We talked last week about the greatness that is Disney’s villain songs, and this week for Tuesday Tunes we’re going to look at Disney’s first feature film joint venture with Tim Burton, a man with a hand for dark fantastical film. Tim Burton was actually working as an animator in 1982 when The Nightmare Before Christmas originated in a poem he had written. Disney initially considered developing the story as either a short film or animated short thanks to the success of Tim Burton’s 8-minute film, Vincent that same year. However, it wasn’t until 1990 (after being fired in 1983) that Burton finally was able to secure a development deal with Disney.
The film was released in 1993 under Disney’s Touchstone Pictures, as they considered it too scary for kids. Of course, you all know the story from there. The film has gone on to receive widespread critical acclaim, and what was once somewhat of a step-child project is now snug under the Walt Disney Pictures banner, and achieving a sort of cult film status. In short, this film is well-loved–especially the music.
Top 3 Songs From the Nightmare Before Christmas
While the film itself is beautiful and quite revolutionary, what takes the film from simply being a twisted man’s animation into something remarkably glorious is the music. If you know Tim Burton’s name, you probably know Danny Elfman’s. They’ve collaborated as early as 1985 with Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and have worked together on films like Batman, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands.
What sets The Nightmare Before Christmas apart is the fact that Danny Elfman didn’t just compose but actually voiced the singing for Jack Skellington. It’s actually quite the spectacle when you see Elfman live, as he actively preforms the songs as well as conducts. (Which you should totally check out in this video, it’s amazing.) You know that song “Dead Man’s Party” by the band Oingo Boingo? Yeah, that’s Danny Elfman. He’s awesome.
It’s hard to choose only three songs from The Nightmare Before Christmas, and obviously everyone’s top three is difficult, but here are my three very, very favorite songs from this fantastic film.
#1 – “Jack’s Lament”
When I was little, I was very reluctant to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas. In fact, I think I avoided it for a long time. It wasn’t until I ran onto it on Disney Channel years after its release that I finally gave it a chance. I happened to pull it up during this scene, where “Jack’s Lament” is being sung. As soon as I heard the yearning rifts of Jack’s internal struggle, watching him climb that iconic curved hillside–oh man, I was hooked.
To this day this song gives me chills. Wonderfully crafted, it avoids the usual blatant plot barfing that a lot of musicals use their songs for, and rather delves quite deeply into Jack’s character, thus establishing his motives as he makes decisions throughout the film. I love it.
#2 – “Finale/Reprise”
Talk about the perfect ending. It’s like a perfect mash-up of the songs we love with an OTP crescendo. Nicely done, Danny. Maybe it’s that curvy hill again, maybe it’s Jack and Sally’s perfectly rendered duet, or perhaps the, “Jack’s okay and he’s back, OKAY!”
Whatever it is, I love this song. It is the culminating musical piece to a great film, a most perfectly climactic ending. It’s like the magic of “This is Halloween” on steroids for me.
#3 – “Sally’s Song”
Catherine O’Hara’s voice is simple and straining, but oh-so-perfectly suited to Sally in a very beautiful way. Eerily romantic, Sally’s tragic inner feelings as they are put on display in “Sally’s Song” are, again, deeper than just, “I’m going to sing the story now,” which I always appreciate. Rather, they are that inner conflict that can be shown at such a deeper level though song.
I love Sally’s character and the friendship she shares with Jack, but I love that her character isn’t dependent on her love of him to make her interesting. Yes, she yearns for him to finally notice that she’s there, but as we see in the film she’s clearly capable of being a meaningful person aside from her affection towards Jack. Still, “Sally’s Song” is beautiful because it’s her admitting to herself that she really wishes she knew he felt as deeply for her and she does for him.
Honorable mention to “This is Halloween” and “What’s This?”, but I had to narrow my choices down to three. AND IT WAS SO HARD. “Poor Jack” and “Jack’s Obsession” too–all so great. I’m still wrestling with my choices, but I think that these are the three I listen to the most, so I’ll let them stay as they are.
What’s your favorite song from The Nightmare Before Christmas?