Filmsite Movie Review
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
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Plot Synopsis (continued)

Jack's Entry Into Christmas Town:

He grinned when fascinated and overwhelmed by his discovery of the marvelous holiday town with tremendous good-will for all. The beautiful town was protectively surrounded by snow-covered mountains. It had all the traditional ingredients: a large X-mas tree in the town square, a toy train, ice-skating elves, snowflakes, a snowman (with a green top hat and candy-cane umbrella), candy-cane lamp-posts, elves on a sleigh, strings of brightly-colored lights, ginger-bread houses with front-door wreaths, mistletoe, and chestnuts roasting on a fire. Every single tree in the town was Christmas tree-shaped and decorated.

Every resident of Christmas Town was wearing a hat, signifying some kind of shared power. The colors associated with the town were the traditional reds and greens, and also blues. Jack watched as three small elves with curved white caps (with red pom-poms on the end) were transported on a large wind-up toy polar bear and others on a steam train, and there was a town merry-go-round.

As Jack marveled at everything, he delivered a show-stopping song-and-dance "What's This?" in reaction to the joyous and unfamiliar nature of Christmas Town - he was amazed - "There's children throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads, They're busy building toys and absolutely no one's dead!":

What's this? What's this? There's color everywhere / What's this? There's white things in the air / What's this? I can't believe my eyes / I must be dreaming Wake up, Jack, this isn't fair / What's this? / What's this? What's this? There's something very wrong / What's this? there's people singing songs / What's this? The streets are lined with little creatures laughing / Everybody seems so happy Have I possibly gone daffy?

What is this? What's this? There's children throwing snowballs instead of throwing heads / They're busy building toys and absolutely no one's dead / There's frost in every window Oh, I can't believe my eyes / And in my bones I feel the warmth / That's coming from inside

Oh, look, what's this? They're hanging mistletoe / They kiss, why that looks so unique, inspired / They're gathering around Hearing stories / Roasting chestnuts on a fire What's this? / What's this? In here they've got a little tree / How queer And who would ever think, and why? / They're covering it with tiny little things They've got electric lights on strings / And there's a smile on everyone So now correct me if I'm wrong / This looks like fun This looks like fun / Oh, could it be I got my wish? What's this?

Oh my, what now? The children are asleep / But, look, there's nothing underneath No ghouls / No witches here to scream and scare them or ensnare them / Only little cozy things secure inside their dreamland

What's this? The monsters are all missing and the nightmares can't be found / And in their place there seems to be good feeling all around / Instead of screams, I swear I can hear music in the air / The smell of cakes and pies are absolutely everywhere / The sights, the sounds They're everywhere and all around / I've never felt so good before / This empty place inside of me is filling up / I simply cannot get enough I want it, oh, I want it / Oh, I want it for my own I've got to know, I've got to know / What is this place that I have found? What is this?

He stopped short when he ran into one of two tall, red-and-white striped candycane poles that were holding up an attractive sign leading into the town. He looked up at the sign reading "CHRISTMAS TOWN," garlanded with colorful electric X-mas lights and a green wreath. He also noticed the silhouetted figure of a large individual calling out: "Ho-ho-ho-ho!" - the familiar words of Santa Claus.

Jack's Elated Return to Halloween Town:

Back in Halloween Town, the upset Mayor announced: "We've got to find Jack! There's only 365 days left till next Halloween!", but was corrected by Wolfman (Glenn Walters) - one day had already passed. Everyone had been looking for Jack:

Clown: I looked in every mausoleum.
Witches: We opened the sarcophagi!
Mr. Hyde: I tromped through the Pumpkin Patch.
Vampire: I peeked behind the Cyclops' Eye. I did, but he wasn't there!

An alarm was sounded by cranking a screeching cat statue. Even the lake had recently been dredged.

Still a captive in Dr. Finkelstein's castle tower, Sally prepared to poison a kettle of soup being heated on the stove for Finkelstein's lunch (with Nightshade's awful smell covered over by Worm's Wort and Frog's Breath). She ingeniously fooled her captor by using a slotted spoon (during a taste-test), and he gulped down the soup and soon became unconscious. She escaped to attend Jack's town meeting later in the evening.

Jack suddenly reappeared, driving a motorized car pulling a trailer behind him with a huge canvas bag. He called for a town meeting to be held that evening with Halloween Town's citizens. At a coffin-shaped podium, Jack delivered a speech to the audience about his findings in Christmas Town. The gray curtain hanging behind him was decorated with broken hearts that had been stitched back together. He shared his wondrous and marvelous discoveries in the song: "Town Meeting Song,"

There were objects so peculiar They were not to be believed / All around things to tantalize my brain / It's a world unlike anything I've ever seen / And as hard as I tried I can't seem to describe / Like a most improbable dream / But you must believe when I tell you this / It's as real as my skull and it does exist / Here, let me show you.

He pulled a cord to open the curtain behind him, revealing what Christmas was all about (wrapped gifts, Xmas trees, and stockings). He had brought with him a decorated Christmas tree, a wrapped present in a box with bright-colored paper and a red bow, and an oversized Christmas stocking. The townsfolk weren't very impressed with his items: The Halloweeners were so unaware of the conception of Christmas that they compared everything to their entrenched ideas about Halloween. When Jack held up the gift box, they asked:

Harlequin Demon: A box?
Devil: Is it steel?
Wolfman: Are there locks?
Harlequin Demon: Is it filled with a pox?
Devil: A pox? How delightful, a pox!

He tried to steer them to understand that it was only a brightly-wrapped present with a bow. But there were more questions from flying Witch Sisters:

A bow? But why? How ugly. What's in it, what's in it?

Others added their guesses about what was inside the box:

Clown: It's a bat!
Monster Under the Stairs: Will it bend?
Clown: It's a rat.
Monster Under the Stairs: Will it break?
Undersea Gal: Perhaps it's the head that I found in the lake.

Jack became a bit exasperated: "Listen now You don't understand / That's not the point of Christmas Land." When he demonstrated how to hang the stocking on a wall, the three Mr. Hydes (two were nested under Mr. Hyde's hat and stacked onto each other) in the audience asked:

Mr. Hyde: Oh, yes, does it still have a foot?
Medium Mr. Hyde: Let me see, let me look
Small Mr. Hyde: Is it rotted and covered with gook?

Jack answered that the stocking was often filled with candy or small toys. The Mummy and Winged Demon asked: "Small toys?" More ghoulish questions were asked:

Winged Demon: Do they bite?
Mummy: Do they snap?
Winged Demon: Or explode in the sack?
Corpse Kid: Or perhaps they just spring out And scare girls and boys!

The Mayor lauded Jack and immediately endorsed the idea of Christmas: "Let's try it at once." But Jack was concerned that they didn't really understand the whole point of Christmas: "Everyone, please Now not so fast / There's something here that you don't quite grasp."

As the climax to his presentation, Jack mused to himself: "Well, I may as well give them what they want." He described a fearsome, bellowing, huge red-suited man named Santa Claus (pronounced 'Sandy Claws' to sound more scary) who flew through the fog with large sacks in the moonlight - it appeared to be the only thing that the Halloweeners could fully relate to - the scary leader of Christmas Land:

And the best I must confess I have saved for the last / For the ruler of this Christmas Land / Is a fearsome king with a deep, mighty, voice / Least, that's what I've come to understand / And I've also heard it told that he's something to behold / Like a lobster huge and red / When he sets out to sleigh (interpreted as 'slay') with his rain gear on / Carting bulging sacks with his big great arms / That is so I've heard it said / And on a dark, cold night under full moonlight / He flies into a fog like a vulture in the sky / And they call him / Sandy Claws

With completely good intentions, Jack thought it might be great fun to administer Christmas and take over the duties of Santa Claus. However, he wasn't so sure that they fully understood what the Christmas spirit was all about: "Well, at least they're excited But they don't understand / That special kind of feeling / In Christmas Land / Oh, well."

Jack's Obsession With Christmas and How to Take Over the Holiday:

In the next segment of the animated film, Jack sequestered himself in his tower castle that night where he struggled to rationally understand the phenomenon of Christmas. Before a roaring fire, he sat next to a stack of books that he was reading, some with generic titles ("Yuletide," "Xmas," "Noel," "Santa" and "R" (Rudolph)), and perused the Christmas classic by Charles Dickens: "A Christmas Carol." The cover image on the "R" book foreshadowed that Jack's dog Zero had a glowing-nose like Rudolph, who guided Santa's sled.

A spider-web in Jack's study was decorated with Christmas-tree lights. He asked himself as he tried to understand Christmas rationally and scientifically: "There's got to be a logical way to explain this Christmas thing." He grabbed a book titled "THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD." Jack paid a visit to Dr. Finkelstein's laboratory, where the mad scientist had again locked up Sally after another attempt to poison him: "You've poisoned me for the last time, you wretched girl." Jack requested some equipment for a series of experiments he was conducting. Sally overheard the request and asked herself: "Experiments?" The mad scientists advised: "Curiosity killed the cat, you know."

Jack returned to his macabre home and unloaded his bag of test tubes, beakers and a microscope. He inspected a red holly berry under magnification until he cracked the glass slide, and dipped a candy-cane into boiling hot water (heated by volts from a battery) until it melted. He attempted to cut a paper snowflake but realized that he had produced a spider. He cut open the front of a teddy bear to reveal fuzzy white stuffing inside. He crushed a decorative Christmas tree bulb into a solution, causing a greenish-glowing reaction ("But what does it mean?"). The results of all of his experimental testing included the destruction of every item.

Meanwhile, Sally was assembling a basket of food and other goodies for Jack and then flung herself out of her imprisoning tower window to again escape from Finkelstein. Due to her rag-doll composition, she survived, but lost one of her arms and legs. Sally promptly grabbed a needle from her hair and deftly reattached both body parts. She grabbed the basket of goodies (that she had just lowered with an ingeniously-created pulley system) and proceeded to Jack's place. The enraged mad doctor discovered that she was again missing.

In Jack's office, there were calculations on a blackboard as he attempted to quantify Christmas with the scientific method. One crossed-out formula was written as 3 x Pi (squared) multiplied (X) by 12 = Santa Hat (Christmas Day). The true numerical answer to the formula was approx. 355.31. Equate 355 to the 355th day of the year (December 21st). Hence, Jack had discarded the formula, but his answer was actually the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere (Winter Solstice). In addition, the crossed-out 12.25.93 was a reference to the date of Christmas Day in the year the film was released.

Another of his formulas included various Xmas elements, including Sugar Plum Visions and Egg Nog, chestnuts over an open fire divided by a Christmas bell, and 12 over the square root of Dec 25 plus "Sandy" Claws (visual of Pac-Man type mouth with Teeth) = Christmas ?

At Jack's place, Sally used another rope and pulley system to raise the basket up to Jack's tower window as a present to show her affection for him, but then due to her bashfulness, she disappeared without a word before he could thank her for the gift - the skeletal remains of a fish and a bottle of wine that when uncorked released a ghostly butterfly vapor that flapped its wings and disappeared. As she sat below in the shadow of a rock wall, she had a frightening premonition that Jack's plan to bring Christmas to Halloween Town would end in disaster. As she plucked petals from a lone forget-me-not flower, it transformed into a glittering Christmas tree, but then spontaneously burst into flames.

Jack's Continuing Obsession With Taking Over Christmas Time:

Because of Jack's zealous obsession with trying to capture the neighboring town's jollyness, the townsfolk (the Vampires, Wolfman, the Corpse Mom and Corpse Kid) thought he had expired, and sang about their fears of his demise as dawn approached (signaled by a Skeletal Rooster crowing):

Something's up with Jack Something's up with Jack
Don't know if we're ever going to get him back
He's all alone up there locked away inside
Never says a word
Hope he hasn't died
Something's up with Jack Something's up with Jack

"Jack's Obsession" was Jack's way of justifying his criminal intent to steal Christmas, and explaining his tremendous obsession with what he had seen in Christmas Town. Sally looked up and saw Jack pacing in his tower hideout, wondering if he could ever figure out the 'secret' of Christmas Town and its special holiday, but was frustrated that "something" was eluding his understanding:

Christmas time is buzzing in my skull / Will it let me be? I cannot tell / There's so many things I cannot grasp / When I think I've got it and then at last / Through my bony fingers it does slip / Like a snowflake in a fiery grip / Something here I'm not quite getting Though I try, I keep forgetting / Like a memory long since past / Here in an instant, gone in a flash What does it mean? What does it mean?

In these little bric-a-brac A secret's waiting to be cracked / These dolls and toys confuse me so Confound it all, I love it though / Simple objects, nothing more But something's hidden through a door / Though I do not have the key / Something's here I cannot see What does it mean? What does it mean? / What does it mean?

I've read these Christmas books so many times / I know the stories and I know the rhymes / I know the Christmas carols all by heart / My skull's so full It's tearing me apart / As often as I've read them Something's wrong / So hard to put my bony finger on / Or, perhaps, it's really not as deep as I've been led to think / Am I trying much too hard? / Of course, I've been too close to see The answer's right in front of me /

Right in front of me It's simple, really, very clear / Like music drifting in the air / Invisible, but everywhere / Just because I cannot see it doesn't mean I can't believe it / You know, I think this Christmas thing is not as tricky as it seems / And why should they have all the fun? It should belong to anyone / Not anyone, in fact, but me Why I could make a Christmas tree / And there's no reason I can find I couldn't handle Christmas Time / I bet I could improve it, too And that's exactly what I'll do

Jack suddenly came to the realization that he would take over Christmas in just a few weeks, and actually improve the holiday. The song ended with him smashing several Christmas ornaments and causing a string of Christmas lights to explode. He went to his window and yelled out "Eureka!" - and then as he stretched out both his arms, he announced how he would co-opt Christmas: "This year, Christmas will be ours!"

Jack's Misguided Plan to Celebrate the Christmas Yuletide in a Halloweentown Way:

Jack began to plan by assigning Christmas-type jobs to everyone in Halloween Town in his misguided attempt to adopt Christmas. The Mayor helped to expedite the various assignments, as he gloated: "How horrible our Christmas will be!" although Jack corrected him: "How jolly our Christmas will be!"

  • Dr. Finkelstein was shown a Christmas book with an illustration of Santa in a sleigh pulled by four reindeer. Jack bestowed upon him the job to find or 'construct' and animate skeletal reindeer to pull a sleigh
  • three devilish trick-or-treating children: Lock (Paul Reubens), Shock (Catherine O'Hara), and Barrel (Danny Elfman), known as "Boogie's boys," were called upon to perform a "top-secret" mission that would require: "craft, cunning, mischief" -- Jack whispered for them to go into the forest to a tree, but the rest of his instructions were off-screen; he then specifically ordered: "Leave that no-account Oogie Boogie out of this!" The trio promised to obey him, but their fingers were crossed behind their backs as they giggled; after marching away, they divulged their assignment - to kidnap Mr. Sandy Claws!
    [Note: Lock, Shock and Barrel's names as a whole were derived from wordplay of the phrase "Lock, stock, and barrel" - a phrase meaning 'everything', but also referencing the parts of a musket.]

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