Countdown to Halloween #24: Jack Skellington

So far we’ve had some good characters highlighted in our Countdown to Halloween, and there are plenty more to come, but I think we’ve saved the best for slot #24. He may not be at the top of everyone’s list, but he certainly tops mine. It is none other than the esteemed, Jack Skellington.

Although he made his big screen debut in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington first came to life with a poem written by Tim Burton while he was an animator for Disney in the 1980’s. Burton says that the poem was inspired by watching the Halloween decorations being replaced by Christmas ones in stores.

It was late one fall in Halloweenland,
and the air had quite a chill.
Against the moon a skeleton sat, alone upon a hill.
He was tall and thin with a bat bow tie;
Jack Skellington was his name.
He was tired and bored in Halloweenland

If you don’t know the story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King, a recap:
In an alternate but concurrent universe, there exists separate lands for each of the major holidays. During a melancholic walk through the forest, Jack finds the entrances to these various lands. Of course the door with a green tree and shiny orbs catches his eye and before you know it, the King of Halloween has stumbled into Christmastown.

Because he originally went on this walk in a moment of great depression over the state of his life, Jack sees this venture into Christmastown as the answer to all his problems. Tired of scaring children? Bring them toys instead! So he heads back home determined to figure out the magic of Christmastown and then become the next “Sandy Claws”.

As one can imagine, this does not go as planned.

Why does Jack top my list of Halloween favorites? Simply because I think he embodies something that everyone, but people in the creative fields especially, feels at least once in their life, if not once every day. See Jack is good at Halloween. Jack is very good at Halloween. He has taken the scaring of those around him to a new level. He’s perfected his art. So much so that people appreciate his art. It comes to a point in which he feels as if he is obliged to remain that person/skeleton. Gone is the enjoyment of his art because it has become a chore. What he once took great joy in has turned into a task on par with feeding Zero, his dog, and sweeping his ghost town castle.

How many of us have those moments where you sit back and think “how the hell did I get here?”. There’s a reason that mid-life crises are so commonplace they’ve become stereotypical. No one is immune. Not even a Pumpkin King. Instead of going out and buying a ghost convertible and picking up some zombie chippy at the local  haunt (I apologize, it was unavoidable), Jack decides to turn his life around by spreading cheer and happiness just like he found in Christmasland.

Another reason I love Jack Skellington? He goes from “my life is in the shitter, oh woe is me” to fully convincing himself that not only CAN he become Santa Claus and take over Christmas, but that he SHOULD become Santa Claus and take over Christmas.

I can not tell you the number of times my mother has said to me, “you are a legend in your own mind” to which I reply, “now to just convince the world to agree.” I’m fairly certain that Jack Skellington had a similar exchange with his mother on many an occasion.

If Jack convincing himself to become Santa wasn’t enough to love him, his reaction to his complete and utter failure certainly is. Gone is the skeleton so ennui about his place in life and replacing it is a Pumpkin King who again realizes exactly where his talents lay and what he should be doing with them. It is so fun to watch him make that transformation from “in a million years they’ll find me, only dust and a plaque” to “I can’t wait until the next Halloween, ’cause I’ve got some ideas that will really make them scream!”

This movie and the character of Jack Skellington in particular, is one of those that you see as a child or teenager and think you’ve got it all figured out. Then you watch it again, 15 years later, and realize that you were completely off base. It makes me want to find out when Nightmare Before Christmas airs on Disney so I can peruse tumblr and twitter just to see an entire generation come to that realization in real-time.

So there it is- my favorite Halloween character. He may not be the traditional “jump out and make you piss your pants” type of fright, but I think we can all agree that sometimes the scariest things are those that hit a little close to home. Next time you find yourself in a moment of “my life sucks”, just take solace in the fact that (hopefully) you won’t have to put a shrunken head in a small child’s stocking to get out of it.

Keep an eye out as another character on the Countdown will be revealed every night at 12:01 am for the rest of the month. You’ll also be able to find them HERE.

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