The story starts in a forest with seven trees containing doors leading to towns representing various holidays: Fourth of July, Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Thanksgiving, Easter, Christmas, and Halloween. Halloween Town is a fantasy world filled with citizens such as deformed monsters, ghosts, ghouls, goblins, vampires, werewolves and witches. Jack Skellington, a skeleton known as The Pumpkin King, leads them in organizing the annual Halloween holiday.
Jack reveals that he has grown tired of the same routine year after year, and wanders into the forest, discovering the doors, and stumbling into Christmas Town.
Amazed at everything, her returns to Halloween Town, to explain his findings to the residents, who just compare it to Halloween. Jack barely understands Christmas himself, obsessively tries to study the holiday but ultimately decides that since he cannot understand it, he should improve it, and announces that they will take over Christmas this year.
Everyone in Halloween Town is assigned a task. Lock, Shock and Barrel have to kidnap “Sandy Claws” and bring him to Halloween Town, but being the mischievous trio that they are, they take him to Oogie Boogie, a gambling-addict bogeyman who plots to play a game with Santa’s life at stake.
Sally (who has fallen in love with Jack) has to make a costume for him, however, she has a vision that things are going to go terribly wrong, and attempts to stop Jack with fog, which fails, after Jack’s ghost dog – Zero, lights the way with his glowing pumpkin nose. As Jack delivers presents to the children of the world, Sally tries to save Santa from the Oogie Boogie, and prays that her premonition doesn’t come true…
Stats, Facts & Trivia
- Released in 1993
- Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects
- Given a limited release on October 15, 1993, before being wide released on October 29
- The American Film Institute nominated The Nightmare Before Christmas for its Top 10 Animated Films list
- Earned $50 million in the United States on its first theatrical run
- Originated in a poem written by Tim Burton in 1982, while he was working as an animator at Walt Disney Feature Animation. The original poem was inspired after seeing Halloween merchandise display in a store being taken down and replaced by a Christmas display. The juxtaposition of ghouls and goblins with Santa and his reindeer sparked his imagination.
- There is something of a controversy over exactly who has the rights to call the story and film their own, Henry Selick is the director and spent more time on the set and production than Tim Burton, however Burton has often claimed he is the owner of the story as it was all his idea, he wrote the original poem and most of the script, created the characters, served as a producer, and even wanted to direct but was simply too busy at the time to do so. However popular culture has long accepted the film as Burton’s as the film heading is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.
- It took a group of around 100 people three years to complete this movie. For one second of film, up to 12 stop-motion moves had to be made.
- Some of the presents Jack delivers to the kids are nods to Tim Burton films. The snake looks like a Sandworm from Beetlejuice (1988),and the shrunken head is from the afterlife waiting room in the same film. The Cat and Duck are both featured in Batman Returns (1992) – the Cat as the mascot for Shreck’s department store, the duck resembling a vehicle driven by the Penguin.
- The teaser trailer tells us that the film was originally intended to be released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner, playing the movie heavily as the next generation of filmmaking following in the proud tradition of Walt Disney. By the time the theatrical trailer was released, the release label had changed to Touchstone Pictures, an alternate designation of the Walt Disney Studios. Michael Eisner, the then CEO and Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, found the film to be ‘too dark for kids’ and had it moved to their Touchstone Picture banner. In October 2006, the film was re-released in 3-D under the Walt Disney Pictures banner.
- While no sequels have been produced, the worlds and characters are featured in the Disney and Square Enix video game series “Kingdom Hearts,” including a boss battle between the game’s heroes and Oogie Boogie.
- At one point, Tim Burton considered making this a TV special rather than a feature film.
- Reminiscent of the cut-out pathways used by Muppeteers, the animators behind and beneath The Nightmare Before Christmas had special trapdoors cut into the 19 sound stages worth of 230 model sets so they could more easily reach in and manipulate their peculiar puppets. From these vantage points, they can move the armatures hidden within the creatures or swap their faces out for one of hundreds made to allow for a wide range of emotion. Jack Skellington alone had more than 400 heads.
Jack Skellington: [singing] Just because I cannot see it, doesn’t mean I can’t believe it!
Oogie Boogie Man: I am the shadow on the moon at night / Filling your dreams to the brim with fright.
Jack Skellington: [singing] My dearest friend, if you don’t mind… I’d like to join you by your side. Where we can gaze into the stars…
Jack Skellington, Sally: And sit together, now and forever. For it is plain, as anyone can see. We’re simply meant to be.
Mayor: We’ve got to find Jack! There’s only 365 days left until next Halloween!
Oogie Boogie Man: J-J-J-Jack! But they said you were dead. You must be – double dead!
Jack Skellington: Forgive me, Mr. Claus. I’m afraid I’ve made a terrible mess of your holiday.
Santa: Bumpy *sleigh*-ride… Jack. Next time you get the urge to take over someone else’s holiday, I’d listen to *her*.
[points to Sally]
Santa: She’s the only one who makes any sense around this insane asylum!
[walks away, muttering]
Santa: Skeletons, boogie men…
Jack Skellington: I hope there’s still time.
Santa: To fix Christmas? Of course there is! I’m Santa Claus!
[flies out chimney]
Jack Skellington: [singing] And on a dark cold night, under full moonlight, he flies into the fog like a vulture in the sky!
[in a deeper tone]
Jack Skellington: And they call him, Sandy… Clawssss…!
Lock, Shock, Barrel: [singing] Kidnap the Sandy Claws, / beat him with a stick, / lock him up for ninety years, / see what makes him tick.
Jack Skellington: [singing with false pomp] And I, *Jack*, the *Pumpkin King*, grow tired of the same old thing.
Mayor: The King of Halloween has been blown to smithereens! Skeleton Jack is now a pile of dust!
Lock, Shock, Barrel: Pile of dust! Pile of dust! Skeleton Jack is a pile of dust!
- Chris Sarandon as Jack Skellington
- Danny Elfman as Barrel and Jack’s singing voice
- Catherine O’Hara as Sally and Shock
- William Hickey as Dr Finkelstein
- Glenn Shadix as Mayor of Halloween Town
- Ken Page as Oogie Boogie
- Ed Ivory as Santa Claus
- Paul Reubens as Lock
Why I Love The Nightmare Before Christmas
- It’s a Tim Burton film – I love all of his work!
- Halloween – of course, duh!
- It’s a musical – it has a wonderful score, and is so theatrical.
- Stop-motion animation – I find this fascinating, and am continually blow away each time I watch it.
- Jack Skellington – he’s The Pumpkin King, what’s not to love about that?!
- Jack & Sally – one true pairing ♥
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