Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Toon Talk: Halloween Tricks and Christmas Treats

Fifteen years ago, Disney didn’t know what to do with Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.An offbeat stop motion animated film about a bunch of ghouls that take over the holiest of Christian holidays looked and sounded like no other Disney film before it. Nervous about equating this dark, PG-rated fantasy with their recently revitalized animated fairy tales (but still eager to collaborate with Tim Burton, fresh off a little movie called Batman), the studio released it under their Touchstone banner, hedging their bets with minimal promotion and merchandise at the time.

Nightmare Before Christmas (or NBC, as it would soon become known) opened in 1993 to mostly favorable reviews and decent box office. It would even be nominated for an Academy Award (for Visual Effects, the only animated film to be so recognized) and a Golden Globe (for Danny Elfman’s Original Score). But although it was initially no blockbuster in comparison to the previous year’s Aladdin or the following year’s The Lion King, NBC would go on to become something entirely new for Disney: a cult classic.

Following its successful release on home video, NBC continued to grow in popularity due to its unique visual style, unforgettable music and underdog characters that were far from the cuddly likes of Mickey Mouse and Winnie the Pooh. More and more merchandise was successfully released, from comic books and clothing to collectible figures and video games, until it was obvious that NBC had evolved into an unexpected, late blooming hit. Developing a life of its own, the film gained a devoted following among not only animation fans of all ages, but also with the so-called “goth” crowd, misfit teenagers who embraced the film’s macabre sensibilities and unusual characters.

Wisely capitalizing on this new-found popularity, Disney used the film as inspiration for its annual “Haunted Mansion Holiday” attraction at Disneyland (more on that later) and even re-released it to theaters several times. The last two years, NBC could not only be seen in Disney Digital 3-D, but now as an official “Disney movie”, with the original Touchstone banner removed from all prints and replaced with the Disney brand. There have even been rumors of a Broadway stage adaptation. This brings us to its latest home video release, now available in several versions.

Click here to continue reading my Toon Talk review of the new Nightmare Before Christmas DVD at

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