- The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Original theatrical release poster
Directed by Henry Selick Produced by Tim Burton
Denise Di Novi
Screenplay by Caroline Thompson Story by Tim Burton
Starring Danny Elfman
Music by Danny Elfman Cinematography Pete Kozachik Editing by Stan Webb Studio Skellington Productions Distributed by Touchstone Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures
Release date(s) October 29, 1993 Running time 76 minutes Country United States Language English Budget $18 million Box office $75,082,668
The Nightmare Before Christmas, often promoted as Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, is a 1993 stop motion musical fantasy film directed by Henry Selick and produced/co-written by Tim Burton. It tells the story of Jack Skellington, a being from "Halloween Town" who opens a portal to "Christmas Town". Danny Elfman wrote the film score and provided the singing voice of Jack, as well as other minor characters. The remaining principal voice cast includes Chris Sarandon, Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Ken Page and Glenn Shadix.
The genesis of The Nightmare Before Christmas started with a poem written by Tim Burton when he was a Disney animator in the early 1980s. With the success of Vincent in 1982, Disney started to consider The Nightmare Before Christmas as either a short subject or 30-minute television special. Over the years, Burton's thoughts regularly returned to the project, and in 1990, Burton and Disney made a development deal. Production started in July 1991 in San Francisco. Walt Disney Pictures decided to release the film under their Touchstone Pictures banner because the tone was rather dark for children. The Nightmare Before Christmas was met with critical and financial success. Disney has reissued the film annually under their Disney Digital 3-D format since 2006. Another stop-motion animated short, The Wrong Trousers was shown in theaters before the film.
Halloween Town is a dream world filled with dark creatures such as deformed monsters, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires, werewolves and witches. The Pumpkin King, named Jack Skellington, leads them in a frightful celebration every Halloween, but he has grown tired of the same routine year after year. Wandering in the forest outside the town center with his ghost dog, Zero, he finds a cluster of trees each with a door which represents a certain annual holiday. Jack is drawn to the tree with the Christmas tree-shaped door and opens it which leads to a portal to "Christmas Town". Impressed by the feeling and style of Christmas, Jack presents his findings of the holiday to the Halloween Town residents. They fail to grasp his meaning and compare everything he says to their idea of Halloween. Jack undertakes several experiments to try to understand Christmas logically, but he becomes frustrated when he fails to understand. However, he realizes that just because he can't understand Christmas does not mean he still can't enjoy it; so he announces to Halloween Town that this year they will take over Christmas.
Jack's obsession with Christmas leads him to usurp the role of Santa Claus, known to him as "Sandy Claws". Every resident is assigned a task, while Sally, a rag doll woman who was created by the town's mad scientist, has romantic feelings towards Jack. However, when she is alone, she has a premonition of Jack's Christmas ending badly. When she tries to warn Jack of the imminent disaster, he misinterprets her anxiety to mean that she is worried when given the responsibility to make Jack's Santa costume. Meanwhile, Jack assigns Lock, Shock and Barrel, a trio of mischievous children, to bring Santa to Halloween Town. When he arrives, Jack tells him of his plan that he will take over Christmas this year, much to Santa's protests. After this and against Jack's instructions, and largely for their amusement, the trio deliver Santa to Oogie Boogie, a gambling-addict bogeyman who plots to play a game with Santa's life at stake.
Christmas Eve arrives and Jack prepares to embark into the sky on a coffin-like sleigh pulled by skeletal reindeer. Sally tries to stop him by releasing fog juice, but Jack is inspired by Zero's glowing nose and orders the ghost dog to lead the team. He begins to deliver presents to children around the world, but the gifts (shrunken heads, Christmas tree-eating snakes, etc.) only terrify the recipients. Jack is believed to be an impostor attempting to impersonate Santa. The army is alerted, and, using searchlights to spot him, they open fire on him with artillery. Jack believes at first that the shells are merely fireworks, set off to thank him; by the time he realizes the truth, it is too late. The sleigh is shot down and Jack is presumed dead by Halloween Town's citizens, but in fact he has survived the crash, landing in a cemetery. Although he is depressed by the failure of his plan and the damage it caused, he realizes that his Christmas adventure has helped him to rediscover his love for scaring people. Having come up with new ideas for next Halloween and wanting to "set things right", he rushes back to Halloween Town.
Meanwhile, Sally attempts to free Santa, but fails and is also captured by Oogie. Jack slips into the Oogie's lair and frees both Santa and Sally just before Oogie can drop them into a fire pit. Jack then confronts Oogie, who sets off several lethal traps, which Jack nimbly avoids. Oogie tries to escape, but Jack uses a single loose thread hanging from the bogeyman's sewn rag structure to rip him open, exposing the bugs that he is made of. He falls apart, and most of his bugs fall into the fire pit. The last one is squashed by Santa, who then reprimands Jack before setting off to deliver his presents to the children of the world. Jack asks Sally how she got into Oogie's lair in the first place and he realises that she was trying to help Jack because she has feelings for him. When Jack and Sally return to Halloween Town, the citizens rejoice that Jack is alive. Moments later, Santa is seen in the sky, making snow fall over Halloween Town to show that there are no hard feelings between himself and Jack. The townspeople are confused by the snow at first, but soon begin to play happily in it. Jack follows Sally out into the graveyard after seeing the Doctor with his new creation. Jack and Sally sing a romantic song together and then share a passionate kiss on top of the spiral hill in the graveyard. Zero watches them from afar before flying into the night sky forming a bright star shape and ending the film.
- Chris Sarandon as Jack Skellington: A skeleton known as the "Pumpkin King" of Halloween Town. He has a pet ghost dog named Zero, who has a small, glowing jack-o'-lantern nose.
- Danny Elfman, the film's composer, provides Jack's singing voice and also the voice of Barrel. Elfman also supplied the voice for the "Clown with the Tear-Away Face".
- Catherine O'Hara as Sally: A rag doll-like creation of Finklestein and the growing love interest of Jack. O'Hara also provided the voice of Shock. Burton previously worked with O'Hara on Beetlejuice (1988).
- William Hickey as Doctor Finklestein: A mad scientist and the "father" of Sally.
- Glenn Shadix as Mayor of Halloween Town: An enthusiastic leader who conducts town meetings. His wild mood swings from happy to distraught causes his head to spin between a "happy" and "sad" face. Burton had also previously worked with Shadix on Beetlejuice.
- Ken Page as Oogie Boogie: A villainous bogeyman in Halloween Town who has a passion for gambling.
- Ed Ivory as Santa Claus: Responsible for the annual celebration of Christmas by delivering presents to children around the world.
- Paul Reubens provides the voice of Lock. Reubens previously worked with Burton in Pee-wee's Big Adventure (1985) and Batman Returns (1992).
- "Overture" – Orchestra
- "Opening" – Patrick Stewart*, Orchestra
- "This is Halloween" – The Nightmare before Christmas cast/ choir
- "Jack's Lament" – Jack
- "What's This?" – Jack
- "Town Meeting Song" – Jack and Citizens
- "Jack's Obsession" - Jack and Citizens
- "Kidnap The Sandy Claws" – Lock, Shock, and Barrel
- "Making Christmas" – The nightmare before Chritmas cast
- "Oogie Boogie's Song" – Oogie Boogie
- "Sally's Song" – Sally
- "Poor Jack" – Jack
- "Finale" – Jack, Sally, Citizens of Halloween Town
- Patrick Stewart only voices the narrator on the soundtrack album
Burton wrote a three-page poem titled The Nightmare Before Christmas when he was a Disney animator in the early-1980s. Burton took inspiration from television specials of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas. With the success of Vincent in 1982, Disney started to consider The Nightmare Before Christmas as either a short subject or 30-minute holiday television special. Rick Heinrichs and Burton created concept art and storyboards, with Heinrichs also sculpting character models. "Back then, I would have done anything to get the project off ground", Burton explained. "There was a lot of talk of either a short film, like Vincent or a TV special, but it went nowhere. I also wanted to have Vincent Price as narrator." Burton showed Henry Selick, who was also a Disney animator in the early-1980s, the material he and Heinrichs developed.
Over the years, Burton's thoughts regularly returned to the project. In 1990, Burton found out that Disney still owned the film rights, and the two committed to produce a full-length film with Selick as director. Disney was looking forward to Nightmare "to show capabilities of technical and storytelling achievements that were present in Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Nightmare marked Burton's third film in a row to have a Christmas setting. Burton could not direct because of his commitment to Batman Returns and he did not want to be involved with "the painstakingly slow process of stop motion". To adapt his poem into a screenplay, Burton approached Michael McDowell, his collaborator on Beetlejuice. McDowell and Burton experienced creative differences, which convinced Burton to make the film as a musical with lyrics and compositions by frequent collaborator Danny Elfman. Elfman and Burton created a rough storyline and two-thirds of the film's songs, while Selick and his team of animators began production in July 1991 in San Francisco, California with a crew of 200 workers. Joe Ranft worked as a storyboard artist, while Paul Berry was hired as an animation supervisor.
Elfman found writing Nightmare's 10 songs as "one of the easiest jobs I've ever had. I had a lot in common with Jack Skellington." Caroline Thompson still had yet to be hired to write the screenplay. With Thompson's screenplay, Selick stated, "there are very few lines of dialogue that are Caroline's. She became busy on other films and we were constantly rewriting, reconfiguring and developing the film visually." The work of Ray Harryhausen, Ladislas Starevich, Edward Gorey, Charles Addams, Jan Lenica, Francis Bacon and Wassily Kandinsky influenced the filmmakers. Selick described the production design as akin to a pop-up book. In addition, Selick stated, "When we reach Halloween Town, it's entirely German Expressionism. When Jack enters Christmas Town, it's an outrageous Dr. Seuss-esque setpiece. Finally, when Jack is delivering presents in the 'Real World', everything is plain, simple and perfectly aligned."
On the direction of the film, Selick reflected, "It's as though he [Burton] laid the egg, and I sat on it and hatched it. He wasn't involved in a hands-on way, but his hand is in it. It was my job to make it look like "a Tim Burton film", which is not so different from my own films." When asked on Burton's involvement, Selick claimed, "I don't want to take away from Tim, but he was not in San Francisco when we made it. He came up five times over two years, and spent no more than eight or ten days in total." Walt Disney Animation Studios contributed with some use of second-layering traditional animation. Burton found production somewhat difficult because he was directing Batman Returns and in pre-production of Ed Wood.
The filmmakers constructed 227 puppets to represent the characters in the movie, with Jack Skellington having "around four hundred heads", allowing the expression of every possible emotion. Sally's mouth movements "were animated through the replacement method. During the animation process, [...] only Sally's face 'mask' was removed in order to preserve the order of her long, red hair. Sally had ten types of faces, each made with a series of eleven expressions (e.g. eyes open and closed, and various facial poses) and synchronised mouth movements."
The stop motion figurine of Jack Skellington was reused in James and the Giant Peach (also directed by Selick) as a dead pirate captain.
The owners of the franchise have undertaken an extensive marketing campaign of these characters across many media. In addition to the Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland featuring the film's characters," Jack Skellington, Sally, Pajama Jack and the Mayor have been made into Bendies figures, while Jack and Sally even appear in fine art. Moreover, Sally has been made into an action figure and a Halloween costume. Jack is also the titular character in the short story "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas: Jack's story."
Oddly enough, Jim Edwards actually contends that "Tim Burton's animated movie The Nightmare Before Christmas is really a movie about the marketing business. The movie's lead character, Jack Skellington, the chief marketing officer (CMO) for a successful company decides that his success is boring and he wants the company to have a different business plan.
The film's soundtrack album was released in 1993 on Walt Disney Records. For the film's 2006 re-release in Disney Digital 3-D, a special edition of the soundtrack was released, featuring a bonus disc which contained covers of four of the film's songs by Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Marilyn Manson, Fiona Apple and She Wants Revenge. Six original demo tracks by Elfman were also included. On September 30, 2008, Disney released the cover album Nightmare Revisited.
LiLi Roquelin did a French cover of "Sally's Song" which was released on her album Will you hate the rest of the world or will you renew your life? in 2010,
Walt Disney Pictures decided to release the film under their Touchstone Pictures banner because they thought Nightmare would be "too dark and scary for kids", Selick remembered. "Their biggest fear, and why it was kind of a stepchild project, [was] they were afraid of their core audience hating the film and not coming. To help market the film "it was released as Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas," Burton explained. "But it turned more into more of a brand-name thing, it turned into something else, which I'm not quite sure about." The film premiered at the New York Film Festival on October 9.
The film has gone on to receive critical acclaim. Based on 69 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, 97% of the critics enjoyed The Nightmare Before Christmas with the consensus of "a stunningly original and visually delightful work of stop-motion animation." With 15 reviewers in the "Top Critics" category, the film has a 100% approval rating. By comparison, Metacritic calculated an average score of 77/100, based on 16 reviews. Roger Ebert gave a highly positive review for Nightmare. Ebert believed the film's visual effects were as revolutionary as Star Wars, taking into account that Nightmare was "filled with imagination that carries us into a new world".
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone called it a restoration of "originality and daring to the Halloween genre. This dazzling mix of fun and fright also explodes the notion that animation is kid stuff. ... It's 74 minutes of timeless movie magic." James Berardinelli stated "The Nightmare Before Christmas has something to offer just about everyone. For the kids, it's a fantasy celebrating two holidays. For the adults, it's an opportunity to experience some light entertainment while marveling at how adept Hollywood has become at these techniques. There are songs, laughs, and a little romance. In short, The Nightmare Before Christmas does what it intends to: entertain." Desson Thomson of The Washington Post enjoyed stylistic features in common with Oscar Wilde, German Expressionism, the Brothers Grimm and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.
Michael A. Morrison discusses the influence of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas on the film, writing that Jack parallels the Grinch and Zero parallels Max, the Grinch's dog. Philip Nel writes that the film "challenges the wisdom of adults through its trickster characters" contrasting Jack as a "good trickster" with Oogie Boogie, whom he also compares with Dr. Seuss' Dr. Terwilliker, as a bad trickster. Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic see the characters as presented in a more negative light and criticize the film's characters as having racial constructs, with the protagonists using "whitespeak" and the antagonist, Oogie Boogie, using "blackspeak." Entertainment Weekly reports that fan reception of these characters borders on obsession, profiling "Laurie and Myk Rudnick a couple who are extremely interested in the motion picture The Nightmare Before Christmas. Their degree of obsession with that film is so great that...they named their son after the real-life person that a character in the film is based on." This enthusiasm for the characters has spread beyond North America to Japan."
Danny Elfman was worried the characterization of Oogie Boogie would be considered racist by National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Elfman's predictions came true; however, director Henry Selick stated the character was inspired by the Betty Boop cartoon The Old Man of the Mountain. "Cab Calloway would dance his inimitable jazz dance and sing "Minnie the Moocher" or "Old Man of the Mountain", and they would rotoscope him, trace him, turn him into a cartoon character, often transforming him into an animal, like a walrus," Selick continued. "I think those are some of the most inventive moments in cartoon history, in no way racist, even though he was sometimes a villain. We went with Ken Page, who is a black singer, and he had no problem with it".
Nightmare has inspired video game spin-offs, including Oogie's Revenge and The Pumpkin King and is among the many Disney-owned franchises that contribute to the mythology of the Kingdom Hearts series. A trading card game is also available. Since 2001, Disneyland has held a Nightmare Before Christmas theme for its Haunted Mansion Holiday attraction.
Around the release of the film, Touchstone president David Hoberman quoted, "I hope Nightmare goes out and makes a fortune. If it does, great. If it doesn't, that doesn't negate the validity of the process. The budget was less than any Disney blockbuster so it doesn't have to earn Aladdin-sized grosses to satisfy us." Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas was given a limited release on October 15, 1993, before being wide released on October 29. The film earned $50 million in the United States on its first theatrical run.
On October 20, 2006, Disney reissued Nightmare (no longer under Touchstone Pictures) with conversion to Disney Digital 3-D. Industrial Light & Magic assisted in the process. It made a further $8.7 million in box office gross. Subsequently, the 3-D version of Nightmare has been re-released annually in October. The 2007 and 2008 reissues earned a $14.5 million and $1.1 million, respectively, increasing the film's total box office gross to $74.7 million. The El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, California showed the film in 4-D format from October 21–31, 2010. The reissues have led to a reemergence of 3-D films and advances in Real D Cinema.
The film was nominated for both the Academy Award for Visual Effects and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Nightmare won the Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film, while Elfman won Best Music. Selick and the animators were also nominated for their work. Elfman was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.
With successful home video sales, Nightmare achieved the ranks of a cult film. Touchstone Pictures first released the film on DVD in December 1997. It contained no special features. Nightmare was released a second time in October 2000 as a special edition. The release included audio commentary by Selick and cinematographer Pete Kozachik, a 28-minute making-of documentary, gallery of concept art, and storyboards, test footage and deleted scenes. Burton's Vincent and Frankenweenie were also included.
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment released The Nightmare Before Christmas on Disney Blu-ray 3D on August 30, 2011. The release included 4-disc combo pack including a Blu-ray 3D disc, Blu-ray Disc, DVD and digital copy of the film.
In 2001, Walt Disney Pictures began to consider producing a sequel, but rather than using stop motion, Disney wanted to use computer animation. Burton convinced Disney to drop the idea. "I was always very protective of [Nightmare] not to do sequels or things of that kind", Burton explained. "You know, 'Jack visits Thanksgiving world' or other kinds of things just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it... Because it's a mass-market kind of thing, it was important to kind of keep that purity of it." The 2005 video game The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge did continue the story of the film, with Capcom's crew of developers going after Tim Burton for advice, and having the collaboration of the film's art director, Deane Taylor. In 2009, Selick said he would do a film sequel if he and Burton could create a good story for it.
The Nightmare Before Christmas aired on Disney Channel on December 19, 2009.
Trading Card Game
The Nightmare Before Christmas Designer(s) Andrew Parks and Zev Shlasinger Publisher(s) NECA Players 2+ Age range 10+ Playing time Approx 45 min Random chance Some Skill(s) required Card playing
Basic Reading Ability
Released in 2005 by NECA The Nightmare Before Christmas TCG is a collectible card game based on the film. It consists of a Premiere set and 4 Starter Decks based on 4 characters, Jack Skellington, The Mayor, Oogie Boogie, and Doctor Finklestein. Each Starter contain a rule book, a Pumpkin King card, a Pumpkin Points card, and a 48 card deck.
The game has 4 card types:
And has 4 rarities:
- Ultra Rare
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- John Scalzi (2008-08-28). "Why Tim Burton's Recurring Nightmare Remains So Popular". AMC. http://blogs.amctv.com/scifi-scanner/2008/08/john-scalzi-nightmare-before-christmas.php.
Characters Video gamesOogie's Revenge · The Pumpkin King Music Attraction Films directed by Henry Selick 1990sThe Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) · James and the Giant Peach (1996) 2000s Tim Burton 1980s 1990s 2000s 2010s ProducerEdward Scissorhands (1990) · Batman Returns (1992) · The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) · Cabin Boy (1994) · Ed Wood (1994) · Batman Forever (1995) · James and the Giant Peach (1996) · Mars Attacks! (1996) · Corpse Bride (2005) · 9 (2009) · Dark Shadows (2012) · Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) · Frankenweenie (2012) · Big Eyes (TBA) Short films LiteratureBurton on Burton, edited by Mark Salisbury (1995, revised editions 2000, 2006) · The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories (1997) · The Art of Tim Burton, written by Leah Gallo (2009) Saturn Award for Best Fantasy Film (1991–2010)
Edward Scissorhands (1991) · Aladdin (1992) · The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) · Forrest Gump (1994) · Babe (1995) · Dragonheart (1996) · Austin Powers (1997) · The Truman Show (1998) · Being John Malkovich (1999) · Frequency (2000) · The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) · The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) · The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) · Spider-Man 2 (2004) · Batman Begins (2005) · Superman Returns (2006) · Enchanted (2007) · The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) · Watchmen (2009) · Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Complete list · (1973–1990) · (1991–2010)
- Chris Sarandon as Jack Skellington: A skeleton known as the "Pumpkin King" of Halloween Town. He has a pet ghost dog named Zero, who has a small, glowing jack-o'-lantern nose.
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