Movie-lovers everywhere, unite. It’s time to talk about one of everyone’s favorite festive films, The Nightmare Before Christmas. With it’s unique animation style, incredible music, and fantastic visuals, this stop-motion fantasy can easily be defined as one of the most iconic holiday movies of all time.
Unfortunately, while it’s obvious that everyone loves the magic of “Jack and Sally”, what’s not so clear is whether this media spectacular is supposed to be about Christmas, or Halloween. In fact, the debate’s been raging on for as long as the film has been around.
Is The Nightmare Before Christmas a Christmas movie? Or is Halloween the best time to watch it? We might have the answer to the mystery right here at Sporcle.
Halloween Vs. Christmas: There’s a Side for Both
Most seasonal films are pretty easy to place into a specific category. Your horror and thriller films that feature characters like Freddy Krueger and Chucky the doll are clearly in the realm of “Halloween” movies. Even films like Hocus Pocus and Casper have a distinctly “spooky” theme.
At the same time, there’s not a lot of debate around whether The Muppet Christmas Carol, Home Alone, or Elf are “Christmassy” or not. So, why does The Nightmare Before Christmas have to be so ambiguous when it comes to festive celebration?
On one hand, it’s easy to make the argument that most of the film does take place in Halloween Town, and features a character called the “Pumpkin King”, who happens to be a living skeleton. There’s also the fact that we have an (adorable) ghost dog called Zero, plenty of witches, vampires, and ghouls, and of course, Oogie Boogie – a living nightmare sack filled with snakes and bugs.
However, even with all that information in play, it’s still not easy to classify The Nightmare Before Christmas as a Halloween flick. After all, the whole story is about the magic of Christmas. A good portion of the tale is set in Christmas Town, and many of the characters focus on the excitement and preparation that happens in the run-up to Christmas.
In other words, while there’s a lot of focus on Halloween here, there’s also plenty of insight into the idea of Christmas too, with everything from trees, to decorations, Santa, and gift-giving.
Getting an Insight from the Movie’s Director
Since the movie debuted in 1993 (during late October, we should note), there’s been a huge amount of controversy between fans as to which side of the fence it should sit on. In fact, the conversation was so significant, that in 2015, director Henry Selick had to step into the fray and give his opinion on the matter.
Selick, also known for his work on Coraline and James of the Giant Peach, appeared in a Question and Answer session in Colorado, at the Telluride Horror Show for Halloween. On that day, a small girl in the audience stepped up and asked him, on the behalf of every Sporcler and movie-lover out there, whether The Nightmare Before Christmas was a movie for Christmas, or Halloween.
Though Selick seemed pretty uncomfortable about having to give an answer, he eventually confirmed that (at least in his opinion), it was a Halloween movie. While Henry explained that a lot of the story does focus on Christmas, the core of the film is devoted to the inhabitants of Halloween Town, and the spooky nature of the characters.
Unfortunately, insight from the director hasn’t been enough to quash the debate yet. On Twitter, and throughout the web, people are still arguing about whether he was right, or wrong. After all, a lot of viewers find that the movie makes them feel more excited about Christmas, then thrilled for the idea of Halloween.
For now, the simplest, and most universal answer might be that The Nightmare Before Christmas can be a movie for both holidays, depending on your personal preferences.
Test you Christmas movie knowledge by playing this Christmas Movie Posters quiz.
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.