With the Halloween season in full effect, little ghosts and ghouls are preparing to raid their neighborhoods of candy while their parents are already booking them a dentist appointment. The weather is finally cooling down, and the awfulness of summer is finally fading away. It is a time of year that leads into the Christmas season, and smack dab in the middle of it all is a day that exists for families to get together and eat an absurd amount of food while watching football. Each family has their own special traditions that help make the Halloween season all the more exciting, and one film in particular, whether you watch it during Halloween or Christmas, has been a mainstay for over two decades.
Back in 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas was released in theaters, and the fanfare that has come with it is something that the minds at Disney couldn’t have dreamed of. The film was a counterculture fixture before becoming an outright classic. Disney has made heaps of money from the film, and it generates unfathomable amounts of money in clothing and toy sales. It was a huge success for Disney, and it helped Tim Burton’s status in Hollywood reach another level.
Today, we will be bringing you 15 secrets from one of the most beloved films on the 1990’s. Whether you have seen The Nightmare Before Christmas one time or 100 times, this list is sure to give you a little more insight into what it takes to create a classic.
15. The Film’s Production Was Tedious
The stop motion animation that was utilized in The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the reasons why the film truly stood out. In an era where animated films still relied on hand drawings, the decision to make The Nightmare Before Christmas proved to be a stroke of genius. While fans of the film are able to reap the rewards of the production team’s labor, few people truly understand the amount of tedious and tireless work that was put into making the film a bona fide classic.
In order to capture one second of animation, the team had to take 24 individual photos. Given the film’s run time, it is estimated that The Nightmare Before Christmas contains around 110,000 frames. One minute of the film took a week to capture, and when all was said and done, The Nightmare Before Christmas took more than 3 years to complete. Talk about an intense project!
14. The Evolution Of Jack Skellington
The success of The Nightmare Before Christmas, having spawned one of the biggest fandoms of all time, helped make Jack Skellington one of the most iconic figures in animation history. His face and outfit have inspired countless cosplayers over the years, and the character is a mainstay during the holiday season. Despite Jack Skellington being the character that we all know and love, there was once a point in time where Jack had a very different look, and if Disney had their way, he would look considerably stranger than he does already.
Director Henry Selick was instrumental in making Jack into the character that we all know and love. Originally, Jack sported an all-black suit, but it was later changed to pinstripes. This was done to help Jack stand out during the film as test screenings showed that Jack’s outfit often blended into his surroundings. Elsewhere, Disney wanted Jack Skellington to have eyeballs, but they would eventually lose that battle.
13. Paging Patrick Stewart
Given the basis of the film (which we will discuss later on), it makes sense that the crew tasked living legend Patrick Stewart with narrating sequences at the beginning and the end of the film. Stewart’s voice is as recognizable as anyone else’s in the entertainment industry, and he could have had a tremendous impact on the film with his narrating. Stewart had come in and recorded his monologues, although the final version of the film would have a Patrick Stewart-sized hole in it when it arrived in theaters back in October of 1993.
Post-production changes are a frequent occurrence in the world of cinema, and slowly but surely, Patrick Stewart’s lines were whittled down. It eventually reached a point where Stewart’s lines were removed from the film entirely, and Ed Ivory, the actor who lent his voice to Santa Claus, would narrate the film. If you’re interested in hearing Stewart’s work, pick up a copy of the film’s soundtrack.
12. The Hidden Mickeys
Disney fans in the know spend far too much time looking for hidden Mickeys in Disney theme parks and films. For those of you who are uninformed, Disney has a longstanding tradition of including a hidden Mickey Mouse in their films and theme parks, giving way to what has become a popular game in the Disney fandom. Despite being released under the Touchstone Pictures (which was owned by Disney), the film is considered a Disney film, and fans were on the hunt to spot a hidden Mickey in perhaps the darkest animated film in the Disney canon. Well, folks, we are here to tell you that there are hidden Mickeys in the film.
Pay close attention to the toys that go on the attack to spot the first hidden Mickey. The menacing stuffed animal flying about is Burton’s take on Mickey Mouse. The girl that the stuffed animal attacks has Mickey Mouse on her pyjamas. Donald Duck can be spotted in the scene as well on the pyjamas of the little boy.
11. The Twist Ending
Oogie Boogie is another character from The Nightmare Before Christmas who has become immensely popular within the Disney universe. He acts as the antagonist in the film, and his song has inspired countless covers on YouTube. Oogie was meant to represent a kid’s worst fears, and the creature behind the sack is revealed in the film. It is shown that Oogie Boogie is made up of disgusting bugs and even some snakes and spiders, giving most kids the creeps. What most people don’t know is that there was supposed to be a huge twist in the film involving Oogie’s true identity.
As opposed to the bugs, spiders, and snakes that we see, Oogie was supposed to be one of the film’s main characters in disguise. Doctor Finkelstein, the mad scientist and creator of Sally, was supposed to be revealed as the man behind the mask. Thankfully, changes were made, and Oogie was made an entirely separate character.
10. Jack Skellington’s Cameos
Not like other popular characters from massively successful projects, Jack Skellington has appeared in several other projects. These films exist outside of the Nightmare Before Christmas world, and Jack’s appearance is brief and easily missed.
In the film James and the Giant Peach, a film that was directed by Henry Selick, Jack Skellington can be seen as the captain of the sunken ship. He gets a nice closeup shot, and he was easily spotted by viewers. He also makes an appearance in the Disney film The Princess and the Frog, although this was much harder to spot. Jack’s silhouette is briefly visible as Dr. Facilier summons the shadows in the film.
Outside of Disney animated films, Jack can be seen in the film Beetlejuice. Elsewhere, Jack is quickly seen as a cracked egg in the movie Coraline. The television show Phineas and Ferb also has a cameo from Jack Skellington.
9. The Importance Of Sally
Jack Skellington may serve as the film’s main character, but the supporting cast in the film are as integral to the film’s success and overall fanfare as Jack is. Sally may be a rag doll who struggles to keep her physical body together, but those who have watched The Nightmare Before Christmas closely enough know that she is one of the best characters in the movie. Sally is a very insightful character whose love for those that are close to her is remarkable. Sure, she tried to kill Doctor Finkelstein, but you are missing what is important.
The film’s screenwriter, Caroline Thompson, had a very interesting take on Sally. Thompson says, “…while Jack’s dilemma gives The Nightmare Before Christmas its plot, Sally’s gives it its heart.” She is a great character who is smarter than she lets on. Her recent inclusion into the Haunted Mansion Holiday ride at Disneyland was long overdue.
8. A Unique Spin On The Artwork
One element of Tim Burton’s work that typically stands tall above the rest is his unique way of capturing incredible visual images. Despite the imitation, no one does it like Tim Burton, and The Nightmare Before Christmas is no different. The set and costume designs of the film have become iconic over the years, and in order to track down their inspiration, you need not look any further than German Expressionism. This stems from a 1920’s development in Germany that gave way to a brilliant style of art. Although German Expressionism was instrumental in the film taking its final shape, there was an odd suggestion that provided the film with its distinct look.
While in the process of developing characters’ looks and various setting in the film, model artists were instructed to draw their sketches with their non-dominant hand. This aided the film in getting its unique look, and it helped make the film unlike others in its era.
7. Danny Elfman’s Influence
Not only is The Nightmare Before Christmas a visually-delightful film that continues to captivate audiences, but it is also a film that boasts an incredible soundtrack that ranks up there with the best in film history. Led by musician Danny Elfman, the soundtrack for The Nightmare Before Christmas actually began to take shape before the film was finished being written. The work that Elfman did in creating the film’s soundtrack helped the film take shape in its early stages. Not only did Danny Elfman write the soundtrack for the film, but he also provided the singing voice for Jack Skellington.
As if this wasn’t enough, a character based on Elfman can be seen briefly in the film. If you look closely at the street band, Elfman’s character can be seen in the upright bass. Still not impressed? Elfman also lent his voice to the characters Barrel and the Clown with the Tear-Away Face.
6. Trapdoors And Secret Passages
Making The Nightmare Before Christmas was a task that very few people would be up to, and the work that was involved is something we spoke of earlier. This masterpiece required an incredible amount of work just to get one second of film, and preparing everything for the animators was difficult as well. 230 sets spanning 19 soundstages were used in the making of The Nightmare Before Christmas. The expansive sets were rather elaborate, and navigating around them could have proven difficult for animators. In order to avoid a catastrophe, secret trapdoors were built so that the animators could do their job in a more effective manner.
Getting every detail down perfectly was a daunting task, and even the character’s emotions were hard to capture. Jack Skellington alone had over 400 heads to help capture his different expressions. All of this was done just so we could enjoy this movie from the comforts of our home.
5. It Was Based On A Poem Written By Tim Burton
The creative mind of Tim Burton remains unique after all these years, and back when he was just a young animator working at Disney, Burton would lay the foundation for what was to become one of the biggest fandoms the world has ever seen. Burton originally penned The Nightmare Before Christmas as a poem, which can be found online. The poem is more or less the story that you see on the big screen, although it is not nearly as long or as in depth. Given the fact that it’s also lacking the incredible soundtrack from Danny Elfman, it is safe to say that we prefer the movie to the poem.
If you are a fan of the film and you haven’t read the poem, then you need to address this immediately. It gives you a good idea of how the film’s script would eventually take shape. But, what prompted Tim Burton to pen the poem in the first place?
4. Holiday Décor At Department Stores Inspired The Story
Let’s face it, holiday décor, as much as people love it, hits the shelves of department stores unbearably early. It seems as though you can hardly go a few weeks without seeing decorations for the next holiday littering stores around the country. Halloween and Christmas, given their history of families decorating their houses, are far and away the worst holidays when it comes to decorations being put out far too early. These two holidays are close enough to have their decorations compete in stores, and this clash of holidays is what inspired Tim Burton to write the poem that would end up becoming The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Because Burton grew up in Southern California where the sun shines year-round, he claims that the decorations in stores were important in the year’s progression. Nevertheless, this nuisance that we all deal with every year is what inspired Burton all those years ago.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas Ride
Leave it to Disney to capitalize on any shred of success that they taste. At the box office, The Nightmare Before Christmas was a modest success, and it didn’t reach the lofty heights of other Disney films like Aladdin or Beauty and the Beast. While $50 million may seem minor compared to the success of other Disney films in the early 1990’s, Disney thought that the film was successful enough to warrant a ride in one of their theme parks. And so, the company set out to incorporate a Nightmare Before Christmas ride in Disneyland. Burton would shut down the idea, but Disney would find a way to capitalize on the hit film.
Each year during the Autumn and Winter, Disneyland’s legendary ride, The Haunted Mansion, is shut down for a period of time to get a Nightmare Before Christmas re-theming. Believe us when we say that the ride is absolutely breathtaking.
2. A Lack Of Tim Burton
This may come as a shock given that the film is tied to Tim Burton, but he did not direct The Nightmare Before Christmas. Now, we know what you’re thinking, and yes, it is completely true. Despite The Nightmare Before Christmas being his greatest career achievement, Tim Burton did not direct the film. Instead, Henry Selick was the man responsible for bringing this classic to life.
Burton was not totally absent from the film, and he would serve as producer. Although the film is based on his poem, Burton did not write the screenplay either. Caroline Thompson was the woman responsible for telling the entire story. Nevertheless, Burton, having penned the poem that got the ball rolling, was instrumental in the design of the film. At the time, Tim Burton was hands deep in the making of the film Batman Returns which prevented him from directing The Nightmare Before Christmas.
1. The Corpse Bride Connection
Fan theories on the internet can spark some truly interesting discussion, and one theory involving two Tim Burton films is just too fascinating to ignore. While this theory does include other Tim Burton films, the focus here will be on the connection between The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride. There is a thought that the character Victor from Corpse Bride eventually became Jack Skellington after being dead for an extended period of time. Not only is the character incredibly thin, but he also has a dog, much like Jack Skellington.
While this theory is more than likely false, it is still an interesting observation by fans of Burton. And though he didn’t create an expansive animated universe, Tim Burton catalyzed a film that will go down in history as an all-time great. Whether you love it or hate it, The Nightmare Before Christmas will remain a mainstay during the holiday season for the foreseeable future.
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