The Nightmare Before Christmas Returns in 3-D


The freakish fairy tale story of Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King and his ghoulish friends are back once again to share their Halloween spirit as fright night soon approaches in Disney’s cult classic Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney Digital 3-D. The fantasy flick has returned to theatres for a limited time in 3-D for a second year in a row.

To kick-off opening night in Los Angeles, the studio held the annual event at the historic El Capitan Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard where the packed audience was in for a special treat.

Before the movie started, director Henry Selick and co-producer Kathleen Gavin reminisced about their experiences of making the film 14 years ago while attentive film buffs listened as well as watched Mike Belzer, who was supervising animator, work his movie magic and do a live presentation of stop motion. It was incredible to see him pull of such an amazing job in just 30 minutes. The crowd cheered as soon as we saw his work come to life on the screen and he breathed a sigh of relief that he masterfully pulled it off.

The real indulgence, however, was when Selick allowed us the see 10 minutes of unfinished footage for his upcoming movie Coraline, which is based on Neil Gaiman’s international best-selling book. The surprise appearance of Gaiman also pleasantly shocked the house and we all listened carefully as he told us to brag to our friends about how we were honestly the first people to see clips from the film.

Gaiman also asked us not to talk about what we saw so we are sworn to secrecy, however we can say that what we were shown was hilarious and looks great so far. also sat down briefly with Selick, Belzer and Gavin to talk about how their film is still so popular more than a decade later. While hanging out backstage with filmmakers, Gavin was still in awe of how well Belzer did with his live presentation and couldn’t stop raving about his unbelievable performance. How many times did you practice before tonight?
Mike Belzer: I did two rehearsals.
Kathleen Gavin: He’s been doing digital stuff for awhile now.
Henry Selick: He’s got years of experience.

CS: Were you nervous at all that it wasn’t going to work?
Belzer: Yeah, but especially because they’re watching (pointing to Selick and Gavin.)
Gavin: But it was fabulous. Much more than I thought you were going to be able to get in those 20 minutes. You weren’t that fast when we made the movie.
Selick: He did all of the characters. He also did one of the most difficult shots which was Oogie Boogie’s demise when he gets his cloth pulled off.
Belzer: Those were the last couple shots we did.
Gavin: We were so desperate to have him because Eric Leighton was the supervising animator and he really didn’t animate very much because he was trying to work with everybody else. We were just so desperate at the end. He did a great job.

CS: When did the decision come about to make this 3-D?
Selick: I wasn’t involved. This is the second year. It was finished one year ago. Don Hahn, I’d like to say it was because he didn’t know any better, so when I was first involved it was like, “oh man this is a huge mistake. How are you going to do this?” He had actual sets and puppets. It was never captured that way. Basically we built everything and used original images.
Gavin: Mike was there on set and looked at dailies everyday.
Belzer: Yeah, everyday.
Gavin: There was some involvement from those of us who worked on the first day.

CS: How does the animation in “Coraline” compare to this?
Selick: We sort of have a 3-D script and we’re learning as we go. What they did with 3-D and “Nightmare” so well [is that they didn’t] over do it. Everybody thinks it’s 3-D so turn it on, turn it up louder, louder, bigger. In the end, I was always looking for “Coraline’s’ two worlds, what’s the equivalent of “Wizard of Oz” in color? So I thought of the 3-D a couple of years ago.

CS: About 10 years ago you couldn’t find “Nightmare Before Christmas” merchandise. Now it’s become almost its own industry. Are you surprised by that?
Gavin: It really didn’t think it would be this type of event movie every year. It made it’s money and we were happy.
Belzer: People ordered some merchandise, but nobody ordered a lot of it because it’s like, “oh we’re not sure.”
Gavin: I think it took a couple of years. It was on TV every year and stuff like that and it really does have momentum every time. Disney movies have a longer life. Animated movies have a longer life because new generations come along to watch them so you always have that as a possibility, but as far as it becoming this every Halloween event movie, that really didn’t occur to us.

CS: What do you think it is about the film that has made it a classic?
Gavin: I remember when it first came out and people were all, “don’t take your kids. They’re scary.” But I never once heard any parent tell me that when they took their kid, the kid was scared. I think the reason is it holds up is even though those characters look scary, they don’t do anything scary. They’re really lovely charming characters who are trying to give the world something. Jack goes awry in terms of Christmas, but really they believe bringing Halloween to the world is a lovely thing and that’s what they do. So I think the characters are so well meaning that people can connect with them. It’s a very sweet movie despite its look.

CS: When did you decide to make “Coraline” an American movie and not English?
Selick: We talked about it [with the producers]. We talked about where it set it and all of that. We have some English characters, but it’s just one of those things where it felt like the right idea.

CS: I heard They Might Be Giants are doing a couple of songs?
Selick: They’re doing two songs. It’s not like a musical. Her other father can play the piano instead of typing at his computer when she goes to get him for dinner, he’s written a song for her and it’s a really cool crazy song that they wrote.

CS: How has the computer revelation changed since the movie came out in ’93?
Selick: I think we did this one film and then “Toy Story” came out and the Pixar films were brilliant. So that became the way to go. Obviously people figured, well we could buy the technology. Coming back and doing stuff now, we’re working hard to keep it hand made. We use computers for a lot of things, but most of the effects are hand made effects. People like hand made stuff.
Gavin: I think computers are more in the background. When we did “Nightmare,” literally the animator could see the last two frames he shot and the live one and that’s all. Now, they can digitally go and look at the whole shot and see if it’s smooth. That’s why it’s amazing to watch “Nightmare” with what these guys did and that kind of limitation.

CS: Are you going to be involved in Tim Burton’s next movie?
Selick: I don’t think I’m going to be involved in that.

CS: For people who haven’t seen “Nightmare” in 3-D yet, are there any surprises they can look forward to?
Gavin: The movie is still the movie we made. We didn’t go back and add ladders coming out towards people or whatever. It’s our movie. It’s additive. Doing it with a 3-D pass of it, it’s still the same movie, but it just adds to it.
Belzer: When people would come to visit the tour, it’s like Santa and Satan’s workshop all in oneĀ… It takes you inside the movie.

Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in Disney Digital 3-D will be in theaters until November 18.