Director Henry Selick says that Disney shied away from calling the Touchstone Pictures production The Nightmare Before Christmas a Disney movie until after it became a cultural phenomenon. Selick directed the 1993 stop-motion animated musical produced and conceived by Tim Burton that became a holiday classic despite its dark, fantastical theme.
Selick (pictured, top right) spoke with People for the 30th anniversary of The Nightmare Before Christmas. “There was very little merchandising at first, but then Disney realized the film's growing in popularity and they capitalized on that,” says Selick. “And then finally, Disney called it a Disney film because originally, they were afraid it was too strange, it would damage their brand, and it was released as a Touchstone film. They embraced it and they took the Haunted Mansion [at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland] and, for Halloween, turned into a Nightmare Before Christmas thing. So it didn't seem to happen suddenly. It was just this steady growth, and then it ramped way up.”
The Nightmare Before Christmas Is Now a Multigenerational Holiday Favorite
In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), the king of Halloween Town, stumbles across a magical portal to Christmas Town and plots to take over the holiday. Danny Elman wrote the score and provides Jack's singing voice. The principal voice actors include Catherine O'Hara, William Hickey, Ken Page, Paul Reubens, and Glenn Shadix.
“A lot of young people come up to me and say, ‘This was a movie that made me feel like I belonged,' because it was so strange and at the same time so beautiful, and its message was so positive,” Sarandon says to People. “And as it turns out, they, in turn, now are watching it with their children.”
Selick says that it used to irk him that people assume that Burton directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, but he's over it now. “It's not really a problem,” says Selick. “For the most part, at least everyone in the industry, everyone in animation, knows it's me who directed it. I think it made sense to put his name on it to make sure people didn't confuse it, maybe with A Nightmare on Elm Street or some out-and-out horror film. So yeah, it bothered me more years ago. It doesn't bother me at all now.”
Although Selick is open to working with Burton again on a continuation of The Nightmare Before Christmas, Selick says, “It might be more interesting to do a prequel. There might be a more interesting story there about how Jack became the king of Halloween Town.”
The Nightmare Before Christmas is currently in theaters again in celebration of its 30th anniversary.
Robert DeSalvo is a professional writer and editor with over 25 years of experience at print and online publications such as Movieline, Playboy, PCH, Fandango, and The A.V. Club. He currently lives in Los Angeles, the setting of his favorite movie, Blade Runner. Robert has interviewed dozens of actors, directors, authors, musicians, and other celebrities during his journalism career, including Brian De Palma, Nicolas Cage, Dustin Hoffman, John Waters, Sigourney Weaver, Julianne Moore, Bryan Cranston, Anne Rice, and many more. Horror movies, sci-fi, cult films as well as gothic, postpunk, and synthwave music are what Robert geeks over.