Greetings again from the darkness. Somehow it’s been a full 20 years since this groundbreaking film was released. It’s a rare combination of cult and holiday, and even all these years later, it’s incredibly entertaining. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the lead character is a societal misfit who means well. After all, the story is based on a Tim Burton poem.
While watching the film, what strikes me is that this was a totally unique and creative world designed by Burton and director Henry Selick. Mr. Selick is a stop-motion expert known also for Coraline (Oscar nominated) and James and the Giant Peach. Complimenting the fantastical look and characters are the witty songs penned by Danny Elfman. Mr. Elfman is now one of the most prolific and successful composers working in the movie industry. At the time, he was better known as the front man for the party band Oingo Boingo (his Batman score changed that!).
Since Pixar began it’s (well earned) domination of the animation world in 1995, we have come to expect major stars as voice actors. However, we landed inn Halloween Town prior to Pixar, so instead of big stars, we get Danny Elfman (singing) and Chris Sarandon (speaking) teaming up for Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. Catherine O’Hara is effective as Sally, Paul Reubens (Pee Wee Herman) stands out as Lock (of Lock, Shock and Barrel). The two most outstanding voice performances come from the late William Hickey as Dr Finkelstein (mad scientist), and Broadway star Ken Page as bad guy (and worm-infested) Oogie Boogie.
There has been debate on whether this is best served as a Halloween movie or Christmas movie. The desire and hope to bring positive change to the world seems to fit the Christmas spirit, but the goblins and ghouls are sure to provide a nice scare for young kids. Especially fun are the “new toys” created by the work crews in Halloween Town as they prepare for a good will holiday they don’t quite understand.
Whatever your preferred time of year, this one is to be appreciated for it’s creative look and imaginative story and songs. Rather than being created to sell toys, this 3 year production changed the standards for animation films … that’s the gift that keeps giving every year!
Instead of my usual posting of the movie trailer, I thought you might enjoy this rendering of the original Tim Burton poem that inspired this movie. As an added bonus, it’s recited by the great Christopher Lee: