Feature: The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D
Mon, 20 Oct 2008 17:45:04
Halloween isn't the same anymore. It's become commercially tainted to a nauseating degree, especially in Hollywood. In Los Angeles, it is neither scary nor fun. Halloween has nothing to do with chi chi club parties, designer-made costumes, and fruity drinks. It's about being a kid again. That's what Disney's annual 3-D showing of The Nightmare Before Christmas allows the audience to do: relive their childhood. Last Friday, during the opening night of the classic film's three-dimensional run, Hollywood got to experience Halloween in all of its unbridled glory.
When the organist on stage started playing the theme from the Haunted Mansion ride at Disneyland, the ominous tones foreshadowed a memorable presentation for the sold-out theater. As soon as composer Danny Elfman took the stage to discuss Nightmare and his vast body of work, the crowd erupted. Elfman, a musical wunderkind, went from playing in Oingo Boingo to becoming one of the most renowned composers of our time. The crowd didn't know he was going to be there, so this was the first of a few surprise treats. Elfman gave an overview of his career leading up to and after Nightmare.
He humbly looked back at his beginnings in Baldwin Hills saying, "I spent pretty much every weekend of my life at the movie theater." However, he didn't know he wanted to be a musician. That desire manifested later. "I wanted to be a radiation biologist. I thought maybe music would be cooler than radiation biology. Think about the possibility of meeting girls as a radiation biologist as opposed to being a musician," he laughed.
Music played a big part in shaping Nightmare's legacy. The soundtrack was recently re-visited and revamped on the Nightmare Revisited compilation. Even though Danny is an icon in his own right, he has inspirations of his own which he channels. "Every time I saw [composer] Bernard Herrmann's name on a film, I knew it was something special." Elfman found a kindred spirit in Tim Burton, and Pee Wee's Big Adventure would be the first movie that he scored. "Burton's idol was Vincent Price, and mine was Peter Lorre…so we got along," smiled Elfman at the El Capitan's podium. He'd go on to score Batman, Edward Scissorhands, and many other films, but he especially cherishes his work on Nightmare, having composed songs specifically for the movie and singing all but two. "I related a lot to Jack Skellington, and it was effortless. Nightmare was just fun."
The 3-D version of the movie is simple fun, too. It comes to life in 3-D format like never before. From the first pumpkin head that pops out of the box all the way through the final sleigh ride, Nightmare has never looked so good. In fact, in this technically kinetic format, it feels like a big budget ride at Disneyland. The classic story follows Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloween Town, who desires more than just trick-or-treating. He stumbles upon Christmas Town, falls in love with the snow and Christmas spirit. He kidnaps Santa Claus to bring his own form of holiday cheer to Halloween town and the world.
The animation is entrancing, especially with the depth that the 3-D version offers. The score also vibrantly propels the action on the big screen. As an added bonus, right before the film started, Evanescence's Amy Lee made an appearance and sang her rendition of "Sally's Song" in front of Elfman. She sat at a large grand piano with a giant pumpkin king to her left and another massive gothic fountain to her right on stage. Her backing band resembled some kind of dirge orchestra, and they played the song's somber melodies flawlessly. Her voice resounded through the El Capitan with a tangible pain. Lee has a magnetic presence as she plays the piano, something like a darker version of Tori Amos crossed with Jonathan Davis from KoRn. Either way, her rendition of the song was hypnotic and powerful.
Elfman looked pleased as his song found a new life. His work is often targeted toward a younger crowd, and the pieces in Nightmare were played for his seven-year-old daughter while he was writing them. Elfman displayed radiant pride that "everything was approved by a seven-year-old." The film itself holds up incredibly, and it's become a modern Christmas-Halloween classic due to Burton's inviting but dark aesthetic. It's often been copied but never matched, and it's also a must-see experience in 3-D format. The Nightmare Before Christmas is Halloween incarnate. Go see it with a costume on.