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Halloween DVDs 2008

The Nightmare Before Christmas: (reviewed on the podcast back in September) Once upon a time, the Walt Disney company didn't know what to do with Tim Burton. He toiled in the animation department, creating the stop-motion short "Vincent" and directing the live-action short "Frankenweenie," about the descendant of Victor Frankenstein bringing his dog back to life.

But both those shorts proved problematic (though visionary) for the then conservatively family-friendly company. So Burton went over to Warner Brothers, where he hit the trifecta with Pee-Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice and Batman.

Eventually Disney lured him back, and this stop-motion epic, based on a poem Burton wrote as a young man. Directed by Henry Selick but chock-full of Burton's sensibility, this movie tells of the time the Lord of Halloween, Jack Skellington, tried to take over Christmas.

Visually inventive and a tad disturbing (in a good way), The Nightmare Before Christmas straddles both holidays neatly. The only real drawback is that composer Danny Elfman struggled to turn this into a kind of operetta, and thus doesn't really show off the great melodic sense he had with Oingo Boingo.

Of course, Jack Skellington became pretty popular as a licensed character, and now every year he invades Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. The Anniversary Edition DVD released last month includes a tour of Jack's version, which can be watched with the ride's soundtrack, or with the Imagineers' commentary. Then you can watch a featurette explaining the design work that goes into it.

That alone makes this a worthy purchase for me, but if you already have an edition of this, Disney doesn't offer much else new. As in their laser disc release many years ago, the set includes "Vincent" and "Frankenweenie." The commentary and featurettes on Burton and Selick, too, are recycled from earlier releases. Since Burton's idol Vincent Price has passed on, the last remaining horror giant Christopher Lee reads the original poem, which is kind of cool.

So if you're having a slight post-Trick or Treat letdown, pop this one in and remember that it can still be a Black Christmas between now and Black Friday.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (2-Disc Collector's Edition + Digital Copy)

Derek McCaw


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