The ghoulish, stop-motion-animated sights in Halloween Town have never looked sharper than they do in “Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: 2-Disc Collector's Edition” ($33), released this week on DVD.
The delightfully macabre tale, whose style can best be described as Rankin-Bass meets “Beetlejuice,” has become a holiday classic in the 15 years since its theatrical release. And by “holiday,” I mean both Christmas and Halloween, which might explain why Disney is pushing the DVD so early in the season. With many kids already back to school, apparently it's time, at least from a marketing perspective, to start thinking jack-o'lanterns and goblins.
“Nightmare” – the off-kilter story of Pumpkin King Jack Skellington and his attempt to give Halloween Town a yuletide makeover – has reappeared in theaters in 3-D for the past two years. (According to boxofficemojo.com, the 3-D version will again hit multiplexes in October.)
While the version found on the new DVD is not in 3-D, it has been digitally remastered, achieving a visual depth as close to multiple dimensions as a movie can get without forcing people to wear those goofy glasses. Viewers will justifiably marvel at the sparkling flecks in the Christmas Town snow and the moody grays that cast creepy-fun shadows throughout Halloween Town.
And that's just on the regular disc; one assumes the picture is even brighter on the Blu-ray DVD ($40), also in stores this week.
So that's the good “Nightmare” news. The bad? Many of the extras, including a making-of featurette, deleted scenes, two early short films by Burton and a series of storyboard-to-film comparisons, have already appeared on previous releases. The making-of doc in particular screams out for a re-do, as it was clearly filmed in the early '90s. (Composer Danny Elfman can be spotted wearing a Ren and Stimpy T-shirt.)
The DVD does contain some fresh supplemental material, though, including an often engaging commentary by Burton, Elfman and director Henry Selick; an unnecessarily lengthy look at how Disneyland's Haunted Mansion attraction gets revamped, “Nightmare”-style, during the holidays; and a new introduction to Burton's short, “Frankenweenie,” in which he reveals that production is under way on a full-length, animated adaptation of the family-dog-as-Frankenstein feature.
Also original to the collector's edition: Christopher Lee's reading of the poem that inspired “Nightmare Before Christmas,” a rendering that will remind many of a certain Dr. Seuss favorite about a grinchy character who hates the Whos down in Whoville.
Considering that the box set also comes with a digital copy of the film, allowing its oddball beauty to be uploaded to mobile devices, most will be perfectly satisfied with the new “Nightmare” collection, especially if they don't already own one of the previous incarnations.
It's too bad that Disney has not yet upgraded some of the more dated extras. But Hollywood is a magical place, where wonderful movies can be resold to consumers again and again.
Although no plans have been announced, the likelihood that the 3-D “Nightmare Before Christmas” will arrive on DVD someday, complete with another new lineup of extras, is as obvious as the stitched-on smile across Jack Skellington's face.