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The Nightmare Before Christmas
Album Cover Art
1993 Disney
2006 Disney
Album 2 Cover Art
2008 Disney
Album 3 Cover Art
2011 Warner
Album 4 Cover Art
Composed, Lyrics, Co-Performed, and Produced by:

Conducted by:
Chris Boardman
JAC Redford

Orchestrated by:
Steve Bartek
Marc Mann
Mark McKenzie
Labels Icon
Walt Disney Records
(November 10th, 1993)

Walt Disney Records
(2-CD Set)
(October 24th, 2006)

Walt Disney Records
(September 30th, 2008)

Warner Brothers Records
(April 12th, 2011)
Availability Icon
All of the Disney albums are regular U.S. releases. Duplicate pressings of the 1993 album were re-issued in 1994 and 1995 with the same packaging and contents. The 2011 Warner set is a limited edition of 2,000 copies, sold for $500 primarily through the official site of the album. Consult with the separate review of that set for more details about its availability.
Nominated for a Golden Globe.
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Decorative Nonsense
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Availability | Awards | Viewer Ratings | Comments | Audio & Track Listings | Notes
Buy it... if you have any doubt whatsoever about Danny Elfman's talents, because his writing and performances in The Nightmare Before Christmas produce one of the most uniquely attractive musicals ever to scare the big screen.

Avoid it... if you expect the Broadway style of songs or light-hearted atmosphere of Alan Menken's musicals for Disney during the same era. Also avoid it on the disgraceful 2008 cover-version album at all costs.
Review Icon
WRITTEN 9/24/96, REVISED 5/31/11
The Nightmare Before Christmas: (Danny Elfman) Sometimes films don't receive their due praise until long after their unheralded debuts, and such was definitely the case with Tim Burton's production of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Based on a concept percolating in his head for a decade, the story involves the clashing of two holidays when the inhabitants of the fantasy town of Halloween discover the town of Christmas and attempt to adapt the latter holiday with their own sensibility. Every aspect of the film is unconventional, from the stop-action animation process to ambiguous look of the characters and the musical format of the soundtrack. Executives at Disney were initially horrified by Burton's creation during post-production, withholding merchandising and advertising dollars because they were convinced that the film was an extremely morbid blemish on the studio's reputation. Indeed, a combination of character and set design was too dark for small children and humor aimed at adults caused The Nightmare Before Christmas to become a favorite of the teenage crowd instead. The enigma fared relatively well at the time of its 1993 release, but despite being a musical in Disney's line-up at a time when that format could do no wrong for the studio, the film was a box office disappointment. The songs and score by rising star Danny Elfman received little mainstream recognition, failing to garner a single Oscar nomination in either category. Inevitably, the world was enamored with Alan Menken's production for Disney at the time, which made sense given that he had just completed the superior trilogy of soundtracks (ending with Aladdin) that made him famous. But time has been abnormally kind to The Nightmare Before Christmas. It is often remembered today as a hidden gem in the careers of both Burton and Elfman, and its cult following increased to such an extent that the film was transferred by Disney into 3D format and re-released into theatres on its 13th anniversary in 2006. The film has earned its fairly deserved recognition outside teenage circles and, while still too strange for some older audiences and certainly the kind of concept to earn considerable protest from the America's touchy religious right, it continues to develop a strong reputation with another generation of youngsters.

For Elfman, The Nightmare Before Christmas was an endeavor of immense personal hardship, investing himself so far into the project that he eventually became not only composer and lyricist, but lead performer and associate producer. His girlfriend at the time, Edward Scissorhands writer Caroline Thompson, was enlisted to write the rushed, late screenplay long after Elfman and Burton had assembled the songs and written the lyrics together. The two men suffered equally from the pressure of Disney's negativity, and after a petty argument at the conclusion of work on The Nightmare Before Christmas, they went their separate ways. Burton used composer Howard Shore as a temporary stand-in for Elfman in Ed Wood the following year before the collaborators reconciled prior to Mars Attacks!. Contributing to Elfman's frustration in late 1993 was that his music wasn't much applauded by mainstream critics (in fact, some denigrated it simply by using Menken as an unfair comparison), despite the fact that The Nightmare Before Christmas remains a remarkable exhibition of the man's obviously singular talents. For many viewers and listeners, the production is just as much defined by Elfman as (if not moreso than) Burton, who chose not to direct the picture himself. Musically speaking, when Elfman changed course with his career later in the 1990's and experimented with orchestral and electronic minimalism, many of his earliest fans lamented the loss of his Batman and Edward Scissorhands styles. Equal was the loss of The Nightmare Before Christmas, for the composer would never again pour so much overwhelming creativity of a clearly personal nature into one production. His songs and score may not be classics in any corner, but they are uniquely fashioned out his distinctly intoxicating sound. His lyrics, with some input from Burton in several songs, are frightfully intelligent and humorous. His singing performances as several of the characters, including Jack Skellington, are remarkably inflective. The composer was originally not intended to take these roles, but once he had performed all the parts (except Sally) in the demo recordings, it became clear that due to his passion for the music, he would be an excellent choice for the lead. In fact, some of his vocals for the demos were considered superior to those recorded more professionally for the final product and were utilized instead.

By 1993, the scoring community had already tasted its fair share of Elfman's creativity, and yet one can easily get the impression that nobody was fully prepared for the rather demented personality of The Nightmare Before Christmas. It truly is impossible to place this work in context with the average run of the mill soundtrack or even musical. Because of that fact, it's hard to listen to The Nightmare Before Christmas very often unless you consider yourself a die-hard fan of the concept. With its so many strong themes, it's a great score to dissect and reconstruct, and the main reason to pull this album off the shelf is to admire the complexity of Elfman's creation. The composition itself is superior, with multiple themes interacting seamlessly and complimenting each other with a certain funny elegance. His manipulation of themes to suit the varying emotions of the characters is masterful. His inherent love of tragedy leads to such numbers as "Jack's Lament," "Sally's Song," and "Poor Jack," while his affinity for the bizarre is heard in "This is Halloween," "Kidnap the Sandy Claws," and "Oogie Boogie's Song." The fact that there are ten songs in The Nightmare Before Christmas (eleven if you consider the reprise at the end a separate song) not only gives the film wall-to-wall melodies but also creates a roller coaster ride that defies a consistent sound for the entire production. The brooding emphasis on lower range instruments and heavy bass in the mix, a carry-over from the morbid, droning ambience of Batman Returns, offer a bit of overarching connection, as do the references to previous songs in later ones (and future songs in preceding score cues). On the whole, though, The Nightmare Before Christmas is all over the map in terms of style. To go from the vintage Cab Calloway-style jazz of "Oogie Boogie's Song" to the sparse drama of "Sally's Song" causes obvious problems in stylistic continuity. While "This is Halloween" is the flashiest, "Jack's Lament" and "What's This?" are highlights, if only because of Elfman's dynamic, hyperactive vocal performances as Jack. His amusingly expressive performances easily overshadow the vocals by Catherine O'Hara, Ken Page, and others. Without any single dominant song in the entire work (there is no "title song"), there really was nothing for awards voters to grasp on to. Technically, "Jack's Lament" and "Sally's Song" are the most frequently referenced in the score and closely represent the lead characters, but neither can be described as a showstopper.

As for the score, Elfman's music is very tightly related to the melodies of the songs, with no score-specific standalone themes. Outside of parts of "Jack and Sally Montage" and "Christmas Eve Montage," the score tracks are largely unremarkable unless you are enamored by all of the various songs, for Elfman rarely branches off from one of the song melodies in his predictable but effective parade of themes conveyed in each instrumental interlude. In an age when overtures have long since disappeared, it's great to hear a well-constructed one here, and both "Overture" and "End Title" are smart suites that brilliantly provide snippets of most of the songs' themes. The two performances by Patrick Stewart as the narrator provide a great, God-like perspective on the whole affair, but neither was heard in the film. The original "Opening" was abbreviated and recorded by the actor who plays Santa Claus (never released on album) and it is that performance that existed in the film at its debut. Elfman himself also recorded the narration and can be heard on a few of the available albums. Arguably the soundtrack's most endearing, heartwarming moment comes when the score and song are fused at the end of "Finale/Reprise," when Elfman and O'Hara perform in unison a snippet of "Sally's Song" with lovely orchestral accompaniment. Despite this and other highlights, Disney has never been thorough in its presentation of the music on album. The film was released two weeks before Halloween and the initial CD hit the shelves ten days after the pumpkins had been packed away, allowing for the revision of the narration but clearly indicative of the lack of confidence the studio had in the film. The product contained all of the songs but only about half the score. For the 2006 re-release of the movie to theatres, Disney offered a 2-CD package with no new material from the score. It does offer demo performances of four songs by Elfman (including "This is Halloween," which appeared on the composer's "Music for a Darkened Theatre, Volume 2" compilation), but the five cover versions by Marilyn Manson, Fiona Apple, and others are wretched and atrocious. And, as if Disney hadn't milked this cow enough after realizing its initial error, the studio's label released yet another album of music from The Nightmare Before Christmas two years later, this time with only cover versions of every track. The 2008 album is the absolute worst that commercial markets can inspire, taking artists of radically different cultures and genres of music and giving each one shot at producing their own version of material that really required Elfman's own touch.

Ratings Icon
Average: 4 Stars
***** 6,669 5 Stars
**** 4,070 4 Stars
*** 2,897 3 Stars
** 897 2 Stars
* 657 1 Stars
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Danny Elfman be so proud of me, I succeed like dream!
Elfman1972 - November 29, 2019, at 4:38 p.m.
1 comment  (743 views)
Moisture problem!   Expand >>
EggyNut - October 25, 2019, at 8:31 p.m.
2 comments  (1070 views)
Newest: October 30, 2019, at 6:33 p.m. by
Satan and Skellington, the love of true free will!   Expand >>
Cassie - October 19, 2019, at 7:56 p.m.
4 comments  (1156 views)
Newest: November 14, 2019, at 7:49 p.m. by
Satan, Sex, and Danny Elfman - Always there for you!   Expand >>
First United Church for Satan the Redeemer - October 15, 2019, at 6:30 p.m.
7 comments  (1453 views)
Newest: October 27, 2019, at 12:51 p.m. by
this music make me so horny   Expand >>
walicia - June 29, 2019, at 9:40 a.m.
7 comments  (1659 views)
Newest: October 23, 2019, at 5:00 p.m. by
The Laughing Testicle
Danny Elfman + Satan = Oh yeah!   Expand >>
Rand6^ - October 24, 2018, at 1:43 p.m.
3 comments  (1947 views)
Newest: October 22, 2019, at 7:12 p.m. by

Track Listings Icon
Audio Samples   ▼
1993 Disney Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 61:16
• 1. Overture (1:47)
• 2. Opening (0:57)
• 3. This is Halloween (song) (3:15)
• 4. Jack's Lament (song) (3:13)
• 5. Dr. Finkelstein/In the Forest (2:36)
• 6. What's This? (song) (3:05)
• 7. Town Meeting Song (song) (2:55)
• 8. Jack and Sally Montage (5:17)
• 9. Jack's Obsession (song) (2:45)
• 10. Kidnap the Sandy Claws (song) (3:02)
• 11. Making Christmas (song) (3:57)
• 12. Nabbed (3:04)
• 13. Oogie Boogie's Song (song) (3:16)
• 14. Sally's Song (song) (1:47)
• 15. Christmas Eve Montage (4:43)
• 16. Poor Jack (song) (2:30)
• 17. To the Rescue (3:38)
• 18. Finale/Reprise (2:44)
• 19. Closing (1:25)
• 20. End Titles (5:05)
2006 Disney 2-CD Set Tracks   ▼Total Time: 94:42
2008 Disney "Revisited" Album Tracks   ▼Total Time: 75:39
2011 Warner Set Tracks   ▼Total Time: 172:29

Notes Icon
Both the 1993 and 2006 albums contain the same credits and lyrics, but neither features extra information about the score or film. The first pressing of the 2006 album contained a 3D slip cover. The 2008 album was packaged in a hard cardboard slip case, with a removable insert that contains photos of most of the artists, but again no extra information about the score or film. The 2011 Warner set features some notes from Elfman about his choices of music for inclusion on the product.
Copyright © 1996-2021, Filmtracks Publications. All rights reserved.
The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten
or redistributed without the prior written authority of Christian Clemmensen at Filmtracks Publications. All artwork and sound clips from The Nightmare Before Christmas are Copyright © 1993, 2006, 2008, 2011, Walt Disney Records (Original), Walt Disney Records (2-CD Set), Walt Disney Records (Revisited), Warner Brothers Records and cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 9/24/96 and last updated 5/31/11.
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