Hef's Movie Notes: The Nightmare Before Christmas

By Hugh Hefner

Hef introduces Tim Burton's yuletide classic.

Tonight: Tim Burton’s yuletide classic The Nightmare Before Christmas.

In the early 1980’s, Tim Burton was an animator at Disney. One day he happened by a retail store display where they were taking down the Halloween merchandise to replace it with items promoting Christmas sales. It was so jarring to see the contract between Santa Claus and ghosts and goblins that Burton’s imagination began to go wild.

After reading the poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” and viewing the TV specials How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, he wrote a three-page poem that became the basis for this film.

At the same time, Burton was also making a series of unusual pictures, including Pee Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Beetlejuice (1988), Batman (1989) and Edward Scissorhands (1990).

Burton had planned on directing Nightmare, but was busy, instead helming Batman Returns.

Consequently, Henry Selick was assigned to direct, owing to his expertise in stop-motion animation, and his feeling for German expressionism.

Production began August 1, 1991 and did not conclude until June of 1993.

More than 100 people were required to do all the animation required.

To produce even one second of film, as many as 12 stop-motion moves had to be made. It took an entire week to get one minute of film! The completed movie cost almost $20 million.

Nightmarewas originally intended as a Disney release. But Disney CEO Michael Eisner deemed the picture “too dark for kids” and issued the picture under the company’s Touchstone logo.

In 2006, however, Nightmarewas reissued in 3-D with the Disney label.

Vincent Price was supposed to provide the voice of Santa Claus, but his wife had just died and this created health problems for Price, himself.

His voice came across as too weak and frail, so Burton recast the part with Chris Sarandon.

Paul Reubens (“Pee Wee Herman”) provided the voice for “Lock.” And Catherine O’Hara, from Second City TV is “Sally.”

The Nightmare Before Christmas premiered on October 9, 1993 at the New York Film Festival.

An ad line announced: “A ghoulish tale with wicked humor and stunning animation.”

Variety proclaimed: “The dazzling techniques employed here create a striking look that has never been seen in such a sustained form before, making this a unique curio that will appeal to kids and film enthusiasts alike.”

Kenneth Tynan declared, in the L.A. Times: “The Nightmare Before Christmas displays more inventiveness than some studios manage in an entire year.”

Peter Travers reported, in Rolling Stone: “An animated fun-house for eek freaks of all ages. This dazzling mix of fun and fright explodes the notion that animation is kid stuff. It’s 74 minutes of timeless movie magic. This one has the power to truly haunt your dreams.”

The picture received an Oscar nomination for Best Visual Effects.

The score by Danny Elfman (from the group “Oingo Boingo”) was nominated for a Golden Globe. (He sings his own composition as “Jack Skellington.”)

Also, elsewhere, Elfman has four Oscar nominations, an Emmy award and one Grammy. He wrote the Simpsons and Batman themes. He is married to Henry Fonda’s granddaughter, Bridget.

With all the annual reissues, the box office gross now comes to over $174 million. Establishing it as a solid contemporary cult classic.

In 2001, Disney wanted to do a sequel, but employing computer animation, instead of stop-motion.

Burton argued against it. “I was always very protective of Nightmare, he said. “Not to do sequels or things of that kind, (that might cheapen it), just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it (that way).”

So now–from 1993—Tim Burton’s

The Nightmare Before Christmas

Plus an Academy Award winning Tom & Jerry cartoon.


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