What if I told you Jack Skellington isn’t just the main character of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas? Maybe we’ve seen more of his story than we realize, even when he was alive!
As Halloween quickly approaches, fans are nestling into their couches to binge-watch spooky, family-friendly movies and shows. As Freeform recently announced its 31 Days of Halloween schedule, there’s plenty of Halloween happiness to be had in front of the TV this fall.
Two films of note included in Freeform’s Halloween countdown are 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and 2005’s Corpse Bride. Although Nightmare was directed by Henry Selick and produced by Disney, much like its Warner Bros counterpart, it was the brainchild of famed gothic storyteller Tim Burton, and holds a place in the hearts of Halloween movie watchers this time of year.
Tim Burton’s ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’
Released at the New York Film Festival in 1993, Tim Burton’s masterpiece, The Nightmare Before Christmas is a haunting tale of Halloween Town’s own Jack Skellington. Jack, the slender king of Halloween Town, accidentally visits Christmas town and decides to bring the festive holiday, along with Santa Claus, back home to all the ghouls and goblins.
The Nightmare Before Christmas was a fantastical and beautiful success, introducing characters like Oogie Boogie, Sally, and of course, the dead heartthrob Jack Skellington. The film’s lore has grown into one of Disney’s most popular holiday-themed properties, even earning it a layover at the Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland.
Outside of Disney Parks, you’ll find Jack Skellington almost everywhere as you do your Halloween decoration shopping. He and Oogi Boogie adorn shelves in department stores across the country. Rightfully so as The Nightmare Before Christmas has become an annual part of Halloween celebrations for many.
Tim Burton’s ‘Corpse Bride’
Although not a Walt Disney Pictures film, the 2005 Tim Burton film Corpse Bride feels eerily similar to The Nightmare Before Christmas. Done in the same stop-motion style as Jack Skellington, Tim Burton’s unique use of German Expressionism can be felt in the film, but like it’s counterpart.
The story of Corpse Bride is similar to Jack Skellington’s, featuring Victor Van Dort (voiced by Johnny Depp), who is arranged to be married to Victoria Everglot (Emily Watson). Depp’s character finds himself in the land of the dead after an accident, meeting Emily the Corpse Bride (Helena Bonham Carter).
Although not the Halloween Town that we know and love from The Nightmare Before Christmas, the underworld that Van Dort experiences is definitely similar, leaving fans wondering if there’s a secret connection. However, this isn’t where the familiarity between the two films end!
Burton’s The ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ Meets ‘Corpse Bride’
The similarities between these two films are uncanny. For starters, famed composer Danny Elfman, who’s done the music for many of Tim Burton’s projects, handled the unique musical features in both films. He also handled the singing voice of Jack Skellington. Although Chris Sarandon was the speaking voice of Jack, Elfman did the singing alongside other notables like Catherine O’Hara, Ken Page, and Paul Reubens.
As well, there are some identical characteristics in terms of pets between the two films. Famously, The Nightmare Before Christmas features Jack Skellington’s loyal but ghostly companion Zero. However, Corpse Bride fans will notice that Victor’s pet dog in the afterlife, Scraps, bears an uncanny resemblance to Jack’s pet.
The two main characters are very similar as well. Both are gothic creations from the mind of Tim Burton, sharing an unfulfilled outlook on life or death. These similarities have led many to suspect that Victor Van Dort and Jack Skellington are the same person! However, to fill the gaps, another Tim Burton film must be considered.
Tim Burton’s Frankenweenie
Perfectly coined as the Burton-verse by Collider, fans of Disney and Tim Burton have noted similarities between The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride, concluding that the latter is actually a prequel to the Disney film from 1993.
However, some are going as far as to suggest that The Nightmare Before Christmas is actually the final film in a trilogy, finally giving the Pumpkin King his well-deserved happily ever after! Little do Tim Burton fans realize that not only have they possibly witnessed Jack Skellington as a living adult man in Corpse Bride, they’ve maybe even seen him as a living child!
2012’s Frankenweenie tells the story of a young, science-loving Victor Frankenstein (voiced by Charlie Tahan). Bringing back a slew of Tim Burton favorites like Catherine O’Hara and Winona Ryder, this story could actually be the first in a trilogy that ends with The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Sparky, Scraps, and Zero
Let’s go back to those dogs. We’re already familiar with Scraps and Zero, but another tail-wagging pet that looks an awful lot like the other two pops up in Frankenweenie. Sparky, who is brought back to life by the young Victor Frankenstein, shares attributes that are almost perfectly aligned with Tim Burton’s other two K9 creations, specifically the elongated snout.
Could it be that they’re all actually the same dog from different points in time? Some absolutely think so! It’s difficult to overlook the similarities between the three canines, giving the theory even more support.
‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Jack Skellington is Victor Frankenstein and Victor Van Dort
Assuming the dogs are the same, the theory would also suggest that Jack Skellington is the officially passed-away version of Victor Van Dort, who is the adult version of Victor Frankenstein. Although it may just be Tim Burton’s unique style, all three characters highly sound alike and look alike!
While some consider the three films to depict Jack Skellington in different stages of life and death, there are some who have come up with an even wilder theory. Some fans suggest that the scientific success in bringing Sparky back to life led young Victor on a pioneering path. Eventually, he would become capable of time travel, hence the term Burton-verse.
Victor and his beloved pet would become stuck in the Victorian age of Corpse Bride, ultimately leading to a life with Victoria highlighted by a love for holidays. Although Sparky would pass away long before Victor Van Dort, they would be reunified once he enters the afterlife, once as Scraps, and then again as Zero when Victor passes away.
In death, Victor has lost his memories. Therefore, he is sent to Halloween Town and refers to himself and his deceased pet as Jack Skellington and Zero in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The longing for his lost-wife Victoria, and their mortal love for Christmas drives Jack to a feeling of need, eventually leading him to Christmas town in the 1993 film.
A Live-Action ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ Could Explain It All
Although it is much more likely that Tim Burton’s style of animation derives many of the similarities that fans assume have a deeper meaning, this hasn’t stopped many from considering the three films a trilogy. However, given the popularity of The Nightmare Before Christmas, fans have had wilder ideas too. Due to an April Fool’s Day post made by Inside the Magic, many fans are convinced that a live-action version of the film featuring Johnny Depp is on the way.
This is far from true, but given the close relationship between Johnny Depp and Tim Burton, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the two rejoin forces in the future. However, a live-action retelling of the life and death of Jack Skellington would garner much support from fans, and if Burton did, in fact, intend for these three films to be interwoven, it would be the perfect opportunity to explore the Burton-verse even further.
As Disney prepares to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas, many hope to get an inside track to the theories’ legitimacy. Although Jack Skellington is on his way back to select theaters in the United States and Canada, it is unlikely that this reappearance of the Pumpkin King will shed any light on the connections fans have drawn.
What do you think? Could the three films actually be connected?