Disney Executives Unsure About ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’

nightmare before christmas and Mickey Mouse
Credit: Disney and Canva

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.

danny elfman's the nightmare before christmas, jack and sally embracing

Credit: Disney

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.

Related: One Thing That Scares Even Tim Burton

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.

Tim Burton

Credit: Gage Skidmore/ Flickr

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.

Related: Tim Burton Defends Johnny Depp

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.

Jack skellington Tim Burton coming back to theatres live action

Credit: Disney


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.

oogie boogie bash a disney halloween party treat trails disneyland resort party guests meet villain characters halloween time goodies

Credit: Disney

Also, at Disneyland, guests can enjoy the Oogie Boogie Bash each Halloween. This Halloween party takes the name after the movie’s villain.

Related: Happy Holidays! Disney World Receiving “Nightmare Before Christmas” Attractions

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.



About Jennifer Retzlaff

My name is Jennifer Retzlaff and I became a lifelong Disney fan during my first trip to Walt Disney World in 6th grade. From that moment, Disney became a big part of my life. I live in Iowa with my husband and two kids who are growing up too quickly for my liking. I started introducing my love for Disney early to my family with a Disney honeymoon and then trips when our youngest of 18 months. Since then, our family has been to Walt Disney World over five times and we continue to plan and dream for the next trip. I love the magic that Disney brings to people through the theme parks, cruises, adventures and movies they create. As a teacher, I try to bring that magic into my classroom to help kids believe that “If You Can Dream It, You Can Do It.” I recently reached a dream of mine as I joined Magic Vacation Planner as a personal travel advisor. With this team, I can now help others plan magical vacations. As a passionate writer, I also have my own blog at magicalvacationsbyjen which is also where you can follow me on instagram for trip reviews along with tips and tricks for your next magical vacation.