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  • Writer's pictureShannon Heibler

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

While I specifically asked my random number generator for a Christmas movie this week, I unapologetically watch this movie year round. AND LET ME TELL YOU WHY!

Part of the appeal of this movie, for me, is that it was verboten in my childhood home. I was nine when it came out but my mom thought it looked satanic (ask me how she reacted to me playing D&D or asking for tarot cards for Christmas!) so I didn't see it until my wonderful friend, Andy, introduced it to me in college. Love at first sight. This movie has so much to offer in its production values, but the heart of it is why we love it. The universal but rarely discussed feeling of being trapped in your own skin. In the role you've been assigned, even if you excel at it. And then it goes further to explore not succeeding when you take that leap. Especially for a Disney movie. It's beautiful because Jack falls short but he grows from the experience and he's a better pumpkin king for it. One of my favorite scenes in any movie EVER is "Poor Jack" - Jack in the graveyard after he's shot down Christmas Eve. The song is beautiful and so honest and the visuals breathtaking, especially as a mirror of Jack's walk through the Halloweentown cemetery, singing "Jack's Lament." If I were a betting person and it made any sense to bet on a thing I decide the outcome of, I would have bet that my project this week would center on that moment.

I think (hope?) we can all relate to Jack. This year I really do. Jumping from something I excel in but often chafe at and ultimately falling short... I look forward to my own return to Halloweentown.

And speaking of my career, Sally gave me some excellent sewing/costume related chuckles in this viewing. The moment when Jack is explaining the Santa costume to her: "It's easy. Just follow the pattern. [shows crude illustration] This part is red." I cackled. I've had so many discussions like that in theater.

Stray takeaways:

-I bristle at the title card of "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" in the same way I bristle at "Matt Groening's The Simpsons". Yeah, he had the idea and his aesthetic informed it, but Henry Selick directed the shit out of it and I wish more people knew his name.

-Catherine O'Hara. Catherine. O' Hara.

-Danny Elfman is so influential on this film through his score but his singing voice for Jack. It's rare that the singing voice gets notable credit let alone top billing but it's stellar work and he gave Jack his soul.

-This was my first time seeing the film since I watched its episode of Prop Culture, a series I cannot recommend enough. On the Nightmare episode, you got to meet so many of the technicians behind the camera and you could see how much they genuinely loved making this movie. And watching it again, I could feel it too.

-The lighting is divine. The use of shadows incredible.

-There are so many great things about this project but one of the best is noticing details for the first time. Christmastown, in particular, stood out. I very nearly made the two-dimensional polar bear the elves are riding. It's so cute!!

But in the end, I was inspired by that illustration of Jack and I've always wanted an excuse to try linocut print.

Ink on paper.


-HI I HAVE A NEW FAVORITE THING! I have lots to learn, clearly. But for my first lino cutting ever? I'm pretty damn pleased.

-I wish I would have left more visible cut marks.

-I kind of want to sell these?

-I have a new favorite thing.

Please ignore my messy messy table.

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15 dec. 2020

So many great memories of watching this together! So many tears. So much joy! Love love love the print! Get thee to an online marketplace-ery.

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