Sure, it’s a movie about ghouls who kidnap Santa Claus and take over Christmas (leaving creepy presents in kids’ stockings), but the Halloweentown designed by Tim Burton (and brought to life by stop-motion animator Henry Selick) is full of imaginative creatures who, for the most part, are utterly lacking in malice. Like the Monsters Inc. creatures they prefigure, the Halloweentown residents scare people because that’s their job, one that they’re good at.
Or so we’re told, though the characters are more gruesome than truly frightening. Jack Skellington is a well-dressed skeleton; love interest Sally is a rag doll patched together Frankenstein-style; and Dr. Finklestein is a mad scientist who looks like a cross between Dr. Strangelove and Donald Duck. The only truly scary, malicious character is Oogie Boogie, the walking bag of worms who threatens to kill Santa Claus. Everybody else is just trying to have some holiday fun.
The movie owes a debt to the similarly kid-friendly and delightful 1967 film Mad Monster Party (a stop-motion animated film from the Rankin/Bass team that made Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and all those other classic Christmas TV specials), as well as to Burton’s own fondness for misunderstood monsters, from the Maitlands of Beetlejuice to Edward Scissorhands to Frankenweenie (both the 2012 feature and the 1984 short that launched Burton’s career, featuring a dog that looks a lot like Nightmare canine Zero).
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