Merry Christmas, Buttercups!
This is one of my most favourite films and up there as my favourite Christmas film and for those of you who want to argue with me… It is a Christmas film. All you have to do is read the title.
The reason is one of my favourite films is the music. I loved this film as a child but it wasn’t until I was an adult where I feel in love with the songs. What I fell in love with was the punk rock covers of all the songs. Especially, the Fall Out Boy version of What’s This – which is easily the stand out number of the entire film although Oogie Boogie’s number comes a close second and Kidnap the Sandy Claws a likely third.
It’s a common misconception that Tim Burton directed this film. He did not. Tim Burton wrote the story that this film was based on but the director was Henry Selick – he went on to direct Coraline which has a similar tone and style.
There are several simple themes behind this film. First it acceptance. That is the overall theme of the piece because it is only through Jack’s acceptance of himself that he can return to Halloween town and right the wrongs Oogie Boogie has set in motion to kill Santa Claus.
There is also the voyage of discovery that Jack goes on when he stumbles across Christmas town. Obviously this could be a simple metaphor for pushing beyond the things you known and your own comfort zones to find something better than you could ever imagine.
This in turn leads to something that I think is extremely poignant and very apt for today’s world and that is that messages can be twisted. Watching the town hall scene shows how someone with a new idea can have it hijacked by the people around them who can only think one way. Think of anything you have ever said that was taken in away that you were not intending it to be taken – an offhand comment that someone thought was sarcastic or a compliment that someone took as an insult – the reaction to what you have said shows more about the listener than it does the speaker. It also shows just out of touch Jack is with the rest of the townsfolk. He’s is unhappy with the way things are but no one else is. So they take his idea to try something new and apply what they already know to it.
The film does give credence to the old idea of a changed being as good as a rest because by the end of the film Jack is back to his good old Halloween loving self.
But like I said earlier the main theme of this movie is self acceptance. It’s also a message against the coveting of what other’s have. The problems only begin because Jack wants what he sees in Christmas town. If he doesn’t covet what Santa Claus has the film never happens. But accepting that he is good at scaring people and that his true place is in Halloween Town is the key to saving Christmas and himself.
Throughout the film, Sally moons over him from afar and mostly Jack is oblivious to her, focussed as he is on his work of decrypting and copying Christmas, but by the end of the film he is receptive to her and the credits roll after we see Jack and Sally embracing. This is the pay off to a subtle message throughout the film. He throws himself into his work and by doing so he doesn’t realise that he is losing the essence of himself.
It may be a dark film but unlike Coraline it’s openly a kid’s film. It may be concerned with monsters and things that go bump in the night but it isn’t scary. It is beautiful, thoughtful and charming. I watch this film every year and it is one of my favourite Christmas films. There is only one film I love more than this. It was a pity that I couldn’t get the connections to line up to do it this year but that only means I get to look forward to doing it next time round.
So with that in mind. I’ll wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and see you in 2018. Let’s hope that year isn’t as strange.