The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

PG | 76 mins | Comedy, Horror, Musical | 1993

Director:

Henry Selick

Cinematographer:

Pete Kozachik

Editor:

Stan Webb

Production Designer:

Deane Taylor

Production Companies:

Touchstone Pictures, Skellington Productions, Inc.
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HISTORY

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and notes were written by participant JoAnn Yao, a student at Georgia Institute of Technology, with Vinicius Navarro as academic advisor.

The Nightmare Before Christmas opens with voiceover narration introducing the setting. The opening title card reads “Touchstone Pictures presents Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas,” while various reviews alternately refer to the title with and without Burton’s name.
              According to a 10 Oct 1993 NYT article, the film is an adaptation of Burton’s narrative and illustrated parody of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore. Originally published in the mid-1800s, the poem has come to be known as “The Night Before Christmas” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” because of its first line. Burton developed the premise and concept art over a decade prior to the actual production of the film. Since the story was conceived during Burton’s employment in Disney’s animation department, the materials officially belonged to Disney. However, upon inquiry into ownership of the rights, the company expressed interest in the concept and offered Burton the opportunity to bring a feature film to fruition, which he accepted.
       Various contemporary sources give the following information: Over 100 crew members worked on the film over a period of three years. Due to scheduling conflicts, Burton took a producing role and gave the responsibility of directing the film to Henry Selick, a former Disney colleague experienced in directing stop-motion work. The production process began with composer Danny Elfman collaborating closely with ... More Less

The summary and note for this entry were completed with participation from the AFI Academic Network. Summary and notes were written by participant JoAnn Yao, a student at Georgia Institute of Technology, with Vinicius Navarro as academic advisor.

The Nightmare Before Christmas opens with voiceover narration introducing the setting. The opening title card reads “Touchstone Pictures presents Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas,” while various reviews alternately refer to the title with and without Burton’s name.
              According to a 10 Oct 1993 NYT article, the film is an adaptation of Burton’s narrative and illustrated parody of the poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas” by Clement Clarke Moore. Originally published in the mid-1800s, the poem has come to be known as “The Night Before Christmas” and “Twas the Night Before Christmas” because of its first line. Burton developed the premise and concept art over a decade prior to the actual production of the film. Since the story was conceived during Burton’s employment in Disney’s animation department, the materials officially belonged to Disney. However, upon inquiry into ownership of the rights, the company expressed interest in the concept and offered Burton the opportunity to bring a feature film to fruition, which he accepted.
       Various contemporary sources give the following information: Over 100 crew members worked on the film over a period of three years. Due to scheduling conflicts, Burton took a producing role and gave the responsibility of directing the film to Henry Selick, a former Disney colleague experienced in directing stop-motion work. The production process began with composer Danny Elfman collaborating closely with Burton to develop the music for the film; it was only after the ten songs comprising the soundtrack were finished that screenwriter Caroline Thompson began working on the script. Art director Deane Taylor oversaw the visual coherence of the film, adhering to a style influenced by German Expressionism that was also consistent with Burton’s drawings and previous films. The pen-and-ink illustrations of artists such as Ronald Searle and Edward Gorey influenced the art direction.
       Frank Thompson’s book Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas: The Film, The Art, The Vision emphasizes the importance of storyboards to the production process, claiming that visually mapping the film’s entire story required roughly fifty boards with around sixty-six drawings pinned to each one. A 10 Oct 1993 NYT article places the film’s shooting location in a San Francisco warehouse that contained nineteen miniature sets along with the puppets, props, and other work areas requisite to the production process. Various articles and press materials estimate the cost of the film to have been around $18 million.
       The Nightmare Before Christmas premiered at the New York Film Festival on 9 Oct 1993 to largely positive reviews. The film’s limited release on 15 Oct 1993 was followed by a wide release on 29 Oct 1993. Following its conversion to Disney Digital 3D, the film returned to theatres on 20 Oct 2006 and continued to be reissued annually. Overall, the film’s initial domestic box office takings totaled over $50 million, notably falling within the range projected in a January 1994 HR article. The subsequent 3-D re-releases substantially increased the film’s earnings.
       The Nightmare Before Christmas received an Academy Award nomination in the category of Best Visual Effects for Pete Kozachik, Eric Leighton, Ariel Velasco-Shaw, Gordon Baker, and a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score (Motion Picture), for Danny Elfman.
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
18 Aug 1993.
---
Daily Variety
8 Oct 1993
p. 2, 9.
Hollywood Drama-Logue
14-20 Oct 1993
p. 26.
Hollywood Reporter
30 Jun 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
17 Aug 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
11 Oct 1993
p. 8, 14.
Hollywood Reporter
25 Jan 1994
p. 32, 35, 80.
Hollywood Reporter
2 May 2006
p. 4, 52.
Los Angeles Times
15 Oct 1993
p. 1.
New York Times
9 Oct 1993
p. 13.
New York Times
10 Oct 1993
p. 13, 26.
Time
11 Oct 1993.
---
Variety
18 Oct 1993
p. 49.
CAST
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXT
A Burton/DiNovi production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Prod mgr
PRODUCERS
Prod
Co-prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
Assoc prod
ART DIRECTORS
Art dir
Storyboard supv
Storyboard artist
Storyboard artist
Storyboard artist
Storyboard artist
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Asst art dir
Artistic coord
Asst artistic coord
Prod coord, Art dept
FILM EDITORS
Consulting ed
Assoc ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Apprentice ed
Addl ed
Track reader
Negative cutter
SET DECORATORS
Set des & dressing supv
Background des
Set foreman
Shop dog
Set const supv
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set builder
Set dresser
Set dresser
Lead scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
Scenic artist
MUSIC
Mus and lyrics by
Orig score by
Vocal and song arr
Song orch
Score orch
Song cond
Score cond
Mus ed
Mus editing asst
Mus rec by
Mus rec by
Song vocals rec by
Songs & mus mixer
Orch contractor
Supv copyist
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Spec sd eff
Dial ed
Dial ed
Sd eff ed
Sd eff ed
Asst sd ed
Foley
Foley
Foley mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Rerec mixer
Original dial rec
Dubbing rec
Dubbing rec
ADR rec
ADR voice casting
VISUAL EFFECTS
Visual consultant
Armature supv
Mold maker supv
Char fabrication supv
Model shop supv
Sculptor
Sculptor
Sculptor
Sculptor
Armature eng
Armature eng
Armature eng
Armature eng
Armature eng
Addl armatures
Mold maker
Mold maker
Mold maker
Mold maker
Mold maker
Mold maker
Mold maker asst
Mold maker asst
Prod asst
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Char fabricator
Addl char des
Addl char des
Addl char des
Model maker
Model maker
Model maker
Model maker
Model maker
Model maker
Asst model maker
Asst model maker
Asst model maker
Asst model maker
Prod asst, Asst model makers
Pixar
Pixar
Post prod supv
Visual eff supv, Post prod
Addl opt eff, Post prod
Image FX
Addl opt eff, Post prod
Interformat
PRODUCTION MISC
Prod accountant
Asst accountant
Prod coord
Asst prod coord
Asst to prod/dir
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Prod asst
Stage coord
Stage mgr
Prod asst, Stage dept
Prod asst, Stage dept
Prod runner, Stage dept
Prod runner, Stage dept
Prod runner, Stage dept
Facilities prod asst, Stage dept
Casting
Casting
San Francisco casting
San Francisco casting
Post prod admin
Post prod asst
Motion reference
Elec consultant/contractor
Massage therapist
Sew It Fits
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
Intern
ANIMATION
Anim supv
Anim
Addl anim
Addl anim
Addl anim
Addl anim
Addl anim
Anim rig eng
Asst anim rigger
Apprentice anim
Eff anim
Eff anim
Asst anim, FX anim
Asst anim, FX anim
Cel painter, FX anim
Digital eff provided by
Digital eff supv
Ink & paint mgr
Cam mgr
Snow anim
FX col timing and paint
Ink & paint and final check supv
Scene planning supv
CAPS & FX softwear lead
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
CAPS personnel
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
SOURCES
LITERARY
Based on a story and characters by Tim Burton.
AUTHOR
SONGS
"Here Comes Santa Claus," written by Gene Autry and Oakley Haldeman
"Deck the Halls," performed by Mantovani Orchestra and Chorus, courtesy of LaserLight Digital by arrangement with Source/Q.
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas
Release Date:
1993
Premiere Information:
New York opening: week of 9 Oct 1993; Los Angeles opening: 15 Oct 1993
Production Date:
began 1 Aug 1991 in San Francisco
Copyright Claimant:
Touchstone Pictures, an accepted alternative of the Walt Disney Company
Copyright Date:
25 October 1993
Copyright Number:
PA659601
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo in selected theatres
Color
Monaco Film Lab
Animation
Lenses/Prints
Prints by Technicolor; Produced and distributed on Eastman Film
Duration(in mins):
76
MPAA Rating:
PG
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32683
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In the distant past, separate worlds exist for various major holidays. One of these worlds, Halloween Town, bustles with excitement after the residents’ yearly ritual of terrorizing humankind. A skeleton named Jack Skellington leads the throng, receiving high praise for his frightening role as the Pumpkin King in the festivities. While everyone else continues to celebrate, Jack goes to the cemetery where he privately broods over his discontent with the timeworn routine of the holiday. Sally, a girl made of stitched-together limbs, watches Jack from her hiding place in the graveyard and empathizes with his restlessness. After Jack ventures into the woods beyond the cemetery, Sally returns to her creator, a scientist named Doctor Finklestein from whom she escaped by detaching one of her arms. Finklestein berates her for repeatedly drugging him and running away as he reattaches her arm, but she expresses no remorse as she pleads her case for freedom. In the morning, the Mayor of Halloween Town visits Jack’s house to begin planning next year’s activities, only to learn that Jack has not been home since the day before. Meanwhile, after wandering in the forest all night, Jack comes upon a circle of trees, each of which has a door carved into its trunk. He opens a door shaped like a decorated pine and promptly falls through the entrance it reveals, eventually landing in a snowy world of carols, sweets, and merriment. Fascinated, he explores this new place and learns that it is called Christmas Town while, in Halloween Town, a search party despairs over its failure to find Jack. Upon his return, Jack calls a town ... +


In the distant past, separate worlds exist for various major holidays. One of these worlds, Halloween Town, bustles with excitement after the residents’ yearly ritual of terrorizing humankind. A skeleton named Jack Skellington leads the throng, receiving high praise for his frightening role as the Pumpkin King in the festivities. While everyone else continues to celebrate, Jack goes to the cemetery where he privately broods over his discontent with the timeworn routine of the holiday. Sally, a girl made of stitched-together limbs, watches Jack from her hiding place in the graveyard and empathizes with his restlessness. After Jack ventures into the woods beyond the cemetery, Sally returns to her creator, a scientist named Doctor Finklestein from whom she escaped by detaching one of her arms. Finklestein berates her for repeatedly drugging him and running away as he reattaches her arm, but she expresses no remorse as she pleads her case for freedom. In the morning, the Mayor of Halloween Town visits Jack’s house to begin planning next year’s activities, only to learn that Jack has not been home since the day before. Meanwhile, after wandering in the forest all night, Jack comes upon a circle of trees, each of which has a door carved into its trunk. He opens a door shaped like a decorated pine and promptly falls through the entrance it reveals, eventually landing in a snowy world of carols, sweets, and merriment. Fascinated, he explores this new place and learns that it is called Christmas Town while, in Halloween Town, a search party despairs over its failure to find Jack. Upon his return, Jack calls a town meeting to share his discovery, displaying an array of Christmas items to aid his presentation. He finishes with a crowd-pleasing description of the leader of this other world, a man he claims is called “Sandy Claws.” Despite the enthusiastic reception, Jack feels the inhabitants of Halloween Town still do not understand the essence of Christmas, and ponders how to better explain the concept. He attempts to dissect the meaning of Christmas by conducting experiments on the artifacts he retrieved. After overhearing Jack’s request to borrow equipment from Finklestein for his scientific endeavors, Sally escapes again to bring Jack dinner, eager to aid him in any way possible. Following this delivery, though, she has a grim vision of a Christmas tree erupting in flames, an omen of bad things to come. Time passes, and the inhabitants of Halloween Town note how Jack’s behavior becomes more reclusive as he struggles to define Christmas. Eventually, Jack concludes that the concept of the holiday can be taken on faith, and that he has every right to assume control of it for himself. Once he decides to take Christmas into his own hands, Jack enlists the aid of the town to bring his plan to fruition. He assigns the task of kidnapping Santa to a crew of miscreants known as “Oogie’s boys,” with specific instructions not to involve the eponymous Oogie Boogie in the process. Although Sally still goes about her assigned task of re-creating Santa’s suit for Jack, she attempts to keep him from pursuing his plan, but to no avail. Later, Oogie’s boys return with a bag in tow, but they have captured the Easter Bunny instead of Santa Claus. Jack reprimands them before issuing more explicit directions. Days pass as the residents of both Halloween Town and Christmas Town prepare for December twenty-fifth, the efforts of the former much more macabre and twisted than those of the latter. On Christmas Eve, Oogie’s boys finally succeed in capturing Santa. Sally tries one last time to convince Jack to reconsider his scheme, but his resolve does not waver; he is pleased with his transformation into the figurehead of Christmas, feeling as though he has finally found self-fulfillment. Oogie’s boys then bring Santa back to their lair where he is introduced to Oogie Boogie, a monster made of burlap stuffed with insects. Oogie Boogie leers at Santa’s unimpressive appearance before trussing him up and promising imminent doom. Meanwhile, Sally pours a concoction into the fountain in the main square to create a dense fog that keeps Jack and his sleigh grounded until Zero the ghost dog comes forth to light the way with his bright red nose. Sally hopes that her premonition proves false and wistfully expresses her feelings for Jack, as well as her sorrow at the likelihood that they will never be together. Thus, Jack continues as planned, visiting homes and delivering gifts. Local authorities worldwide are soon bombarded with calls reporting rogue toys and sightings of a Santa Claus imposter, causing the armed forces to mobilize in response. In the meantime, Sally tries to free the real Santa Claus but is captured by Oogie Boogie instead. Once Jack’s sleigh flies directly over a military base, cannon fire knocks him and his team out of the sky, forcing them to crash-land in a cemetery. At first Jack laments the failure of his endeavors, but he gradually realizes that his rightful place is as the Pumpkin King. Accepting this fact with zeal, he rushes back to Halloween Town to free Sally and Santa before finally defeating Oogie Boogie. Santa immediately falls to work righting the remainder of Jack’s wrongs, managing to bring a touch of Christmas spirit to Halloween Town in the form of snowfall. As the residents of Halloween Town marvel at the weather change, Sally goes to the cemetery alone. Jack follows, and the two of them stand together on a snowy slope as they embrace and finally kiss. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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