The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the most beloved stop motion films of all time. Doubling up as both a Halloween and a Christmas movie, the adventures of Jack Skellington and the creepy residents of Halloweentown have captivated audiences ever since its 1993 release. That’s not bad for a flick that Disney initially got cold feet about, deciding it was too dark and scary for children and releasing it under the Touchstone Pictures label rather than their own.
Many people understandably think that The Nightmare Before Christmas is directed by Tim Burton. But while he’s the major creative force behind the project, which is based on a poem written by him in 1982, the pic ended up being helmed by stop motion expert Henry Selick (who would go on to bring us James and the Giant Peach and Coraline).
Netflix’s new series The Holiday Movies That Made Us has an episode about the film, revealing much drama behind-the-scenes. Despite not actually directing it, Burton was heavily involved throughout its production and often butted heads with Selick and other creative staff. One element that caused particular strife was the conclusion, in which the villainous Oogie Boogie becomes unravelled to reveal that he’s a disgusting mass of insects.
Selick thought it would be a nice twist if Oogie turned out to be secretly controlled by Sally’s father Dr. Finkelstein, which he felt would give the movie a “classic Scooby-Doo ending.” But Tim Burton had… issues with that. As Selick explains:
“[Tim] hated it, he hated it so much. He kicked a hole in the wall and I went ‘Tim is your foot okay,’ he said ‘Yeah, they’re steel toes.’ That was one of our more colorful interactions.”
Said hole was quickly tagged with “Tim kicked a hole here” and eventually the piece was taken out of the wall and framed. You’d think that might be a good sign not to try and alter the movie’s plot, but apparently, writer Caroline Thompson proposed rewriting the ending after the film was finished. When Burton heard this, he “erupted into a screaming fit” and “attacked an editing machine.”
Rumors of a live-action remake seem to have fizzled out, but right now, The Nightmare Before Christmas is available to stream on Disney+.