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YMMV / The Nightmare Before Christmas

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  • Accidental Innuendo:
    • The song "What's This" has quite a few passages that, when listened to in the proper state of mind, sound like they're describing something completely different.
      "I've never felt so good before
      This empty place inside of me is filling up!
      I simply cannot get enough!
      I want it, oh, I want it
      Oh, I want it for my own!"
    • "In here they've got a little tree! How queer!"
    • It gets worse during "Making Christmas". Jack seems to get a little too excited. The lyrics make it worse:
    I don't believe what's happening to me. My hopes, my dreams, my fantasies! *giddy, high-pitched laughter*
    • Let's all sing This Is Halloween! "Skeleton Jack might catch you in the back" — Wait a tick…
    • Boogie's Villain Song makes it seem like he may have ulterior motives in his capture of Santa.
      "And now, with your permission, I'm gonna do my stuff."
      "What are you going to do?"
      "I'm gonna do the best I can."
      • The above dialogue originally comes from The Old Man of the Mountain, where it's blatant innuendo from the titular Dirty Old Man toward Betty Boop.
      • Ken Page, who played Boogie, described his voice as being more "intimate" when he sings closer to Santa's face. Make of that what you will.
  • Adaptation Displacement: Most people aren't even aware of the poem the movie was based on. Which is understandable, since it wasn't published in book form until after the movie came out, and was only sporadically available for a good 20 years. Ever since the book received a big re-release for its 20th anniversary, it has generally stayed on bookstore shelves and become a bit more well-known.
  • Alternative Character Interpretation:
    • Dr. Finklestein, big time. Did he create Sally to be his daughter? His Sex Slave? An emotional companion? A servant? All of the above? Who knows! And what of the mother-like figure he's with at the end?
    • Tim Burton has said that he doesn't consider Oogie Boogie evil.
    • Lock, Shock, and Barrel: mischievous friends who work together and happen to have similar names, or siblings?
    • Are any of the characters actually "good" or "evil" in the sense that we understand it? Their homes are the origins of our Holidays, so it's not hard to imagine that they're all mythological archetypes. This would pretty much make them all amoral, since free will wouldn't be a thing for them.
    • Lindsay Ellis once described Jack rather unsympathetically (albeit jokingly) as a "well-meaning idiot who uses his position of authority to impose his midlife crisis, willing or no, both onto his polity and of a sovereign foreign nation". Basically, Jack is a cultural imperialist!
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  • Author's Saving Throw: For a long time, there was some fan confusion about why Oogie Boogie seems to be alright with torturing and murdering innocent people when the denizens of Halloween Town are explicitly supposed to be an example of Dark Is Not Evil, only existing to scare people (while drawing the line at actually hurting them). The licensed video game prequel The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Pumpkin King explains that Oogie isn't actually from Halloween Town, but is in fact the exiled representative of a forgotten holiday called "Bug Day"; humankind doesn't remember that "Bug Day" ever existed because it was banned by the other Holidays after they realized Oogie's monstrousness.
  • Applicability: Jack being fascinated with the customs of Christmas but not understanding the context behind them, then poorly recreating those customs by treating them like frightening Halloween traditions, is often used as a metaphor to explain cultural appropriation.
  • Awesome Music: Every single note of Danny Elfman's score and songs! And being an operetta, it takes up nearly the entirety of the film's runtime. It really is his movie as much as it is Tim Burton's and Henry Selick's.
  • Broken Base: 25 years since its release, fans and critics are still divided over whether the film should be considered a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. Some consider it to be both.
    • How important is it to remember that Henry Selick directed this film? Go to any comment's section or forum, and odds are half the comments feel Selick doesn't get enough credit for directing this film, while the other half feel it's irrelevant since Tim Burton's other creative contributions (writing, concept art, producing, etc) more than make up for it. How you feel about Tim Burton as a creator, and/or whether you feel Selick directing this film factors into why it's such a Tough Act to Follow, certainly factors in.
    • More recently, some Take a Third Option and argue that Danny Elfman deserves more credit for the film than he gets, as even beyond providing Jack's singing voice and a whopping eleven songs that ended up in the finished film, several of the minor characters were created just so there could be someone to perform a new song he'd submitted.
  • Creepy Awesome: Oogie Boogie. Sure, he's the Big Bad of the series. But dang it, does he stand out! His Villain Song is probably the most well-known of the songs in the film, and it's really hard to not find him at least somewhat amusing. Add to that he's actually a Colony Organism made of bugs wrapped in burlap, and you have yourselves the Boogie Man!
  • Crosses the Line Twice: "Kidnap The Sandy Claws" is 3 minutes of Lock, Shock, and Barrel debating on how to torture and/or kill Santa Claus. Horrifying in theory, but still an entertaining song to listen to.
  • Crossover Ship:
    • Jack has been shipped with Victor and Emily from Corpse Bride. There's even been a love triangle between him, Sally, and Emily.
    • Sally's also been shipped with Bonejangles.
    • Jack/The Grinch shows up as an Odd Friendship, due to their polar opposite stances on Christmas.
  • Development Heaven: The film required an entire production studio to be built up from scratch in four months and took over three years to film, utilizing over a dozen sound stages, a phenomenal amount of space. It was also a technical innovation: a special motion-control camera was created to allow for more sweeping cinematography, the likes of which had never been done in stop-motion before.
  • Die for Our Ship: Because she's Jack's official love interest, poor Sally gets bashed by fangirls who pair their OCs with Jack.
  • Director Displacement: The film is mostly known as Tim Burton's work, and he was a creative force on it in many ways, but it was directed by Henry Selick (Burton was too busy with Batman Returns to direct himself).
  • Draco in Leather Pants:
    • Oogie Boogie tends to get this a lot, often making Jack into a bully to do so. Also, Jack is probably one of the rare heroes (if not the only one) who gets this. Fans bash the military for shooting Jack down, despite the fact that they were justified in doing so.
    • Lock, Shock and Barrel have quite the popular fanbase, despite them being three homicidal, malicious, violent children. Although they do undergo a Heel–Face Turn later...
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Harlequin Demon has a reasonable amount of fanart.
    • The Clown with the Tear-Away Face also gets a lot of attention.
    • Lock, Shock and Barrel don't get too much screentime but they have tons of fans. Reasons for this include their cool character designs, interesting backstories of working for Oogie Boogie and funny dialogue. In fact, as the movie kept getting more popular, Lock, Shock and Barrel ended up getting more fans.
  • Evil Is Cool: Oogie Boogie, yet again.
  • Fan Nickname:
    • Bone-Demon: Jack and any fan-made skeletons like him. Understood to be a sort of sub-species of either Undead or demon. Usually used in the camp that thinks Jack and Sally have kids by natural means.
    • Dr. Finkly: Dr. Finklestein, by his fans.
    • Jewel: Dr. Finklestein creation/wife seen at the end of the movie. While there's no evidence that Finklestein's "Be careful, my precious jewel!" is a reference to her name, the fans use it anyways.
    • Skeledoll: The name of Jack and Sally's fandom daughters. Can be either just ragdolls with bones or a mixture of ragdoll and skeleton.
    • Spiral Hill: The hill where Jack gets his first song and where Jack and Sally have The Big Damn Kiss. The English localisation of Kingdom Hearts II calls it "Curly Hill" (the Japanese version calls it "Spiral Hill"), but if this poll is any indication, fans massively prefer "Spiral".
  • Fan-Preferred Couple: Apart from the already canon couple Jack/Sally, people often prefer Lock/Shock as well.
  • Fanfic Fuel: The other Holiday Doors. Beyond a brief appearance of the Easter Bunny, we don't know a single thing about Easter Town, let alone what's behind the other four (Valentines, St. Patrick's Day, Independence Day and Thanksgiving) doors. What's behind all of them? Who's running the towns and what do said towns look like? Thankfully though, the upcoming Light Novel sounds like it might give us some clues.
  • Faux Symbolism: A skeletal creature trying to supplant a ruler of his crown, being shot down and falling, Wreathed in Flames, into the arms of a stone angel? There's got to be something to that.
  • Foe Yay Shipping:
    • Come on, there's really no reason why, when he decided to show, Jack had to announce his presence to Oogie Boogie looking like he's trying to seduce him.
    • Then there's Oogie's Shout-Out comment to Santa, sounding like Oogie's going to rape him.
    • The scene where Sally distracts Oogie Boogie with her leg had shades of this, and is probably the reason for the Oogie/Sally ship!
  • Friendly Fandoms: With Hotel Transylvania.
  • Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Nightmare is big in Japan, which explains why Halloween Town is featured throughout the Kingdom Hearts series. There's also a manga adaptation by Jun Asuka, and an official sequel by Tokyopop. Tokyo Disneyland's version of The Haunted Mansion is also the only other one in the Disney parks besides the California original to receive the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, where Jack and his friends take over the ride late in the year.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The Mayor ends up falling down the stairs of Jack's house trying to get Jack. This is hilarious until you realize that the Mayor's voice actor Glenn Shadix died because of blunt trauma to the head following a fall at his Birmingham condo.
  • Heartwarming in Hindsight:
    • Jack rescuing Sally from Oogie Boogie and reciprocating her feelings towards him in the ending becomes even sweeter than it already is when the video game Prequel The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Pumpkin King establishes that Jack also rescued Sally from Oogie when they first met.
    • The movie centers around Jack trying to understand Christmas, but his attempts to hijack the holiday go south. This is because no one wants to be scared on Christmas, especially children. In the Haunted Mansion holiday update, Jack is allowed to host the festivities and the audience appreciates it this time. He just needed the right setting.
  • Ho Yay: Of all the citizens of Halloween Town, the Mayor appears to be the most worried for Jack when he goes missing — and it doesn't look like just as a professional and/or as a friend, either. In his defense, there are only 365 more days until NEXT Halloween.note  It helps that his actor, Glenn Shadix, was openly gay.
  • Hype Backlash: Since it became a cultural icon with merchandise everywhere and is something of a Sacred Cow to certain audiences, people watching the film for the first time can easily go into it expecting something more than the simple but fun romp through Halloween and Christmas that it is.
  • It's Popular, Now It Sucks!: Some fans feel this way because of the film's popularly. Luckily, this is a very Vocal Minority. Hype Backlash is another reason. As for Tim Burton not wanting to do sequels, it's a little late for that.
  • Love to Hate: Oogie Boogie is a malicious sadist and also a very popular villain.
  • Memetic Mutation:
    • On the first day of October, expect social media (especially Tumblr) to be flooded with references to this movie. Quoting the opening song (often in full) is very popular.
    • "There's only three hundred and sixty five days 'til next Halloween!" "Three sixty four!"
    • "Jack, please, I'm only an elected official here! I can't make decisions by myself!"
    • Is this a Halloween or Christmas movie? Explanation 
    • The fuck is in the air? Explanation 
    • "That's right, I am the Pumpkin King!!"
  • Minion Shipping/Toy Ship: Lock and Shock.
  • Misaimed Marketing: For some reason, Disney likes to stock merchandise featuring Jack alongside that of the company's villain characters despite him being a hero. While he does a lot of villainous things, it’s out of naïveté rather than malice.
  • Most Wonderful Sound: The entire score is terrific, but Jack and Sally singing together stands out as a beautifully cathartic.
  • Moe: Zero doesn’t even count as Ugly Cute, he’s just adorable.
  • Narm: "Jack has been blown to smithereens!" Okay, Mayor, we know you're understandably upset, but could you have said that any less hilariously?
  • Nightmare Retardant: A positive example. The citizens of Halloween Town are certainly spooky looking, but not enough to seriously scare the audience, coming across as endearing and likable as they’re supposed to be.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • The Easter Bunny and Shrunken Head Kid both only appear for short scenes, but are among the most memorable characters. The latter was frequently used in the trailers.
    • The Creature Under the Bed only appears for a very short segment of "This is Halloween," but is well-known as one of the scariest things in the movie. It touches on childhood fears of Things That Go "Bump" in the Night in a very accurate way, since the only parts of it you can see are its teeth ground sharp and eyes glowing red. The Creature is even more infamous in the Russian dub, which gives it a terrifyingly deep voice.
  • Paranoia Fuel: Invoked with some of Halloweentown's residents:
    • The "Who" When You Call "Who's There" is implied to be the living embodiment of this trope. It's a mysterious, disembodied voice in the wind whose presence is able to invoke feelings of unease and fear in those who sense it.
    • The Creature Under the Bed. You can't see any part of it except its glowing red eyes and disturbing sharp teeth. The Creature is only seen for a few seconds, so there's no guarantee that it's as friendly as the other monsters. And finally, it says that it's not under just any bed, but your bed.
  • Periphery Demographic: Amongst the most cited favorites of young Perky Goths everywhere. Tellingly, the average Hot Topic location probably carries just as much Nightmare merchandise as the average Disney Store (if not more).
  • No Problem with Licensed Games: As Halloween Town has made most of its appearances in Kingdom Hearts, it's been pretty good. Oogie's Revenge was going to be a movie sequel, but Tim Burton convinced Disney otherwise (see Cash Cow Franchise in the Trivia tab for the reason why). Considering that the sequel was going to be in CGI rather than in Stop Motion, that gives you an idea on what the quality of the sequel might have been.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Igor, the hunchbacked henchman to Dr. Finkelstein, is voiced by the late Joe Ranft, who would go on to become head storywriter for Pixar.
    • At the time this film was released, comedian Greg Proops was fairly well-known in the UK due to being a semi-regular on the British version of Whose Line Is It Anyway?. Fans of the American version of Whose Line though tend to be surprised when they look up the cast for this film, and discover Proops voices some of the characters.
  • Ron the Death Eater: Dr. Finkelstein does have a rather... questionable relationship with Sally. But if you went by only what fanfictions wrote of him, you'd think he was a serial rapist.
  • Sacred Cow: Zig-zagged. Some circles hate it just because Tim Burton was involved, while others consider it the only good movie (apart from Batman and Batman Returns) he was involved in. The fact that a lot of people grew up with it certainly helped.
  • Self-Fanservice: Lock, Shock, and Barrel get a lot of fanart where they're aged up into hot gothy teens rather than the gonkish little kids they are in the movie.
  • Signature Scene: Both of the major scenes taking place on the spiral hill — "Jack's Lament", specifically the part where he walks up said hill against the full moon, and the final scene where Jack and Sally have their Final Love Duet.
  • Signature Song: "This Is Halloween", obviously, though "What's This?" is also a contender.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • The border of the removable faceplate on the Mayor puppet's happy face is clearly visible.
    • The bats flying towards the camera during the "This Is Halloween" sequence are clearly held up by wires. In the remastered version, most of the wires were digitally erased, but they are still slightly visible in a few frames.
  • Spiritual Antithesis: In many ways to How the Grinch Stole Christmas!. Whereas The Grinch is a lonely grump who ends up realizing what makes Christmas great, Jack is a lonely Nice Guy who learns that while Christmas is good, that doesn't make his own holiday any less important.
  • Suspiciously Similar Song:
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Character: The limited screentime Oogie Boogie gets is a common criticism towards the film. Not counting a brief Early-Bird Cameo during the opening song that had to be confirmed via Word of God, he doesn't get properly introduced until halfway through the running time, and he serves as a Plot-Irrelevant Villain whose only overall purpose in the plot is so that Jack can defeat him and redeem himself. Interestingly, he would have had far more screentime originally if he turned out to be an alias of Finklestein, but that probably would've been even more of a waste.
  • Tough Act to Follow: Tim Burton has since made two more stop-motion films, Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie (and those times, he did direct), and while both have their fans, neither is anywhere near as popular or beloved as the one that started it all.
  • Ugly Cute: Pretty much everyone in Halloween Town. The younger generation of the town's residents, for example. Jack himself, with his spider-like movements and huge, black eye sockets leans more towards "terrifying cute."
    • To elaborate on Jack, his design truly strikes the perfect balance that makes this trope work, giving him an appearance that’s just scary enough that you understand why he’s seen as the terrifying Pumpkin King, but he’s also just cute enough that even though the audiences buys him as being scary, we find him to be likable and cute.
  • Uncanny Valley:
    • The Halloween Town citizens. Justified because they're supposed to be creepy.
    • A lot of the fans think the elves are creepy. They're too cheerful, dammit!
    • The human children are creepier than most things hanging around Halloween Town.
    • Have you ever seen fanart of Jack drawn realistically? Dear Lord, there's a reason why Jack is a cartoony skeleton!
  • Values Resonance: Quite a few modern-day critics have appraised the film as a satire/metaphor for cultural appropriation, over twenty years before it became a hot-button issue. Jack, bored with his own holiday after leading since before anyone can remember, fetishizes and hijacks another holiday for his own sake, without any understanding of the tradition behind it, to the detriment of the holiday as a whole and the people who practice it. Despite having good intentions, his actions still do palpable harm.
  • Vindicated by History: It was a modest hit in 1993, and well-received by critics, but it wasn't near as big as Disney's in-house fare at the time (Aladdin arrived the previous year, The Lion King the next). This was partially because Disney was nervous about the potential Nightmare Fuel; they initially released it under their Touchstone Pictures banner (which was reserved for mature films and the edgier Who Framed Roger Rabbit). But now it's arguably a much more popular film than any of Disney's post-Lion King animated efforts, and they've since allowed it to be released under the Disney banner itself.
  • Vocal Minority: Not that many mainstream audiences know that Henry Selick directed this film, but don't you worry. He has a small but dedicated online fandom who will let you know at every opportunity.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome: The entire movie is absolutely gorgeous, and there are some really creative designs to be admired if you look at the citizens of Halloween. For a stop-motion film, it's very impressive.
    • There are small touches, such as motion blur for the sweeping camera movies, courtesy of a special camera invented solely for this film. And all without CGI!
    • Special mention goes to Oogie Boogie. It can't be easy giving a burlap sack expressive animation, but they did it. The cloth movement is realistic, and the "My bugs!" scene was terrific. The puppet was one of the trickier ones to work with, but they did it!
  • The Woobie:
    • Poor Sally. All the things she does for someone who doesn't reciprocate her feelings (at first) is heartbreaking. Though note that "not-reciprocate-Sally's-feelings" does NOT equal "hardly-notices-her". Moreover, until the very end of the movie, he didn't even know there were any feelings to reciprocate.
    • Jack. A guy who gets tired of his job might sound whiny, but not when you consider that he lives in a town where it's all about said job. Put that on top of the fact that a lot of the responsibility for Halloween is on his shoulders, and all you have to say is "That's rough." Also since Jack is all bones he might be Really 700 Years Old, who knows how long he was doing the same thing every year. 10 years? 50 years? 100 years? Since Halloween was created?
      • Given Jack is placed opposite figures such as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny - who are the chief representatives and figureheads of their holidays - it could be easy to assume Jack has been doing that job since the concept of Halloween existed in a modern context.
    • Even Oogie Boogie's death makes you feel sorry for the guy!
    • The Easter bunny. Near the middle of the film, he gets kidnapped, and gets the dickens scared out of him by one of the Halloween residents. The only vocalizations we hear from the bunny are a startled yelp and terrified whimpering.