Tim Burton First Pitched the Nightmare Before Christmas in 1983
Tim Burton is one of the most well-known directors working today, but he, too, struggled to get a film made at one point.
Burton’s filmography includes classics like “Batman,” “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Ed Wood,” and “Big Fish.” His gothic aesthetic has also made him one of Hollywood’s most in-demand directors, but this was not always the case.
Burton began his career as an animator for Disney, working on projects such as “The Black Cauldron” and “Tron.”
Burton told The Guardian in 2012 about his early days at the studio, saying, “The thing was, the first time it came out in the early 1980s, it came at an odd time in Disney’s history. They had no idea what they were doing at the time.
There was a large group of extremely talented people who were not given many opportunities. It was a little Shakespearean, with these older men from ‘Snow White’ clinging to power.
I wasn’t a particularly good animator, at least not in their tradition, so I was given the opportunity to be left alone in a room for a year or two and just draw.”
He did eventually get to make his own film with the House of Mouse in the 1990s, but it took him nearly ten years to get that project to the big screen. That film went on to become one of the most beloved family films of all time.
It Took Tim Burton a Decade to Get the Nightmare Before Christmas Made
Tim Burton first pitched “The Nightmare Before Christmas” to Disney in 1983, when he was still an animator at the studio. He rewrote “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and drew designs for Jack Skellington, Zero, and Santa Claus.
In 2017, the film’s director, Henry Selick, told The Daily Beast, “I knew Tim [Burton] from CalArts and Disney in the early ’80s, and he’d come up with the idea for ‘Nightmare’ as a TV special along the lines of those Rankin/Bass low-budget, stop-motion staples like ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.'”
After Burton pitched the film to Disney, they turned it down, and Selick had an idea why. “At the time, it had no relationship to what Disney’s identity was, so they didn’t develop it,” Selick explained.
It was at a time when Disney was on the decline and hadn’t been reenergized by its string of musicals. It was one of those ‘I can’t believe they don’t get it moments, but that’s what happens.”
Burton left Disney not too long after and began working as a live-action film director. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” was not greenlit until after Burton’s success with “Beetlejuice” and “Batman.”
Following his newfound success, he attempted to make the film independently, but Disney enticed Burton back in. Burton hired Selick to direct the film because he didn’t enjoy directing stop-motion himself, and production began in 1990. The film eventually took over three years to make.
Jack Skellington Has Appeared in Other Films, Even One Before the Nightmare Before Christmas Release
Jack Skellington made his screen debut in October 1993, ten years after Tim Burton pitched the idea to Disney. While he was unable to make the film in 1983, Jack was always on the director’s mind. Five years before “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” a portrait of Jack Skellington appeared in “Beetlejuice.”
Later, Burton and Henry Sellick used Jack’s face in other films. Selick’s “James and the Giant Peach” and “Coraline,” as well as Burton’s “Sleepy Hollow” and “Alice in Wonderland,” feature Jack (via PopBuzz).
While Jack has appeared in subsequent films, neither Burton nor Selick is interested in making “Nightmare Before Christmas 2.
” In a 2022 interview with Collider, Selick stated, “sequel has been mentioned several times.
Initially, they would always say, ‘But it will have to be CG,’ which was a no-go for me. It was certainly for Tim Burton.” Selick went on to speculate that Disney and Burton might be interested in a series of short films set in the world of “Nightmare.”
Fans will have to wait and see if Jack Skellington and the residents of Halloweentown continue their adventures. Tim Burton’s film took ten years to complete, so waiting 30 years for a sequel isn’t out of the question.