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by Award-Winning Author, B.A. Bellec
Sometimes a movie comes along and stands the test of time, staying mainstream for generations and influencing culture in ways the people working on the project could have never imagined.
The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of those movies. Is it a Halloween movie? Or a Christmas movie? Is it for kids? Or adults? I take pride in being a genre-bending author. This movie is genre-bender perfection. There are so many different themes clashing it is hard to fit this into one bucket. What is for sure true is that despite juggling multiple ideas, the movie satisfies them all, leaving the audience fulfilled and casting a wide net.
It’s more than just the unique design aesthetic Tim Burton brings. We all love the dark, creative stop-motion world and the fun songs that make this into a timeless counter-culture classic, but a big driving force in the prolonged viewership is rather simple to analyze.
The movie is full of them. As an author, I always check the writing credit on a project. The Nightmare Before Christmas is written by Caroline Thompson. Her list of screenplays on IMDb is jaw-dropping. Beyond being a frequent Burton collaborator, she wrote multiple children’s movies (Black Beauty, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey, and The Secret Garden) I watched when I was just a little guy trying to find my path in life. Once you combine her entire body of work, it’s crazy to think how much she talked to me through her talent for crafting stories!
Coming back to this movie as an adult and taking a deeper look at the writing of The Nightmare Before Christmas, I instantly found a pair of relatable and strong characters in Jack Skellington and Sally. Those two characters could come to life in any medium, but they really “sing” when combined with the visionary style of Mr. Burton. Sally yearns for belonging and has a shyness about her that makes her instantly adorable. Jack has a layered and interesting view of his world. He is an oddball, an outlier, a different thinker. He is tired of mundane normalcy and searching for something new. These mature motivations are what allow this movie to cross generations and keep it rewatchable nearly thirty years later.
I am enamored by the reach of Caroline Thompson. She was involved in six screenplays in four years that most millennials almost certainly saw at least a few of. Come on, who hasn’t watched Edward Scissorhands, The Addams Family, or this movie? Those are just her Burton collaborations. I listed her other movies above. Her streak of hits is mind-blowing and she deserves way more credit for how much impact she had over an entire generation without many of us even knowing her name.
Rewatching The Nightmare Before Christmas with a more analytical and adult mindset only made me respect the property more. Happy Holidays and may the only macabre thing that comes your way these next few weeks be rekindling the magic of this Burton/Thompson masterpiece!
About the Author
Bryan “B.A.” Bellec’s debut novel, Someone’s Story, won the Reader Views Reader’s Choice Literary Award for Young Adult Book of the Year. Someone’s Story is a coming-of-age novel about teen mental health. One of the aspects that makes Bellec’s projects unique is he includes musicians in his novels and then he actually produces the songs as his book goes through the editing stages. You can find that music on his YouTube channel. His second novel, Pulse, just released and has been receiving strong reviews. That novel is a genre flip with dark dystopian sci-fi horror peppering the pages.
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