On the 25th anniversary of The Nightmare Before Christmas, director Henry Selick reveals the Tim Burton joke that he had to reshoot. Stop-motion animation is a time consuming process, which means that reshoots are a major deal, so the crew tries to get it right the first time. However, mistakes are made, even with multiple rehearsals. But, Selick says that his joke poking fun at Burton wasn’t a mistake, and says that the only mistake was not leaving it in, upon reflection.
The Nightmare Before Christmas was released in 1993, but work on the project started in 1991, says Henry Selick. The creative team was on a time crunch, even though they were able to secure another year of work to properly finish the Jack Skellington adventure from the studio. When asked about regrets 25 years after the release, the director admitted to having one involving a joke about Tim Burton. Selick explains.
“There’s a shot, and I really regret replacing it, at the very end of the film when Jack comes back and then Sandy Claws flies overhead and there’s snow and Christmas comes to Halloween Town. We show a lot of Halloween Towners enjoying winter sports and snow and you see the vampires playing hockey and they hit the puck right at the camera – and originally it was Tim Burton’s head. And it was really funny. And Denise Di Novi or one of the Hollywood producers told me, I don’t think Tim’s going to like that. And I feel so stupid for not just asking him. But that’s one of the shots that we reshot and we put in a pumpkin instead. I don’t know if that shot still exists, but I’d love to replace the one in there and I’m sure Tim would love it.”
There’s no doubt that Tim Burton would have loved seeing a hockey puck hit his face at the end of The Nightmare Before Christmas. Hopefully Henry Selick can unearth that footage and share it with the millions of Burton fanatics across the world. While Selick admits that they didn’t really make too many mistakes while filming the stop-motion film, he did go into detail about how difficult it was to get the project off of the ground.
When filming on The Nightmare Before Christmas started in 1991, Henry Selick and crew were working without a script, an idea that the director now calls “insane.” When fans watch the beautifully shot movie, there’s no way that anybody would have guessed that there wasn’t a script at the beginning. However, Selick knew the story like the back of his hand and notes that, “We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we had total confidence and we had a huge amount of fun.”
Over the course of 25 years, many have wondered who the most difficult character in The Nightmare Before Christmas to animate was, says Henry Selick. That honor goes to Oogie Boogie. Selick says, “He was a bear of a puppet to move,” since he was so much bigger than the other puppets. Since he was bigger, he needed more metal skeleton on the inside, which made him even harder to move. In the end, Selick says that it was a “wrestling match” to get the character to look natural on the big screen. Even without the Tim Burton joke, starting with no script, and the difficulty animating Oogie Boogie, The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a holiday classic. You can read more of the lengthy interview with director Henry Selick over at The Hollywood Reporter.