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, known as the Haunted Mansion Holiday, just in time for Halloween in the past years.Now has a character sheet and Fan Fic Recommendations.
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.
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. Though it could be one of those "Our Blanks Are Different".
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.
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.
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. 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.
Blue and Orange Morality: The people of Halloween Town 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.
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.
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.
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...
Jack appears in Tim Burton's 1982 short stop-motion film Vincent and as a skull on top of Beetlejuice's carnival hat.
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.
Jack's first visit to Christmas Town 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 Halloween Town what Christmas is, the Mayor says cheerfully, "How horrible our Christmas will be!"
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.
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.
Most of Halloween Town has four-fingers. The exceptions seem to be Sally and Big Witch, who both have five.
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.
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 sewn her back together? Yeeeeah, let's let that sink for a while and you get pretty creepy possibilities.
What makes this a little more frustrating is some of the concept art on the DVD shows Sally's body up to her neck tied in a bag, a quick solution to keeping all her parts together. One wonders why this simple solution went ignored in the final film...unless this might have been the intention...
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!
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.
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).
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).
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".
"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.
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! (Lock, Shock, and Barrel 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)
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?
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.
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? Santa's hat was similarly undamaged.
Though it's possible it's literally a part of him. We don't see any of the residents in different clothing.
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.
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).
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!"
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.
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!"
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 TheDevil 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 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 okay, they didn't say bastards, but the point is still there.
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.
Pretty in Mink: At the end when it's snowing in Halloween Town, Dr. Finkelstein's new assistant is wearing a winter coat with an ermine collar.
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.
Serious Business: Jack impersonating Santa provokes news reports and a major worldwide military response.
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."
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.
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.
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 life 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.
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 Casino Las Vegas meets 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 black and green"... Jack HARDLY seems the type to use violence, especially against children, so where did they get the idea they would be harmed?
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.
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).
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.