For many Sporclers, the festive season is the perfect time for donning chunky sweaters, singing holiday carols, and packing your home full of sparkling decorations. However, there’s one more tradition that seems to be on everyone’s list somewhere between October and the end of December, and that’s sitting down to watch The Nightmare Before Christmas with the family.
Nightmare combines the fun and frivolity of Christmas with the weird and wonderful of Halloween in a film that’s unlike anything else on the market. Since the movie’s cult-like following appear to be obsessed with every moment of this stop-motion masterpiece, we bet you’re already familiar with the tale of the Pumpkin King, and how he almost ruined Christmas.
However, unless you’re a super-fan, we’d bet on Oogie Boogie’s dice that you won’t know all the facts we’re about to list below. Here are 13 Facts About The Nightmare Before Christmas.
1. The Nightmare Before Christmas Wasn’t Directed by Tim Burton
Thanks to another title for the film, Tim Burton’s the Nightmare Before Christmas, a lot of people assume that the movie was produced entirely by him. However, Burton was working on Batman Returns at the time, so he handed the task over to Animation colleague Henry Selick instead. While Tim is better known for creating the story, Selick directed the stop-motion movie.
2. It Began with a Poem
If you ever wondered what magic brought The Nightmare Before Christmas to life, you might be surprised to learn that it all began with a poem. While Burton was working on Disney productions like The Black Cauldron and The Fox and the Hound, he was also trying out cartoon projects of his own.
One of the side projects he took on, involved writing a poem called The Nightmare Before Christmas, which was basically a parody on The Night Before Christmas.
3. 400 Heads Were Used for Jack During Filming
Part of what makes The Nightmare Before Christmas such a compelling movie is the fact that it was such an amazing piece of stop-motion animation. To help bring Jack Skellington to life, for instance, the creators used more than 400 different heads for all his many expressions.
4. Jack Skellington Appears in Other Selick Films
Though Selick made his debut with The Nightmare Before Christmas, his career didn’t stop there. In 1996, we saw a follow-up stop-motion movie in the form of Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach. This movie also saw the resurrection of Jack Skellington in a single spooky scene. The character also appears again in 2009’s Coraline.
5. Selick Created Jack’s Signature Suit
In the original sketches for Jack Skellington created by Tim Burton, the character is dressed entirely in black. However, Selick chose to give him an amazing makeover, that included adding white stripes to his slim suit. The pinstripes helped Jack to pop on screen, and ensure he never blended into the backdrops in Halloween Town.
6. The Plot Was Inspired by the Retail World
If you’ve ever marveled at how retail stores rush to bring Christmas products out practically the day after Halloween, then you’ve had the same inspiration that led to The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Burton explained in a DVD commentary that he often saw Halloween and Christmas decorations melding together during the winter months, and that’s what inspired him to create the ambiguous festive movie.
7. Shooting Started Before the Script Was Finished
If you’re not an expert in stop-motion, then it’s hard to imagine just how much time this animation strategy can take. A single minute of movie took around one week to shoot. That means that The Nightmare Before Christmas took three years to complete.
The sheer scope of the film meant that the director started shooting long before the script was finished. In fact, one of the first scenes to be filmed was the big “What’s This” moment, when Jack discovers Christmas Town.
8. Disney Wanted Eyes for Jack
Given the somewhat dark and creepy nature of Burton’s Halloween tale, Walt Disney Studios felt that the main character should have eyes to make sure children weren’t too scared of the film. Since the brains behind the film refused to fill Jack’s empty sockets, the movie came out without the Disney banner.
However, even though Touchscreen Pictures supported the film, Disney continued to argue that Jack would need eyes to connect with his audience.
9. Patrick Stewart Was Cut from the Film
During the early days of production, The Nightmare Before Christmas was supposed to rely heavily on it’s poetic background. Subsequently, Patrick Stewart was called in to lend his voice to the tale, which was supposed to be told in the opening and closing narration of the film. However, the lengthy readings were cut down to a few lines, which were instead given to Edward Ivory, the film’s Santa.
10. Vincent Price Was Almost Santa Claus
After working with Price on previous movies like Edward Scissorhands, Burton felt Vincent would bring a great deal of personality to Nightmare’s own Santa Claus. However, in 1991, Price’s wife passed away, and the actor was too grief-stricken to play the role. Though he did his best, he sounded far too sad for any Santa. Eventually, Edward Ivory was brought in as a replacement.
11. Danny Elfman Makes a Cameo
If you’re a fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas, then you probably already know Danny Elfman as the singing voice for Jack Skellington. He also wrote the music and lyrics for the movie. If you look closely, you can see the animated head of Danny inside the upright bass of the Halloween town band.
12. The Movie Could Have Been a TV Special
Similarly to television specials like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Tim Burton originally felt that his movie could be a great annual TV special. While people do continue to watch the film every year, it seems that it worked better as a full-length feature, rather than a small animation.
13. A CGI Sequel Was Rejected
While Disney has found plenty of success in creating straight-to-DVD sequels for some of their biggest hits, Burton refused to make a second Nightmare movie. He announced in an interview that he was deeply protective of the film, and felt that a sequel would ruin its overall impact. According to Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas has a purity that he didn’t want to ruin with mass-market attempts at additional sales.
Know any other fun facts about The Nightmare Before Christmas? Let us know in the comment section below.
Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.