The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of Walt Disney Pictures’ biggest Blu-ray releases of 2008, save for maybe Wall*E and Sleeping Beauty (Disney’s first Platinum Edition Blu-ray). The movie and its stop-motion star, Jack Skellington, have developed such a cult following, in fact, that Disney re-decorates its Haunted Mansion theme park ride every Halloween to reflect the would-be Santa impersonator. So to have The Nightmare Before Christmas appear on Blu-ray is not only a nod to Disney’s stalwart support of the HD format, but a nod to fans’ desire for all things Halloweentown.
It’s also obvious that Disney has placed some serious importance on this Blu-ray release because the studio included D-BOX Motion Code directly on the Blu-ray Disc. Whereas many Disney releases have had D-BOX code available post-release via Internet download, the D-BOX Code for The Nightmare Before Christmas is immediately available to anyone who owns a D-BOX system. It would be nice to see Disney (and others) include D-BOX code natively more often, especially in light of the high capacity of the format’s discs, but including it on big releases such as this is welcome either way.
As you’ve likely gathered from our last few D-BOX reviews, the Motion Controller is capable of delivering a wide range of motion, both “big time” and subtle. With The Nightmare Before Christmas, however, there’s nothing subtle about it, at least not during the film’s first half. Right from the opening minutes, it’s clear that D-BOX Technologies went as all-out as Disney did, with huge, sweeping motions that correspond to the camera movements throughout the opening scenes. In fact, the motion is so dramatic that it can be almost overbearing at times, inspiring a few concerned thoughts about whether “the whole movie will move this much.” Fortunately, it doesn’t. We still recommend decreasing the sensitivity of the Motion Controller for the first 10 minutes of the film, after which point you can move it back to the 75-80 percent intensity you’d normally run it at.
All but a handful of musical scenes include Motion Code of some sort, with the biggest numbers (opening sequence, Jack’s jaunt through the sky as Santa’s replacement and his walk through the graveyard) getting the most dynamic range of movement. The movements are tied primarily to the camera, although the beats of the song have D-BOX support as well, so you not only move with the camera but feel the song as well. And, since this is a musical movie at its heart, you’d better believe you’ll be moving a lot as you watch this film.
Outside of the musical numbers, The Nightmare Before Christmas also has D-BOX code for bumps and nudges when major characters are bumped or near some sort of explosion, but these more-subtle effects are few and far between. The climax of these bumps is definitely Jack Skellington’s sleigh ride through the sky and subsequent attack by the military. Not only is there an incredible sense of actually flying through the sky, but when the flak cannons come out and the mortar shells are fired, you definitely feel the explosions and booms of the cannons firing near Santa’s sleigh.
For as much as Disney went “all out” by including D-BOX code on the actual Blu-ray Disc, D-BOX went “all out” by including more Motion Code than we have experienced to date — even on some action films. In some respects, it feels like D-BOX may have gotten a bit caught up in the hype of this film and gone a bit overboard to showcase its Motion Code technology. While it certainly does this, it almost goes a bit too far with the motion. Most of the nuanced movements coded into Cloverfield, for example, are absent in Nightmare Before Christmas, eschewed instead for the “showier” and more-dramatic aspects of D-BOX Motion Code. There’s also much more movement corresponding to camera movements than we’ve seen in other Blu-ray releases, and although it certainly fits this specific film’s art direction, it seems like D-BOX’s engineers forced the issue in a few scenes and would’ve been better using Motion Code a bit more sparingly. Sure, the sleigh ride sequence is hard to top, but taken as a whole, the movie’s motion code goes a bit overboard.
- Score: 7
- Jack’s sleigh ride is among the most immersive D-BOX scenes we’ve experienced, but the overall use of motion code seems a bit over the top compared to other D-BOX-encoded Blu-ray movies we’ve seen.
— Jonas Allen