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A still from Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

This semester has been a busy one! As it comes to a close I’m making some final revisions to a paper that has been accepted for the forthcoming publication of A Critical Companion to Tim Burton edited by Adam Barkman and Antonio Sanna (McFarland & Co. 2017). I’ve always loved Burton’s stop-motion films and knew they would be a great fit with my latest research on dolls in Gothic narratives. More specifically, I wanted my chapter to focus on the concept of female identity and its fragmented portrayal in Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride (2005).

The first half of my chapter focused on the figure of Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Her status as a resurrected anomaly and rag doll-like creature that is literally stitched together exemplified my notion of fragmented female identity in these films. Structurally, I traced her evolution through all three versions of this tale. Her character is absent from the original text – a three-page poem that Burton wrote in 1982 as a parody of Clement Clark Moore’s traditional festive poem, ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ (1823) – which can be viewed here. I spoke briefly about how she is portrayed in early versions of the movie script and then demonstrated how she only becomes whole after her unification with the film’s male protagonist, Jack Skellington. I examined how she manages to free herself from her creator, Dr Finkelstein, and steadily evolves into Jack’s double, one who tracks and mimics his movements, shares and often finishes his sentences, and eventually mirrors his behaviour.

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Sally Ragdoll & Jack Skellington

The second half of my chapter looked at the female characters of Victoria and Emily in  terms of their connection to the main protagonist, Victor, in Corpse Bride. Shared identity was the focus of my discussion once again as I explored how together Victor and Victoria personify the notion of the ideal Victorian citizen which can be broken down into two parts: Victoria’s virginity and high social status and Victor’s wealth. Male influence on corpse bride Emily’s identity in terms of her death and imprisonment was also relevant to my discussion, especially as her later sacrifice grants her freedom.

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While I can’t say much more before its publication, I would like to mention how excited I am to be a part of this project. I’ve been a huge fan of Burton’s work for as long as I can remember, so to have my doll research included in what promises to be a definitive guide to his art is really special.

On a final note, one of Nightmare’s many highlights is its beautiful soundtrack, which includes two very different but equally gorgeous versions of ‘Sally’s Song’, sang by Fiona Apple for the The Nightmare Before Christmas Special Edition Soundtrack and by Evanescence’s Amy Lee for the Nightmare Revisited album. Do your ears a favour and take three minutes out of your day to listen to my personal favourite, Fiona’s version.

The Nightmare Before Christmas artwork: Copyright of Skellington Productions.               Corpse Bride artwork: Copyright of Tim Burton Productions.

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