In 1993 Tim Burton brought us the animated The Nightmare Before Christmas and we were excited. Burton with Batman had received my personal thumbs up and I love holiday movies. This film brought us two holidays in one film! The story outlined the story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, as he becomes bored with his holiday and discovers Christmas. He attempts to take the role of Santa Claus, which creates a scary version of Christmas. Truly one can say “Christmas is Ruined!” as Jack in his good natured attempts makes Christmas too much like Halloween. The young Between Family, before kids, ran out on the first day it was available on VHS and bought it. We put it in the VCR (yes kids VCR), hit play and found ourselves disappointed. We spent the next 6 months trying to loan our copy out and never see it again. It never worked, it kept coming back. Really, the image that stuck in both of our heads was Santa Claus being tortured and we were done. We just could not pass off this Mousey Movie:
· Master Burton: Tim Burton has a very Mousey background. He was educated at California Institute of Arts (CalArts), a school championed by Walt Disney. Burton studied character animation and his CalArts classmates included John Lasseter, Brad Bird and John Musker. I am pretty sure that my college classmates cannot compete in the box office blockbuster game. Burton’s college short films helped him get the attention of Walt Disney Animation, who brought him on as an apprentice. Burton worked as a storyboard and concept artist for The Fox and the Hound and The Black Cauldron. But Burton’s personality was not a good fit for the somewhat stuffy animation studio and he was fired after completing a short film called “Frankenweenie.” He was accused of misspending funds on a production that would not be family appropriate due to its dark nature. Of course, as things tend to work out now, Disney is releasing the short that was used to explain Burton’s termination as a fully produced feature.
Paul Reubens saw “Frankenweenie” which lead him to ask Burton to direct the theatrical debut of his iconic character Pee Wee Herman in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. This debut lead to a number of big screen successes including Beetlejuice, Batman, and Edward Scissorhands. The Nightmare Before Christmas was Burton’s return to Disney, now as a master director. In 2010, Burton would have another Disney hit with his live action version of Alice in Wonderland. For a man fired from Disney his contributions to the Disney film library have greatly increased the profits of his original employer.
· Dead Man’s Party: Frequent Burton collaborator Danny Elfman provided the soundtrack for The Nightmare Before Christmas. But he also shows his singing ability, before composing classic movie and television scores he was the lead man of the New Wave band Oingo Boingo offering songs like “Dead Man’s Party.” With a background with songs about death, well he was a natural fit to not only score Skellington but provide him his singing voice. He also voices the character Barrel. Elfman has numerous Disney musical credits both with Burton and with other directors including one of my favorite films, Meet the Robinsons.
· First Timer: Speaking of Barrel, he is part of a trio of troublemakers named Lock, Stock and Barrel. Paul Reubens, who gave Burton that first big break, voices Lock. Reubens’ credits in Disney related television and film projects is thin. Only recently has he voiced the character Pavel on Disney XD’s Tron: Uprising. But the educated Disney fan knows that Reubens voiced Captain Rex for over 20 years on Star Tours in both the Disneyland Park and Disney Hollywood Studios. Every flight was Rex’s first until the 2011 ride upgrade Star Tours The Adventures Continue. Of course, Disney loves tributes and those looking for Captain Rex may find him hiding in the current queue.
· Scary Sights: If there is any scary attraction that Disney fans love it has to be The Haunted Mansion. As much as I do not enjoy this movie, I do have to admit that the visual gags would have made Marc Davis proud. These include sconces that look like snakes, faces hidden in cellos, shrunken heads a Christmas gifts, and eyes humorously removed from heads. Yes, the witches and goblins may not fit into the graveyard, but the ghosts and mummies of this film would find a happy home with Grim Grinning Ghosts.
· Cup of Joe: The late Joe Ranft served as The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Storyboard Supervisor. Most viewers of Ranft’s movies are probably not aware of his work. In the last few years Ranft’s career has been highlighted in Two Guys Named Joe: Master Animation Storytellers Joe Grant and Joe Ranft. Additionally he was honored in the documentary Waking Sleeping Beauty which chronicles the resurgence of Disney animation in the 1980s. Ranft was an artist with deep Disney roots, having been mentored by Eric Larson, one of Walt’s Nine Old Men. Disney films that Ranft contributed to the story of in various roles include Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Oliver & Company, The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin, and Lion King. Ranft would join his friend John Lasseter at Pixar as a key story man who added his voice including Heimlich in A Bug’s Life, Wheezy in Toy Story 2, and Red in Cars. In 2005, Ranft was killed in a car accident in which he was a passenger.
· Merchandise Madness: A lot of our visits to the park have been late August. Which is of course the time that Jack Skellington takes over every in park merchandise outlet. You just got off Haunted Mansion, would you like some Jack merchandise? You are wandering The Emporium, how about a Jack tee? You have arrived at our Star Tours destination, Jack hat? Wait that does not seem right? Exiting it’s a small world, Jack plush anyone? Okay maybe this has gotten too far! Since this merchandise is all over the Disney parks the Between Tween began asking questions about who is this Jack guy was. Do not worry Betweenlanders, just visit your nearest Disney Store for all your Nightmare merchandise beginning every June! I guess I can complain, but we seem to be buying this merchandise otherwise it would not be rolled out every year.
The Between Tween began to ask questions, uncomfortable questions about that skeleton guy that Disney puts everywhere. So we sat the Tween down, gave the talk and turned on a borrowed copy of the movie. The Tween shared the same opinion as the Between Parents, and the Between Family will not be watching this Mousey Movie again for a good long time despite its Mouseyness. We just have to prepare ourselves for when the Between Kid is ready for the talk.