It should've immediately touched me in my special touch-y places. I was a big fan of Tim Burton; you should've seen me get emotional at Edward Scissorhands. I was perhaps an even bigger fan of Danny Elfman, already listening to a grip of his film scores and following his career. Well-done stop-motion animation impresses me. (Related: recently I imagined a remake/TV special spinoff version of The Nightmare Before Christmas done in computer-generated animation a la Shrek, and what I imagined looked horrible. Please, let that never happen.) And I like to support kids' films that are trying something different: not the standard storytelling beats, not needing radio-friendly showstoppers among the tunes (if there are tunes; not all kids' films need to be musicals!), having an edge to them. I'd love to see more Time Bandits-type kids' films, is maybe the simplest way to put that.
I saw it while family was gathered in Portland for the holidays, probably Thanksgiving weekend 1993, with my cousin Amy (she goes by Max now, a name which fits her MUCH better, but I digress). She verbalized what was in my head: "That was fine, but that's what everyone was getting so excited about?" And we'd wanted to get excited; we like being enthusiastic. But it hadn't quite clicked with me, though I liked it more than Batman Returns the year before, where I'd left the theater with my brother T.J. and said "That was a screwed-up movie." (Though it was and it is.)
Maybe I was cranky. After seeing A LOT of really strong films in 1991, the first full year I could both drive to the theater and get into R-rated films without hassle*, my film choosing-fu in 1992 was weak; I saw a lot of films I found sub-par. I missed most good films -- didn't see, say, Unforgiven or The Player until years later on video -- and for a long time, the most satisfying film I saw in 1992 was Wayne's World. Which is a fun, funny film (and still quotable! "Marriage is a punishment for shoplifting in some countries..."), but we're not talking Oscar quality. I did better at year's end -- um, at least there was Aladdin? And hey, I genuinely liked Bram Stoker's Dracula -- but maybe I was getting harder to please.
I mean, 1993 was when I saw Army of Darkness first-run and thought, The film's trying too hard. Which MISSES THE POINT OF THE WHOLE MOVIE: it's supposed to be Too Much. That's another one that had to grow on me. (Though I immediately loved Joseph LoDuca's insane score and got it on CD as soon as I could find it.)
So...I don't know why I wasn't as impressed as a lot of us, but I've grown more fond of The Nightmare Before Christmas over the years. There've been 20; you hope it grows.
This entry is also an excuse to link to Danny Elfman himself singing Jack Skellington's songs at a recent London event, the first time he's sung publicly since the final Oingo Boingo concert on Halloween 1995.
* In news that might surprise some of you, I wasn't one to sneak into R-rated films, at least in the theater. Though in the Eighties, I did sneak peaks at R-rated films on video and cable.