The Nightmare Before Christmas began as a poem.
Clement Clark Moore’s 1823 poem A Visit from St. Nicholas is more commonly referred to as The Night Before Christmas, thanks to its opening line, “‘Twas the night before Christmas.” Tim Burton, who grew up in Southern California, has said he was inspired by the collision of holiday decorations in stores as the seasonal sections switched from Halloween to Christmas. As he toiled away as an animator at Disney, he started to work on his own projects, too, including the poem turned stop motion animation short Vincent and a parody of The Night Before Christmas, which included Jack Skellington and his ghost dog companion, Zero.
Burton first envisioned it as a TV special.
It’s no secret that The Nightmare Before Christmas was greatly inspired by stop motion holiday classics made by Rankin/Bass Productions, the company founded by Arthur Rankin, Jr. and Jules Bass. Their stop motion TV specials included 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with Burl Ives, 1971’s Here Comes Peter Cottontail with Danny Kaye, and 1979’s Jack Frost with Buddy Hackett. Burton initially pitched The Nightmare Before Christmas as something similar, which could play annually.
Disney wanted Jack to have eyes.
Understandably the studio was operating under the conventional wisdom, when it comes to animated characters and puppets, that insists on having eyes. After all, eyes are the windows to the soul, right? They help make cartoon characters relatable. But Burton was adamant that Jack Skellington roll out with his empty sockets. He won.
Disney chose to release the movie via Touchstone Films.
The Nightmare Before Christmas wasn’t exactly the kind of straightforward family fare expected from Walt Disney Studios when production began in the early ’90s. So Disney released it through their Touchstone Pictures brand instead, the label that released the studio’s first R-Rated film, Down and Out in Beverly Hills, in 1986.
The Nightmare Before Christmas wasn’t directed by Tim Burton.
Weird right? We aren’t trying to insult anyone’s intelligence who knew this already and one can certainly be forgiven for making this mistake. After all, the filmmaker behind Beetlejuice and Pee Wee’s Big Adventure gets top billing here. Burton came up with the story and the look and feel of the characters but The Nightmare Before Christmas was actually the directorial debut of Henry Selick. Burton, as producer, had his old colleague from Disney direct, freeing him up to finish Batman Returns.