The Nightmare Before Christmas
Directed by Henry Selick
Produced by Tim Burton
Denise Di Novi
Danny Elfman
Written by Story:
Tim Burton
Danny Elfman
Michael McDowell
Caroline Thompson
Starring Chris Sarandon
Danny Elfman
Catherine O'Hara
William Hickey
Glenn Shadix
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Pete Kozachik
Editing by Stan Webb
Distributed by 1993 release:
Walt Disney Pictures
Release date(s) October 29, 1993
October 20, 2006
October 19, 2006
Running time 76 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget 18 million
Gross revenue 1993: $50 million
2006: $8.7 million
2007: $15.8 million
Official website
Allmovie profile
IMDb profile

The Nightmare Before Christmas is a 1993 Disney/Touchstone stop-motion animated film directed by Henry Selick and produced/co-written by Tim Burton. The film tells the story of Jack Skellington, a living skeleton from Halloween Town who finds a door to Christmas Town.

Idea Behind the FilmEdit

The genesis of The Nightmare Before Christmas started with a Poem by Tim Burton. He wrote it during his time as a Disney animator in the early 1980s. With the success of Burton's short-film "Vincent" in 1982, Disney started to consider The Nightmare Before Christmas as either a short-film or 30-minute television special. Over the years, Burton's thoughts regularly returned to the project, and in 1990, Burton and Disney made a development deal. Production started in July 1991 in San Francisco. Walt Disney Pictures decided to release the film under their Touchstone Pictures banner because they thought that the film would be "too dark and scary for kids."



Chapter 04 - What's This - 061

In a magical place called Halloween Town, all of the town's citizens have gathered to celebrate their holiday and success after terrifying the world. However, Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king and most-acclaimed citizen of the town, a de-facto leader, has become tired of this holiday and no longer sees the point of scaring people. The night after the celebration he takes a long walk through the forest with his ghost dog Zero (who has a glowing pumpkin for a nose), where he finds doorways to other holidays. Intrigued by one showing a bright green tree with decorations, Jack opens the door and falls down a hole leading into Christmas Town. Amazed by the snow, color, and wonder he sees, Jack becomes fascinated with Christmas. Jack returns to Halloween Town and shows the citizens examples of Christmas items. He shows them Christmas trees, stockings, and the whole routine of Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The townspeople are excited, but Jack worries they don't fully grasp the concepts he's trying to explain to them. In the crowd is Sally, a ragdoll brought to life by the town scientist Dr. Finkelstein. She is secretly in love with Jack and too is awestruck by Christmas, but sees a vision of a burning Christmas tree and worries it is a bad sign. She informs Jack of her vision but he simply shrugs it off his shoulders and goes ahead in his plan.

Jack secludes himself in his lab, leaving the citizens of Halloween Town in troubled thoughts of what Jack is up to and if he's okay, and performs various experiments on Christmas-themed items in an attempt to find a way to explain it to his citizens. Jack's obsession escalates as his experiments fail, and he ultimately comes to the conclusion that not only could he imitate Christmas perfectly, but that he could improve upon it, and announces to the town they are taking over Christmas. Jack rallies the town to begin making Christmas presents, hires Dr. Finkelstein to animate skeletal reindeer for a sleigh, and charges Sally with knitting him a red and white Santa coat. As Christmas approaches and both Halloween Town and Christmas Town prepare for Christmas, Jack puts three tricks-or-treaters (Lock, Shock and Barrel) in charge of kidnapping Santa Claus from Christmas Town, but warns them not to include their master Oogie Boogie in any of their affairs. On Christmas Eve, everything is almost set when the three return with Santa. Jack tells Santa to "take the night off" and has the three take Santa back to their lair to keep him contained for the night. Instead, the three send Santa to Oogie Boogie, who plots to gamble with his life at stake.

Sally attempts to stop Jack by creating a thick fog, but Jack uses Zero's glowing red nose to light the way and directs the dog to the head of the sleigh. Jack takes off around the world and begins to deliver his terrifying presents with disastrous results, though he mistakes their screams for joy. A warning is put out on the news of a Santa Claus impersonator, and the citizens of Halloween Town rejoice, believing their Christmas a success. Sally rushes to save Santa Claus, but is captured by Oogie Boogie as well. Artillery cannons fire on Jack, destroying his sleigh, and both the police and the people of Halloween Town assume him dead. Waking up in a graveyard, Jack realizes his plans have ruined his Christmas, but is newly inspired about Halloween. Jack tears off his Santa suit and declares himself the pumpkin king again, then hurries back to Halloween Town to release Santa.

Jack enters Oogie Boogie's lair just as he's about to kill Santa and Sally. He is able to pull open a stitch in Oogie Boogie's clothing (for his skin is made out of cloth) and all the bugs that are inside Boogie's body start to fall out, rendering him helpless. Jack apologizes to Santa, who then races off to fix Christmas. Jack confronts Sally about her attempt to save Santa and realizes her feelings for him, as Lock, Shock and Barrel lead the Mayor to find Jack. Santa Claus is shown flying around the world, giving out real presents and removing the evil toys Jack had given out. Jack returns to his townpeople as Santa flies overhead. Santa and Jack wish each other "Happy Halloween" and "Merry Christmas" as Santa brings snow to the town. The residents of Halloween Town begin playing in the snow, and Jack follows Sally out of town. She climbs and sits atop a snow covered hill, and Jack joins her singing. They sing to each other and realize that they were meant to be together. As their hands touch, they embrace and kiss each other as Zero looks on. Then Zero flies up into the night, transformed into a star.


Main article: List of Actors


Burton wrote a three-page Poem titled "The Nightmare Before Christmas" when he was a Disney animator in the early-1980s. Burton took inspiration from television specials of "Rudolph," "How The Grinch Stole Christmas" and the poem "A Visit From St. Nicholas." With the success of "Vincent" in 1982, Disney started to consider The Nightmare Before Christmas as either a short film or 30-minute Holiday television special. Rick Heinrichs and Burton created concept art and stroyboards, with Heinrichs also sculpting character models. "Back then, I would have done anything to get the project off ground" Burton explained. "There was a lot of talk of either a short film, like 'Vincent' or a TV special, but it went nowhere. I also wanted to have Vincent Price as narrator." Burton showed Henry Selick, who was also a Disney animator in the early-1980s, the material he and Heinrichs developed.

Over the years, Burton's thoughts regularly returned to the project. In 1990, Burton found out that Disney still owned the film rights, and the two committed to produce a full-length film with Selick as director. Disney was looking forward to Nightmare "to show capabilities of technical and storytelling achievements that were present in "Who Framed Roger Rabbit." Nightmare marked Burton's third film in a row to have a Christmas setting. Burton could not direct because of his commitment to Batman Returns and he did not want to be involved with "the painstakingly slow process of stop-motion." To adapt his Poem into a screenplay, Burton approached Micheal McDowell, his collaborator on Beetlejuice. McDowell and Burton experienced creative differences, which convinced Burton to make the film as a musical with lyrics and compositions by frequent collaborator Danny Elfman. Elfman and Burton created a rough storyline and two-thirds of the film's songs, while Selick and his team of animators began production in July 1991 in San Francisco with a crew of 200 workers. Joe Ranft worked as a storyboard artist.


Henry Selick (left) and Tim Burton (right)

Elfman found writing Nightmare's 10 songs as "one of the easiest jobs I've ever had. I had a lot in common with Jack Skellington." Caroline Thompson still had yet to be hired to write the screenplay. With Thompson's screenplay, Selick stated, "there are very few lines of dialogue that are Caroline's. She became busy on other films and we were constantly rewriting, reconfiguring and developing the film visually." The work of Ray Harryhausen, Ladislas Starevich, Edward Gorey, Charles Addams, Jan Lenica, Francis Bacon and Wassily Kandinsky all influenced the filmmakers. Selick described the production design as akin to a pop-up-book. In addition, Selick stated, "When we reach Halloween Town, it's entirely German expressionism. When Jack enters Christmas Town, it's an outrageous Dr.Suess setpiece. Finally, when Jack is delivering presents in the 'Real World,' everything is plain, simple, and perfectly aligned."

On the direction of the film, Selick reflected, "It's as though Burton laid the egg, and I sat on it and hatched it. He wasn't involved in a hands-on way, but his hand is in it. It was my job to make it look like 'a Tim Burton film,' which is not so different from my own films." When asked on Burton's involvement, Selick claimed, "I don't want to take away from Tim, but he was not in San Francisco when we made it. He came up five times over two years, and spent no more than eight or ten days in total." Walt Disney Studios contributed with some use of second-layering traditional Animation. Burton found production somewhat difficult because he was directing Batman Returns and in pre-production of Ed wood.

Deleted Scenes Edit

  • Original Opening: The original opening of the film only got to the storyboard stage. It involved a day by day wall callender starting at December and flipping through the days and holidays until it reaches Halloween with a jack o lantern. The camera then zooms into it's eye and the opening titles play. This opening can only be found on the original work print.
  • Jack's Experiments (Extended): A longer version of the scene where Jack conducts various experiments in order to figure out the meaning of Christmas. The deleted portion of this scene includes a short gag involving a chalk drawn Sandy Claws turning into his monster form when Jack spins the board. Cut for timing reasons.
  • Singing Behemoth: A scene during "Making Christmas" where Behemoth sings about the various presents that the citezens of Halloweenland are making. Only storyboarded.
  • Oogie Boogie's Song (Extended) Two deleted moments in Oogie Boogie's song. The first is during a cut verse about Oogie making snake and spider stew where bugs would walk out of his eyes and dance on his arm. Cut because it would be too difficult to make tiny armatures for the bugs. The second takes place during the musical interlude where Oogie's shadow dances on an orange background. This scene was animated but scrapped for timing reasons. The music for both of these scenes can be found on the official soundtrack. See the Song page for more info.
  • Watching Oogie: Lock, Shock and Barrel are bored so they grab some snacks and go inside their elevator to watch Oogie torture Santa and Sally. later, a thought to be dead Jack Skellington enters the lair by jumping on the elevator with the kids inside and he scares them which can explain how he got inside the lair at the nick of time. Pictures of the scene were in the promotional booklets, postcard books, and storybooks.
  • Confrontation with Santa: A completely alternate scene where after Zero wakes him up in the graveyard, Jack is confronted by Santa for ruining Christmas. Some notable things in this scehe are that Jack does not have his Santa suit, Santa is a lot grumpier and his face is notably different too. Santa also has his own hat. The dialogue go as this: Jack: "Oh Zero my only friend, how can I show my face in this world or any other world ever again ? Oh grief and blackest lamentation ! *Usues Zero as a tissue who dries himself out. "If only someone had the power to reach out.. *shadow approaches tombstone "..and release me from this unendurable torment. Someone who might put an end to my meaningless existence. Someone that.." *gets pulled by Santa's cane. Santa: "Thinking of me Mr. Skellington? Now don't act so surprised!" This scene was most likely scrapped very early as it has various continuity errors. Both characters have different voices as well.
  • Oogie's Alternate Identity: The alternate identity of Oogie Boogie was originally going to be Dr. Finklestein, who said he became Oogie Boogie because Sally was in love with Jack even though he created her and as Oogie Boogie he'd give her a lesson she's never forget. Finklestein then mentions a creation that will like him and with Igor's help he escapes through a trap door, the scene ends with Jack saying "I can't believe this". Tim Burton reportedly despised this scene and kicked a hole in a wall because of it.
  • Tim's Severed Head: The scene of the Vampires playing hockey while the Halloween residents celebrate Christmas originally included them playing with the severed head of Tim Burton rather than the Jack o lantern seen in the final film.




Deleted scenes and beta elementsEdit


Main article: The Nightmare Before Christmas (soundtrack)

The film's soundtrack album was released in 1993 by Walt Disney Records. For the film's 2006 re-release, a special edition of the soundtrack was released, featuring a bonus disc which contained covers of five of the film's songs by Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Marilyn Manson, Fiona Apple, and She Wants Revenge. Four original demo tracks by Elfman were also included.

In celebration of the film's 15th anniversary, on September 30, 2008, Disney released a cover album titled Nightmare Revisited, featuring artists such as Amy Lee, Flyleaf, Korn, Rise Against, Plain White T's, and the All-American Rejects.

American Gothic rock band London After Midnight featured a cover of "Sally's Song" on their 1998 album Oddities.

LiLi Roquelin did a French cover of "Sally's Song" which was released on her album Will you hate the rest of the world or will you renew your life? in 2010.

Another soundtrack released in 2003 was the Disneyland Haunted Mansion Holiday CD. Although most were not original songs from the movie, one song provided on the CD is a medley of "Making Christmas", "What's This?", and "Kidnap the Sandy Claws". Other songs included are original holiday songs changed to incorporate the theme of the movie. The last song on the list, however, is the soundtrack for the Disneyland Haunted Mansion Holiday ride.


The film's soundtrack album was released in 1993 by Walt Disney Records. For the film's 2006 re-release, a special edition of the soundtrack was released, featuring a bonus disc which contained covers of five of the film's songs by Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Marilyn Manson, Fiona Apple, and She Wants Revenge. Four original demo tracks by Elfman were also included.

In celebration of the film's 15th anniversary, on September 30, 2008, Disney released a cover album titled Nightmare Revisited, featuring artists such as Amy Lee, Flyleaf, Korn, Rise Against, Plain White T's, and the All-American Rejects.


In 2001, Walt Disney Pictures began to consider producing a sequel, but rather than using stop motion, Disney wanted to use computer animation. Burton convinced Disney 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... Because it's a mass-market kind of thing, it was important to kind of keep that purity of it." The 2005 video game The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge did continue the story of the film, with Capcom's crew of developers going after Tim Burton for advice, and having the collaboration of the film's art director, Deane Taylor. In 2009, Selick said he would do a film sequel if he and Burton could create a good story for it.

Characters from The Nightmare Before Christmas have also had cameos in Disney and Square Enix's role-playing game series, Kingdom Hearts. In the majority of these games, Jack acts as a partner to the main character. In the first game, Jack attempts to liven up Halloween by giving a heart created by Dr. Finklestein to a Heartless, but the experiment goes wrong and the heart soon is taken by Oogie Boogie. In Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, he tries to help the protagonist, Sora, regain his memories. In Kingdom Hearts II, Halloween Town and its inhabitants are seen, while Jack rekindles his notion of taking over Santa's job. In the prequel game Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Jack seeks inspiration for livening up his Halloween by paying attention to the actions of the protagonist, Roxas.

Since 2001, Disneyland's Haunted Mansion attraction is redesigned in September with characters, decorations and music from the movie. This attraction is called the Haunted Mansion Holiday, and remains in operation through the Christmas season. It takes ride goers on a what-if adventure of if Jack, as "Sandy Claws," had visited the Haunted Mansion on Christmas Eve, leaving holiday chaos in his wake.


  • MediEvil is the inspiration of Nightmare Before Christmas style look.
  • Tim Burton originally planned to make a second movie, "The Unlucky Clover" but never managed to theaters because he said it would "Spoil the magic of the 1st Movie"

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