The Nightmare Before Christmas
From It’s A Wonderful Life and Jingle All The Way through to Love Actually and Polar Express, there’s so many memorable Christmas films that have stood the test of time. Through the swathe of classics to choose from, Holiday Movies that Made Us is a disappointingly brief glimpse into the filming process for 2 beloved titles – Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Because of this, Netflix’s latest foray into the “that-Made-Us” universe is a pleasant Christmas treat but one that’ll undoubtedly leave you wanting more.
If you’ve ever watched the previous entries, The Toys that Made Us and The Movies that Made Us, the format here is nigh-on identical, with a dollop of Christmas candy to sweeten the deal. For those unaware though, this documentary dives into the filmmaking process for both Elf and Nightmare Before Christmas, covering everything from editing, butting heads with studio executives and happy accidents that became some of the more memorable moments that made the final cut.
In that respect, Holiday Movies That Made Us does a great job informing about some of the more unusual and intriguing facts surrounding both films. For example, Danny Elfman’s music had a big influence on the making of Nightmare, with Jack’s song heavily inspired by Elfman’s own feelings toward his band at the time, Oingo Boingo.
On the other end of Christmastown, hearing about studio executives wanting to splice Elf up in the editing room and turn it into a completely different comedy is an intriguing, informative and eye-opening revelation.
Where this documentary loses some points though is in its presentation and style. Narration constantly interjects between the talking head segments, oftentimes edited in a way that the narrator begins a sentence and our filmmakers finish it with one or two words in their interviews.
That’s before mentioning the quick cuts to moments from the film thereafter, used to emphasize certain points or try to add an extra chuckle or two to an already funny tidbit. It’s not a deal breaker per-se but personally it did feel a bit distracting, especially given how invested I was in finding out about how these films were made.
Despite that though, the biggest disappointment with this documentary is how few classics made the cut. As someone who loves all things Christmas, it would have been nice to have a whole selection of episodes to choose from. Then again, given Home Alone and Die Hard (yes, it is a Christmas film) show up on The Movies That Made Us, perhaps the powers that be may do a bit of reshuffling and bolster out the episode run. But then what about the others?
How did the CGI animation work for Polar Express? Did they have issues getting the wind and snow effects right? What about Jingle All The Way? How did the music licensing issues affect the studio and those involved? And what was it like on set with all those famous faces in Love Actually? There’s so much material that could be explored that it’s a shame we only get a glimpse at two classics.
Still, I won’t be too much of a scrooge over this festive documentary. If you’re looking for some light, breezy entertainment and don’t mind the stylistic choices in the editing room, Holiday Movies That Made Us is a nice Christmas treat worth checking out.