The Principals: Henry Selick (directed) Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara
The Premise: Jack Skellington, the cool dude around Halloweentown, accidentally finds his way into Christmas town and inspired by the novel holiday inadvertently endangers the sanctity of both. Filmed in the now famous stop-motion aesthetic developed by Tim Burton and Henry Selick, it would go on to become enormously popular, be an annual 3D re-release, and stock the shelves of Hot Topics nationwide.
Is it Good: While I would gladly blast if off the face of the world to undo every dollar of profit Hot Topic has ever brought in, it’s quite good. The songs are catchy, the animation is bold and interesting, and the story is original. There’s a wonderfully unmatched blend of scary and sweet, fun and frightening. While Tim Burton tends to get all of the credit (half of which he does deserve) and be the only name mentioned, but Henry Selick’s fantastic direction gives this the spark that puts it over the top. Now that we’ve seen Selick completely untethered with Coraline to do his own thing, it’s even more apparent how much talent he was bringing to the table.
That said, Tim Burton’s aesthetic inspired a team of animators to produce an incredibly rich and detailed stage of a world for the story to transpire within. Even Danny Elfman, who was still close enough in temporal proximity to Oingo Boingo to still be writing interesting, fresh music is a standout here, endowing Jack Skellington with a wonderful singing voice.
Is it worth a look: Quite possibly an annual look. Like many great films that inspire stupid cults, the goods are ultimately there, and this thing is a classic, no doubt. The animation is so fluid and well-done, but the effect so definitely analogue that it feels timeless. This could have been made thirty years ago or three.
Random Anecdotes: An anniversary album was released a few years ago and included the track below, a performance of This Is Halloween by Marilyn Manson. While this was obviously engineered to appeal to the aforementioned cult of silly goth teenagers with Zero The Ghost Dog tattoos on their ankles that they’ll regret in five years, it’s surprisingly good. Enjoy.