Tim Burton Didn’t Direct
Contrary to popular belief, Tim Burton didn’t direct “The Nightmare Before Christmas” – Henry Selick did. Burton served as a producer, giving the title some cache after “Beetlejuice” and “Edward Scissorhands”. Burton had his hands full with “Batman Returns” when “The Nightmare Before Christmas” started production.
Though he didn’t direct the stop-motion movie, Burton did write an early parody poem featuring Jack Skellington and ghost dog Zero while he was a young animator at Disney in 1982. Disney had purchased the film rights but didn’t make the movie due to the subject matter. Years later, long after he left the company, Burton convinced Disney to greenlight the project.
Shooting the film began before a finished script was ever completed due to the lengthy stop-motion animation process. It took the production one week to shoot one minute of action. All told, the film took 3 years to complete.
The movie’s musical numbers were written before a script was in place. Burton would describe the story or scene to his frequent collaborator and former Oingo Boingo bandmember Danny Elfman who would then write the music.
Patrick Stewart Was Cut
Patrick Stewart recorded poetic monologues for the film’s opening and closing narration, but were eventually cut and paired down for Edward Ivory, who voices Santa, to read. Stewart’s original dialogue can be found on the soundtrack.
Jack Of All Faces
Over 400 heads were created to show Jack Skellington’s range of emotions and dialogue.
Disney wanted Burton and Selick to give Jack eyes because the first rule of animation is that characters need eyes to be expressive and connect with the audience. They refused.
Danny Elfman’s Singing Voice
Though Chris Sarandon provided Jack’s speaking voice, Danny Elfman was responsible for all of Jack’s singing and provided the voices of Barrel and the Clown With The Tearaway Face.
A Town Full Of Puppets
There are over 60 different characters in Halloween Town. With every character containing a metal armature inside for flexibility, each puppet had three to four duplicates as a back-up in case they were damaged during filming.
Finding Santa Claus
Santa Claus was almost voiced by Vincent Price. The horror movie icon recorded lines for the film, but the actor had just lost his wife and was “too despondent” to voice the happy Kris Kringle. According to an interview, Henry Selick also looked at Don Ameche (“too grouchy”) and James Earl Jones who reportedly yelled at Selick and Elfman. Character voice actor Ed Ivory was eventually cast.