The stop-motion musical fantasy relays the story of Jack Skellington, the seemingly conceited Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who finds himself having stumbled into Christmas Town; he instantly immerses himself within its lifestyle, subsequently attempting to homogenise the two holidays and change the face of Halloween. This in turn fails, causing Jack to realise the uniqueness of his macabre community, appreciating its bloodcurdling brilliance.
Henry Selick, the director of The Nightmare Before Christmas, stated that “it’s a Halloween movie” during a Q&A at Colorado’s Telluride Horror Show Film Festival, whilst composer Danny Elfman told USA Today, “it’s obviously about Christmas, but for me, it’s a Halloween movie”. Despite being the primary creators of the flick, many still dispute their claims and multiple factors may be addressed as a part of this. For example, Jack is unequivocally pro-Christmas, appreciating the joyous and pure festivity over the everyday fright fest that is all too repetitive. Moreover, following the iconic opening song “This is Halloween”, all action within the film occurs after Halloween in the run-up to Christmas Eve.
On the other side of the debate, its stance as a Halloween film is extremely obvious given the majority of the protagonists are residents of Halloween Town; the film is also filled with Halloween imagery and iconography, giving it an overarching tone of morbidity and ghoulishness. Furthermore, the film’s initial release date fell on October 29th, pointing towards the idea that the animation is in fact a Halloween must-see.
When looking at the evidence that has been given, personally I would label The Nightmare Before Christmas primarily as a Halloween film. Despite the ever-present focus on Christmas throughout the narrative, the ambience of the film, visual style and ending, paired with the claims from the director and the composer themselves, ensure that it is a Halloween film and should always be seen as one. Irrespective of this, however, the film can be fundamentally enjoyed between the months of October and December without any obvious judgement from those around you!