein can casually take out half his brain to use as part of Sally's replacement, to say nothing of the fact that his skull cap is on a hinge.
  • Willing Suspension of Disbelief: Jack and Sally can walk, talk, feel pain, and are implied to have a need for nourishment? Why not. Jack and Sally having children, particularly through being able to have sex? The fandom is divided by this. Some say why not, while others think Jack and Sally either lack certain parts for successful reproduction or shouldn't have kids at all. And this isn't getting into the Squick (or maybe Fetish Fuel) aspect of the argument . . .
    • Also, Jack is lit on fire at the begining of the film without expressing any sign of pain and later falls hundreds of feet, landing hard enough to knock off his jaw bone, yet he still says "ow" when he pricks his finger on a needle.
      • This may be Fridge Brilliance, given that it's Sally using the needle; Sally is the only one who could hurt Jack emotionally.
  • The Worm That Walks: Oogie Boogie.
  • You Are Grounded: Dr. Finklestein to Sally constantly. This is the source of the friction in their relationship.

Monster HouseHorror Animated FilmsParaNorman
National Lampoon's Christmas VacationChristmas Movies IndexThe Nuttiest Nutcracker
A Night at the OperaTropeNamers/FilmA Nightmare on Elm Street
Monty Python's Life of BrianThe MusicalNow Here This
MulanThe Renaissance Age of AnimationOliver & Company
Needful ThingsFilms of the 1990sNick & NoŽl
Batman: Mask of the PhantasmAnnie AwardPocahontas
Fun-Hating Confiscating AdultImageSource/Animated FilmsHalloweentown
AladdinHugo AwardToy Story

alternative title(s): The Nightmare Before Christmas; The Nightmare Before Christmas; Nightmare Before Christmas
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