Hall of the Pumpkin King
San Antonio museum collects spooky set pieces for 30th anniversary of The Nightmare Before Christmas
Hope you're sitting down: This year, the classic holiday mashup movie The Nightmare Before Christmas turns 30 years old. That's 30 years of Zero, the ghost dog, being the cutest dead thing ever; of nostalgia for the music of Danny Elfman; and of the pervasive trauma from watching Oogie Boogie unravel.
This spooky stop-motion wasn't just iconic for its adventurously eclectic storyline. It was also a technical masterpiece. That's why the McNay Art Museum curated Dreamland | Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The anniversary exhibit celebrates director Tim Burton's achievement through his "awkwardly charming cast," in the McNay's words, with drawing and maquettes: miniature models created for the films.
The usual suspects will be there — figures like Jack Skellington and Oogie Boogie — along with tonally similar characters by other artists in the McNay's collections. Outside inspiration is pulled from contemporary surrealist painter Julie Heffernan, influential abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning, and iconic poster illustrator Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, among others.
As lovable as the characters who take center stage are, the exhibit also focuses on worldbuilding, without which they would just be oddballs in another forgettable children's movie. Removing the characters from their original context, the exhibit encourages onlookers to invent their own narratives.
Selected images on the McNay's website include a figurine of the exposed innards of Oogie Boogie, a diorama of Jack Skellington's tower interior, and a spindly, surreal bed, all from the film. They also draw in an illustration of Pulcinella, a stock character from the Commedia dell'arte — perhaps as a parallel to the charismatic and selfish, but ultimately benevolent skeleton lead — as well as a portrait that gives an uneasy air to a sagging Christmas tree.
The exhibit opens on August 17, at 10 am for members and 4 pm for the general public. More information and tickets are available at mcnayart.org.