As the calendar creeps quickly towards Christmas Day on the 25th of December, we’re counting down the days with a special advent calendar of festive films, revealing a set of rare images for each chosen film to surprise and delight film fans.
And what better a place to start than with Tim Burton’s classic supernatural animation?
Released in 1993, and directed by Henry Selick, who would go on to release the wonderful and equally creepy Coraline, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas was as bold an expression as animation had ever been, wonderfully using the stop motion medium that still seems the ideal companion to Burton’s iconic and idiosyncratic character designs. There is something intangibly supernatural about the medium that also lends itself to this sort of material and in Burton’s tale of topsy-turvy innocence lost the medium found its first, perfect story.
The film follows Jack Skellington’s attempts to bring Christmas to Halloween Town, after he stumbles on the magical holiday world by accident, and the comical and catastrophic results of his attempts to teach the ghoulish residents the cultures and conventions of Christmas. Everything goes wrong when Jack kidnaps “Sandy Claws” and leaves him in the care of Oogie Boogie, and Jack must quickly rescue and reinstate him before Christmas is ruined for the world’s children.
Despite the traditionally festive story-line, Burton’s art design and the darker spirit of the film make this as grown up as animation gets, and that spirit and the iconic look of the film have confirmed it as a firm cult favourite that re-appears in circulation every Christmas time.
1. Early Jack Design
The exceptional Art of Tim Burton book offers a precious insight into Tim Burton’s imagination, and the process his characters go through to make it from page to screen. And since the earliest sketches show abandoned ideas and the seeds of favourite characters, that insight is enormously valuable to fans.
This early sketch of Jack Skellington shows Burton’s idea for a taller, more arachnid Jack, and while there is certainly a lot of this version of the character remaining in the final film, the decision to make him more human-like probably suits Burton’s attempt to have us sympathise with his conflict.
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