The Nightmare Before Christmas

Stuff We Love: The Nightmare Before Christmas shows the spookier side of Disney soundtracks

Contributed by
May 23, 2018

Boys and girls of every age
Would you like to see something strange
Come with us and you will see
This our town of Halloween

In 1993, these were life-changing words to a little girl who lived and breathed Halloween but never thought talking jack-o-lanterns and haunting minor-key melodies would ever be the stuff of Disney movies.

Disney has its ghosts and villains. I was positively addicted to the Haunted Mansion theme song "Grim Grinning Ghosts" before The Nightmare Before Christmas came into existence. Whenever you think of Disney music, however, you're more likely to end up with something upbeat like "Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah" or (for '80s and '90s kids like me) the dreamy love themes from films like The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King playing in the back of your head. There's always the token villain song — think "Poor Unfortunate Souls" or "Be Prepared" — but the rest of the soundtrack is usually in the key of something major.

Then, the Pumpkin King paraded through town and completely dismantled everything you thought you knew about music from the House of Mouse.

How many times has the first song in a Disney movie been a creepy carnival of menacing fun that whirls you away to an eternal October? This is a place where rag dolls sing wistful melodies into the wind and even holiday tunes like "Here Comes Santa Claus" turn into minor-key phantoms of themselves that echo equally your dreams and nightmares. Somewhere deep inside Jack Skellington's bones, an emptiness begins to roam, and when that happens he pours whatever remnants of a heart he may have into a soliloquy that ranges from lonely and misunderstood to borderline menacing when he remembers he's the master of fright.

"Making Christmas" has to be one of the greatest songs you can play over and over again in anticipation of that notorious season of merriment and overconsumption. Danny Elfman really created a monster with that one. I've been guilty of singing it to myself way too many times while baking cookies that were in peril of ending up burned because I just had to get through the part where this old rat turns into the most delightful hat. In my humble opinion, this needs to be what they pump throughout the malls from the day after Thanksgiving through Christmas Eve.

Did I also mention this is the one love theme in the world that doesn't leave a saccharine taste in my mouth? Technically, it's not really a love theme when it's just one of the main themes reworded to reunite Jack and Sally on Spiral Hill after Sandy Claws takes off into the night, but it sure beats all those starry-eyed princesses.