Jack Skellington is, in this big kids humble opinion, the greatest animated creation of all time. Appearing only once, in the 1993 stop motion film The Nightmare Before Christmas (if you don’t count his many video game appearances and the wink wink cameos he makes in movies like James and the Giant Peach), Jack made an indelible mark on me since the first time I saw him on opening day.


First off, lets just talk animation. While today animation is done almost exclusively on computers, there was a time when the hours and hours it took to make a single second of a cartoon was a hands on task. As someone who has gone many times to see The Nightmare Before Christmas at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood, where they always have the actual figures and sets used in the movie on display, I can attest to the fact that Jack and the other characters in the movie were made by the finest craftsmen ever to produce an animated film. I am in awe of the patience it takes to painstakingly move a character in a barely perceptible way to give the illusion of motion.

The Nightmare Before Christmas also has the distinction of being a movie for little kids that could scare the pants off them. Personally, I’m of the opinion that a good scare is beneficial to a child. In the old days animated movies weren’t afraid to challenge children. Movies like Fantasia and Pinocchio have moments of sheer terror in them and are the better for it. Kids can handle a lot more than they are currently given credit for.

But this series isn’t about the movies themselves, it’s about the characters, and Jack is one of my all time favorites. Jack Skellington is to Halloween what Santa is to Christmas – he’s the king, the glue that holds together the world of Halloween Town. Every holiday exists within it’s own world, where it’s citizens work every day of the year in preparation for their one night to shine. Halloween Town is filled with spooks and goblins who just can’t wait to jump out from the shadows on October 31 and give all the girls and boys of the world a good fright.

Jack, however, is tired of scaring people. After centuries of the same routine he’s lost his desire to haunt. As the movie opens, Jack is despondent. Rarely in animation do we get to see a character so lost, to the point where he might just take his own life if he weren’t already dead.
While wandering in the woods, Jack discovers the portals to the other holiday worlds, and stumbles into the world of Christmas. He immediately falls in love with the holiday because it’s so foreign to him. None of it makes sense to him, but he knows how the holiday makes him feel. Jack has never felt warmth, never seen innocence. While he doesn’t understand it, he knows he must be a part of it.

Jack returns to Halloween Town and drafts it’s citizen in a mission – this year, they will steal Christmas and put their own ghoulish twist on it. Jack, blinded by enthusiasm, proceeds to ruin Christmas for the whole world. He kidnaps Santa Clause and takes his place, leaving shrunken heads and killer dolls instead of toys.
Realizing the error of his way at the last moment, Jack not only manages to free Santa from the clutches of the evil Oogie Boogie, giving Saint Nick the chance to put everything right, but he also realizes that he was always best at being a spook, and that he actually really loves his job and all his friends in Halloween Town. By the end of the movie, Jack has resolved not only to make each new Halloween better than the last, but he leaves room in his heart for Christmas as well.

Even as a kid I related to Jack. Life can be a drag sometimes, and the monotony of a daily routine is enough to drive anyone a little mad. It’s our job to wake up every day and do the best we can, to find our passion within the confines of our lives. Often times we find that, while new experiences can enrich us as people, we don’t have to look very far to find our bliss, because if we’re doing our jobs right that bliss is not external but inside us all along.

I still watch The Nightmare Before Christmas every year for Halloween. When Jack arrives in Christmas Town and we see him genuinely smile for the first time in the movie, the excitement so plain on his face, I can’t help but mist up a little. We should all be so lucky to feel that feeling at least once in our lives.
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