Nitpicking Movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Should I be concerned that my favorite holiday movies all involve somebody stealing Christmas?

Based on a poem Tim Burton wrote while with Disney, The Nightmare Before Christmas acts as a twofer holiday film, providing viewing pleasure for both Halloween and Christmas. It features an amazing score by Danny Elfman and is probably the film that best showcases Burton’s visual style despite being directed by Henry Selick. (By all reports, Burton actually had little to do with the film aside from providing some sketches and the original poem; Selick essentially did an impression of Burton’s style and did it better than Burton ever did in his own films.)

Overall, the movie is charming, creative, and the right combination of macabre and heartwarming. Let’s see what sort of nitpicks I can toss at it from the peanut gallery.

A Whole Holiday Forest?

The plot to the movie really kicks off when Jack Skellington walks into a forest with doors to represent the different holidays. We see seven doors overall: Halloween, Christmas, Independence Day, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, and Thanksgiving. Is this all of them, or are there more out there?

The trees we see are extremely focused on American/Christian holidays. Is there a Yom Kippur tree? Does a new tree spring up when a new holiday becomes enshrined in modern culture? Honestly, a Juneteenth town where people perpetually celebrate the end of slavery in the United States would be pretty cool.

For that matter, what happens when a holiday stops being celebrated? Is there a withered husk of a tree that used to contain Lughnasadh Town, with abandoned buildings inside? And how widely celebrated does a holiday have to be before it gets its own town? Is there a tree for May the Fourth, where the inside is a constant celebration of the Star Wars franchise?

Did Jack Actually Deserve to Take Over Christmas?

Look, Jack’s Christmas was a disaster. But you have to admire the logistics of it at least a little bit. On October 31st, he didn’t even know what Christmas was. By December 25th, he and his Halloween hooligans had presents for every family on the planet and the means to deliver them in seconds. What could he have done with a full year to prepare?

Now, I don’t endorse the whole kidnapping Santa thing, but with some pointers from the head guy, Jack could possibly deliver something really fantastic. Fewer presents that actively tried to kill people, but still with an odd and macabre tone, could make for a unique, fun, and memorable Christmas.

Heck, for that matter, give Santa a Halloween to run. He’s happy and jolly every day of the year. Just imagine the type of things he probably has lurking in the back of his mind when he thinks about the kids on his naughty list. I bet the old guy could really pull off some monumental scares.

Nightmare Before Christmas 2: Trading Places. Call me, Disney.

Jack Should Have Kept Oogie Boogie Busy

I don’t think it’s much of a criticism to point out that Jack’s plan to steal Christmas is a really bad one. After all, that point is pretty well made by the movie itself. Even so, he should have figured out a way to keep his plan’s biggest potential foil in check.

Jack knows that Oogie Boogie will ruin things if he gets involved, and he tells Lock, Shock, and Barrel to keep him out of it. But even if he didn’t expect that the little miscreants would disobey, he had to have known that Oogie Boogie would have reared his ugly head sooner or later. The entire town was mobilized for the Christmas project; unless Oogie is locked in that cellar playing craps 24 hours a day, he would have eventually known that something was up.

Clearly, Jack should have figured out some extraneous task to keep Oogie busy. Maybe hunting for the ghosts from A Christmas Carol, or putting worms into figgy pudding. Something, anything, that would have made Oogie feel included but not been strictly needed for the holiday would have potentially served as a diversion to keep him from torturing Santa Claus.

Fortunately, Santa can handle himself.

Santa is the Movie’s Secret Badass

This one isn’t a nitpick; it’s just a thing I don’t see many people bring up. Santa gets surprised by an unexpected invasion from Halloween Town, but once he gets his bearings he’s pretty much not disturbed by anything, even when he’s in Oogie Boogie’s clutches.

Consider: Santa is tied up, taunted by a sentient mass of writhing worms, and put in an elaborate casino-themed deathtrap where the game is clearly rigged against him. And what does he say to Oogie Boogie when he has the chance?

Release me now
Or you must face the dire consequences
The children are expecting me
So please, come to your senses


Release me fast or you will have to
Answer for this heinous act

He’s never frightened for his life, nor does he show the smallest bit of doubt that he will escape. The biggest concern on his mind is that he might disappoint a few kids because he’s been delayed.

And you know what? His warnings are right. Oogie Boogie winds up melting into nothing, and the guy who finishes him off is none other than Santa, squishing the last of his bugs beneath his boot. Yes, Jack is the guy who took Oogie on in the end, but there’s no doubt in my mind that he only saved Santa the effort.

You don’t mess with Santa Claus.

Images: Touchstone Pictures (Disney)

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