Over the holidays, we let the boys watch a few classic Christmas movies, and they fell in love with The Polar Express and The Nightmare Before Christmas. I quickly had my fill of Tom Hanks and that holiday train, but I could watch Jack Skellington and his misfits all day long. I was in high school when the film was released, and I remember how cutting edge it was back then. (If that doesn’t show my age, then nothing does!)
But the animation and the story are really timeless, I think. Plus, the characters in the opening song sing, “Tender lumplings everywhere, life’s no fun without a good scare. That’s our job, but we’re not mean, in our town of Halloween,” so nothing is scary when you can see what’s really behind it, as I like to remind James and Rhys.
Right now, I’m especially smitten with Sally (played by Catherine O’Hara), the beautiful rag doll who shares Jack’s restlessness, but knows that his quest for change will only lead to sadness and destruction. She alone understands him and tries to stop his terrible plan to overtake Christmas, but Jack refuses to listen and the results are disastrous.
Sally’s song, sung as Jack flies off on Christmas Eve, is haunting and beautiful, and it’s stuck in my head at the moment. (It also reminds me of this song from Popeye, sung by Shelley Duvall.)
In the end, Jack comes to see the error of his ways (after terrifying children and falling from the sky), and realizes that he is happiest being himself, The Pumpkin King. He expresses his love for Sally and all is well again in Halloween Town.
If only things were that simple in real life. Still, it’s a fresh take on a classic tale, and that’s why I adore it.