Walt Disney Records (60855-7)
Release Date: 1993
Music from this album has been used in 7 trailer(s). Click to view which ones!
|3.||This Is Halloween|
|5.||Doctor Finkelstein / In the Forest|
|7.||Town Meeting Song|
|8.||Jack And Sally Montage|
|10.||Kidnap The Sandy Claws|
|13.||Oogie Boogie's Song|
|15.||Christmas Eve Montage|
|17.||To The Rescue|
|18.||Finale / Reprise|
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|by Rafael Ruiz
on October 22nd, 2005
Even now, The Nightmare before Christmas remains one of Danny Elfman's pinnacle works (along with his Batman scores and Edward Scissorhands). Unlike a lot of Disney Musicals, a large majority of Nightmare is told through song. The story was original a poem, so Tim Burton and Elfman emulate that tone as much as possible. They worked chronologically through the material, Elfman writing one song at time and making them organically fit the story structure. In Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin, the songs were used for establishing character and location or stopping the story to allow characters to comment on their feelings. Almost all of Jack Skellington's strong character moments are told through the musical numbers. From his initial despair ("Jack's Lament"), to his discovery of Christmas Town ("What's This?") to his decision to take it over ("Jack's Obsession") to his final cathartic realization of its consequences ( "Poor Jack").
Also unique is the liberal use of singspiel (German for "song-play" or "Sing-speak") with much of the music half sung/half spoken. While some songs are driven on strong melodies ("This is Halloween", "What's This?", "Making Christmas", "Kidnap the Sandy Claws") with the sub verses using singspiel, whole songs use the technique without a strong main verse ("Town Meeting Song", "Jack's Obsession", "Poor Jack"). Much like Stephen Sondheim or Bertolt Brecht, the staccato rhythm of Elfman's music is punctuation with clever and macabre lyrics that emphasizes ghoulish humor that appeals to kids ("There are children throwing snowballs here instead of throwing heads. They're busy building toys and absolutely no one's dead!").
Musically, the score has the same eclectic influences of Elfman's 80's to mid-90's work (Bernard Herrmann and Nino Rota). Most of the non-number tracks are the movie's more quiet and contemplative moments ("Doctor Finkelstein / In the Forest" ,"Nabbed", "Jack And Sally Montage"), but there several exciting tracks as well ("Christmas Eve Montage" and "To The Rescue"). Ironically, my favorite moment in the score is missing (the cue where Jack flies out of Halloween Town). The album is bookend by two tracks ("Opening" & "Closing") narrated by Santa (performed with the right amount of "jolly" edge by Patrick Stewart). These two tracks are so warm and inviting that I was disappointed when I saw the movie without Stewart in the opening and not using the second track all together. While these bookends were made after the fact, "Closing" in particular wraps up the story's themes so beautifully that its omission leaves the movie's climax slightly lacking.
Performance-wise, Burton regulars Paul Ruebens, Catherine O'Hara, Glenn Shadix and Broadway legend Ken Page provide strong voices. The star of the show is Elfman though. Singing both Barrel and Jack Skellington, Elfman dominates with his stunning range. After a decade of leading Oingo Boingo, Elfman clearly wrote the material to showcase his range. There has been talk of doing a Broadway version of the show, but without Elfman headlining, I don't really see the point.
Released quietly in the fall 1993, The Nightmare before Christmas was a modest success. However not a single number was even nominated for a Best Song Oscar and this was during Disney's unstoppable early 90's domination of the category. The movie was originally considered too dark to connect with family audiences. Time does have a way of righting such wrongs and over a decade later, the movie is one of Disney's biggest cult classics, if there can be such a thing.
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