On Saturday, Amy and I had a Tim Burton stop-motion kind of night. We saw Corpse Bride at The Bridge Cinemas; then came home and put A Nightmare Before Christmas on the DVD player.
Interesting differences between these two films, released 12 years apart. Both were produced and designed by Burton; both had Danny Elfman scores and songs; and both had a gothic sensibility. But Nightmare was both simpler and more iconic than CB. Although Jack Skellington was created by Burton, one look at him and you're convinced that, in fact, there always was a "pumpkin king" who ruled Halloween Town, and he looked just like Jack. It had a straight-ahead story that mainly served as a springboard for the various wacky visuals and sight gags. And it was far more colorful -- in an actual color sense -- than CB.
CB has a story that aspires to be more complex -- attempting to address what makes a good relationship between a man and woman, living or dead. It mixes in class differences (the cashless landed gentry attempting to forge a marriage alliance with nouveau riche merchants -- that's not implied, that's spelled out in the opening music number!) and two appealing female leads, one living, one dead (as well as a male lead whose primary character trait is that he just means well). It's fun and pretty to look at, but it just doesn't have the charm of Nightmare.
In the end, that may be why Nightmare will continue to be a weird-kid touchstone (and a Disney marketing cornucopia) for years to come, while Corpse Bride will become an occasional midnite feature.