Storytelling and The Nightmare Before Christmas

“Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Not necessarily in that order.” - Tim Burton

No matter the order, quality storytelling pulls you in and immerses you in the design being created around you. From digital to visual storytelling each follows five fundamental elements which we’ll explore the Halloween classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

With our first panorama of the forest, the scene is set for worlds beyond our own. Worlds that live hidden behind holiday themed doors. The music creates an air of intrigue as the narrator's voice booms in beckoning us through the door into Halloween Town. The screen engulfs in black, aside from a lone jack-o-lantern, and the chords for "This Is Halloween", The Nightmare Before Christmas' signature song begins. We fall into the setting and become part of a world that reveals its cast of characters with each cheer of “This is Halloween”.

As subplots unfold around us, we plunge deeper into the world of Halloween Town and are invited into the heart of the undead Jack Skeleton.  We’re no longer spectators to a story being told by an unseen narrator. Instead, we're a living extension of the feelings invoked by the cast of characters as they effortlessly create the mood of the story through their heartfelt soliloquies and interpersonal dramas. We become invisible as we entangle with the story. Jack’s first time in Christmas Town becomes our first time as the emotions overtake us we feel his joy, curiosity, and desire.

The subplots move along in conjunction with the central plot, a mirrored dance of emotions, we relate to Sally’s need to be heard and free along with Jack's need to meaning in his work. When Christmas night approaches we fear for Jack, Santa, and the unsuspecting residents of Christmas Town. The story moves along with the grace of a seasoned gravedigger, digging us deeper into the world crafted by Tim Burton. With each roll of his dice, Oggie Boogie becomes the embodiment of all of our nightmares.

All hope seems lost for these characters we've become invested in. Our hearts sneak at the thought of losing Jack and Santa in one evening. Until the mood is reversed, and Jack is revealed dangling in a cemetery experiencing a moment of clarity and victory we all can relate to in some fashion. Having finally found himself Jack swoops in to save the others and free us all from the grasp of Oggie Boogie.  

The story finishes by wrapping up the subplot between Jack and Sally leaving us hopeful and satisfied. Due to the spectacular use of storytelling, we return to our own world with the story of Jack, Sally, and Halloween Town forever imprinted in our hearts and minds.

As Halloween night looms, what are your favorite Halloween movies that blend the fundamental storytelling elements of setting, characters, plot, invisibility, mood, and movement to design a world you always return to?