The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition (1993)

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Released 21-Oct-2008

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Animation Audio Commentary-Director, Producer and Composer
Featurette-Backstage Disney - The Haunted Mansion
Featurette-Tim Burtons Animated Poem
Featurette-Making Of
Short Film-Frankenweenie
Short Film-Vincent
Deleted Scenes-Soryboard and Animated
Featurette-Making Of-The Worlds of Tim Burton
Storyboard Comparisons
Poster
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated PG
Year Of Production 1993
Running Time 73:35
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered
Dual Disc Set
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Select Then Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Henry Selick
Studio
Distributor

Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
Starring Danny Elfman
Chris Sarandon
Catherine O'Hara
William Hickey
Glenn Shadix
Paul Reubens
Ken Page
Edward Ivory
Susan McBride
Case ?
RPI ? Music Danny Elfman


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
Czech Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Polish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Russian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Slovenian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Estonian Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.66:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.66:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Czech
Estonian
Hungarian
Latvian
Russian
Slovenian
Lithuanian
Ukranian
Polish
Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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

Plot Synopsis

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas is now firmly entrenched as a holiday classic alongside It's a Wonderful Life, The Grinch and Home Alone. Of course it also functions as a Halloween classic, as a family alternative to the slasher pics like Halloween, Friday the 13th and the Saw/Hostel franchise.

This is the third iteration of the film on DVD. The first, in 2000, was a bare bones affair. A second was deemed a "special edition" and released in 2003 with an extensive collection of extras.

This release is designated a Collector's Edition. In cynic's parlance this usually means another edition that long suffering fans have to collect. It arrives with even more extras and a funky case (the review copy was supplied without packaging so I can't comment on the spooky looking Jack Skellington mask). But do these extras justify shelling out on another copy for those who already have the film in their collection?

For the uninitiated (shame on you) The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stop motion animated film based on an idea and a poem by everyone's favourite weirdo director Tim Burton. The maestro was heavily involved in production of Batman Returns in 1992 so the direction of the film was handed over to animator Harry Selick. Although the quirky, ghoulish humour in the film owes much to Burton it is also very much a Selick film and he has taken pains in the past to point out that Burton only dropped in twice during principal photography. He was otherwise left to his devices. Fans of stop motion animation will get another chance to soak up Selick's magic when the critically lauded Coraline opens in this part of the world in May.

The plot of The Nightmare Before Christmas is pretty straight forward once you buy into the central conceit. Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon voice, Danny Elfman songs) is the spiritual leader of Halloween town which exists for one reason only - to scare the bejesus out of mere mortals at Halloween time.

Jack is the almighty, all scaring Pumpkin King. But something is amiss. After another scarily successful Halloween Jack finds that he has inexplicably lost his Mojo. He accidentally gets sucked through a door into Christmas Town and can't believe the change from the dreary Halloween town. Everyone is laughing, playing in the snow and coloured lights abound. Then there is the jolly fat man in the red suit!

On his return to Halloween town Jack struggles to explain to the Mayor and the local ghouls what makes Christmas so magical. He struggles because he doesn't really understand it himself. In a wildly humorous scene we see Jack experimenting with candy canes and Christmas baubles breaking them down to their chemical constituents as if to discover the scientific basis of Christmas.

The town's people feel Jack's excitement and want to help. They see it as a way to scare in technicolour. Jack has a secret admirer - a rag doll girl, stuffed with leaves, called Sally (Catherine O'Hara) but he is too obsessed with Christmas to take any notice of her. She is the only one who can see that no good will come of Jacks hairbrained plans.

As his obsession deepens Jack forms a crazy plot to kidnap Santa and take over the Christmas Eve sleigh work. He enlists three local miscreants; Lock, Shock & Barrel to carry out his plan. Against his wishes they involve Oogie Boogie the town, well boogie man, and all hell starts to break loose.

Frightening presents, a captured Santa and a misguided Jack in the middle of it! Can Jack and Sally repair the damage and save Christmas?

The Nightmare Before Christmas is primarily a musical, featuring over 10 songs in its short (73 minutes) running time. Perhaps for this reason I have always preferred The Corpse Bride but it at least allows the feverish brain of Danny Elfman to concoct some weird and wonderful numbers. The set design is also a little less complex than the later movie but it must be remembered that 12 years passed between the two stop motion classics.

If the film has a flaw it is in the lack of a sub-plot. The central story of Jack is fun enough but there is not the story development between him and Sally nor Oogie Boogie and the lads. In short, the film is a little brief and inconsequential.

For fans there is the all important question of whether it is worth buying., The improved sound and vision would seem to be justification enough but in combination with the poem extra it seems a certainty. For the casual viewer the additional extras may not be sufficient but fans will have already snapped it up.

Don't wish to see plot synopses in the future? Change your configuration.

Transfer Quality

Video

The Nightmare Before Christmas was shot on 35mm film at an original 1.66:1 aspect ratio. The previous two editions had a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. The difference is minimal but viewers will notice the black bars down the edge of their widescreen TV's. The transfer is 16x9 enhanced.

Not having owned the earlier editions I cannot comment on the differences in picture quality between them but I can say that the film looks about as good as you can get from a 15 year old movie shot on miniature stages using stop-motion animation. The transfer is described as having been remastered. It certainly looks it.

The colours are grim and ghoulish in Halloween Town and bright in Christmas Town and the Real World. The image quality is crisp and the colours are stable.

There are no technical problems with the transfer. There are no compression problems to be found and the print is clear of any artefacts. There is no aliasing.

The soundtrack for the film was recorded before animation and the animators have done a good job of making it look in perfect sync.

There are a dizzying variety of subtitles on offer including English for the Hearing Impaired which gives a good account of on-screen action.

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

Audio

The sound for The Nightmare Before Christmas is Dolby Digital running at 448Kb/s. There are a veritable United Nations of language options.

It is immediately apparent that considerable effort has been put into making the sound as good as possible. Dialogue and sung lyrics are exceedingly clear. The only exceptions are perhaps where the characters and the song make clarity difficult such as in the Lock, Stock and Barrel number.

The surround sound is effectively used throughout and is noticeable immediately with spooky sounds coming from the rear channels. The music is expertly mixed and the track sounds newly minted. The sub-woofer is not often engaged but provides subtle support for the songs.

An excellent immersive soundtrack.

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

Extras

Menu

The menu opens with a comprehensive language selection.

The extras on the Collectors Edition consist of those on the Special Edition, the replacement of the audio commentary with another and a couple of short features.

The original extras are as follows:

Featurette: The Making Of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. (24:43)

This featurette is divided into six chapters - The Beginning, Music, Storyboards, Art Direction, Puppets and Animation. Each takes us through another stage in the painstaking development of the movie. Listening to the amount of work that goes into every second of film it is a miracle it was ever finished!

Storyboard to Film Comparison. (3:48)

The town meeting just after Jack returns from Christmas Town is the segment chosen to display the similarities between the original storyboards and the finished product.

Deleted Storyboards

Three deleted storyboards with dialogue are presented here. They are: Behemoth Sings (0:55), Oogie Boogie with Dancing Bugs (0:40) and Alternate Identity of Oogie Boogie (1:25). A brief explanation is given as to the reasons why the scenes were never animated.

Deleted Animated Sequences

Four deleted scenes are presented here in fully animated form. The picture quality is poor and the sound just as bad but it is still interesting to see these sequences. I do find it irksome when the director says that these bits had to be cut "because of time" when the movie itself barely clocks over an hour. 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 Worlds:

This feature allows the viewer to see the early concept art for the characters, the animation tests and some of the design drawings for their key environment.

It begins with Halloween Town. So for Jack Skellington we get the designs for his tower , Sally we get the kitchen and bedroom, Oogie Boogie his lair, Evil Scientist and Igor the laboratory, and Lock Shock and Barrel the tree house. For the other inhabitants of Halloween Town there are a raft of concept drawings (over 100)

Secondly we get Christmas Town including Santa and his helpers.

Finally there is The Real World with its ordinary, if Tim Burton quirky, individuals waiting to see what Santa has brought them!

All in all this is a lengthy series of features for the completist.

Posters, Theatrical Trailer and Teaser Trailer: (1:27)

A selection of poster designs are included. As well it is interesting to see the difference between the two trailers. The teaser is all about the innovation of Disney and how this film continues the revolution. Of course, the film was ultimately deemed "too scary" for Disney kids and was released under the Touchstone Pictures banner. Poor quality but worth a chuckle

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

This little gem is the short story of a boy who wants to be Vincent Price. This black and white stop animation film is, naturally, told in poetry narrated by Vincent Price himself. The film was made in 1983 and definitely shows its age. It is presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio.

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

Tim Burton is slated to remake his interpretation of the Frankenstein story as a feature length film. That may be a pity as this black and white live action film is paced just perfectly. Daniel Stern and Shelley Duvall star as the parents of young Victor Frankenstein (Barret Oliver (Bastian from The Neverending Story )) who takes the unusual step of re-animation when his beloved dog Sparky gets hit by a car!

So much for the original extras - what is included in the Collectors Edition?

Audio Commentary: Director Henry Selick - Producer Tim Burton and Composer Danny Elfman

The previous audio commentary for the film had its critics who described it as a little dry. This is no livewire replacement. Once again the commentary is stitched together like rag doll Sally from three separate recordings. It is in the unheard of Dolby Digital 1.0 running at 96Kb/s but to be fair everything is clear and able to be heard. It is not really scene specific as each party talks about their connection to the project and how this wondrous spectacle came into being. Composer Elfman probably has the best fun as he is able to sing a few bits. The commentary track is a worthy addition to the package although the other information in the set is so comprehensive that some of the stories are retreads.

Tim Burton Introductions

Not really a feature as such but Burton provides new introductions to his poem (detailed below) and Frankenweenie. At just over 30 seconds each the introductions are really superfluous.

Tim Burtons Original Poem (10.58)

This is perhaps the best of the new features. The original Night Before Christmas is performed by legend Christopher Lee. The poem is quirky and funny and the extra, which is illustrated with drawings based on the poem, is definitely worth a watch. Fans of this type of poetry would do well to seek out Tim Burtons crazy poem anthology The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy with its collection of sad, mutated children. My favourite - Roy the Toxic Boy!

Backstage Disney

Lovers of theme park rides and in particular the Haunted Mansion will get a buzz out of this feature, which gives a slow and detailed journey through the famous ride at that special time of the year when it it fitted out to become Jack's Haunted Mansion Holiday. The tour (7.14) can be done with the actual ride narration as well as a trivia track. As an additional bonus the Off Track feature (37.25) takes viewers behind the scenes of the ride showing the preparation that goes into making it the Hauntedest Ride on Earth!.

R4 vs R1

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

The Collectors Edition is available in the same format worldwide. The Blu-ray edition is said to be another step up although it only contains one small Blu-ray exclusive.

Summary

Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those movies that either goes straight to your heart or straight to the back of the cupboard.

This Collectors Edition is really the best version available of the film in standard definition and no expense has been spared to make the 2 DVD set as comprehensive as possible. The sound and vision are superb.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Aspect ratio of previous R4 SE -