18 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About "The Nightmare Before Christmas"

It’s been 20 years since we all hailed to the pumpkin king.

1. The film is based on a poem Tim Burton wrote in 1982 while working as an animator for Disney.

© Walt Disney Pictures
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2. Disney considered developing The Nightmare Before Christmas in 1982 as either a short film or 30-minute TV special. The studio eventually shelved it for being “too weird.”


Disney decided to produce the movie after the success of Burton’s films Beetlejuice and Batman.

Source: Los Angeles Times

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3. Jack Skellington first appeared in Beetlejuice (1988). His head can be seen atop Beetlejuice’s carnival hat.

Source: Find Mickey’s

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4. Burton did NOT direct the movie due to the film’s time commitment and his scheduling conflicts with Batman Returns.

Warner Bros.

Burton hired his friend, Henry Selick, to direct — this was also his feature film directing debut. He went on to direct two other classic stop-motion films, Coraline and James and the Giant Peach.

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5. The film used over 230 sets that were set up in 19 soundstages.

© Walt Disney Pictures
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6. The sets were designed to look like the ink illustrations of Ronald Searle and Edward Gorey.

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7. It took an entire week of shooting to create one minute of film.

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8. Burton’s friend and composer Danny Elfman wrote the songs and music for the film without a script or storyboard.

© Walt Disney Pictures

According to Elfman, Burton would just describe the scenes to him.

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9. Elfman also provided the singing voice for Jack after it was discovered that Chris Sarandon, Jack’s speaking voice, could not sing.

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10. In the scenes with the street band, there is a small man inside the bass who is based on Elfman.

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11. Elfman also provided the voices for Barrel and the Clown with the Tear-Away Face.

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12. Patrick Stewart was the film’s original narrator, but was cut at the last minute for unclear reasons. He does, however, appear as the narrator on the film’s soundtrack.

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13. In the original ending, Oogie Boogie was actually supposed to be Doctor Finklestein in disguise.


This was changed before filming.

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14. The film was only a modest success at the box office — earning just $50 million during its first theatrical run.

Subsequent releases over the years have pushed the film’s box office total to $75 million.

Source: Box Office Mojo

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15. Disney wanted to build a Nightmare Before Christmas ride at Disneyland, but reportedly, Burton (who owns 50% of the rights to the characters) nixed the idea.


The ride would have been constructed right next to It’s a Small World.

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16. Burton also turned down Disney’s request to make a sequel, stating that “some movies should just be left alone. I think it keeps their kind of spirit intact in a way.”

Source: MTV News

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17. Jack makes a cameo as a pirate skeleton in James and the Giant Peach.

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18. He also makes hidden cameos in several films: as a shadow in the The Princess and the Frog, as a print on the Mad Hatters’ bow tie in Alice in Wonderland, and inside of a egg in Coraline.

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Bonus: Patrick Stewart reading The Nightmare Before Christmas poem part 1:

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Patrick Stewart reading The Nightmare Before Christmas poem part 2:

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Facts come via The Making of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, unless otherwise stated.

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