Film Bitch History
Oscar History

The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R. Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. All material herein is written and copyrighted by Nathaniel or a member of our team as noted.


Powered by Squarespace
Don't Miss This!

Review: Ready or Not

Comment Fun

Yes Not Maybe So: Bombshell

" I am not liking this trend of portraits of terrible women, like Meghan and Phyliss Schafly, unless it's camp." - Jane

"Miss Charlize is like, "Do I need to remind you guys again who is the baddest bitch around here?." I just can'ttttt! She looks like Megan Kelly's twin -- that makeup work is insanity!!!" - Jono

"if Nicole doesn't wear a bad wig in a it really a must see event?" -Chris

Keep TFE Strong

We're looking for 500... no 461 Patron SaintsIf you read us daily, please be one.  Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience



Directors of For Sama

Lulu Wang (The Farewell)
Ritesh Batra (Photograph)
Schmidt & Abrantes (Diamantino)
Wanuri Kahiu (Rafiki)
Jia Zhang-ke (Ash is Purest White)

What'cha Looking For?
« Beauty Break: Halloween Pin-ups | Main | Podcast: The Hate U Give, Burning, Border, Suspiria »

Soundtracking: "The Nightmare Before Christmas"

by Chris Feil

To some degree, The Nightmare Before Christmas feels like the bastard child of Disney’s animated musicals. Granted the film was originally released under the Touchstone label due to concerns of frightened children and timid brand alignment. But in the years since, it’s grown beyond its cult following into full Mouse House acceptance, certainly one of the most merchandised of its era and most revisited thanks to inherent traditions in its duel holiday premise. So why does its music not get discussed alongside its peers?

What Danny Elfman creates with the film’s songs and score is much more of a gothic operetta than the Broadway of Disney’s 90s balladry, so some of this can be reduced simply to musical style. It’s no surprise then that the number with the most cultural impact are its catchiest and accessible to children, like the opening earworm “This Is Halloween”. But this is hardly the film’s best musical offering, more of a visual extravaganza with a rudimentary refrain repeated ad nauseum. You’re probably singing it to yourself right now and will be stuck with it for the day, and for that, I apologize.

A better option for its musical cultural significance is instead Jack’s pattering discovery of Christmas, “What’s This?”. Here Elfman takes Nightmare closest to more traditional musical stylings, and it’s no surprise that it comes when the hero in introduced to this more “wholesome” of holidays. With a ghoulish Gilbert and Sullivan flair, “What’s This?” is Jack abandoning both his ornamental identity and his musical one, trading in somber soliloquies for festive buoyancy.

Nightmare would oddly have to settle for its Visual Effects Oscar nomination (still an impressive feat, the first animated film in the category), for it oddly missed an Original Song nomination. All due respect to what Beethoven’s 2nd fans must be out there, but the omission is odd given “What’s This?”’s instant iconography and verbal dexterity. You can see why some of the less catchy lyricism of the rest of the film’s numbers could miss out, but this song had to have been close to a nomination. How deep did the hesitation go regarding the film’s scary, demonic elements operating in a kid-focused genre? Because this, and its overall musical acceptance, feels like a byproduct of that.

No matter, because where the film has been musically embraced as essential also keeps the film firmly in the realm of cult phenomena. This film will always belong to the goth set, no matter how much they align to the merchandising engines in the Disney machine. And they are the fans that have also given the film its musical due, elevating tracks like “Sally’s Song” and “Jack’s Lament” along with their general affection for the film. It’s kind of a movie musical built for Tumblr before Tumblr existed.

Along with the merchandising came an homage to this very specific section of the film’s fandom, a Nightmare Revisited album of covers from artists spooky, eccentric, or simply melancholy. Though some of these rehashes feel more like niche fan service (remember when Korn was a thing?), the overall effect is an oddly appropriate glow up taking the songbook to its musical madhouse max. It did it before it was cool.

Happy Halloween!

All Soundtracking installments can be found here!

PrintView Printer Friendly Version

EmailEmail Article to Friend

Reader Comments (9)

"Sally's Song" would have been the most easily nominate-able song seeing as how easy it is to take the song out of context and it works as a lovelorn ballad. The Fiona Apple cover is perfect.

October 31, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMorgan (the 1st)

Given Nightmare's very short run time (an hour sixteen!), it probably has a larger ratio of song to overall screentime than most other film musicals. It boasts 10 full-length numbers plus a finale reprise!

October 31, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAustin

I was just coming in here to express my love for Fiona Apple's cover of "Sally's Song" but Morgan beat me to it. Anyway IT IS PERFECT

October 31, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJason

This movie really is a triumph of visuals, music, storytelling, direction - it's all outstanding. Way ahead of its time.

October 31, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSawyer

I just LOVE NBC!
Although I really love to watch come Christmas time. ;)
Anyway, I like all the Songs but What's this and Sally's song are my favorite and I'd nominated them both for sure.

October 31, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSonja

I've given "Sally's Song" to so many of my theaters students as part of their audition book. It totally stands up outside of the context of the show and is a lovely showcase of vocal technique and performance in the right hands.

I have so many rereleases of the soundtrack in so many different formats it could make your head spin. The music is my favorite part of Nightmare Before Christmas. The animation is great and the story is pretty cool, but take Danny Elfman's song score out and you lose the magic of the film.

October 31, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G when existed didn't listed the songs in The Nightmare Before Christmas as elegible, which makes the score non nomination (if weren't disqualified) much more egregious...

October 31, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDoug

The Oogie Boogie man's song is my favorite by far.

I found very interesting the combination of musical and animation but (excepting some Disney movies) i just remember Allegro Non Troppo and South Park: bigger, longer & uncut as movies that i love that can be included in that category.....or...... Les Triplettes de Belleville could it be considered as musical?

What about a post about favorite musical films?

November 1, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCesar Gaytan

It’s simple, really, very clear like music shifting in the air: invisible but everywhere. Just because I cannot see it doesn’t mean I can’t believe it!

I adore this movie and its songs.

Songs ranked in order of preference (for now):

1. Jack’s Lament
2. What’s This
3. Jack’s Obsession
4. Kidnap Sandy Claws
5. Making Christmas
6. This is Halloween
7. Poor Jack
8. Oogie Boogies song
9. Sally’s song
10. Finale reprise

Songs 1-6 are in full-out LOVE territory. When I was younger I HATED Sally’s song. I would often skip it on rewatches. Part of that was internalized misogyny, no doubt, but it was so darn whispy. I later enjoyed it more to make fun of it which gave me some appreciation. Have not heard the Fiona Apple cover which may be important.

Got to see Danny Elfman perform these live last year and it was one of those all-time great life moments. “What’s This” was just so good.

November 1, 2018 | Unregistered Commentercatbaskets

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>