“It’s as real as my Skull and it does exist” (Jack Skellington, Nightmare before Christmas)


The Nightmare before Christmas (1993) was my very first encounter with the skull and as a child I couldn’t stop watching the film for many years. I can remember that I was fascinated with the appearance of the skull and it’s elongated shape, which inspired me to create a series a drawings in relation to the film every year on Halloween.

I can’t remember if I fully understood the concept of death but I wasn’t afraid of the film and the style has always been visually captivating. This particular experience has invited me to speculate how children respond to images of death or frightening images that appear on films or television.

From a personal perspective, young children may lack the ability to separate reality from fantasy, which is what makes the create or monster such a terrifying image.  James B. Weaver and Ronald C. Tamborini explain that different age groups are frightened by different concepts or representations. Young Children are immediately frightening by images on television, such as monster or ghosts.

In comparison teenagers and adults find the concept or the narrative more frightening than the actual image. Weaver and Tamborini also emphasise how adults and teens empathize or respond emotionally to the character’s pain or suffering within the horror film, while young children primarily focus upon the image on the screen.

It could be argued that Burton’s Nightmare before Christmas features a range of styles and colours, which detract fear from the image. The singing and the dancing may detract any fear or anxiety surrounding the characters but the film may deliver a different response from each viewer.

Tim Burton. “The Nightmare before Christmas “, 73 Minutes. United Kingdom Touchstone Home Video, 1993

Magliozzi, Ron He, Jenny & Warren, Kate. “Tim Burton: The Exhibiton “. Melbourne: Australian Centre for Moving Image, 2010 p.9-15

Weaver, James B, Tamborini, Ronald C. Horror Films: Current Research on Audience and Reactions.  New Jersey: Lawerence Erlbaurn Associates Inc, 1996 p.71-77

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