“Kidnap the Sandy Claws, beat him with a stick
Lock him up for ninety years, see what makes him tick”
Jack the Pumpkin King and the rest of the ghouls of Halloween Town are back and looking better than ever as Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas flies back to DVD August 26th on a special 2-Disc Collector’s Edition and now on Blu-ray.
Bored with his dutiful title as Halloween Town’s frightening Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington has wanderlust and wanders into the polar opposite village of Christmas Town.
Determined to enervate his glum haunt, he enlists the help of some mischievous trick-or-treaters (Lock, Stock and Barrel) to kidnap “Sandy Claws” and takes over the job of delivering gifts to the children of the world himself.
His plans, of course, go terribly awry, and Jack attempts to restore Santa to his rightful place. But first, he must enact a Santa rescue from the clutches of Oogie Boogie.
Tm Burton’s longtime collaborator and director Henry Selick spoke of sequel possibilities to the classic 1993 film that’s been percolating for some time.
“There has been discussions over the years about a possible sequel,” he said in a phone conference round-table on Saturday. “When those discussions came up about 7 years ago it was unsettling that it was suggested this time it would have to be done in CG. I’m glad that did not happen. But as far as coming up [for] ideas for a sequel, you have to admit there are a lot of other great holidays for Jack Skellington to take over.”
The new 2-Disc Collector’s Edition will come with several new special features for the diehard fans of the film along with some holdovers from past releases.
DVD Special features include:
NEW! What’s This? Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour – Viewers choose the way they want to tour Disneyland’s Holiday Haunted Mansion. “On Track” explores a tricked-out version of the Haunted Mansion, while “Off Track” reveals what went into creating all the creepy fun.
NEW! Tim Burton’s Original poem narrated by Christopher Lee – Tim Burton’s poem that inspired the creation of the movie. Now, the original verse comes to creepy life as performed by legendary actor Christopher.Lee.
NEW! Film Commentary – commentary by producer and writer Tim Burton, director Henry Selick and composer Danny Elfman.
NEW Introduction To Frankenweenie! – A new un-cut version introduction by Tim Burton.
The Making of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – Go behind the scenes of the very first full-length stop motion animated movie with the filmmakers.
The Worlds of Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas – Witness the creation of the film’s richly imagined dreamscapes, including Halloween Town, Christmas Town and the Real World.
Storyboard to Film Comparison
Original Theatrical Trailers and Posters
Tim Burton’s Complete Short Film VincentFans of director Henry Selick and writer Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” got an up-close look at Selick’s upcoming stop-motion animated feature “Coraline” on the Comic-Con show floor.
Blu-ray features include:
Dolby Digital 7.1 D-Tru HD
“Jack’s Haunted Mansion Holiday Tour”
“Tim Burton presents: ‘Frankenwenie’ (Uncut Version)”
Tim Burton’s Original Poem Narrated By Christopher Lee
Tim Burton’s Directorial Debut “Vincent”
Behind The Scenes Featurette
Monsters and Critics joined other journalists in a round table with director Henry Selick.
Does a film like Nightmare naturally looking amazing in high def or does the translation and re-mastering take a lot of work?
Henry Selick: The fact is the film was originally shot in 35mm film, each image is pristine with no blur, so the source material is already high def – more so than a standard film, so the mastering is less of a challenge.
The DVD already makes the animation look so clear. What new details will we notice in Blu Ray?
Henry Selick: Some of the details that may become apparent in Blu-ray are that we tried to add texture to all the characters and backgrounds as if they were an engraving, for example you’ll see that Jack’s stripes on his suit are hand drawn, and the hills behind also have handmade textures built into them.
Additional details would be things like the leaves that Sallie is stuffed with, the bugs inside Oogie Boogie. Look into the shadow areas, there are hidden details there that have never shown up on previous DVD but will show up on the Blu-ray.
As a kid I was mesmerized by the old 7th voyage of Sinbad, the Harryhausen film-What stop-motion film got you as a kid and inspired your career path?
Henry Selick: The early Harryhausen, Jason and the Argonauts in particular. I also love the Seventh Voyage, the best Cyclops that will ever be done.
There was just this wonderful sense that Harryhausen’s monsters were real, despite the sort of lurching quality they had, they had an undeniable reality to them.
I read it took over three years of your life, and involved a small army of ILM artists, can you share with fans just how labor intensive this was for you, and what was the hardest element in finishing the film? (Also-did you use any other effects houses than ILM?)
Henry Selick: ILM are the ones who did the 3D adaption, not the original film. We hired several ILM veterans to work on the original film however. Virtually all animation is labor intensive; since it was what I do it did not seem any harder than others. The small army topped out at just under 200 people.
Because the range of talents and abilities, there was always something amazing and wonderful to see virtually every day, so that the long journey of production was re-inspired regularly.
We used Disney’s fledgling effects unit in Burbank and they created the very simple snow that falls at the end of the film. Other than that it was all pretty much done by hand in house.
Has it surprised you how much Nightmare has been absorbed into the pop culture stratosphere – Goth kids at hot topic wearing Jack belts and arm bands and the like?
Henry Selick: At this point, 15 years later after the original release, I’ve grown used to seeing Jack and Sallie turn up all over the place. But this did not happen right away it has taken years for our initial cult audience to grow into a pop culture phenomenon.
Just this past Halloween, we had some girls show up at the house in NBChristmas costumes and my wife and I pointed out one of the original Jack Skellington and the Skellington Reindeer which was in our office, it blew their minds and they screamed with joy, taking their handfuls of candy and went away just full of life.
What is it about stop-motion that originally captured your attention?
Henry Selick: I love all sorts of animation, probably the most beautiful would be the traditional hand drawn animation that Disney is known for. Stopmotion has a certain “Grittiness” and is filled with imperfections, and yet there is an undeniable truth, that what you see really exits, even it if is posed by hand, 24 times a second.
This truth is what I find most attractive about stop motion animation.
What was the biggest lesson you carried away from the Nightmare Before Christmas experience?
Henry Selick: When possible always work with geniuses like Tim Burton., who are not only creatively inspiring but in his case, also have the clout to protect the film from the studio system.
What makes stop-motion worth all the effort in a CGI-obsessed industry?
Henry Selick: People are always going to be drawn to something that is shaped by the human hand in an undeniable way. So that while Ray Harryhausen was going for perfectly smooth animation; it is the unavoidable imperfections in his work that give it soul and make it memorable.
Have you ever considered returning to the world of Nightmare Before Christmas?
Henry Selick: There have been discussions over the years about a possible sequel. When those discussions came up about 7 years ago it was unsettling that it was suggested this time it would have to be done in CG. I’m glad that did not happen. But as far as coming up ideas for a sequel, you have to admit there are a lot of other great holidays for Jack Skellington to take over.
How was your working relationship with Tim Burton?
Henry Selick: Working with Tim was great, he came up with a brilliant idea, designed the main characters, fleshed out the story, got Danny Elfman to write a bunch of great songs.
He got the project on its feet and then stood back and watched us fly with it. Tim, who made two live-action features in L.A. while we were in San Francisco making Nightmare, was kept in the loop throughout the process, reviewing storyboards and animation. When we completed the film Tim came in with his editor Chris to pace up the film and make a particular story adjust to make Lock, Shock, and Barrel just a touch nicer.
What was the most intricate scene (stop motion wise) to complete?
Henry Selick: While virtually every bit of the stop motion animation was challenging, there were several particularly difficult scenes to pull off , one began where Jack is shot out of the sky with his Skellington Reindeer flying over head and being shot down and lands in the arms of the angel statue in a graveyard and goes on to sing a song there while the camera continuously circles him.
The opening song of the film “This is Halloween” was monstrously challenging as it introduced all the Halloween Town monsters to the audience.
How difficult was it to do the Oogie Boogie sequence?
Henry Selick: With all the neon, it seems like it was one of the more complicated set pieces in the film. If not, what was the most difficult sequence to achieve? It was not the neon that was difficult. It was Oogie Boogie himself, he was a huge puppet, very difficult to muscle around it was almost as if he was trying to push back while you were animating him.
Do you find it ironic that NIGHTMARE has become a DIsney property, when it was originally released as a Touchstone Picture?
Henry Selick: Yes. Nightmare was just too different from what Disney was having success with. Although I don’t think Walt Disney himself would have had a problem with it being labeled a Disney film. Just check out some of the sequences from Fantasia, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ward Kimball’s goons and monsters in Sleeping Beauty etc.
And you’ll see Nightmare and its characters were carrying on in the same tradition. While it took some time, about 7 years ago when the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland was transformed into a Nightmare extravaganza, we then felt we were truly loved by the Disney label.
How did you originally come on board to this project?
Henry Selick: I was working with Tim at Disney in the early 1980s when he first conceived the poem and idea of Jack Skellingon taking over Christmas.
Sculptor Rick Heinrichs took the original characters designed by Tim: Jack, Zero and Sandy Claws and created beautiful maquettes that showed what they’d be like as stop motion characters. It was originally pitched to Disney as a TV special but was rejected.
I had moved to Northern California where I worked as storyboard artist and a stop motion filmmaker with short films, TV commercials and MTV. While Tim went on to achieve great success in live action.
I got a call from Rick and he said there was something important we must talk about in person. He flew to San Francisco and said Tim is making Nightmare Before Christmas and wants you to direct it. I met with Tim and Danny Elfman and my small crew that I had been working with immediately became supervisors on a feature film.
How early in the process was Oogie Boogie developed?
Henry Selick: Oogie started out as the size of a pillowcase and not that scary or evil or important, but as the story developed I felt the need to grow him in both his scale and his role. Ultimately Danny Eflman’s Oogie Boogie song is what truly defined his character as THE villain and Jack’s role was fully defined as a misguided hero.
Do you think it benefitted you and your team being in that San Francisco warehouse creating NIGHTMARE instead of in Burbank where you might have people standing over your shoulder and freaking out at what you were creating?
Henry Selick: Being in San Francisco, helped protect the film from “lookieloos.”
How did you get such a fluidity in the animation? Did you use any complementary technology/tool in addition to traditional stop motion/ hand animation?
Henry Selick: We don’t think we actually achieved a very fluid motion, so thanks for the compliment. It was basically made the same way the original King Kong was made or any of Ray Harryhausen’s creatures.
Was there a character created for NIGHTMARE that you loved, that never made it past the conceptual stage?
Henry Selick: No, we were desperate to flesh out the town, after you go through the mummy and vampires etc it gets slim. We used everything we came up with.
Do you intend to pursue working in other mediums of animation or will stop-motion remain your field?
Henry Selick: I was a 2D animator at Disney and I’ve done some CG work, but I’d prefer to keep with stop motion animation.
How is the directing process on a stop-motion film different from directing live-action or even regular animation?
Henry Selick: Directing stop motion animation is actually a sort of combination of directing live action and ‘regular’ animation. We have real sets, real lights, real cameras. There is a costume department, a hair department and our puppets are the actors.
Like regular animation it is a divide and conquer. It is all divided up into manageable pieces, edited in storyboards before the movie is made and then shot a frame a time like traditional animation.
Do you think the Best Animated Feature Oscar category does more good or harm for the medium?
Henry Selick: more good!
Was there resistance at first to do NIghtmare as stop-motion instead of cel animation?
Henry Selick: There was resistance to doing it all at first. When Tim first pitched it to Disney in the early 1980s there was resistance to the project in any medium. But 10 years later when the film was made there was never an issue about it being stop motion. It was simply a case of that is how Tim conceived it.
What type of animation was used for the Vincent Price narrated poem, and what different perspective did that give you on the Nightmare world?
Henry Selick: Vincent was Tim’s first top motion film that he made with Rick Heinrichs. It had a striking look, bold design and was basically part of Tim’s growth as an artist, which influence the look of Nightmare Before Christmas.
Who is your personal favorite character(s) in “Nightmare”?
Henry Selick: The one I’m closest to is Jack Skellington, because as a director you often have to act out various characters for your animators, since I resemble Jack Skellington more than the other characters, I think more of my gestures got into Jack.
People who have directed 3D/CGI tell me that stop motion people have certain advantages adapting to CGI over more traditional techniques. Do you find that to be the case? If so or not, why?
Henry Selick: It is simply the fact that what were shooting really exits. So you get immediate feedback and can make adjustments accordingly.
You began your career as an in-betweener and animator trainee on The Fox and the Hound. What made you move toward stop-motion animation?
Henry Selick: I’d actually done stop motion prior to working on the Fox and the Hound, including some life size figures for an independent film of mine. While I enjoyed 2d animation while working at Disney. Stop motion had a more visceral charge to it and was therefore where I was always going to end up.
Joe Clokey once said that you and Tim Burton took a lot of your people from his Gumby crew. Did you? Why?
Henry Selick: There was a Gumby revival by Art Clokey in the 80s and a new TV series that followed, which attracted a lot of young stop motion animators to California. Many of the animators for Nightmare Before Christmas came from that group. But the Gumby project had been over for almost 3 years so we did not ‘take’ anyone.
Would you ever do a short film for Caroline Thompson’s new company, Small and Creepy?
Henry Selick: Sure I’d love to do a short film for Caroline Thompson’s company. She did a great job shaping the film’s story from Danny’s songs.
How many of the original puppets do you have in your house?
Henry Selick: The main one I have is Jack Skelligton as Santa with his Skeleton Reindeer in his sled led by Zero. It is prominently displayed in my office where occasional trick or treaters get let IF they are wearing Nightmare Before Christmas attire.
Nightmare Before Christmas (2-Disc Collector’s Edition) is now available for pre-order at Amazon. It is available for pre-order at AmazonUK for an Oct. 6th release. Visit the DVD database for more information.