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10 Things you didn't know about The Nightmare Before Christmas

BY Anna Walker

23rd Oct 2018 Film & TV

10 Things you didn't know about The Nightmare Before Christmas

25 years on from the release of Tim Burton's masterpiece, we reveal ten facts you might not know about Halloween Town and its strange inhabitants.

1. Patrick Stewart recorded an opening monologue

Tim Burton's Halloween romp famously begins, "Twas a long time ago, longer now than it seems/in a place that perhaps you have seen in your dreams…" but fans of the film might not realise that the opening was once far longer. 

Eventually cut from the film, Sir Patrick Stewart originally recorded a beautiful monologue that transports listeners straight into the world of Halloween Town.

The actor additionally recorded a closing track which reveals some details on the fates of our frightful favourites that was also cut from the film:

And I asked old Jack, do you remember the night
When the sky was so dark, and the moon shone so bright?
When a million small children pretending to sleep
Nearly didn’t have Christmas at all, so to speak?
And would, if you could, turn that mighty clock back
To that long fateful night—now think carefully, Jack!
Would you do the whole thing all over again,
Knowing what you know now, knowing what you knew then?
And he smiled like the old Pumpkin King that I knew,
Then turned and asked softly of me… “Wouldn’t you?”


2. Composer Danny Elfman identified with Jack

Composer Danny Elfman wasn't originally intended to perform Jack's singing voice. But in an interview with Entertainment Tonight, he revealed: "At a certain point I went to Tim and I said, 'There's a lot of better singers than I am but Jack is for me. He is me.' And Tim agreed."

Luckily his singing voice was incredibly similar to the actor behind Jack's spoken scenes, Chris Sarandon, who was the first to admit his own singing voice was far from perfect. 


"Developing the character with [Burton] was really great, suddenly I got to really dig my hands into something and create with this incredible image that Tim had given me and these great drawings that he'd done. And then to kind of flesh it out and try to bring it to life in the songs was really wonderful. We wanted to make it like an old-fashioned musical with the stories being told in the songs."

In an E News special he explained further, "When Tim started describing the character to me it didn't take a lot of searching in my soul to find what Jack Skellington is, there's so much of my personality in his personality, getting very enthusiastic and then plunging down into this melancholy state… I mean that's me!"


3. Tim Burton has no interest in producing a sequel 

Tim Burton on set. Image via On Set Shot On What

In 2001, Disney began plans for a sequel to Tim Burton's masterpiece. It was intended that the follow-up film would use computer animation rather than director Henry Selick's signature stop-motion style. 

Frustrated by the potential change to his original vision, Burton convinced Disney to drop the idea. 

In 2006 he told MTV, "I was always very protective of [‘Nightmare’], not to do sequels or things of that kind—you know, ‘Jack Visits Thanksgiving World’ or other kinds of things—just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it."

"Because it’s not a mass-market kind of thing, it was important to kind of keep that purity of it. I try to respect people and keep the purity of the project as much as possible."


4. Burton was inspired by store displays

One of Tim Burton's original sketches for The Nightmare Before Christmas. Image via iCollector

The idea for The Nightmare Before Christmas came to Tim Burton when he witnessed a store Halloween display being dismantled and replaced by a Christmas one. 

The existence of the two decorations—shiny Santas next to scary skeletons—piqued his imagination and lead him to write the poem that would eventually become Disney's feature film. 


5. Vincent Prince almost played Santa


Vincent Price was originally billed to play the role of Father Christmas, and even recorded all of Santa's lines. However, his wife tragically passed away shortly before recording, leaving Price's voice weak with grief.

After reviewing the tapes, director Henry Selick decided the mourning in his voice was too apparent, and so he didn't sound jolly enough for Santa. Edward Ivory was recast in his place. 


6. The presents Jack delivers are nods to other Burton films

When Jack sneaks into the homes of families, disguised as "Sandy Claws" the presents he delivers the unwitting children are nods to Tim Burton's other films. 

The large orange snake looks like a Sandworm from Beetlejuice as the shrunken head can be seen in Beetlejuice's afterlife waiting room. 

Meanwhile, the aggressive sharp-toothed cat and duck can be spotted in Batman Returns


7. Many artists have covered the soundtrack

To coincide with the film's Disney 3D release in 2006, several artists contributed to a special edition soundtrack, including Fall Out Boy, Panic! at the Disco, Marilyn Manson, Fiona Apple, and She Wants Revenge.

In 2008, Disney further released the album Nightmare Revisited, with covers from Amy Lee, Flyleaf, Korn, Rise Against, Plain White T's, The All-American Rejects and more. 


8. The most difficult scene to shoot was…


The moment when Jack Skellington turns the doorknob that will lead him to Christmasland.

In order for the shot to be convincing, the forest behind Jack had to be perfect, with no sign of cameras or equipment and Jack's expressions and movements had to translate perfectly in the tiny reflection. 


9. Jack had 400 different heads


The character's entire head was replaced for every slight change of expression, as well as varying thicknesses of eyelids, to show his hollow eyes blinking. Each blink took up to four frames to capture. 

His love interest Sally, meanwhile, had a fixed head but replaceable mask faces in order to keep her flowing hair intact. You can see her face being replaced in the clip above. 

Incidentally, the decision to keep Jack's eyes hollow was hard fought with Disney executives, who thought it would be difficult for audiences to relate to a character without eyeballs. 


10. Danny Elfman has a blink-and-you'll-miss-it cameo

Look closely at the Halloween Town band, and you'll notice a cameo from the composer and former Oingo Boingo frontman, Danny Elfman.

He's portrayed as the tiny redheaded corpse-head tucked neatly inside a double base.

When asked about what attracted him to the film in an interview with E News, Elfman explained, "Halloween has been my favourite day of the year since I was six years old. It was the one night that I really waited for. I've collected Day of the Dead imagery for 20 years and my house is full of skeletons."

Header image via 54 below

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