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So I heard everyone saying all those great things about this movie, and I became curious enough to want to see it. And I must say, I feel disappointed.
While the characters definitely have creative designs, the animation department didn't do a great job animating most of them (the obvious exceptions being Jack and Whatshername). Many of them are very obviously just puppets that someone a bit clumsily wiggles around, and many of the background characters are not even able to make any expressions. At times, it got so bad that it made me question if this movie was really made by professionals.
The plot feels a bit mishandled; the beginning and the middle parts have a lot of detail and stuff put into them and feel like only a half of a really long movie, but when the residents of the Halloween Town finally finished the preparations for the big night, I noticed that the movie has only 15 minutes left, and everything that was happening afterwards was incredibly rushed. What I thought would be the big moment of the movie - Jack delivering the presents and such - was practically glanced over, and the movie was scrambling to quickly wrap everything up.
Also, many elements feel like a wasted potential:
- The residents of the Halloween Town never visit the Christmas Town (beyond the three kids kidnapping Santa).
- The Boogie Man is never explained or given any kind of backstory beyond "he's evil and he eats people". Oh, and that he likes gambling for no given reason.
- During Jack's realization, he just randomly declares that he's ready to go back to preparing Halloween, his previous exhaustion about the holiday suddenly gone. Worse still, the only thing he realizes is that he shouldn't have hijacked Christmas, instead of realizing what he (and everyone else) did wrong when preparing for the holiday.
- I hoped that, after they realize what Christmas is about, they will try to fix their errors themselves and get better from learning their lesson. But nope, they just dump the fixing business on Santa's head and everyone just goes back to their old ways with the "let's never do it again" mindset.
Shortly saying, this movie feels rushed and not well thought out. If you want something more complete from Tim Burton, try Corpse Bride or Frankenweenie instead.
The songs were nice though. Definitely the best part of the movie.
Jack has a whole song dedicated to his realizing his mistake, as well as how good he is at what he does and how much he really enjoys it, after the whole Christmas failure. Doesn't scream "random" to me.
Another major thing (highlighted in another one of the "nice" songs) is that Halloween Town people literally cannot understand anything the express purpose of which does not involve scaring. They just aren't made for it. This completely explains why Santa likely wouldn't want their involvement in fixing Jack's wrongs... they wouldn't see the "wrong" in what they've done to begin with.
I'm not calling you a troll or anything, but this is literally the first time ever I've seen anyone describe Nightmare's animation in anything but superlative terms. And with claymation, it's a bit unfair not to give cut it a little bit of slack as compared to other animation styles, considering the painstaking effort that goes with animating in stop-motion. The characters' movements are supposed to be a little jerky and unrealistic... sure, it may not look as polished as those other films, but it's part of the intended style and charm.
I think your points toward the end are good. It did really bother me that Jack's arc is concluded merely by suddenly regaining his vigor for Halloween with no guarantee that he won't just burnout again. The lesson being that he never should have tried mixing Halloween with Christmas also comes off as troublesome; then what was the point of this story? Why tell us all the quirky spookiness was wrong when it's what the film wanted to show us?
The randomness I was referring to is that the way Jack's "realization" was handled pretty much comes down to: "Angsting... angsting... angsting.. oh hey, I'm over it. Song time!"
Was it specifically said anywhere that they can't do it, no way, not in a thousand years? I don't remember any statement like that. Additionally, the way Jack got excited about it and genuinely put in a lot of thought into trying to figure out the point of Christmas made it look like he was on the brink of discovering it, and only missed the mark by mere inches. That's what genuinely made me think that he CAN realize what he did wrong. If that's not what I was supposed to think, then the movie should have made that clearer.
Regarding animation, I do think that for the most part the animation is good, albeit not spectacular once you've seen more detailed Stop Motion movies. However, it does get rather jerky and low-quality at certain points, most notably on background characters. It's as if the filmmakers went "why bother, nobody cares about background characters anyway".
Mind you, I don't think this movie is bad, just not all that great. And the story is a bit of a Shaggy Dog Story, as Tuckerscreator noticed.
I can't agree with you re: the animation, I personally find it absolutely beautiful and the herky-jerkiness of some characters movement I always thought was deliberate - these are spooky, scary characters and they move in a slightly unnatural way on purpose.
That said, you make a decent enough argument for problems with the plot, I can certainly see why you would feel that way though for me the songs and the 'feel' of the film carry me right through any logical lapses.
I rather liked the lesson of the film as I understood it, namely, that sometimes you just need to take a break and do something different to remind yourself why you love what you do. It's good advice for anyone in a midlife crisis. That same theme of chasing the rainbow without appreciating what's right under your nose is also embodied in Jack's oblivious relationship with Sally.
Besides, in the end, Santa *does* bring some holiday cheer to Halloween Town, in spite of everything, and they *do* start to try something different. Who knows where the story will go from there?
That said, I'll break with everyone else here and agree that, unrealistic expectations aside, you're welcome to find it a little underdone. I'd point out, though, that the stop-motion effects were amazing and revolutionary *for their time*. That does not, necessarily, make them good in a vacuum, and I agree that my personal willingness to make allowances on this point is not necessarily one you have to share.
You are aware this movie was made in 1993, right? I guarantee the other stop-motion movies you\'re comparing it to came later.
I kind of agree that Jack doesn\'t appear to be as remorseful as he should about the Christmas fiasco—that is, that he specifically forced himself on a holiday he didn\'t understand. I think that could be an interesting commentary on insensitive appropriation, but Jack quickly gets back with a rush of inspiration for next Halloween. While this does imply he finally understands what makes Christmas Christmas and why his version was scary, and thus he intends to take advantage of that, appropriating with understanding, that\'s clearly not pushed by the film. Jack is a Mood-Swinger, though, and the song is meant to be a reversal of \"Jack\'s Lament\". There, he starts by talking himself up before realizing it\'s hollow, and here, he wallows in misery before putting a positive outlook on it. And he and Sally are clearly shown to have bigger worldviews than their fellows. Jack sings \"nobody ever really understood; well, how could they?\", so it seems like the euphoria of the plan kept him from realizing they were ruining Christmas in their inability to see his intent.
So this is not a very sophisticated story. But it\'s a charming film and the animation is part of it. I guarantee it was revolutionary then, and it\'s because of Nightmare that we have things like Corpse Bride and Laika Studios.
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