Most Christmas movies are fairly straightforward, comprised of either live-action films like A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or animated programs like Rudolph or Frosty. Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas falls into its own unique category: a stop-motion animated film that magically blends animation, music and creativity. Visually it was revolutionary for its time, and it still works today despite animation quirks that have since been ironed out in The Corpse Bride. And the story? Well, it remains as unique as the day the film opened.
The very concept is fresh: the Halloween King has become bored with his monotonous routine and is looking for a fresh purpose in life. So, he takes over Christmas. Young trick-or-treaters kidnap Santa Claus, and a jubilant but deadly Boogeyman is ready to dispose of the mighty red-suited one in a most gruesome manner. It takes a special person to not only dream up such an anomalous concoction, but to execute it in an imaginative, fresh way both tasteful and controversial at the same time.
Buena Vista re-mastering The Nightmare Before Christmas on Blu-ray Disc is a perfect gift to longtime fans of the film and younger PlayStation 3 adopters who were never exposed to Burton’s earlier works. The video is presented in its original 1.66:1 aspect ratio in 1080p resolution. Burton’s more recent stop-motion film, The Corpse Bride, has been readily available on Blu-ray for nearly three years, and it set a high video standard for Burton fans looking for a repeat performance. Though Nightmare can’t quite top Bride’s eye-popping transfer, it is without a doubt the best this film has ever looked, and it’s still an above-average Blu-ray experience.
Nightmare’s squeaky-clean image has obviously been touched up since DVD to remove artifacts, dirt and other unwanted blemishes that Blu-ray owners have grown to hate. The result is a sharp image that doesn’t suffer from the dreaded digital noise reduction that some Blu-ray owners have grown to hate even more than dirt. An obvious edge halo only appears once, when Jack steps in front of the moon during his opening song. Otherwise, the transfer is more than pleasing from beginning to end.
Disney spared no expense on the audio front with an impressive 7.1 Dolby TrueHD 48 kHz/24-bit treatment. This mix has to be one of the cleanest and enveloping audio experiences on Blu-ray in the last several months. Voices are always spot-on accurate and easily heard, even when they’re required to travel to the rear soundstage. One such scene involving the mayor speaking as he moves around the camera is translated perfectly through the mix to where it really sounds like the mayor is standing behind you. Other “surround moments” are so convincingly real that it is hard not to turn around.
Several all-new supplemental features including a standard definition digital copy offered on a separate disc have been mixed with others previously available to create the most robust offering of Nightmare extras available in a single package.
New Audio Commentary with Tim Burton, Director Henry Selick and Music Composer Danny Elfman — Burton opens up about how Nightmare came to be, the influences and putting the daunting film together. It takes awhile for Henry and Danny to get going but they eventually do and offer their own unique take on their contributions to the film. Nightmare’s short runtime cements this commentary as one worth visiting.
Tim Burton Movie Introduction (0:18, HD) — Burton manages to eek out a single sentence to preface Nightmare Before Christmas on Blu-ray. He can’t even come up with 30 seconds of words to offer about the format, which is a shame.
What’s This? Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour (7:14, HD) — Offered with an optional pop-up trivia track that is a must, this narrated tour of Disney’s Haunted Mansion is an eye-opener for anyone who hasn’t been to the park during the holiday months. There are enough renovations made to consider a trip just to check it out in person.
Frankenweenie (Uncut) With New Introduction by Burton (30:05) — Burton’s 33-second intro states the feature film version is in the early stages of production. The actual Frankenweenie is crude but gives a glimpse into what to expect from the new film.
Tim Burton’s Original Poem Narrated by Christopher Lee (11:37, HD) — Burton intros this haunting reading accompanied by art based on Burton’s original concepts. Lee’s legendary voice negates the needs for any visuals at all. The poem is just as effective with eyes closed or open.
Vincent (5:55) — Tim Burton and Henry Heinrich’s early short film at Disney presented in full. Some of the sto-motion techniques used in Vincent would find their way into Nightmare Before Christmas.
Deleted Storyboard (2:56) — Three are offered with a play all option. The Boogeyman dancing bugs song would have been a nice in the final film if completed. The final storyboard reveals a “twist” that would have changed the outcome of two characters fates.
Deleted Animated Sequences (5:06) — These four sequences are fully animated but due to time constraints were given the axe. I’m surprised any of these sequences were cut given the relatively short runtime.
The Making of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas (24:44) — Six chapters viewable individually or via play all touch upon the standard areas of film production. A narrator moves various segments along including interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. What’s great about this short documentary is most of what’s offered is different than what Burton, Danny and Henry discuss in their commentary.
Halloween Town, Christmas Town, The Real World — Within these three featurettes are nuggets of never-before-seen pre-production artwork that plays like a slideshow. Some of Jack’s original designs had him looking much more menacing than the final character.
Storyboard to Film Comparison (3:47) — These are standard comparisons with the storyboards on top and running film on bottom. The windows are fairly small, each taking up only about 20 percent of a widescreen display.
Posters and Trailer — A bevy of original posters are viewable in a slideshow including a great one titled “lock, shock and barrel.” Also on display are the original teaser and theatrical trailers which have not been remastered like the feature film and are presented in full-screen.
Burton fans have been waiting for The Nightmare Before Christmas to come to Blu-ray after being stunned by the impressive transfer on The Corpse Bride. While Nightmare isn’t as crisp a transfer as Bride due to the way it was photographed and some clean up work applied, the film has never looked better than it does on Blu-ray. The surround audio is some of the cleanest and immersive offered so far this year, and even the special features are worth digging through. So what’s this? What’s this? It’s a Blu-ray release you need to get your hands on, even if only temporarily.
- Score: 9