The Nightmare Before Christmas Facts This Is Halloween

“Just because I can not see it doesn’t mean I can’t believe it.” It’s been thirty years since these words were sung by Jack Skellington in The Nightmare Before Christmas, and looking back, it’s hard to believe just how beloved the film would become in the decades that followed. What started as a poem written by Tim Burton (who had hoped to turn it into a 30-minute television special) eventually morphed into the multi-holiday stop-motion animated phenomenon that has stolen the hearts of Halloween and Christmas fans alike.

The road from concept to final product was a winding one, with Burton pushing for the story to be made in various forms for over ten years. The end result would require a collaboration between Burton, director Henry Selick, composer (and singing voice for Jack) Danny Elfman, plus fellow writers Michael McDowell and Caroline Thompson, with the bulk of the conceptualization resting on Selick’s shoulders. Though Burton’s name is often used in the title, and many fans see the film as predominantly his, Selick was chosen to oversee direction due to Burton’s simultaneous commitment to Batman Returns and his reluctance to be involved in the painstaking stop-motion process.

Ironically, the meticulous filmmaking technique is one of the primary reasons The Nightmare Before Christmas continues to stand out amongst other animated features. At the time of production, stop motion was scarcely used, mostly due to the enormous scope of the work required to execute a film in that manner from start to finish. A staggering 20 sound stages and 227 puppets were used during the production process, and over 400 heads consisting of different facial expressions were utilized for Jack to portray his array of emotions. 

While the making of such a cherished classic is clearly a feat to be celebrated, the three decades of fan love for this film run much deeper. For a story that was once deemed as too weird and too scary for kids by Disney, The Nightmare Before Christmas has happily found its place in two very different fandoms- Halloween fans and Christmas lovers. The debate over whether it should be considered a Halloween film or a Christmas story is one that is heavily contested, which ultimately is a nod to how perfectly it manages to blend two very different holidays together.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Facts Jack

From a character perspective, it also introduced us to figures who could be seen as misfits AND heroes, as dedicated AND open to change. As the esteemed Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, Jack is worshiped by his fellow townsfolk…yet he can’t deny the nagging feeling of wanting something more. While pondering this, he stumbles upon the door to Christmas Town, as well as others for various holidays. This discovery catapults him, quite literally, into another world where everything he’s ever known is questioned.

This leads Jack to go through an identity crisis of sorts, which results in several catastrophes due to his careless (yet well-intended) actions… a character arc that many of us can relate to. It doesn’t matter if we live in a small bubble of existence or are a high public figure – at some point in our lives, we’re going to question the meaning of it all. Jack may be dead, but he exhibits very real and raw human emotions during his quest to find himself.

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Then there’s Sally, the ragdoll creation and reluctant prisoner of mad scientist Dr. Finkelstein. She, too, longs for something more, though she’s initially less expressive about it. What makes her character memorable is her unwavering loyalty to Jack. She believes in him and his abilities more than anyone, including himself. When she sees an ominous premonition predicting that Jack’s stint as Sandy Claws will go up in flames, she tries in vain to warn him, but to no avail. Jack is so obsessed with Christmas and all the concepts that go along with it that he brushes Sally off, over and over, despite her urgency. 

In the end, of course, we get the love story we all adore. Jack finally notices Sally, recognizing her unending support, and together, they are, as the song states, simply meant to be. Jack and Sally are the quintessential oddball pair and have become “couple goals” for diehard fans of the film.

This isn’t your typical goth-inspired, quirky tale. It has relatable, endearing characters, and more importantly, it has heart… even if that heart may be somewhat black.

The Nightmare Before Christmas Facts Mayor

It also can’t be understated the immense popularity of Elfman’s songs and score. Tracks like “This Is Halloween” and “Sally’s Song” are everlasting hits, having been covered by countless bands in multiple genres and staples at any Halloween party or event. While Jack’s singing parts are done by Elfman, his speaking roles are covered by Chris Sarandon, and it’s a marvel to sit back and watch the film and try to decipher the differences between the two voices.

The continued legacy of The Nightmare Before Christmas is one that can’t be denied. The standalone film has spawned card games, video games, and a series of successful comics published by Dynamite Comics, as well as a Manga graphic novel telling the story of a young Jack and Oogie Boogie, the film’s central villain.

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Moreso, it has found a way to burrow deeply into the vein of pop culture – not just at Halloween, but all year long. No longer can it be considered a film to be watched only during a certain part of the year. This is, for many, a go-to comfort movie, with an ardent fan base who can sing every word of every song and quote the dialogue from start to finish.

For a tale that centers primarily around characters who are dead and is lavished in that spooky “Burton-esque” aesthetic, there’s an undeniable “warm and fuzzy” layer. At its core, though, it remains a decades-long reminder to stop and enjoy the finer things in life. Including, at least every now and then, a good scare.

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