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DEBATE SOLVED: Is “The Nightmare Before Christmas” a Halloween Film or a Christmas Film?

Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a favorite film for millions of fans, and since its debut, the film has enjoyed fandom that continues to expand year after year. And while millions love the story of Jack Skellington, one major debate remains amongst fans: is the film a Halloween film, or a Christmas movie? The film’s director has finally settled the debate, once and for all.

Credit: Disney

For Disney, 1993 was the year of spooky film releases. Hocus Pocus debuted on July 16 that year, and while it was popular with some, it didn’t originally garner the fandom that it has amassed after almost 30 years. And it didn’t enjoy the popularity that another 1993 spooky Disney film enjoyed.

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Before October 1993, none but those working on The Nightmare Before Christmas had ever heard of a character named Jack Skellington or Zero the ghost-dog, or Lock, Shock, and Barrel. But everything changed on October 13 of that year with the release of Tim Burton’s stop-motion animated film.

Credit: Disney

Per IMDb, Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas “follows the misadventures of Jack Skellington, Halloweentown’s beloved pumpkin king, who has become bored with the same annual routine of frightening people in the ‘real world,’ but when Jack accidentally stumbles on Christmastown, all bright colors and warm spirits, he gets a new lease on life, and he plots to bring Christmas under his control by kidnapping Santa Claus and taking over the role. But Jack soon discovers even the best-laid plans of mice and skeleton men can go seriously awry.”

But for years, the film has not only enjoyed success and popularity; it has also been at the center of a heated debate: Under which holiday genre heading does The Nightmare Before Christmas fall–Halloween or Christmas? And that debate has only grown as social media has taken off.

For the answer, we turn to the film’s director, Henry Selick.

In 2015, Selick had a very firm opinion when it came to the two holidays, saying the film is a Halloween flick, but since then, he’s changed his mind.

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“At the very beginning, when Tim Burton came up with this original idea in the ’80s at Disney–when it was intended to be a half-hour TV special in stop-motion–at the very beginning, I saw it as a mashup, that it’s both,” Selick confirmed. “Then subsequently, when we actually made the film as a feature, I might have tended to answer one way, but I’ve arrived at the original feeling.”

the Nightmare Before Christmas': Interesting Details You Never Got

Credit: Insider/Disney

Selick continued with, “It is a mashup. It is a perfect collision between those two holidays. So there’s no better answer than both. It is both, and it’s its own thing. It’s a great celebration of Halloween that can last all the way into Christmas.”

A celebration of Halloween that can last all the way into Christmas. That might just be the single best answer we’ve ever heard.

Selick noted the film’s continued fan following: “It seems to work. People are still watching it.”

The Nightmare Before Christmas - Rotten Tomatoes

Credit: Disney

Chris Sarandon, the voice of Jack Skellington, shared his take on the debate in 2019.

“Why can’t it be both?” he asked. “I know that there are a lot of fans who come up to me saying, ‘We watch it every Halloween,’ and I have fans that come up and say, ‘We watch it every Christmas,’ I have fans who come up and say, ‘We watch it at both Christmas and Halloween.’ What’s the debate? It’s what pleases the people who watch it most, the audience, that’s what’s important. It’s the fans. It’s the people who it had a profound effect on over these years.”

Henry Selick on Possibility of Making The Nightmare Before Christmas Shorts

Credit: Disney

Though the director and main character have weighed in on the debate, it will surely continue for the next 30 years, as fans continue to hash out whether the story of Jack Skellington is one to file under “Halloween” or “Christmas.”
As Sarandon said, it’s up to the fans, so what say you–Halloween film or Christmas movie?

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!