Noted by legendary film critic, Roger Ebert, as “a feast for the eyes and the imagination”, The Nightmare Before Christmas crafted a strange and haunting world that has garnered a passionate audience, even 25 years later. The film’s approach to stop-animation breathes life into each character and their surroundings, adding a sense of sophistication and depth to the world of Halloweentown.
The Nightmare Before Christmas was an adaptation of Tim Burton‘s three-page poem, directed by stop-motion director Henry Selick (Coraline, James and the Giant Peach), with Burton on as producer. The Nightmare Before Christmas continues to build its solid fan-base, even extending to the young generation of 2018. With Halloween just a few days away, celebrate The Nightmare Before Christmas’ 25th birthday with family and friends. Originally released October 29th, 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas would find its way into the hearts of many as it continues to do so today.
Born from the mind of Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas began as a short poem during his tenure at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Drawing inspiration from classic television specials such as Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, Burton’s concept for Nightmare was pitched as a short film but deemed too dark for Disney. The studio had previously released two horror films, The Watcher in the Woods (1980) and Tim Burton’s short film, Vincent (1982) but for whatever reason, wanted to sit on Burton’s newest idea. Following the commercial success of Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, and Batman, the project was reborn and Burton returned to make Nightmare a reality as a full feature stop-animation musical. Recruiting frequent collaborators and fellow Disney workmates, Henry Selick (a Disney animator) and Rick Heinrichs (Disney visual effects artist) were on board to bring Burton’s story to life.
Michael McDowell, who had penned the screenplay for Beetlejuice, was originally brought onboard to write Nightmare but was later replaced by screenwriter Caroline Thompson (Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride). Thompson’s involvement in writing a script was part of an unconventional path to completing a script for Nightmare, which involved Tim Burton and Danny Elfman’s. According to Danny Elfman during a recent podcast interview with The Boo Crew, he discusses the writing process for the film’s musical pieces as well as the story’s development. Burton would present Elfman with concepts through his artwork, lyrics, and overall storyline. Elfman states, “But when I started, there was no script, the script wasn’t together.” So the process began with just the music before a script was even fully complete. As he explains, “Tim would describe each story and then show me, and then of course the illustrations, it gave me such a clear picture, that I could just really hear.” This method seemed second nature to Elfman, as he felt a connection to the film and its’ characters. “Every three days I had another song. I mean, I wrote all the songs in ten days”, states Elfman.
In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Henry Selick discussed the challenges of beginning production without a script. During the interview Selick states, “We had to start production without a script, which is insane,” he continues, “We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we had total confidence and we had a huge amount of fun […] We knew the story well. The first songs came in, and we basically just blindly, but very confidently, went into production.”
As the production of the film was in full force, Tim Burton found himself fully committed to other projects, as he was contractually obligated to Batman Returns at the time; Burton would also soon find himself in pre-production for Ed Wood as well. Stop-animation director, Henry Selick, would be fully committed to bringing the beauty of The Nightmare Before Christmas into a full fledged film. A two-year long process, Nightmare would include over 120 crew members employing twenty sound stages for production. Sharing a similar artistic aesthetic as Tim Burton, Selick would translate the film with ease, adding a touch of Vincent van Gogh with the darker tones of Robert Wiene’s The Cabinet of Dr. Callgari to achieve a Burtonesque look for the film.
The film’s production team weren’t the only frequent collaborators of Burton’s, but several of the voice actors have worked with him previously as well. The film featured the talents of Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice), Glenn Shadix (Beetlejuice), Paul Reubens (Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure), Chris Sarandon (Fright Night, Child’s Play), who would voice Jack Skellington’s dialogue, and Edward Ivory who lends his voice as Santa Clause and performs the films prologue.
Initially, Patrick Stewart had recorded the prologue and epilogue for Nightmare, which was eventually removed during post production. Curious how Stewat’s recordings sounded? The original motion picture soundtrack restored Stewart’s extended prologue/epilogue as originally intended. A re-imaging of the film’s soundtrack was released on September 30th, 2008, featuring Marilyn Manson, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Plain White Tees, Rise Against, and Amy Lee of Evanescence. Titled Nightmare Revisited, the album was released in celebration of Nightmare’s 15th year anniversary.
Although the film under performed at the box office, it received universal acclaim among critics, and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects as well as the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. Danny Elfman was awarded the Saturn Award for Best Film and Best Music and was also nominated for Best Original Score at the Golden Globe Awards. Elfman worried the film has been lost in the past yet, and was happy to discover that a love for the film had quietly grown.
This resurgence of fandom for The Nightmare Before Christmas has not only expanded its fanbase with constant updates and releases of various forms of content, but the box office gross continues to climb with every new re-issue or edition of its’ release. Celebrate The Nightmare Before Christmas 25th anniversary with a bang! Bring your family and friends together for a film loved by generations spanning several decades.
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