By Jason Delgado
Disney Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Beyond Halloween Town: The Story, the Characters, and the Legacy by Emily Zemler examines the roots and lasting pop-culture impact of the iconic stop-motion animation musical film from the mind of legendary director Tim Burton (who wrote the foreword for this book), and the music of the equally impressive and strange, genius composer Danny Elfman. Beyond Halloween Town is a must-have for fans of Jack and Sally, due to the gorgeous full-page photos and in-depth examination into the world of Halloween Town.
Why has the popularity of The Nightmare Before Christmas endured? The timeless style of music, the love story, the universal theme of feeling like an outcast, the gothic Halloween style melded with Christmas, all working together in unison to give fans a holiday classic that can be enjoyed from October to December. The book delves into all of this and much more by looking at the behind-the-scenes stories, the characters, and how they came to be, and their lasting legacy.
I find it fascinating to learn in the book that Danny Elfman relates so much to the character of Jack Skellington because he was the leader of the band Oingo Boingo at the time, and desperately wanted to leave the band for something new. I think that we can all relate to the fear of the unknown that Elfman must have felt at the time, coming from the idea of branching out into something new after already being a success in another area. It’s wonderfully inspirational to think about how it all turned out for Jack and Danny!
The spooky style of both Burton and Elfman is loved by many, so it’s interesting to read in Zemler’s book about the people and art that influenced them on this project, such as: the holiday verse “The Night Before Christmas,” Dr. Seuss, Edward Gorey, Ray Harryhausen films, and the first stop-motion musical Mad Monster Party? The book looks at how stores such as Hot Topic have really embraced the strange, darker tone of the film by way of its merchandise. The merch has exploded and expanded so much in recent years that it is now only rivaled by mega-hits such as Star Wars.
It all comes back to the central focus of the main characters feeling like outsiders, with Jack and Sally’s strong connection coming from that. It’s fun to see things in the book such as an all-Nightmare Before Christmas themed wedding. People have really latched onto these characters and their love story, written by screenwriter Caroline Thompson (who also wrote the classic Burton dark fairy tale Edward Scissorhands).
Beyond Halloween Town is a fun and easy read, filled with colorful photos that my son loved to look at as much as I did. I give it five out of five hot sauce packets. I cannot imagine a Nightmare Before Christmas book that is more scorching hot than this!
Order the book on Amazon releasing on August 22nd, here.
P.S. – It was bittersweet to read the parts about Paul Ruebens aka Pee-wee Herman. Rest in Peace.
By Jason Delgado