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SoundTRAX: "The Nightmare Before Christmas"

Jack Skellington sits in front of the moon.
Walt Disney
Buena Vista Pictures

SoundTRAX is a dive into notable music from iconic films and TV shows every Monday-Thursday at 8:10.

Appropriately enough, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas turned 30 last week, on Friday, October 13th.

Jack Skellington, "The Pumpkin King," gets bored with preparing for Halloween every year and upon discovering "Christmas Town" is inspired to take control of the yuletide season for a change.

The voice cast is exemplary, including Patrick Stewart, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, and Paul Reubens.

Tim Burton initially envisioned the project as a potential half-hour TV special featuring horror legend Vincent Price as the narrator. (Not gonna lie. I would have loved that.)

But no, it was destined for the big screen.

With a nod to the 60's stop-motion animation classics of Rankin/Bass, Burton brought his distinctively dark vibe to the script and also acted as producer, with Henry Selick serving as director.

For me though, the true star of the film is one Danny Elfman.

The Oingo Boingo frontman was losing interest in the band and looking for a new challenge when he was approached to compose the film's music.

Elfman said:

"I wanted it to sound like it was written 50 or 100 years ago, so I turned to my own influences for that stuff. Kurt Weill's The Threepenny Opera, which was a major thing in my life, was a source, as well musicals from Cole Porter and (George) Gershwin, and to a certain degree, Rodgers and Hammerstein."

Mission accomplished.

The music is equal parts spooky and playful, both melancholy and endearing.

So for the 30th anniversary of The Nightmare Before Christmas, today's SoundTRAX selection features "The Citizens of Halloween," including Elfman himself, Catherine O'Hara, Glenn Shadix, and Ken Page as "Oogie Boogie," with "This Is Halloween."

Mel is the WFPK morning host. Email Mel at mfisher@lpm.org.

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