Celebrating the Unpopular Arts

Why I Hate Nightmare Before Christmas

Okay, I really just need to say it. I do not like Nightmare Before Christmas. There, it’s done. I know that lots of people really love this movie and that saying it’s a piece of crap is going to get me a lot of hate. On the bright side, I have just infuriated every single teenager that shops at Hot Topic, which I admit, is sort of fun! However, I haven’t seen Nightmare Before Christmas  in a long time so before I go about bashing it into pumpkin paste (see what I did there?) I figured I should at least re-watch it and give it a chance. It didn’t change my opinion, but I think I better understand why I don’t like this movie.

First off, this movie looks gross. I understand that art and style are subjective, and there are certainly people who like this style, but I have also found many agree with me in saying that Nightmare Before Christmas is an ugly movie.

I think it’s the combination of dark, bland, and de-saturated color palette mixed with the generally ugly character design. There are a few cleverly designed characters (Jack being one of them) but most of the characters seem to be a sort of short, stocky, fat shape with little arms and legs stuck on them. The potato bodies are sometimes mixed with gross giant-lipped duck monsters like the evil scientist and striped monster with snake fingers. They waddle, roll, slither, or otherwise slink around singing down the asymmetrical streets of Halloween Town and it’s just… ugh… I can’t stand to look at it.

Also, why is everything asymmetrical and wrinkled? Like, seriously, everything in this movie is textured to look like a leathery hide covered in raisins. The ground is wrinkled. The gates and streets are black, asymmetrical, and uneven. I don’t think there is a single straight line in the whole film. Even Jack’s coat, which is a pinstriped suit, looks like it has deep grooves in it, leading me to think he’s wearing some sort of wrinkled leather jacket or something. It makes me uncomfortable. This is a Tim Burton thing, and I have generally always hated his style, so maybe it’s just personal taste. Either way, blegh.

Why is everything wrinkled? Is Halloween Town located on a giant dried-up scrotum?!

Now, the movie was made over 20 years ago but compared to modern-day stop motion like Kubo (which is amazing go see it!) this movie just looks so janky. The motions seem like they’re missing frames, the “tricks” to hide mouth movements aren’t always so hidden, and you can see a lot of the interchangeable facial pieces at work during close-ups of the non-claymation characters.

Another topic I disliked is the music. However, on my recent viewing, I have to admit that it wasn’t as bad as I remember. Most of the songs are forgettable but “This is Halloween” has been stuck in my head ever since I watched it. Maybe it’s the late October spirit in the air, but I do admit to actually liking that song a bit.

The boogie man song is also clever in its voodoo style, but I couldn’t like it very much because: He is another potato body character; He and his lab are wrinkly and asymmetrical; and lastly, and this is the big one, he is getting ready to torture Santa Claus! And Santa just has this terrified helpless look as a literal voodoo doll full of bugs strings him up and sings a song about how he is going to torture him in terrible ways. What the fuck, man?!

Santa Torture
Time to torture Santa! Everyone’s favorite Christmas tradition.

In general though, most of the songs aren’t that impressive. The vocals are mostly spoken or sung in a more normal way. There are a few moments where Jack can sign with gusto but for the most part, unimpressive for a “musical” movie.

I am also confused as to whether this is a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. My gut says that this is a Christmas movie with a spooky twist to separate it from the overly jolly Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer type stop-motion movies. It’s for those too edgy goth teens and scene kids who want an alternative Christmas movie instead of a happy fun time that the little kids want. Which is probably a huge reason I don’t like this movie. It reminds me, at every turn, that Christmas is waaaaaay better than Halloween.

Jack, the King of Halloween, is immediately enthralled with Christmas at first sight and wants to make Halloween Christmas. And well, it doesn’t go so well. An entire premise of the movie is about how Jack basically ruins Christmas by adding Halloween to it and bastardizing it into this failed mess of candy canes and severed heads.

This brings me to the last point I want to make about why I dislike this movie so much – Jack, and the audience, don’t really learn a life lesson about anything. I was hoping this movie had something to do with appreciating other cultures or culture sharing etc. The spreading and adoption of two diverse towns both celebrating two holidays and growing because of it. That would be a great lesson about how diversity and respect can lead to a mutual benefit. But no.

Essentially what happens is that Jack wants his town to be better, steals a perverse version of Christmas to his town, ruins Christmas in actual Christmas Town with his ambitious desires, and then realizes it’s probably best not to mess with other people’s stuff. Christmas Town is left terrorized and angry and (previously tortured) Santa is released to go fix Jack’s mess. Back in Halloween Town Jack realizes his calling wasn’t to be Santa and that he should stick to what he knows. Oh, and Sally, the “love interest” ends up with him in the end for pretty much no reason.

Lesson learned: Don’t bother exploring and respecting other cultures because you’ll fuck it up. Just stick to what you know and like and it’ll all be OK in the end. Not exactly the best lesson for a kid’s movie.

I hate Nightmare Before Christmas
This is Halloween! Filled with potato vampires, mayors, and fat kids, oh my!

Last quick hate point – Unfortunately, Disney itself didn’t learn this lesson from its movie and insists on ruining The Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland from October to January by converting the ride to a Nightmare Before Christmas version of the ride instead. Great idea, let’s take the actual cool and spooky version of a classic Disney attraction and ruin it by slapping a crappy movie theme over it. That way all the people who wanted to enjoy the real thing get a perverse and inferior version instead.

In conclusion, I still hate you, Nightmare Before Christmas; you gross, wrinkly, asymmetrical, potato-bodied, janky, torturous pile of Christmas-ruining “edgy” crap.



  1. Mark.Rouleau

    You know what I “hate”? Articles about something that the writer doesn’t like. Why bother? You’re not going to change anyone’s mind, and, quite frankly, it comes off as whiny. Why should anyone care about the things you *don’t* like? If you think there are better stop-motion animation films out there, write about those. You mention something called Kubo in your article, why not write about that? How about an article spotlighting great stop-animation movies?

    The thing I like about, for example, Greg Hatcher’s articles, is that he sometimes shines a light into bits of pop-culture I might not have been aware of. I couldn’t care less what his least favorite Bond movie was, but I might be willing to re-evaluate his most underrated one, if he makes a compelling case for it.

    1. I couldn’t care less what his least favorite Bond movie was, but I might be willing to re-evaluate his most underrated one, if he makes a compelling case for it.

      Well, for the record, it’s MOONRAKER that I hate the most, though I’m also the mutant that thought SKYFALL was just not good on a number of levels– most egregiously, that Bond fails utterly in everything he was trying to do. The honchos at MI6 were RIGHT to assess him as unfit. Eve was the one that was competent. As for the most underrated… challenge accepted. Either this Tuesday or next.

      And not to hijack the thread utterly, I’ll add that I don’t like THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS either. I’d even see Spencer’s assertion and raise it by adding that I really haven’t liked anything from Burton since BEETLEJUICE, and that includes his Batman movies. (Burton thinks in SCENES, not story, which is a big thing for me; his movies rarely make linear sense when you look at the plots, and his biggest hits were usually scripted by someone who had such a strong story that Burton couldn’t completely destroy it.)

      See what you started? I’m really quite a surly fellow when you get to know me. For that matter, most of us are. Spencer’s really younger and lighthearted compared to the rest of us old grumps, which is why Jim thought he’d be a good addition for us.

      1. Jeff Nettleton

        I’m right there with you. Burton was always one of the most over-rated directors for me, with a very limited number of exceptions. Beetlejuice is great; but, I always felt that was more due to the cast than the story itself. Batman is a bit uneven and I really, really like parts of it; but, other parts stop me dead in the film. The only other films I enjoy from Burton are Ed Wood (though it is total fiction and disjointed; it’s still fun) and Mars Attacks. Those are about the only ones that indulge in fun, not just weird and darkness. Watching Burton’s work makes me want to see a shrink about Burton’s emotional issues. For all of my grouchiness and pessimism, I like a bit of light in my entertainment. Mars Attacks has that; how can you not like fighting marauding aliens with Tom Jones and Slim Whitman recordings. It was also actually funny.

        I saw Nightmare in the theater and walked out underwhelmed. Not quite at hate; but, hugely disappointed and quite bored. It looked like someone sucked all of the color and charm out of Rankin-Bass, then dug through psychological files for every trauma they could find. Trite and sappy as it sounds, I’d rather watch Disney’s Pollyanna. At least Haley Mills and the rest of the cast are sincere. Burton always came across as the art student who dressed in black and created weird things for shock value, rather than actually expressed anything.

        I also agree about Skyfall. Quite frankly, Craig has been a big disappointment, to me, as Bond. I don’t blame him, either; I blame the bleak scripts, endless 9/11 metaphors, and a total lack of a sense of style and fun. I’ve been rewatching the old Bond films and they are fun! Moore’s goes a bit overboard; but, even Connery, at his deadliest, has fun in the role. Craig’s are just so dour. Who the heck wants to be James Bond, watching that? I also feel like I’ve been watching the same story over and over again. Casino Royale was the only one I liked and it felt like it was interrupted by the airport sequence and the end stuff felt tacked on.

        Of recent movies, the ones that have delivered what I used to enjoy about the Bond films are Kingsman and Man From UNCLE. Kingsman’s a bit more vulgar than it needs to be; but, it has the playful sense of mayhem and a good villain and henchperson. Man From UNCLE captured the spirit of the show, the period, and everyone is having a good time.

      2. John Trumbull

        I haven’t seen NIGHTMARE recently enough to comment on it intelligently, so what the hell, I’m just going to offer up my two cents on the digressions in the comments. 🙂

        I’ve gotten rather tired of Burton in general, and haven’t seen a movie of his since… CHARLIE & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY adaptation, maybe? (And, as noted by one of the commenters in my second Crisis on Earth-T column, HORRIBLE case of Originitis in that one. Willy Wonka’s dad was a dentist? Gag.) Basically, I’ve become tired of him applying the same goth aesthetic (and casting) to EVERYTHING.

        But I do like some of Burton’s movies quite a bit. ED WOOD and BIG FISH are definitely my favorites, probably because, like Greg noted, they have strong stories. And MARS ATTACKS is a bit overstuffed, but generally good goofy fun. And I am curious about his BIG EYES movie about Margaret Keane. If that pops up on Netflix, I’ll give it a go.

        I personally really like Daniel Craig as Bond, but I think it should be acknowledged that Craig, Dalton, and Brosnan all have a BIG handicap that Connery and Moore didn’t: the filmmakers have run out of Ian Fleming novels to adapt. So I think that they need to be graded on a bit of a curve because of that. I agree with Greg that SKYFALL is pretty overrated. Gorgeous cinematography, though. And I should probably shut up about Bond because there’s probably a future column in this.

        But yeah, The U.N.C.L.E. movie was too much fun. Too bad it didn’t do well enough to get a sequel.

      3. M-Wolverine

        Moonraker is Citizen Kane compared to Die Another Day.

        And it’s still too soon, but I’m beginning to wonder if Spectre won’t pass Moonraker up on the bottom of the tail end of the Bond list.

    2. Spencer Keane

      Mark, it was a piece I wrote because it was a topic that came up in my real life and I decided to revisit the movie and write an opinion piece. I was also selling some Nightmare Before Christmas toys at my job at Big Kid Collectables and wondered if the movie was as garbage as I remembered from before. I think that answer is pretty clear. If people find this article interesting or entertaining I’ve done my job. If they don’t that’s fine too. It’s an opinion piece. Simple as that. I fully understand that I am going against the grain with this one, and that’s sort of the fun of it all.

      Greg, yes Moonraker is terrible. I don’t even like Beetlejuice. However, Skyfall is my favorite Bond movie (probably have to re-watch them all again to confirm). So see, we all have different opinions. Maybe I’ll write an article about why I love Skyfall to appease people like Mark, above 😛

      Jeff, I agree with your statement about Kingsmen. It is utterly amazing. SO much better than I thought it would be. And that murderous one-shot church fight scene is absolutely ace. Damn, I should re-watch that movie again.

  2. dooronron

    I just “”hate”, “hate”, “hate”, “hate”, “HATE”” when people “hate” articles about what people don’t like. Put your smile on and have a good time! Killin’ my vibes.

  3. Man, I am right there with you. I’ve never much cared for this movie. I’ve got nothing at all against those who do, and I think I can understand why some would enjoy it, but I think everything this movie is trying to do to be appealing runs perfectly contrary to my aesthetics. I just… I just really don’t like it.

    And, honestly, it’s just not a particularly engaging, exciting story. It just sort of happens in the most blunt, direct, no-frills kind of 80 minute presentation possible and then it’s gone. I remember thinking it was alright in the theater, but was utterly shocked by the way it became such a phenomenon. Right looking movie at the right time, I guess. Shrug.

    1. Spencer Keane

      This. So much this. It’s just like when you watch it you go, “I just… ugh… I don’t like this!” And it takes you years to figure out why. That “Why” is what I tried to do here. Glad I am not alone.

  4. Caanan

    I’ve listened to the soundtrack to this movie infinitely more than watched it. I loved it as a “kid” (I was 14 when this came out) but find it hard to watch now.

    That said, this is a fairly obtuse hate article I’d expect to find elsewhere on the internet than here at this site. Ranting about your hate of the style is pointless. Art is objective, you cannot be swayed, so you totally don’t have to be.

    Other things though: This is not a Christmas movie. It was released the week before Halloween twice (it was re released as a 3D movie in 2007) so it’s clear what they were going for. A quick google and you would have -4 rage points already.

    All the cultural appropriation from the Hot Topic crowd after the fact cannot be blamed by the movie. I doubt anyone making this movie went in to it thinking it would make awesome bank for third party proprietors peddling toques, t-shirts and tumblers.

    Which brings me to my third point – Tim Burton. Who had nothing to do with making this movie. He is a producer, and yes, the character designs are based on his doodles, but Henry Selick directed this movie, and someone else wrote the script. Why he gets all the slack over this film is plain weird. (If you’re gonna ego your name all over something, you gotta take it though, I guess. Yes, I made ego a verb.)

    Kubo is indeed a masterful film and it’s sad that not everyone went to see it and it didn’t become the latest sensation – weird! But without the technological advances this movie brought us, Kubo wouldn’t exist. Of course something using the same technology now would look far better than the first movie to really use it 23 years ago. Kubo also uses cgi enhanced stop-mo to smooth it out. Something unavailable to Nightmare back in the stone ages where Mad Monster Party was the previous gold standard for stop motion flicks. (I excuse Wallace & Gromit from this as both that and Nightmare were making strides in their own directions at pretty much the same time.)

    I can’t argue with you on the themes of the movie. Jack is really just a child.

    I’m not here to change your opinion or take your rage/hate away from you, but there’s enough half-thought rage on the internet already, isn’t there?

    What do you love?

    1. Spencer Keane

      Art certainly is objective and I mentioned that to some degree. I simply wanted to point out some reasons as to why that is the case for those of us seemingly in the minority.

      I mentioned that I cannot quite pinpoint whether it was a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. It feels like it is more Christmas-centric but maybe that’s a reason I dislike it so much. That theme was missed on me. Maybe others understood it better. It’s a weird mix and hard to nail down, which I have a problem with.

      Hot topic is just a modern cultural appropriation. I was 1 years old when this movie was released, so a lot of what I see is young people today adopting the movie as some sort of goth alternative Christmas movie.

      Yes, Tim Burton barely had anything to do with this movie aside from producing it, and getting his hands in minor things I’m sure. BUT he did slap his name in the goddamn title of the thing so I will harp on him. You don’t call something Tim Burton’s ___________ and not expect to give him crap for it.

      You are correct about Kubo. Of course, films like this helped exapand the stop-motion industry, use of CGI etc. but that doesn’t mean that this film’s ugliness is forgivable. in my opinion this movie is gross. And not just because of the stop-motion. Character design and color palette etc lend to that a lot.

      Yes there is plenty of rage. I love lots of things! You will hear about those things too I am certain. This is just a topic that came up in my life and I thought sharing it with y’all could be entertaining and interesting.

  5. Louis Bright-Raven

    Mark Rouleau: KUBO & THE TWO STRINGS is a recent stop action / CGI animation film that was released in theatres this past August. The DVD and Blu-ray release date is set for November 22, 2016 and available on Digital HD from Amazon Video and iTunes on November 8, 2016. The film was critically praised and will probably receive numerous award nominations and wins, but unfortunately it was completely ignored at the box office during the summer and hasn’t even made it’s budget back in Domestic Box Office, mainly because consumers went to see SAUSAGE PARTY and SUICIDE SQUAD instead when the movie was in theatres.

  6. Louis Bright-Raven

    Greg Hatcher:

    The point Mark was making (and Caanan as well) is that Spencer’s article here really doesn’t seem to fit the “mission statement” / attitude that AJS supposedly represents.

    To quote Jim from his Lucky 10,000 article (10/2/2016): “We’re sharing stuff we like, and if it’s something that’s new to you, you’re one of today’s lucky 10,000. If, at the end, you walk away thinking about how great Plop!, Doc Savage, the Roto Rooter Good Time Christmas Band, Ghastly Engels, or Howard Hawks were, we’ll have done our job. It’s what we’re here for.

    In return, we hope you’ll comment with your own favorite finds and tell us what you’re excited about. The key point is, it’s possible to say ‘X is awesome’ without adding ‘Y sucks.’ Kicking over the other guy’s sand castle doesn’t make yours any better.”

    The tone of Spencer’s article not only ‘kicks down the sand castle’ (i.e. the movie), it then proceeds to piss and shit all over it and then lights it on fire. That’s not the type of article we expect from any of you guys, and so if I may suggest I’d say we’re disappointed in Spencer not because we disagree with his views about the movie, but because everyone would have been better served had he instead wrote an article about Halloween themed movies he actually enjoys and would think we would enjoy.

    1. Spencer Keane

      This is a fair point and something I will consider in the future. Thank you for your feedback.

      As I mentioned in some previous comments, this was a topic that arose during conversation and at work this past week and I got to thinking, “why is it that I hate this movie so much? I don’t get why people like it.” If this article was at all interesting or enlightening to those who DO like the movie, that’s great. If not, well, maybe next time. I’m not meaning to ruin anyone’s day with this article. If you like the movie more power to you, just lending an alternative opinion and taking you through my (hate-filled) journey haha.

      Learning experience. Thanks for your input.

  7. Louis Bright-Raven

    You’re welcome, Spencer.

    I wasn’t defending the film. Perhaps I didn’t make it clear that in this particular instance, I am one of the “lucky 10,000” – I’ve never watched the movie. So I have no particular horse / dog in the race. But reading through all the trivialities of what you didn’t like about the movie (the visual design, the soundtrack, the ‘grossness’, etc.) was like me being Santa chained up and having to listen to Voodoo Boogeyman sing about torturing me. I say this because it is comical and ironic to me, and I say it in light-hearted spirit, not as judgment or criticism of you, just to be clear.

    I think you have a couple of valid points – the confusion of what the film is trying to be (Is it a Halloween or a Christmas movie? Perhaps the film is sort of trying to be both and fails, I can’t say.), and the sense that in your opinion, the movie doesn’t have a good lesson / message for the audience. Those are good talking points, Spencer. I think had you focused on those two points, instead of burying them under a rant against the visual design / ‘ugliness’ of the movie, the soundtrack, the other stuff, you would have really gotten to the crux of why you don’t like the film, and I think Mark, Caanan, myself wouldn’t have reacted to the piece in the manner we did. But even with that said, I would have liked something more than a ‘why I don’t like’ piece when that doesn’t seem to fit the M.O. of the site. (Again, just my perception based on what MacQuarrie wrote; there wasn’t anything saying you guys were never going to talk about what you don’t like.) I would have liked to have seen you talk about some other Halloween animated works that you enjoyed to contrast against TNBC, too.

    That having been said, “learning experience”.

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