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Friday, December 07, 2012

Day 7 - "What's This" from The Nightmare Before Christmas - 25 Days of Christmas Angst

What's this? 
A man made out of snow? 
How quaint his hat is an old used tire. 
And look his arms are two old rakes. 
What's this?
The Nightmare Before Christmas has to be one of the most unique Hollywood films ever.  Just imagine how this movie was pitched to the Disney executives:

"This story is about Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King.  He is tired of ruling over Halloween Town.  So, when he discovers Christmas Town he decides to take over Christams.  Hijinks ensue, Santa needs to be rescued from the Boogie Man to save Christmas after Jack's meddling.  Oh, and we are going to make it using stop motion.  And it will be a musical."

I think anyone other than Tim Burton suggesting such a picture would have been laughed out of the room.  Burton had already proven himself to Disney.  However, there was concern that this movie would be too scarey so it was originally released under Disney's Touchstone Pictures.

This film came out in theaters in 1993.  I probably saw it a year after that and it was a revelation.  I would have been a sophomore in high school at the time, and the mixing together of these two holidays seemed like it should be a morally if not artistically questionable thing to do.  Yet the message of the movie is overwhelmingly positive.

"What's This?" is the song that Jack sings when he first discovers Christmas Town.  It is an upbeat and uptempo piece that compliments Jack's child-like wonder at first encountering various Christmas traditions. 
"This looks like fun," quickly leads to the sentiment, "I want it, oh, I want it / Oh, I want it for my own."

Jack and this song embody two of the most depressing aspects of the holiday season:  materialism and greed. Jack is so focused on the new things that he is encountering that he does not stop to get to know the new people he is encountering.  He doesn't take the time to get to know them or understand their traditions.

And then he decides he wants what they have.

Preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days here:   
http://www.carneylentz.com/p/25-days-of-christmas-angst.html

The next few scenes of the movie consist of Jack trying to explain Christmas (which he barely understands himself) to the citizens of Halloween Town while he also is studying Christmas traditions in order to copy or steal them.  After Jack messes up Christmas, Santa Claus is able to make it all right.

The take away moral of the story is be true to yourself.  Jack's longing to be someone other than himself was harmful to everyone involved.

I take a slightly different message away.  Jack failed to recognize that the Christmas joy he witnessed in Christmas Town came not from the things he was seeing but from the loving, human interactions going on.  It isn't the chestnuts roasting on the fire that are important, it is the sitting together to read a story that makes the time special.  It isn't the tree in the house that is important, it is the family activity of decorating it that is important.

In this way Jack Skellington is a darker version of the Grinch (check back for more on the Grinch in a few days).  I am exceptionally glad that there was never a sequel to The Nightmare Before Christmas.  I always like to imagine that Jack learned his lesson from his "experiment" at stealing Christmas.  So, every year from that one forward the people of Halloween Town come together to also celebrate Christmas in their own way.

Zero lies in front of the fire place while Sally, now the Pumpkin Queen, and Jack roast severed heads by the fire as they tell their children the story of Sandy Claws.  Outside, the mostly out of tune jazz musicians play jingle bells at a dragging pace and throughout the town every ghoul, vampire, and goblin celebrates Christmas as a time to be with the ones you love.

What's This?
from The Nightmare Before Christmas
written and performed by Danny Elfman

What's this? What's this?
There's color everywhere
What's this?
There's white things in the air
What's this?
I can't believe my eyes
I must be dreaming
Wake up, jack, this isn't fair
What's this?

What's this? What's this?
There's something very wrong
What's this?
There's people singing songs

What's this?
The streets are lined with
Little creatures laughing
Everybody seems so happy
Have I possibly gone daffy?
What is this?
What's this?

There are children throwing snowballs
instead of throwing heads
They're busy building toys
And absolutely no one's dead

There's frost on every window
Oh, I can't believe my eyes
And in my bones I feel the warmth
That's coming from inside

Oh, look
What's this?
They're hanging mistletoe, they kiss
Why that looks so unique, inspired
They're gathering around to hear a story
Roasting chestnuts on a fire
What's this?
What's this?

In here they've got a little tree, how queer
And who would ever think
And why?

They're covering it with tiny little things
They've got electric lights on strings
And there's a smile on everyone
So, now, correct me if I'm wrong
This looks like fun
This looks like fun
Oh, could it be I got my wish?
What's this?

Oh my, what now?
The children are asleep
But look, there's nothing underneath
No ghouls, no witches here to scream and scare them
Or ensnare them, only little cozy things
Secure inside their dreamland
What's this?

The monsters are all missing
And the nightmares can't be found
And in their place there seems to be
Good feeling all around

Instead of screams, I swear
I can hear music in the air
The smell of cakes and pies
are absolutely everywhere

The sights, the sounds
They're everywhere and all around
I've never felt so good before
This empty place inside of me is filling up
I simply cannot get enough

I want it, oh, I want it
Oh, I want it for my own
I've got to know
I've got to know
What is this place that I have found?
What is this?
Christmas Town, hmm...

Resources:
"The Nightmare Before Christmas"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Nightmare_Before_Christmas
"What's This? Lyrics"
http://www.stlyrics.com/lyrics/thenightmarebeforechristmasmusical/whatsthis.htm

25 Days Of Christmas Angst
Day Song Download/Purchase Info
7 "What's This" from The Nightmare Before Christmas Buy the full album:

Buy the song:

Buy the DVD:

Buy the Blu-Ray:

Amazon Instant Video:
This song captures how we are supposed to approach the season with childlike wonder and then destroy it with greed.
6 "O Tannenbaum" by Henry Lowman FREE! Read my blog post for more about this song.
Get this free album from C. B. Gitty Crafter Supply. There are other Christmas cigar box guitar albums discussed here.

Click this link to preview the remaining days of angst or review the previous days:  http://www.carneylentz.com/p/25-days-of-christmas- angst.html
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