The Nightmare Before Christmas: Special Edition (1993)

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Released 27-Nov-2002

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Main Menu Introduction
Menu Animation & Audio
Audio Commentary
Featurette-Making Of
Storyboard Comparisons
Deleted Scenes-Storyboards (3); Animated Sequences (4)
Featurette-The Worlds Of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
Gallery-Poster
Teaser Trailer
Theatrical Trailer
Featurette-Vincent
Featurette-Frankenweenie
Rating Rated G
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 73:04
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (68:25) Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Henry Selick
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Chris Sarandon
Catherine O'Hara
William Hickey
Glenn Shadix
Ken Page
Danny Elfman
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $19.95 Music Danny Elfman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
German Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
German
French
Italian
Spanish
Polish
Czech
Croatian
Slovenian
German Audio Commentary
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    When this movie was first released on DVD in October 1999, IanM had this to say about the extras on the first disc: "And here we come to the supreme disappointment ..... absolutely nothing. The opportunities here for featurettes on how the stop-motion animation, miniature sets and visual effects were created is staggering, especially given the paucity in length of the film. That the opportunities were not taken is very disappointing indeed." You can read the rest of his excellent review here.

    Now in December, 2002 is the release of disc that should have been, called of course, The Nightmare Before Christmas: Special Edition. They have collected together a featurette on the stop frame animation and set design along with concept art, original screen tests for some of the characters and much more that I will outline below. Two extras that are not directly related to the film but are early short films by Tim Burton actually turned out to be the best of all the material included. In particular, the short film based on the original Frankenstein films is a work of genius.

    Tim Burton is responsible for some of my personal favourite movies, with Beetlejuice probably topping the list. Yet again he immerses us in a strange and wondrous world, one where you cannot be exactly sure what is coming next as Burton's imagination doesn't quite work the same way as the rest of ours' does. The worlds he creates are always consistent within themselves but reach out into some very strange places. This film will most likely polarise those that view it into those that love it and those that hate it. I find that some people are automatically put off when there are no live actors. This is a shame as they are missing out on an entire world of experience. Others simply won't connect with the strange place that we are invited into.

    The rest of us will sit there immersed in the film and thoroughly enjoy every moment. This film almost demands multiple viewing. I found myself so stunned and amazed at the quality of the stop frame animation and other effects that I just had to go back and watch scenes multiple times. At other times I had shivers run up my spine as a character seemed to cross over the threshold into true life, like seeing a Frankstein monster for real. This happened most often with the character of Sally.

    I though I had a reasonable understanding of the difficulty of producing a stop frame animated film, but the accompanying documentary and commentary opened my eyes to a whole new world of difficulties. My respect for the talent of those involved has increased to great heights - the fact that they managed to produce this film in any time frame, let alone the three years that they completed it in, is amazing.

    Our story is a simple one. Each of the seasons is a town. There is Easter Town, Christmas Town and Halloween Town, amongst others. None of these towns know of each other or their respective festivities. Just after Halloween, Jack, the pumpkin King, is feeling very dispirited by the yearly festivities and wanders around despondent. By chance he discovers the entry to the various towns and is sucked into Christmas Town. He is amazed and entranced by what he sees and rushes back to Halloween Town to tell everyone about it. The other inhabitants, with the exception of Sally, do not seem to understand what he is talking about. Jack decides to take over Christmas, with the best of intentions, and do it his way. Despite these good intentions, it turns out that Jack doesn't really understand Christmas either.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     I am going to bet that this is the same transfer as originally released. The only difference that I could spot is in the layer change. The original release was a single layered disc. This is an RSDL disc. For some reason, the film did not fit entirely on the first layer of this disc and the last 5:39 is on the second layer. The film finishes, fades to black, the layer change occurs and then the credits roll, making the layer change invisible.

    Presented at 1:78:1, the new packaging still quotes the incorrect aspect ratio figure of 1.66:1. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

    The sharpness is great. The detail in the backgrounds is amazing and this transfer shows every line, curve and dot. Shadow detail is also excellent. A lot of the film is quite dark and the detail in the shadows is very good. There is no low level noise at all.

    There is a very specific colour palette used in each of the 'towns' in the film. Halloween Town is almost black and white while Christmas Town is a riot of colours and lights. The transfer presents these palettes with no problems at all.

    There are no MPEG artefacts at all, nor are there any film-to-video artefacts There are a small number of film artefacts but they did not detract from the viewing experience.

    The subtitles are accurate and easy to read.

    The layer change is invisible and occurs at 68:25.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     They have replaced the Italian sound track that was on the original release with an Audio commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0, leaving us with the English and German Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks.

      There are no problems with the dialogue quality, nor with the audio sync.

    The music is wonderful and completes the environment into which you are drawn into while watching this film.

    There is a wonderfully immersive feel to this soundtrack with the music surrounding you and even some spilt rear effects.

    The subwoofer supported the music and gave depth to scenes where it was required.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Menu

    After an opening menu where you select which language you wish to view the menus in we have a very nice animated sequence followed by the main menu. The overall feel is similar to the film and is based on a scene from the film with some added atmosphere. The menus are presented at 1.78:1 an accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Audio Commentary: Director, Henry Selick and Director of Photography, Pete Kozachik.

    This is a little bit of a rollercoaster. Parts are fantastic and tell us a lot about the art of stop frame animation. At other times we learn a little about the people involved and how they overcame some of the problems they faced. At other times they fall into the trap of telling the story as it appears on the screen and occasionally lapse into silence. Still not bad - about 6/10 overall.

Featurette: The Making Of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. (24:45)

    A wonderful, if a little short, view into the world of the stop frame animator. We start with an interview with Tim Burton and move on to interviews with the rest of the crew. We cover the origins of the film, the concepts, the development of the storyboard, the audio, and the actual construction of the characters. Then we move on to set construction, the special cameras used and many other topics. We only touch on each topic - there really is enough material here for a full length documentary. When they talk about some of the in-camera effects they used, such as taking a week to ten days to animate and film a scene and then turning around and rewinding the negative and shooting over the top to get a particular effect, you realise just how difficult the entire process is. Presented at 1.33:1 with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Storyboard to Film Comparison. (3:48)

    Two small 1.78:1 screens appear, one above the other. In the top screen are the storyboard drawings and in the bottom the actual film. The storyboard drawings are in sync with the film. The 'property of skellington productions' across the bottom of every drawing is slightly distracting. That aside, this is an interesting look at how the storyboard drawings are brought to life. The scene they have chosen for this feature is the town meeting just after Jack returns from Christmas Town.

Deleted Storyboards

    There are three selections here showing us scenes from the original plan that never made it to animation. Surprisingly there is audio and voices for these scenes. They show the storyboards in sequence and in sync with the audio. At the start of each is a quick commentary as to why that particular scene did not make it into the film. The three selections are: Behemoth Sings (0:55), Oogie Boogie with Dancing Bugs (0:40) and Alternate Identity of Oogie Boogie (1:25). All are presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack.

Deleted Animated Sequences

    These are scenes that did get to animation but were then cut for various reasons, again described by the director. For some reason they are presented at 1.33:1 and slightly letterboxed but not to 1.78:1. The 'Property of Skellington Productions' across the bottom is now getting very annoying - why would anyone steal deleted scenes? The selections here are: Jack's Scientific Experiments (2:04), Vampire Hockey Players (0:19), Lock Shock and Barrel (2:19) and Oogie Boogie Shadow Dance (0:28). The Audio is Dolby Digital 2.0.

The Worlds: Halloween Town : Jack Skellington

    This selection is three menus deep. You select the worlds, then the town (there are three) and then the character, in this case Jack Skellington. Once you arrive there are three further selections. The first is character designs, consisting of 23 concept drawings of the character. The second is animation tests with a commentary by the director. This runs for 2:08 and is very interesting, showing us how the character evolved (1.33:1 and DD 2.0) . The last entry is 13 concept drawings of Jack's tower - there is some great artwork in this one.

The Worlds: Halloween Town : Sally

    First up are 15 concept drawings - some of the early concepts were quite different to the final selection - followed by the animation test for Sally (1.33:1 and DD 2.0) (0:27). Finally there are 11 concept drawings for Sally's Kitchen and Bedroom.

The Worlds: Halloween Town : Oogie Boogie

    Only two selections here; 5 concept drawings of the character and 28 of his Lair. The Lair drawings show a much darker and scarier environment than the one that made it to film.

The Worlds: Halloween Town : Evil Scientist and Igor

    20 concept drawings for the two characters and 14 concept drawings for his laboratory.

The Worlds: Halloween Town : Lock Shock and Barrel

    10 concept drawings and photos of the characters and 15 conceptual drawings of their tree house.

The Worlds: Halloween Town : The Citizens

    119 concept drawings for the rest of the inhabitants of Halloween Town. Test animation for Zero, Jack's ghost dog, along with a description and some diagrams describing how the effect was achieved. (1.33:1, DD2.0). 87 concept drawings of Halloween Town.

The Worlds: Christmas Town : Santa Claus Character Design.

    6 concept drawings for Santa Claus and one photo of his model.

The Worlds: Christmas Town : Santa's Helpers Character Design.

    9 concept drawings.

The Worlds: Christmas Town : Concept Art

    47 concept drawings of Christmas Town.

The Worlds: The Real World: Character Designs.

    17 concept drawings of the residents of the real world.

The Worlds: The Real World: Concept Art.

    26 concept drawings for the real world.

Posters

    5 posters for the film.

Teaser Trailer. (1:44)

    Presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. Not sure why this is a 'teaser' as they pretty much show everything. Quality is not bad but there are a number of film artefacts.

Theatrical Trailer: (1:27)

    Again presented at 1.33:1 and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack. This trailer does give away a fair amount of the story. The pervious trailer probably gave the wrong impression as it pushes the Disney theme which this film is somewhat outside.

Tim Burton's Early Films: Vincent. (5:56)

    Presented at 1.33:1 and with a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack, this is also a stop animation film. It is black and white and suffers a little from grain and film artefacts. The story is about a little boy that wants to be just like Vincent Price and is in the same style as much of Burton's work.

Tim Burton's Early films: Frankenweenie (30:05)

    Presented at 1.33:1 (Black and White) and accompanied by a Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack this is without a doubt one of the best short films I have ever seen. A great new interpretation of the Frankenstein legend and a tribute to all the old Frankenstein films. If you have seen the old films, including Bride of Frankenstein, then you will love all the references to those films - they are integrated in a wonderful fashion. In this take of the legend our scientist is a young boy that has just had his pet dog run over. Not letting this stop him, he brings the dog back to life with all the usual consequences. You can also spot some well-known actors in their younger days.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on:

    The Region 1 version of this disc misses out on:

    How they could have been so silly as not to remaster the video on the R1 version is astounding. Why they then went on and didn't add the DTS soundtrack to the R4 is even stranger. Personally, the 3:2 pulldown of NTSC would wreck the smoothness of the animation for me but others may prefer the DTS soundtrack, although I have not personally heard if it is better than the Dolby Digital. I am calling the R4 the winner on these grounds.

Summary

    In The Nightmare Before Christmas you are immersed in a wonderfully strange world and thankfully the transfer does not get in the way at all. Both the audio and especially the video are definitely up to scratch. I love the trademark worms that infest both this film and Beetlejuice. Is there enough here to make it worthwhile replacing your original copy? I think so - the extras are very good and Frankenweenie is a must-see for Tim Burton fans.

    The video is excellent.

    The audio is great.

    This time, we get all the extras we could want.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Terry McCracken (read my bio)
Saturday, December 28, 2002
Review Equipment
DVDSkyworth 1050p progressive scan, using RGB output
DisplaySony 1252q CRT Projector, Screen Technics matte white screen 16:9 (223cm). Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre. This display device is 16x9 capable.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with AVIA Guide To Home Theatre.
AmplificationSony STR-DB1070
SpeakersB&W DM305 (mains); CC3 (centre); S100 (surrounds); custom Adire Audio Tempest with Redgum plate amp (subwoofer)

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Comments (Add)
Aspect ratios -
R1 copy -
Not quite... -
Ed Wood -
Ed Wood -
Very overrated film - Nick H (do you have a spare 60 seconds-read my bio)
Ed Wood - Jace
It does fit onto a single layer. - Ben H (My biography. Go on have a read...)