Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) is back in theatres celebrating 30 years of success. The film continues to be extremely popular, but when Disney executives first saw the stop-motion animation, they were highly concerned.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a stop-motion animation musical featuring Jack Skellington as the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. Jack finds himself bored and unfulfilled with the Halloween celebrations and eventually stumbles to Christmas Town.
This unfamiliar and exciting, colorful holiday inspires Jack as he returns to Halloween Town. After studying what Christmas is, Jack is determined to take over Christmas for the year. The film follows Jack’s desire for change while rediscovering his love for Halloween and scaring people.
The film, released in 1993, quickly received praise for its stop-motion technique, unique characters, songs, and musical score. Since then, The Nightmare Before Christmas has gathered a cult-like following and become one of the greatest animated films ever.
The new stop-motion style of the film and the darker feel made some Disney executives nervous that the film could hurt Disney’s reputation.
Disney Executives Were Concerned
In recent interviews to celebrate the 30 years of the film, both Tim Burton and director Henry Selick referred to the fact that when the first cuts of the film were shown to Disney executives, they were nervous it could harm the Disney name.
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In response to this concern, the film wasn’t released under the Disney name. Instead, The Nightmare Before Christmas was released with Touchstone Pictures, the studio’s more adult-oriented label. When explaining this decision, director Henry Selick stated:
“They were afraid it might hurt their brand,” director Henry Selick said in a video call from his home in Los Angeles. “If they had put the Disney name on it right then, it would’ve been much more successful, but I understand it just didn’t feel anything like their other animated films.”
The movie grossed $50 million at the domestic bo, which was drastically different than the $217 million brought in by Aladdin (1992) the year before. When the film was released, Disney didn’t know how to market Jack Skellington. Since then, Jack Skellington and others from the film can be seen everywhere.
The film and characters of the film are now seen all over. From clothing that features imagery from the film to a 13-foot tall Jack Skellington for yards, fans continue to go crazy for The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Due to the film’s popularity, Disney transforms The Haunted Mansion in Disneyland each year to Haunted Manion Holiday. This beloved ride takes on a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay featuring aspects of the film throughout the ride.
Also, at Disneyland, guests can enjoy the Oogie Boogie Bash each Halloween. This Halloween party takes the name after the movie’s villain.
When looking back at how the film began to where it is today in pop culture, Burton comments, “When I see that, I go back to the early days when the film was first being done and thinking of the journey that it’s taken, this symbolizes it in a very strange way,”
What a disaster it could have been if Disney had walked away from Burton and his stop-motion technique that created The Nightmare Before Christmas.