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The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 stop-motion animated musical film about the inhabitants of Halloweentown who take over Christmas, directed by stop-motion animator Henry Selick. October 13, In Glendale, California The film is loosely based on drawings and a poem by Tim Burton, and he served as co-producer. He did not direct the film as is sometimes believed, but he was heavily involved.

The film was released in 1993 by Touchstone Pictures, a film studio owned by The Walt Disney Company, after the main Walt Disney Pictures division balked at some of the darker content. Starting in 2006, the movie has been rebranded to Walt Disney Pictures.


  • Jack Skellington - A dreaded nightmarish skeleton man with the alias of "The Pumpkin King" Having a very bright personality, he is very popular in Halloweentown. He is the main person incharge of Halloween but, he has lately grown weary of the sound of screams, and contemplates his meaningless existence until he discovers Christmas Town, and decides to bring Christmas to Halloweentown... and into the Real World. His frightening Christmas presents only end up bringing chaos and turmoil to the Land of the Living.
  • Sally - Jack Skellington's girlfriend. She was lazily patched together by Doctor Finkelstein from a number of corpses and is apparently stuffed with dried leaves. She has doubts about Jack's Christmas plan, but she is constantly imprisoned by her creator Finkelstein, forcing Sally to poison his soup with Deadly Nightshade in order to escape. Her body often becomes unsewn, with her limbs having a mind of their own. Or can still be controlled whilst unsewn.
  • Doctor Finkelstein - A resident of Halloweentown, he is a wheelchair-bound mad scientist, and the creator of Sally. Overprotective of his creation, he forbids her from leaving the house, and forces her to serve as his housekeeper. Frustrated at Sallys frequent absconding, Finkelstein creates a new woman to replace her (and, it is implied, to serve as a love interest).
  • Mayor - The gentle, soft-hearted Mayor of Halloweentown. His head has two faces: a happy face on one side, and a sad one on the other, switching between them depending on his mood. He is only an elected official and can't make decisions without Jack.
  • Lock - The leader of Oogie's Kids, but doesn't think thoroughly. He wears a devil costume.
  • Shock - The cunning of Oogie's Kids. She wears a witch costume.
  • Barrel - A member of Oogie's Kids. However, he is the butt of many jokes by the other two members. He wears a skeleton costume.
  • Oogie Boogie - The hoodlum of Halloweentown, he is an avid gambler who is disliked by everyone. He has a body of cloth, which hides several tens of thousands of insects.
  • Santa Clause - He delivers gifts to good boys and girls while they slumber, and is popular all around the world. His name is misheard by Jack as "Santy Claws".
  • Zero - A ghost dog who floats about freely in space, and follows Jack wherever he goes. His jack-o-lantern nose also doubles as a bright light (which later becomes useful throughout the movie).
  • Wolfman - Halloweentown's resident werewolf. He is often seen growling at the moon or various denizens, and also (according to the NECA figure packaging) likes eating raw meat.
  • Clown - A denizen of Halloweentown who can tear off his face, hence he is often referred to as 'the Clown with the tearaway face'. He rides around Halloweentown on his unicycle.


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Halloweentown, an alternate world where the annual holiday of Halloween is constructed, and to its biggest celebrity, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King. Although Jack is loved and respected by the townspeople, he has become bored with the repetitiveness of Halloween and feels that there is something missing from his life. While wandering in the woods after one such Halloween, with his loyal ghost dog, Zero, Jack discovers a circle of trees he has never seen before, a nexus to several holiday-themed worlds. Each tree has a door on it but Jack is immediately attracted to the door in the shape of a Christmas tree. When Jack opens this Christmas tree door, he is sucked into a town filled with snow, lights, and happiness. Jack is mesmerized by all the colors and cheerfulness, and realizes that this may be what he has been searching for.

Upon his return to Halloweentown, Jack immediately calls for a town meeting. During the meeting he reveals several of the artifacts he brought with him from Christmas town. Unfortunately, the denizens of Halloweentown only think in terms of how these toys could be used for Halloween. Frustrated from the misunderstandings, Jack describes the ruler of Christmastown in the only way the town members can understand: as a lobster-red creature possessing a deep voice and riding his sleigh "like a vulture in the sky," his name, "Sandy Claws". Distraught by his friends' inability to understand Christmas, Jack locks himself in his house and performs multiple experiments to try to understand the meaning of Christmas. He finally comes to the realization that believing in Christmas is all it takes and he informs the town of his intention to take over Christmas for that year. Jack then assigns each of the townspeople certain duties in order to make Christmas theirs, including having Sally sew Jack a Santa Claus outfit and having Dr. Finkelstein bring several skeleton reindeer to life. In order to complete this takeover, Jack enlists the help of a trio of young trick or treaters named Lock, Shock, and Barrel to "Kidnap the Sandy Claws." After mistakenly kidnapping the Easter bunny the trio brings Santa Claus to Jack, who tells them not to take Santa to Oogie Boogie - but they end up doing so anyway. Despite Jack's efforts to make their Christmas joyful, the townspeople end up mixing the ideas of Christmas and Halloween, creating twisted toys and decorations.

Sally, who is secretly in love with Jack, has a vision about the disasters to come and tries to warn him that taking over something he knows nothing about may be a bad idea. However, Jack is too wrapped in his fantasies to listen, so she attempts to stop Jack's departure by creating a fog bank; but Zero's lighted, jack-o-lantern nose allows Jack to see.

Now Christmas Eve, Jack embarks from Halloweentown to share Halloweentown's toys with the whole world. Unfortunately, the citizens of the real world are not so receptive to these twisted toys and begin to call police reporting attacks from toys and a "flying skeleton." Soon after, the military is called in to deal with the Santa Claus imposter, eventually shooting Jack out of the sky. At the same time, Sally sets off to rescue Santa Claus in order to set things right. However, during her rescue attempt she is also captured by Oogie Boogie who perversely gambles with both of their lives. The other citizens of Halloweentown witness Jack being shot down, and, fearing the worst, begin to mourn his death.

Meanwhile, the citizens of the real world are being informed that since the real Santa Claus can't be found Christmas must be cancelled. Upon regaining consciousness in a graveyard amongst the wreckage of his failed Christmas, Jack hears this news and realizes his foolishness. He realizes that his role in life is to be the Pumpkin King and vows to make the next Halloween the best ever. In an effort to save this Christmas, Jack returns to Halloweentown to save Santa Claus. He rushes to Oogie's lair to rescue both Sally and Santa Claus and in defeating Oogie reveals him to be nothing more than a sack full of bugs. Santa Claus informs Jack that he can easily save Christmas, after all he is Santa Claus, and magically floats out the chimney and restores peace to the real world by replacing all of Jack's presents. Jack returns to Halloweentown to the great joy of its citizens and Santa is seen flying over Halloween Town wishing the citizens a Happy Halloween while Jack responds with a Merry Christmas. With him, however, Santa brings snow and the citizens of Halloweentown finally understand the Christmas spirit.

Finally, Sally reveals her true feelings for Jack. The movie ends with Jack and Sally embracing and giving each other a kiss. Zero flies into the sky and turns into a star.


Voice cast

Character English voice actor French voice actor
Jack Skellington Chris Sarandon
Danny Elfman (singing)
Olivier Constantin
Sally Catherine O'Hara Dorothée Jemma
Nina Morato (singing)
Nina Hagen
Doctor Finkelstein William Hickey Bernard Tiphaine
Mayor Glenn Shadix Daniel Beretta
Lock Paul Reubens (singing) Michel Costa
Shock Catherine O'Hara (sining) Céline Monsarrat
Barrel Danny Elfman (singing) Bertrand Liébert
Oogie Boogie Bill Fagerbakke (sining) Richard Darbois
Santa Clause Eve Jory Henri Poitier

NOTE: On the soundtrack album, Patrick Stewart voices the opening narrative poem. A second poem, also read by Stewart, is included before the "End Credits" music; in this passage, the narrator describes a visit he made to Halloweentown many years after the events of the film.

The Nightmare Before Christmas/Home Media


Disc 1

  1. Overture 1:48
  2. Patrick Stewart - Opening 0:57
  3. The Citizens Of Halloweentown - This is Halloween 3:16
  4. Danny Elfman - Jack's Lament 3:14
  5. Doctor Finklestein/In The Forest 2:36
  6. Danny Elfman - What's This? 3:05
  7. Danny Elfman And Cast - Town Meeting Song 2:56
  8. Jack and Sally Montage - Jack and Sally Montage 5:17
  9. Danny Elfman and The Citizens Of Halloweentown - Jack's Obsession 2:46
  10. Paul Reubens, Catherine O'Hara, and Danny Elfman - Kidnap The Sandy Claws 3:02
  11. Danny Elfman and The Citizens Of Halloweentown - Making Christmas 3:57
  12. Nabbed 3:04
  13. Ken Page With Ed Ivory - Oogie Boogie's Song 3:17
  14. Catherine O'Hara - Sally's Song 1:47
  15. Christmas Eve Montage 4:44
  16. Danny Elfman - Poor Jack 2:31
  17. To The Rescue 3:38
  18. Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara, and The Citizens Of Halloweentown - Finale/Reprise 2:44
  19. Patrick Stewart - Closing 1:26
  20. End Title 5:05

Disc 2 (released October 24, 2000)

  1. Marilyn Manson - This Is Halloween 3:22
  2. Fiona Apple - Sally's Song 3:20
  3. Fall Out Boy - What's This? 3:00
  4. She Wants Revenge - Kidnap The Sandy Claws 5:09
  5. Panic! at the Disco - This Is Halloween 3:36
  6. Danny Elfman - Making Christmas (Demo) 5:34
  7. Danny Elfman - Oogie Boogie's Song (Demo) 3:16
  8. Danny Elfman - This Is Halloween (Demo) 3:20
  9. Danny Elfman - Kidnap The Sandy Claws (Demo) 2:51

Initial conception

The original ideas for the film came to Tim Burton while working as an animator for Disney. Burton has stated that he was inspired by being at a store and seeing them taking down the Halloween merchandise and changing it out for Christmas displays. Also, Tim loved holiday movies such as How The Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. In an interview he also described The Nightmare Before Christmas as almost an opposite of The Grinch because instead of wanting to destroy Christmas, Jack wants to celebrate it but accidentally destroys it. While at work, Burton scribbled out the poem on a piece of paper as well as a few drawings. These initial versions only included Jack, Zero and Santa Clause.


The Nightmare Before Christmas marked the first time that a stop motion movie had been attempted at this scale. Because of this fact, a great deal of imagination and inventiveness had to be used in making the film. In order to produce the film, Tim Burton assembled a hand-picked group of animators, artists, and crew members to work on the film and founded a production company called Walt Disney Studios. In order to flesh out the script and come up with new characters (as an artist himself he was very specific as to the look and feel of the movie, even limiting them to orange, black and white for the primary colors of Halloweentown). Burton also encouraged the artists to not use their dominant hands as to give their drawings his trademark feel. Once the sets had been approved they were then made into half scale mock-ups out of cardboard. These were then used as guidelines to build the actual sets. The puppets were constructed with a detailed metal armature as a skeleton, and then placed into moulds which were injected with a foam latex. From there they were sent to the fabrication department to be painted and finished. Multiple puppets were made of most of the characters so that they could cycle between the set and fabrication for touch ups.

The crew often had to improvise solutions to problems that they encountered during production. One of these problems was to give facial expressions to the puppets and making them speak. This was accomplished in a number of different fashions. Some puppets had mouths that were moved manually while some of the main puppets, such as Jack, were given hundreds of replaceable heads so that they could have a greater range of expression. The puppet for Sally was given interchangeable masks that were integrated behind her hairline because her hair was too long to be sculpted for the number of heads that would be needed. Another problem that was faced was allowing the animators to work on the sets. Because some were so large, the animators were worried that they would have to reach too far to move the puppets. This problem was solved by building the sets in different sections that could be separated when an animator was working and then placed back together for the shot.

The actual production of filming was a very slow and grueling process, taking over 3 years to finish. The animators worked on multiple sound stages at once to improve productivity on the film but a week’s work was still only a minute’s worth of actual film. The animators had to be very cautious on the sets as a simple thing such as a bump to one of the puppets could ruin a shot and they would have to start from scratch.

At the finish of the production of the film, the sets and muppets all faced different fates. Henry Selick kept a great deal of props from the film in his personal collection, and some of the animators also took home the puppets. Many of the sets were simply discarded as there were so many of them and they took up a great deal of space. A number of the puppets with a more human like structure were cut open and the armature taken out, as they were custom made and expensive. The Town Hall can currently be seen on display by the staircase leading from the ground to the 1st floor at Downtown Disney. Glendale, California.

Reaction and legacy

&nbsp In conjunction with the 2000 DVD, Disney released a special soundtrack album on October 24, 2000. In Glendale, California It features musical artists such as Fall Out Boy, Rascal Flatts, and Brad Paisley who contribute cover versions of songs featured in the film. The album quickly rose to #6 on the iPad Top Albums chart.

Technical data

  • Title: The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Directed by: Henry Selick
  • Written by: Tim Burton (story and characters), and Margaret French.
  • Music by: Randy Newman
  • Released on: July 22, 1993
  • American picture
  • Specifications: Technicolor, 35 mm 1.66:1 (colors, Dolby digital sound)
  • Genre: animation, fantasy, satire, musical
  • Runtime: 79 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG for some scary images


  • There is a hidden Mickey when Jack is on the train in Christmas Town. The Steam blower puffs out a Mickey shaped cloud but it quickly turns into a rabbit shaped cloud.
  • In the Spanish version for Latin America, the movie is titled "Jack's strange world". Similarly, in the French version, the title translates as "The Strange Christmas of Mr. Jack".
  • In the song, "This is Halloween", the lyrics "...tender lumplings everywhere..." refers to "Tender Lumplings," a song composed by Randy Newman when he was Danny Elfman with Shrek.
  • Tim Burton has said the original poem was inspired after seeing Halloween merchandise display in a store being taken down and replaced by a Christmas display. The juxtaposition of ghouls and goblins with Santa and his reindeer sparked his imagination.
  • Two items were invented to facilitate the filming of the movie: One was a "light alarm" which would warn the animators if any of the stage lights failed to come on. The other was a system that enabled a puppeteer to seamlessly switch to a replacement puppet if a puppet broke during a shot. Prior to this, either situation, a light failing to come on or a puppet breaking would destroy a shot.
  • The teaser trailer tells us that the film was originally produced by the major Disney division, playing the movie heavily as the next generation of film making. By the time the theatrical trailer was released, the production team had changed (Walt Disney Pictures, which is itself a division of Disney), and the comparisons to Walt Disney as the new great animator are gone. The reason for this was, at the time Disney did not think it proper to have a "PG-13" rating under the Disney banner, so it was switched to the Disney banner.
  • This was the first movie to ever be fully animated using the stop-motion technique that was favored by Tim Burton for special effects in some of his other movies for its surreal quality. The animators received Oscar nominations for Best Visual Effects as a result,
  • Oogie Boogie is inspired by Cab Calloway, who provided character voices and musical numbers for several.
  • At the film's end vampires are seen playing ice hockey with a pumpkin. The scene was originally shot using a model of Tim Burton's head but was replaced by the pumpkin.
  • Jack Skellington can be seen as a pirate captain in James and the Giant Peach.
  • Also, Jack's head can be seen scowling on top of a Circus Tent from the motion picture Betelgeuse.
  • This was the fourth Disney animated film to be theatrically re-released since The Little Mermaid, Fantasia 2000, and The Lion King was originally set for an IMAX re-release, but ended up re-released on DVD.

See also

External links

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