‘Tis the season, that time of year when we watch what has become a Halloween AND Christmas classic — the Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas. Basically, it’s a film that has a big hold on three months of merry making. And this year is particularly significant for The Nightmare Before Christmas, because the film is celebrating it’s 20th — yes 20th — anniversary.
And you know what? The film has continued to grow in popularity with new The Nightmare Before Christmas fans being brought into the Tim Burton fan club each and every year. While we have all seen The Nightmare Before Christmas one, two, or twenty times, there are some things you may not know about the film. Check out these 20 things you didn’t know about The Nightmare Before Christmas right here:
The first incarnation of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ was a poem that Tim Burton wrote when he was an animator at Disney in the early 1980s. It was a response to TV specials like ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’, ‘Frosty the Snowman’, and the poem ‘A Visit from St. Nicholas’.
Oh, and you have got to hear this — the one and only Christopher Lee reading Tim Burton’s original poem. Check it out here.
2. The Original Idea
His original inspiration came when he reportedly saw the Halloween merchandise in a store being replaced by Christmas goods. It was a jarring juxtaposition in his eyes and fodder for his film.
3. Henry Selick
Tim Burton had wanted to direct ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, but he was super busy at the time working on ‘Batman Returns‘ and was also in the midst of pre-production for ‘Ed Wood‘. Instead, Henry Selick signed on to direct. Tim Burton was only on set for about eight to ten days during the production.
When the first teaser trailer for ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ was released, it was under the Walt Disney Pictures branding. But that changed, and it was released under the more adult film banner Touchstone (which was owned by Disney). At the time, Michael Eisner — the CEO and Chairman of The Walt Disney Company — thought the Tim Burton film was “too dark for kids.” The film was brought back under the Walt Disney Pictures umbrella in 2006 when the film was released.
5. Tender Lumplings
There is an odd phrase in the song “This is Halloween” that says, “tender lumplings everywhere…” Tender lumplings? Doesn’t make much sense, until you find out that that this is a title of a song by the film’s composer Danny Elfman and his old band Oingo Boingo.
6. Patrick Stewart
The original introduction for the film was performed by the one and only Patrick Stewart, which is something you can hear on the film’s soundtrack. But really, Patrick Stewart should introduce EVERYTHING. I love that voice of his.
You can hear Patrick Stewart’s rendition right here.
The character Behemoth was reportedly based on the Swedish B-movie actor and wrestler Tor Johnson. And a ironic side note: while ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ was being produced, Tim Burton was working on the film ‘Ed Wood‘, a film based on the director who brought us ‘Plan 9 from Outer Space’, which starred Tor Johnson!
During the production of ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, there were some unique innovations developed to make things go more smoothly. One was the “light alarm,” which was a warning system so that animators would know if the stage lights didn’t come on. The other was that they developed a way to swap out the puppets seamlessly without ruining the shot.
9. Chris Sarandon
Chris Sarandon was the voice of Jack Skellington, but he did not do the singing. He apparently didn’t have the pipes for the songs; instead, Danny Elfman, who wrote the music, sang all of Jack’s numbers. You might recognize Chris Sarandon in another iconic role, that of Prince Humperdinck in ‘The Princess Bride’. And did you know who he was married to? Susan Sarandon! That’s how she got the last name.
10. The Original Three
In the original story (or poem), there were only three characters: Jack, Zero, and Santa. The other characters were created for the film. Yes, not even Sally was in the original!
11. Catherine O’Hara
Did you know that Sally was voiced by Catherine O’Hara? You might recognize her from Home Alone and Christopher Guest’s ‘Waiting for Guffman’, ‘Best in Show’, and ‘A Mighty Wind’. She also did voice work in Tim Burton’s ‘Frankenweenie‘, playing Weird Girl/Mrs. Frankenstein. And who can forget her as Delia Deetz in ‘Beetlejuice‘?
12. The Band
If you look very closely, you’ll notice a head inside the upright bass — that figure is based on Danny Elfman! Yes, I never noticed that either.
13. Danny Elfman
What did Danny Elfman think of the gig? He once said that ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ was “one of the easiest jobs I’ve ever had. I had a lot in common with Jack Skellington.”
14. Glenn Shadix
The Mayor of Halloween Town was voiced by Glenn Shadix. You might recognize him as Otho from ‘Beetlejuice’!
15. Jack Skellington Cameos!
Jack Skellington does indeed escape Halloween Town, but he escaped into different movies! Jack has had several cameos in other movies such as: ‘Beetlejuice’, ‘Coraline’, ‘James and Giant Peach’, ‘Sleepy Hollow’, ‘Alice in Wonderland’, and ‘Vincent’.
16. Vincent Price
Vincent Price originally was going to play Santa Claus, but he had recently lost his wife and his own health wasn’t doing so well. Price’s voice was very weak and not strong enough for the film, so he had to be recast. And did you know that Vincent Price voiced Tim Burton’s early film ‘Vincent‘?
17. There was talk of a Nightmare 2!
In 2001, Disney wanted to make a sequel to ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. They did not want it to be a stop motion film, but rather a glossy computer animated film. Tim Burton convinced them to drop the idea.
“I was always very protective of [Nightmare] not to do sequels or things of that kind,” Burton explained. “You know, ‘Jack visits Thanksgiving world’ or other kinds of things just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it.”
18. Cameos in The Nightmare Before Christmas!
There are a couple of cameos that were put into ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. For example, a cat from Burton’s short Vincent is in the beginning knocking over a trash can, some believe that the snake in the film looks a lot like the Sandworms from ‘Beetlejuice’, and one of the toys that Jack Skellington has looks just like the Penguin’s vehicle in ‘Batman Returns’ (which Tim Burton was directing).
19. Nightmare Before Christmas
Since 2001, the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland has been taken over by Jack Skellington and his friends! An imagineer spoke of the transformation, saying, “At first, the team thought that … the concept sounded easy. But as we got into it, we realized it wasn’t.” He added that, “The creative team set out to create a holiday attraction that was … so over the top and ambitious, it would either succeed … or fail miserably!” And succeed it did!
Also, you have to check out the special The Nightmare Before Christmas second screen live screenings in select theaters where you can interact with the movie while you watch it!