It's Disney's biggest cult-classic, it's Henry Sellick's stop-motion masterpiece, and it's a classic tale from the imagination of Tim Burton. It's none other than The Nightmare Before Christmas. This festive and freaky holiday feature has been a beloved Halloween and Christmas classic for over a decade and has gathered more than a fan following since it hit theatres back in 1993. From this little movie that could rose an entire fandom with a love for the sweet and spooky. It inspired years of Halloween decor, countless homages and imitators, and even an entire genre of film. It's become a favorite tradition in many households and gatherings thanks to our growing love for all things strange and unusual.
A lot of love and effort went into creating the magnificent monster-piece. Dozens of miniature models, hand-built sets, pounds of fake snow, yards of wires, and countless puppets with hundreds of different parts all went in to bring the worlds of Halloween and Christmas to life. So much talent and imagination went into this film, some of the magic behind the scenes has become drowned out in its long-term success. The artists, actors, and creative minds behind the movie deserve some much-needed spotlight. So, we're here today to bring some Holliday cheer as well as some shivers and scares as we list twenty things about The Nightmare Before Christmas you might not have known.
20 BRIGHT EYES
Today, we're all familiar with the tall, dark, and spidery figure of Jack Skellington, The Pumpkin King. We can easily recognize his bony fingers, skeleton grin, and bat bowtie in an instant. Whether on Halloween decorations, toys, or whatever, he's a sweet yet spooky face we've all come to love.
There was a time, however, that Jack would've looked a great deal different, all because of one design change. While the film was being shot and puppets being constructed, Jack was originally given large, Disney-like eyes. The executives thought this would make him look less intimidating than the gaping black sockets he has. The design was considered too creepy and the filmmakers kept Jack as we know him, and his eyes remain happily hollowed.
19 A WELL-HIDDEN MICKEY
Any Disney buff knows that there's always a Hidden Mickey tucked away somewhere in every one of their films. The Nightmare Before Christmas, despite being released under Disney's Touchstone Pictures, is no exception to the rule. Though Mickey does appear on a child's pajamas in the film, there is a larger one hidden in the same scene.
The fan-favorite Vampire Teddy Bear has a striking resemblance to the studio's magical mascot. Despite the teeth and the cape, the Vampire Teddy Bear shares the same color scheme as Mickey, and the same iconic head shape. It seems even the residents of Halloween Town have a love for the mouse.
18 TERROR AND TURKEY LEGS
Christmas wasn't the only holiday door Jack might have fallen through. The mind boggles what might have happened if the Pumpkin King stumbled into St. Patrick's Day, Valentine's Day, or Easter. It's a surreal, yet entertaining thought and one Disney might have had as well.
At one point after the 3-D re-release of the film, Disney was supposedly in talks with Burton and Selick to make a sequel where Jack explores other Holidays and sets his sockets on Thanksgiving. As fun as it would've been, Burton was strongly against it, saying it never needed a sequel from the start. We're right there with you, Tim. If it's not broke, don't fix it.
17 BOOGEYMEN AND OINGO BOINGO
For a skeleton, Jack's got a nice set of pipes. The three big names behind the making of the film were Tim Burton, Henry Selick, and Danny Elfman. Burton wrote and created the story, Selick directed the adaptation, but Elfman not only wrote some incredible tunes but helped Jack hit those sweet notes.
The former member of Oingo Boingo is famous for his weird, wild, and whimsical compositions, but he got to use his singing talents to help bring Jack to life. Not only did he fill in for the singing voice, but he wrote all the songs while working with writers in tandem. A man of many gifts, Elfman sure knows how to throw a dead man's party.
16 A RANKIN/BASS REJECT
Today, The Nightmare Before Christmas is regarded as one of the most beloved and well-designed stop-motion films in the field. Its fantastic use of puppets, effects, and atmosphere make it shine amongst its peers. At the time of conception, however, the use of stop-motion was more for parody than creative choice.
The inspiration for the look of the film was meant to imitate and parody Rankin/Bass Christmas specials like Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin' to Town, and other similar titles. The goal was to take the cheery, holly-jolly atmosphere and turn it completely around. Though Christmas Town certainly looks incredibly similar to its inspiration, it's the obvious Halloween Town that meets this goal.
15 HAUNTED MANSION HOLIDAY
After the film had built up an enormous fan base, and earned Disney an even more enormous amount of money in the process, the Imagineers decided they needed to bring Jack, Sally, and all their friends to the Happiest Place on Earth. Since Jack's Christmas scheme backfired, he decided he'd be much more at home with the Happy Haunts of the Haunted Mansion.
The Haunted Mansion Holiday has been a seasonal event held in Disneyland for many years, and it continues to attract fans new and old. Jack and his crew unload their twisted Christmas gifts throughout the halls of the manor and mingle with the ghosts. Whether its cannibal Christmas cookies or man-eating wreathes, there's always plenty of tricks and treats around the tree.
14 SELICK'S NOT BURTON'S
There has been a long debate amongst fans of the film in regards to ownership of the property. The story and all the characters came from Tim Burton, but the film was directed and overseen by Henry Selick. Who really is the man behind the madness?
While it's true that It was Burton's Story and characters that received the film adaptation, it's Selick's film nonetheless. Burton did receive a producing credit, but as far as the workload goes, we have to give props to Selick. That being said, we have both minds to thank for giving us this horrifying holiday classic.
13 BARELY PRESENT BURTON
Jumping off the previous point, it might have Burton's name on it, but he was probably one of the least involved figures in production. Yes, Burton wrote the story, assisted on the script, did the preliminary sketches of the characters, and helped produce story-boards for the film. But supposedly he was only present for three days of the filming process.
We're not saying he didn't do his part, it's certainly not easy creating a world and characters from something as simple as a children's poem, but he wasn't the only cook in the kitchen. It is somewhat unfair that he receives nearly twice the recognition as his collaborators. At least he's not let it go to his head.
12 A HEAD FOR HOCKEY
Speaking of Burton's head, there is a deleted scene that's certainly a bit graphic for something so associated with Disney. It's a magical time for the creatures of Halloween Town when Santa Claus bring Christmas to them in the form of a winter wonderland. But there's something strange going on during the vampires' friendly hockey game.
The vampires have a happy little hockey match on a frozen pond, using broomsticks and a pumpkin as sticks and a puck. In a deleted scene, however, the pumpkin was actually the severed head of Tim Burton. What was meant as a playful nod to the producer can still be seen on the films special features, but it was too grizzly for Disney.
11 OOGIE'S BOOGIE
You know what there aren't enough of in animated movies? Bright, jazzy, vegas styled villain songs. He's the shadow of the moon at night with a serious gambling problem, Oogie Boogie is one of the creepiest and corniest villains on Disney's payroll, but there's something very familiar about him.
His movements, vocals, and musical stylings were all inspired by jazz icon, Cab Calloway. The big name bandleader was a sensation in the '20s, but elements of his dancing and manner of speaking make their way into Oogie's routine. Broadway star, Ken Page, provides the voice, but anyone familiar with the musician can easily see an uncanny resemblance. Perhaps he was a hi-dee-ho man in another life?
10 AND ALL THROUGH THE HOUSE
We've already mentioned how Burton wrote the story and created the characters for the film, but the inspiration comes from something sweet, simple, and just the right amount of spooky. While Burton worked as an animator at Disney in the '80s, he concocted a poem that blended the worlds of Christmas and Halloween in a style and voice reminiscent of Clement Clark Moore's original story but with a strange little twist.
Written as a playful spoof of A Visit from Saint Nicholas, the story got the attention of Disney and was soon in talks for an adaptation. Burton's work was tangible and unique, so opportunities were definitely present. It came from humble beginnings but resulted in something magically macabre.
9 A SIGNIFICANTLY SMALL CAST
The film plays host to all manner of creeps, creatures, and characters in both the holiday worlds and the mortal realm. Jack, Sally, Zero, Oogie Boogie, and Lock, Shock, and Barrel are just a handful of the players in the feature, but the source material wasn't exactly that full. Since it so short, there were only a handful of characters truly mentioned by name.
Jack, Zero, and Santa Claus were the three main players in the original story, though a trio of trick-or-treaters was mentioned as well. The narrative focused on Jack's Christmas scheme with Zero as his faithful sidekick and Santa as the voice of reason at the end. It made for a simplistic spooky tale but needed to be fleshed out for the film.
8 CAPTAIN ON DECK
Here's a tidbit only the most seasoned of Skellington fans will catch. There was a special appearance by a very renowned actor on the original soundtrack to the film. Unfortunately, these recordings did not make it into the final product, but those who heard the tracks got a special treat from Captain Picard, himself.
Patrick Stewart was originally supposed to be the narrator for the opening and closing segments of the film, but his recordings only made it to the soundtrack. Stewart, of course, not only gives a stirring performance but reads an epilogue to the story we would have loved to see on the screen. The final track ties a neat bow on a classic tale, we highly recommend our readers have a listen.
7 A SAD SANTA
Ever the ultimate horror fan, Tim Burton originally wanted his childhood idol, Vincent Price, to play a part in his film. Looking back, this would have been a brilliant move had things turned out differently. The Master of the Macabre working with one of the greatest minds in the genre would have been something to see.
Unfortunately, Price had recently lost his beloved wife and though he still came to read for the part, his performance was a bit too melancholy and saddening. Understandably, Price was passed over for the role of Santa in the film. It was for the best, but we still wonder what might have been.
6 A SHORT SUBJECT
In the early days of production, the film was not originally pitched as a feature film. In fact, it was debated whether the title would work on its own or be too dark for Disney. Remarkably, Selick and Burton were able to get funding for a full-length film, and the rest is history.
The original concept was to make it a holiday special to be shown both at Halloween and Christmas. It was intended to be something reminiscent of Burton's short films for Disney, Vincent and Frankenweenie. The latter, ironically, was deemed too dark for the studio. It would have been Burton's version of a cheesy Christmas special, but lucky for us we got the cult-film it deserved to be.
5 RETURN TO HALLOWEEN TOWN
We've already talked about speculation for sequels to the film and how Burton was against the idea, but The Nightmare Before Christmas actually does have a sequel in existence. A cult-classic film deserves a cult-classic video game, and that's what it got in the form of The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge. Players assume the role of Jack Skellington in his quest to stop Oogie Boogie from taking over the other holidays.
The game was even approved by Burton and featured vocal performances by Nightmare alumni Chris Sarandon, Ken page, and Paul Reubens. If that wasn't enough, it's even supposedly considered canon by Disney and the fanbase. It's a fun romp through the holiday worlds that no PS2 owner should miss.
4 NEW CREATIONS
As mentioned before, the original poem had a rather small cast for a full-length feature film. But that didn't stop the artists and writers from taking a few creative liberties in drawing up new characters for the piece. Characters like Dr. Finklestein, The Mayor, and the Harlequin Demon were dreamed up for the film, but there were two specific faces that were pivotal in creation.
The characters of Sally and Oogie Boogie were never mentioned in the poem, though there are illustrations of the former, they serve as key players in the film. With Sally as Jack's love interest and Oogie as the antagonist, they both add to the narrative and drive the story forward. We can certainly live with and love these creepy creations.
3 FIENDISH FINKLESTEIN
Yet another scene from the cutting room floor makes our list, though this one isn't as scary as the heads-as-pucks hockey match. Before Oogie Boogie was the big, brassy, bag of bugs we know and love, there was originally more to the story than just a typical Disney villain. But the concept might not have been the best idea.
One of the original scenes for Oogie Boogie's defeat revealed him to be a puppet controlled by a crabby Dr. Finklestein. Apparently, the doc's plan was to keep Sally away from Jack after she falls in love with him, and Santa just got in the way. It was a left-field idea that never made it off the storyboards, but one we had to mention.
2 JACK THE ACTOR
Though he got his big screen debut in The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack actually has a unique and impressive filmography under his belt. From playing pirates to shadow-demons, he's quite the prolific performer. He's appeared in films by Burton, Selick, and sever other Disney roles. He's proved he's more versatile than we first believed.
Jack has had cameos in Beetlejuice, Coraline, Sleepy Hollow, Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland and even The Princess and The Frog. His most notable appearance outside of Halloween Town is that of the pirate captain in Henry Selick's adaptation of James and the Giant Peach. At least he's not invading other holidays, right?
1 DISNEY'S DIRTY SECRET
Though it might not seem believable now, The Nightmare Before Christmas was actually a side project Disney tried to keep away from, save for a studio credit. Though they have since given the film its own attraction at Disneyland, a spot on Freeform's movie lineup, and legions of merchandise, it was the gothic stepchild they wanted to avoid. Talk about a change of heart.
When the film was released, the studio execs thought it would be too dark and scary for younger audiences, they decided to limit their ties to the film and release it under Touchstone Pictures. Nowadays, the film is ironically one of their most successful releases due to the cult status. See, Disney? The dark side isn't so bad.