A few weeks back, we asked our fans and followers if they thought that the film, The Nightmare Before Christmas was a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie. And the overwhelming consensus is that … it doesn’t really matter, it’s just a really good film.
That being the case, a number of the movie experts here at BLOCKBUSTER got together to discuss why The Nightmare Before Christmas has become such a beloved film, despite not playing into any sort of holiday values archetype. Here’s what we came up with. You may disagree, but this is our interpretation of this classic movie and why it’s so good.
Fair Warning: SPOILERS AHEAD
As you know if you have seen the film, Jack Skellington, The Pumpkin King, is the lead-scarer and planner for all things Halloween. Living amongst ghosts, goblins, ghouls, and all sorts of scary creatures in Halloween Town, it’s his job to plan all the annual festivities for the world every Halloween. His role is very similar to that of Santa Claus’s role for Christmas. However, after the most recent successful Halloween, Jack feels depressed and bored with everything that he does year after year. It seems he no longer enjoys scaring people for Halloween.
In his melancholy, Jack leaves town and finds a portal that takes him to Christmas Town where he discovers all kinds of wonderful new things that he’s never seen before. Inspired by Christmas, Jack presents many of his findings to his friends in Halloween Town as new ideas for Halloween; however, they misinterpret his intentions and decide to take over Christmas.
Jack is filled with a new fire and passion because of all the new ideas that come about in the plan to takeover Christmas. Without giving too much of the movie away, it’s safe to say that ghosts and skeletons and monsters aren’t the best planners of Christmas. It all goes horribly wrong as the citizens of Halloween Town turn every Christmas tradition into something spooky and scary, ruining the December holiday.
In the end, Santa comes and saves the day (which could be strong reason for why many people consider this a Christmas film). Now here’s a point of debate. Some people say that the residents of Halloween Town learn the “meaning of Christmas,” or something similar, because even though they ruined Christmas, Jack Skellington is filled with glee again for his own holiday and gets excited to plan next year’s Halloween.
But I don’t think that’s what happens. I think that Jack, and finally, everyone in Halloween Town, learn that things can’t stay the same forever. The same-old, same-old does indeed get old and stale and the world moves on. So we all have to change.
Halloween Town is a collection of beautiful and brilliant misfits and they also have to change to keep things fresh and exciting. Even with a spooky and weird holiday like Halloween, Jack discovers that he’s tired of doing the same old scares year after year. His experience with Christmas fills him with tons of new ideas for how to do his own holiday, and maybe evolve it for the better.
The Nightmare Before Christmas’s main message isn’t “learning the true meaning of Christmas,” nor is it just about having a “spooky Halloween.” While the film does have a little bit of both of those elements, it speaks to a much wider audience because it is a film about “change.” At the core of The Nightmare Before Christmas is the message that change may be difficult and uncomfortable. It may be painful. But change is necessary. Even with things like holidays, which are so imbued with traditions, change is necessary. And it can be beautiful.