Halloween is less than a few days away and everybody celebrates it differently. Some people decorate their homes with Jack O’lanterns, ornaments dangling from their trees or cover their yard with inflatable creatures, which tend to be more silly instead of terrifying. Some people choose to dress up for an endless bar crawl or a town/city parade i.e. the annual Village Halloween parade dressed in a variety of costumes ranging from creative to downright sl00ty. Some people celebrate the season with a horror movie marathon where we enjoy the creatures who may have terrified us as kids but now we wear their likeness on shirts and even dress like them. But one movie stands out amongst the darkness of Halloween as it is a child of two worlds: Halloween and Christmas, both seasons heavily saturated with like-minded films which countless audiences watch and enjoy every year. The child of iconic directors Tim Burton and Henry Selick which technically counts as a Disney movie. The rare horror film which is both an animated film and a musical, yeah it’s the Nightmare before Christmas and here’s ten facts about the film that will definitely make you appreciate this gem from the cinematic pumpkin patch,
- Vincent Price was the original voice of Santy Claws. The famous horror actor who had worked with Tim Burton on his film Edward Scissorhands and his short film Vincent had agreed to lend his voice to Jolly Ol’ Nick for the film. However, after the death of his wife Coral Price in 1988, Price’s voice began to seriously decline, his voice performance was so frail and grief stricken that Selick felt he sounded too sad to be Santa. To the director’s regret, the recordings were deemed unusable and actor Edward Ivory was brought in to replace him.
- The villain was supposed to be Dr. Finklestein at the end. The films villain, the gruesomely dramatic Oogie Boogie was not originally supposed to be ripped to shreds and his bugs melted after fighting with Jack. After he was defeated, he was revealed to be Dr. Finklestein, the mad scientist who had created Jack’s love interest Sally to be his mate but craved revenge when Sally fell for Jack. This idea was scrapped because creator Tim Burton was supposedly so infuriated by this idea that he literally kicked a hole into a wall upon hearing it.
- Tim Burton was originally in the director seat for the movie. Unfortunately, his work on Batman Returns in 1992 and pre-production for Ed Wood had him place his friend Henry Selick as the director. This did not help later controversy over who had the rights to call the story and the film their own. Selick was the director and estimated that Burton spent 8-10 days in total on set during production. However, Tim was the owner of the story as he had written the poem and most of the script, produced the film and was the original director. The popular consensus is most people associate Tim Burton with the film although to his credit, Tim Burton always credits Selick as the director and apparently gets annoyed when people do not know this fact.
- The character Jack Skellington made cameos in other Henry Sellick films. In James and the Giant Peach(1996), the character Centipede explores a deserted underwater pirate ship in the subzero Antarctic waters while looking for a compass. Upon entering the captain’s quarters, he sees a “skellington” which is indeed Jack albeit a beard and pirate’s garb. Jack and his crew were not happy with their trespasser trying to steal their sunken compass and proceed to torture Centipede until James and Ms. Spider come to his rescue. He briefly appears in Coraline (2009) when Coraline’s Other Mother is making breakfast for the young lady. As she proceeds to charm Coraline with the superficial differences compared to her real mother, you can see Jack’s smiling skull hidden within the yolk of one of the cracked eggs.
- Nightmare before Christmaswas planned to be a television special. Burton has admitted the classic Rankin/Bass Christmas Specials like Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer were not only influential to the story and feel of the movie but that he originally imagined the story as an annual television special. He pitched it to TV studios and book publishers to no avail. Nobody showed any real interest until the idea was pitched as a full-length motion film that was picked up by Disney and made under their Touchstone Pictures banner. Burton has estimated that almost 20 years passed between the project’s creation and its theatrical debut on October 29th, 1993.
- Disney wanted Jack to have eyeballs. It is still amusing to remember that this dark and unique Tim Burton picture is technically a Disney movie. Even though the company did not release it under their banner and had the film made under Touchstone Pictures, it did not stop Disney from dropping studio notes about the film. Studio notes can be a hit or miss during the film process. Sometimes their opinion can help change the film for the better or they are completely ignored by the director, creators and their team as their visions clash regarding the direction of the movie. One of the notes was that Jack Skellington should be given a pair of eyes instead of empty sockets. This note was not without reason; a common guideline for animation and puppet-creation is that eyes are essential to convey the emotion necessary for the audience to connect with the character. Both Selick and Burton refused to change this detail and the success of the film proved that the Pumpkin King did not need eyeballs for the audience to connect with his character and dilemmas.
- Star Trek:Next Generation’s Patrick Stewart was originally the narrator. Early scripts of Nightmare before Christmas relied heavily on the Tim Burton poem that inspired it. Both the beginning and the ending of the film were to have poetry read by Captain Picard himself, Sir Patrick Stewart. He recorded both narrations, which were to be recited by Santa Claus himself recalling the events in the movie. Unfortunately revisions to the script had the monologues cut to a few lines and those lines were recited by Edward Ivory, the voice actor who voiced Santa Claus in the movie. Fortunately Patrick Stewart’s recordings were not lost and were included in the film’s soundtrack including the epilogue where Santa Claus visits Jack years later to find him a father of four or five skeleton children that always gives me goosebumps.
- Jack’s toys are nods to Tim Burton movies.When Jack is dressed as Santy Claws delivering presents to the children of the world on Christmas Eve, the toys he gives aren’t the joyous gifts the children were expecting but a few are references to Burton’s films. The snake seen eating one family’s Christmas tree is a reference to the hungry Sandworm from Beetlejuice (1988). The shrunken head scaring a pair of parents is the same head seen on one of the deceased in the afterlife waiting room in Beetlejuice. The mischievous Cat and Duck toys who chase their children into their parents’ bedroom are references to Batman Returns (1992). The Cat is the mascot for Max Shreck’s department store and the Duck is the Penguin’s favorite mode of transportation. Oh and the vampire teddy bear that looks oddly familiar? That’s Tim Burton’s version of Mickey Mouse, that and other Disney characters worn by the children were featured with Disney’s permission.
- The Behemoth is an Ed Wood reference. Tim Burton had already begun pre-production on his biopic Ed Wood about the infamous slapdash filmmaker and I guess he couldn’t resist placing a reference amongst the spooky citizens of Halloween Town. The character known as the Behemoth is a simple but sweet creature who I always remember scaring the Easter Bunny when he was mistakenly kidnapped instead of Santa Claus. His appearance from his size to the scars on his face was an homage to Swedish wrestler Tor Johnson as he appeared in Wood’s iconic sci-fi failure Plan 9 from Outer Space. During the Making Christmas segment when Jack is examining the toys being made, Behemoth was one of the characters story boarded to sing where it would have been revealed he had a high-pitched singing voice. Although this was not included in both the film and its soundtrack, you can still find it amongst the movie’s deleted scenes.
- Chris Sarandon is a poor singer. The actor Chris Sarandon is known for a number of iconic roles in his expansive career including the vampire next door Jerry Dandridge in Fright Night (1984), the villainous Prince Humperdinck in Princess Bride (1987) and the voice actor for Jack Skellington. While Sarandon was chosen because his voice matched composer/singer Danny Elfman, Danny Elfman signed on to be Jack’s signing voice because Sarandon readily admitted he was a poor singer. In the end, it all worked out as Elfman admitted writing and singing in the Nightmare before Christmas’s celebrated soundtrack was “one of the easiest jobs I’ve ever had. I had a lot in common with Jack Skellington.” Regarding Sarandon, he continues to voice the character in any appearance he makes in Disney games like the Kingdom of Hearts series or Disney Infinity.
Happy Halloween everybody!