tim burton

“Some of it is very much me. Some of it isn’t.”

One of the most persistent and unkillable myths in the history of comics is the “saving” of Batman by Frank Miller. You’ve probably heard it. The Batman comics were just a giggling campy mess after the sixties TV show and it was only with Frank Miller’s seminal The Dark Knight Returns in 1986 that Batman became dark and gritty again. Cool story, but complete guano (and one I’m pretty sure I helped spread at a much earlier point in my career as a semi-professional nerd rodent). Truth is, the comics had been pushing back hard against the BIF BAM KAPOW image from as early as 1970 in an attempt to bring Batman back to his roots as a grim, brooding nocturnal hero.

What The Dark Knight Returns did do was bring that darker Batman that was already present in the comics to a much wider audience. DKR was published in 1986, the year that also saw the release of Watchmen, and the release of these two comics in the still relatively new graphic novel format made about as big an impact as it is possible for comics to make.

Batman was the first attempt to reframe Batman in the popular consciousness from the Adam West incarnation into something closer to his comic depictions. Did it succeed?

“Yeah. Yeah, just a bit.”

To put it another way, this is by far the single most influential depiction of Batman in any medium in the eighty year history of the character. This movie was where Batman went from “Flagship comic book character and star of a pretty popular TV show” to “Modern Secular God”. In terms of box office, merchandising revenue and pop culture impact it was on the Star Wars tier.  “Fine Mouse”, you say. “But what’s it done for us lately? Does it stand up?”

To which I say, “Yes. It does stand up. And then it flaps its wings, like a pretty, pretty butterfly.”

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Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #666: The Nightmare Before Christmas

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

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Hi everyone. So, unfortunately I’ve got some bad news. I know you were all looking forward to my review of Emperor’s New Groove but I’m afraid I just wasn’t able to get it done on time. Sorry. I’ve actually been going through a lot of personal problems recently that’ve been making it hard to write. You all know of course that I recently suffered a severe trauma.

Why God?

Why God?

But reviewing Dinosaur was just the straw that broke the mouse’s back. I’m just…

I’m tired of this. I’ve reviewed over forty movies now and it’s just getting so hard to come up with new jokes every two weeks. It’s just the same routine over and over again.

And I! Mouse! The Un-shaved king…have grown so tired of the same old thing…

Oh, don't say that meu amigo. You just need a little break.

Oh, don’t say that meu amigo. You just need a little break.

Hmm…you seem vaguely familiar. I feel like I know you, but blocked out the memory for some reason. Weird.

I get that a lot. You know what you need? You need to review something a little different. Like this!

I get that a lot. You know what you need? You need to review something a little different. Like this!

The_nightmare_before_christmas_poster

The Nightmare Before Christmas? Well, it is a great movie. And it is Halloween. But…no, I couldn’t. It’s not part of the canon!

You've reviewed plenty of movies that aren't in the canon. You even reviewed An American Tail when you were in the Bluthverse.

You’ve reviewed plenty of movies that aren’t in the canon. You even reviewed An American Tail when you were in the Bluthverse.

That’s true…wait, how could you know that?

Let's just say I'm well informed. Come on Mouse. Review the movie. You know you want to.

Let’s just say I’m well informed. Come on Mouse. Review the movie. You know you want to.

No, no. I can’t. All the reviews I do are in strict chronological order. Nightmare Before Christmas came out in 1993, I’m already into 2000.

And what a great decade that was! You're right. I'll leave you to review Brother Bear, Chicken Little, Home on the Range...

And what a great decade that was! You’re right. I’ll leave you to review Brother Bear, Chicken Little, Home on the Range

Okay! Okay! You’ve talked me into it. I mean, it’ll be fine. So I temporarily forsake my sacred oath to review all the canon Disney classics in order? What’s the worst that could happen?

What indeed?

What indeed?

Okay. So, The Nightmare Before Christmas. Little basic housekeeping out of the way first, this movie was in fact neither written nor directed by Tim Burton.

Yeah, NO idea why you might think that.

Yeah, NO idea why you might think that.

You’ll remember from the Fox and the Hound review that Tim Burton was an animator at Disney before leaving to become a big time Hollywood muck-a-muck. He came up with the concept for the film, based on a poem he himself wrote in 1982, and designed most the of the characters but when the time came to actually shoot the thing, Burton was too busy making Batman Returns and handed directing duties off to Henry Selick, and scriptwriting chores to Caroline Thompson and Michael McDowell. However, I don’t want to undersell Burton’s contribution as this is still probably the most “Tim Burtony” film ever made. That’s really down to the fealty with which Selick treated Burton’s designs and ideas. I mean sure, they put Burton’s name over the thing because he was the bigger draw, and that kind of sucks for Selick…but at the same time,  it does very much feel like Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. But of course, the clues are there that Burton didn’t actually direct it. Because Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter aren’t in it and Burton never does anything without Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. And I’m not just talking about movies, either. Burton doesn’t go to the bathroom without Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter (Depp pulls the fly down, Carter pulls it back up).

Nightmare has two big influences, the old Rankin/Bass stop-motion Christmas specials and even more so, the 1966 animated version of Dr Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas.  Jack Skellington was envisioned by Burton as being a kind of anti-Grinch, a macabre character who adores Christmas instead of loathing it, but whereas the Grinch changes once he comes to understand Christmas, Jack never does and the movie implies that really that’s okay. Christmas is not for everyone.

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