The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition (1993)
Buena Vista Home Entertainment
Cast: Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey
Extras: Commentary Track, Featurettes, Deleted Scenes, Digital Copy, Storyboards, Short Films

An enchanting tale that is a prime candidate to show off Blu-Ray's incredible definition, image clarity and color range, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" has long become a fan favorite with a huge following and is a film that I have eagerly awaited in high definition and simply couldn't wait to check out when it arrived in our offices.

"The Nightmare Before Christmas" comes from the mind of director Tim Burton. Set in Halloween-town, it is up to the citizens of the town to plan and execute the Halloween holiday, and make sure that it's very scary. Jack Skellington (voiced by Chris Sarandon, sung by Danny Elfman), a lanky figure with a skull for a head, is the leader of Halloween-town. One day, while wandering in the forest, Jack finds a series of doors, each one leading to a different holiday. Jack opens the door marked with a Christmas tree and is whisked off to Christmas-town. Coming from the dark streets of Halloween-town, Jack is mesmerized by the bright lights and colors of Christmas. Jack decides that Santa Claus should take the year off and Jack will oversee Christmas. But, since Jack only knows how to scare people and doesn't know the first thing about making and handing out presents, everyone is in for a big surprise.

It's the simple, yet brilliant premise at the center of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" which makes the film work so well. The notion of whole towns built around major holidays is a fascinating one, and this imaginative plot device immediately sucks in the viewer. (Of course, we're left wanting to see the other towns. Is Thanksgiving-town run by turkeys?) Along with the intriguing plot, we are offered many wonderful characters. Despite the fact that we are watching stop-motion puppets, each character is given a real personality and you care about each one of them. Jack Skellington walks the line between hero and anti-hero at times (after all, he does almost wreck Christmas), but we know that deep-down, Jack is just trying to do the right thing and this makes his character all the more lovable.

The other facet of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" that makes it a classic is the animation. This was the first feature-length stop-motion film and the 3D art form gives the characters a depth and feel that cel-animation would have lacked. Through this pain-staking process, the animators have given us a truly unique vision and have been able to create a world that we've never seen before. While the film was, of course, a landmark at the time, it is amazing to see just how much the technology has progressed with Tim Burton's later release "Corpse Bride," another jewel that has to be seen to be believed. Nonetheless "The Nightmare Before Christmas" holds up remarkably well and is still every bit as impressive and magically enchanting as it was on the first day.

"The Nightmare Before Christmas" itself is presented in its original 1.66:1 widescreen format on this release, in an incredible 1080p high definition transfer. I am not quite sure how to put this into words, but this transfer is so staggering that it will take your breath away. With its absolutely solid blacks, the transfer has a visual depth that goes way beyond "regular" and adds to the style of the overall film. The incredible level of detail found in the presentation will take your appreciation of the film and the work to new heights as you can suddenly see details that were previously lost in the comparably low resolution video presentations. Add to it the wonderful color that makes out the atmosphere of the film and you have one sparkling, magical presentation that is en par with only the film itself. Overall the look of the transfer, its detail, definition, colors and contrast make this one of the most remarkable showcase discs on Blu-Ray yet.

But Disney didn't stop there. A full 7.1 channel lossless Dolby Digital TrueHD audio track rounds out the presentation, bringing Danny Elfman's phenomenal score to life like never before. Every nuance, every change in timbre, every little accent is coming through here with a clarity and transparency that has yet to be surpassed. With a wide sound field and frequency response, the track makes very good use of spatial integration, giving you an active presentation that comes from all directions. The dialogue and sound effects are well integrated and clear, never competing for dominance.

This Collector's Edition is loaded with extra features, many of them never before seen, including a short new welcome message by Tim Burton. Also included is an all-new commentary track featuring Tim Burton, director Henry Selick and the incomparable Danny Elfman. For fans of the film, this track is simply a must-hear, as it is filled with valuable insights and tidbits about the genesis of the film.

Also look for the original Tim Burton poem narrated by Christopher Lee and a selection of featurettes taking you behind the scenes of the making of the movie, or comparing the different styles used for the different worlds in the movie.

A selection of deleted scenes as well as film-to-storyboard comparisons are also included, together with a trailer and poster gallery.

While this may be a lot of extras, it's still not all. For all Tim Burton fans, Disney has also, once again, included the short films "Vincent" and "Frankenweenie" on the release. "Frankenweenie" comes in an uncut version with a new introduction by Tim Burton, here. In case you are not yet familiar with these adorable films, "Vincent" a 7-minute black and white short about a young boy named Vincent who thinks he's Vincent Price. The piece is actually narrated by Vincent Price himself, who reads the Seussian words of Tim Burton. The short features stop-motion animation and lets us know immediately that the Tim Burton style that we all know has been in place since the beginning of his career. (Also, note all of the "Family Dog" characters in the film.) In short, "Vincent" is a pure delight.

"Frankenweenie" is a 30-minute short, which is a homage/parody of "Frankenstein". This black-and-white short is very cute and charming, and once again, gives us glimpses of things to come from Burton. But, it's oddly paced and drags in the middle. Nonetheless, it's always a pleasure to see how a director's vision evolved over the years and "Frankenweenie" clearly shows Burton preference of gothic themes and his full understanding of their workings.

There's so much here to explore that I'm sure I forgot something, but I am sure you get the idea of the quality of release we are looking at here. To round things out, the disc also contains a digital copy of the movie for playback on mobile devices or even your computer.

There can be no doubt that "The Nightmare Before Christmas" on Blu-Ray is an absolute must for any fan of the film. No high def movie collection can afford to skip this incredible release of one of the most affable animated films ever made. And to be quite honest, if you haven't joined the high definition bandwagon yet, "The Nightmare Before Christmas" is a solid reason to make the investment because I promise you, this release will knock your socks off.