“There’s children throwing snowballs, instead of throwing heads. They’re busy building toys and absolutely no one’s dead!” – Jack Skellington
Twenty-five years ago, Tim Burton brought to us the stop-motion animated musical dark fantasy film we all grew to love, The Nightmare Before Christmas, featuring Jack Skellington, Sally, Oogie Boogie and all the rest of the Halloween Town gang. But what exactly ‘is’ The Nightmare Before Christmas some of you may ask? Let’s go explore…
What many people don’t know, is that The Nightmare Before Christmas originated as a poem and not a movie script by Burton in 1982 while he was an animator for Walt Disney. As Burton’s animations became more and more popular, he started to think about turning his poem into either a short film or a television special. He remained in the Disney animation studios for several more years working on art and characters that he loved. Some of them going on to become some of Disney’s best in this lineup such as Vincent and Hansel & Gretel. The more Burton thought about a new life for his poem, the closer he came to the realization of his film. In 1990 he approached Walt Disney Studios and entered into a development deal with them. This was a first of its kind for Disney as they felt the characters Burton wanted to use were “too dark” and “too scary” for kids of Disney. After working out the relationship with Disney, production started in July of 1991 in the San Francisco studio. Disney finally released the film through Touchstone Pictures as they were too afraid to attach the Disney name to such a dark feature. After the film’s release, Disney was shocked at the astounding success of the film as it was met with critical and financial successes, grossing over $76 million dollars in just is initial run alone! It was the first ever animated film to be voted for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and it was the first stop-motion feature to be entirely converted into 3-D later in its life. After this success, Disney was quick to reissue the film under its Walt Disney Studios name.
For those of you who may not know about this wonderous film celebrating it’s 25th Anniversary this year (we really hope there is no one out there that has not watched this movie) here is a quick run through of the plot. Halloween Town is where Jack Skellington lives as the “Pumpkin King” among the other residents of monsters, ghouls, mummies, werewolves, witches, vampires, goblins, zombies and demons. Jack loves his role as the Pumpkin King but is becoming bored of the same tradition year after year. So one year after Halloween, he ventures into the forest where he stumbles upon he “holiday trees”, seven trees with doors that act as portals into other holiday towns. Jack opens the door for Christmas Town and is overwhelmed by the happiness and upbeat spirit of the town citizens toward each other. He is so perplexed by it he returns to his Halloween Town and tells the citizens all about it but none of them are able to comprehend the idea of Christmas. Jack begins to study this new holiday to the point where he exclaims to everyone that he and his residents of Halloween Town will take over Christmas that year. Jack starts to assign the citizens of Halloween Town task to fulfill such as present making, stocking stuffing, building a sleigh that he can use and of course he assigns a trio of mischievous children the task of kidnapping Santa Clause. From here the real horrors start when Jack tries to recreate the joys of passing out gifts to the children of Christmas Town and everything else that comes with the holiday.
So where now? Many people love the film adaptation of the franchise but don’t know about the hundreds of other items. Disney has brought our favorite characters to life in many different forms such as plush toys, collectable pins and even costumes. When making a trip to Walt Disney World, you can even find life size characters of Jack and Sally to meet and get your picture with. Funko, the toy company that brings us licensed vinyl figurines and bobbleheads, has recreated the likeness of the Halloween Town characters in their Funko POP! line. If you are more of an action figure style collector, Diamond who distributes our weekly comics also has a line of Diamond Select toys that captures all of the characters in 6 to 8-inch action figure styles. And these are just a few of the retailers who have joined Disney to cash in on the success of this film. Many people have hoped for a sequel to the movie for many years. While Burton has never said he would not do one, he has said many times he wants to always preserve the purity of the original movie.
One of the long time running debates over this film, is whether it is a Halloween movie or a Christmas movie. The way we see it, why can’t it be both! So this Halloween and Christmas, make sure to watch our favorite stop-animation film, Disney and Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.