Coming from Emily Zemler and Epic Ink is a book that THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS fans will want to have. I personally was excited about what I would find in the book and let me tell you, there is so much.
Turning the first few pages, the Foreword is written by the Tim Burton called The Strange Tale of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS. It is Burton’s opportunity to write about his influences and I can relate since the ones he mentioned are some of my favorites as well, from Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer to How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Burton on his own is responsible for some of the most amazing favorites as well with BEETLEJUICE and BATMAN, along with FRANKENWEENIE.
Following the Burton’s foreword is the INTRODUCTION: The Little Movie That Could, Zemler has the opportunity to express what drew her to Burton’s poem come to screen. From its humble beginnings in theatres in 1993, to musician Danny Elfman writing the score to Caroline Thompson as the screenwriter, each step bringing it to the screen is filled with songs and characters that are created bringing us the memories we have today.
Chapter One: Welcome to Halloween Town: Origins and Inspirations has the opportunity to share how Burton’s poem would bring the name of Jack Skellington to life. Intended to be a children’s book, it, like the film had a hard time finding a home. Know that his story, as well as Jack Skellington himself, had to be a stop-motion project, Burton also knew this was going to be a long project. Each step was painstakingly cared for and cultivated to bring it all to life.
Knowing there is more to the poem means that a story becomes a process as well. Elfman’s partner Caroline Thompson, the screenwriter for the film EDWARD SCISSORHANDS, comes on board and after visiting the studio where Skellington’s world was being created, she knew what needed to be done. Also, the characters voices were being matched up with the likes of Chris Sarandon as Jack, Catherine O’Hara as Sally start the line up.
Chapter Two: Welcome Back: Continuing the Celebration tells of when THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is finally released onto the big screen. At the El Capitan theatres in Los Angeles, the film premiered on October 1993. Although it made a modest amount in theatres, it would not be until years after that a fan base would grow steadily.
Burton also continued with stop-motion films with 2005’s CORPSE BRIDE and 2012’s FRANKENWEENIE. In the meantime, THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is giving fans a reason to celebrate all year round. Since the film deals with holidays, who says we can’t let Jack Skellington and the gang help us celebrate each and every day? Theme parks join in the wonderment of Tim Burton’s vision as Disney embraces Halloweentown.
Chapter Three: A Classic Tune – Music and Songs as they are the very heart beat of the film. Tim Burton believed that only Danny Elfman could make that part of the film come to life. There are so many memorable songs (that my family and I sing, yes, all year long when the mood takes us) such as “What’s This?” as Jack Skellington discovers what Christmas really looks like, the melancholy “Sally’s Song”, to the upbeat and snappy “Oogie Boogie’s Song”, these are all wonderful tunes that can all be wrapped up in the opening song of “This is Halloween” with a big black and white bow.
Chapter Four: What’s This? – Merchandise, Games and Oddities brings about the wonderful collections that can be found in THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS lovers’ home, well, mine is on my desk. From Halloween décor to just the average everyday items such as purses, jewelry, dolls, candles, board games, shirts, tea sets, socks and light up toys are up for grabs.
Costumes are difficult to come by if you don’t shop early and I know this for a fact! A few Halloweens ago, the whole family chose a character and brought Halloween town to my daughter’s work. Open to the public, there were squeals of delight from children to adults to see Jack and Sally in the flesh, everything from Zero to the Christmas wreath on the fireplace brought family fun. This is just in our small town!
Chapter Five: Keeping the Magic Alive – Fandom, Cosplay, and Weddings as the latter should come as no surprise to anyone, especially fans. Covering San Diego Comic Con International all these years, it is always a thrill to see Jack, Sally, Oogie Boogie and even Zero show up for cosplay. Supporting their best looks, the fans let everyone know that the love of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS is only getting a larger fan base year after year. Weddings are always in fashion and jewelers discovered that saying “I Do” can also mean a ring with the Jack and Sally feel because, till death do us part.
Chapter Six: An Ongoing Legacy reminds us all of the thirty years that THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS has been with us and it shows no signs of stopping. There is something special, dare I say magical, about the film that keeps us coming back for more. I have seen the film a number of times (oh let me just say it, we’ve reached triple digits here) and I love it every time.
It is a tale of curiosity, discovery, loneliness, being different, feeling different, loyalty, adventure, finding out who your friends are and knowing they see you as an important part of their lives! I adore Jack and even when he gets a little scary looking, I’ve always believed that it is not truly what is in his heart. I adore Sally because she only wants to be part of Jack’s life but doesn’t see how wonderful she truly is inside and out. That is just the beginning about how I feel for these characters.
Emily is a writer and journalist based in London. She is a frequent contributor to the Los Angeles Times and Rolling Stone, among other prestigious outlets. Emily is the co-author of A Sick Life with TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, and the author of The Art and Making of Aladdin and Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara.
Tim Burton has made a name for himself in creating iconic and memorable characters. His live-action and animated films have earned Academy Awards, Golden Globes, BAFTA’s and many other industry accolades, cementing his status as one of the greatest filmmakers of our time.
My family and I had the chance to briefly meet Mr. Burton in the most unexpected manner. It was a few years ago at Comic Con in San Diego, we had stopped at a local pizzeria to have dinner and sitting at the table next to us was the man himself. He was alone and obviously we were not going to interrupt his meal but before we left and he was clearly finished, we went all fan on him and expressed our joy at his work and what it has meant to us. He was gracious and that is all we could have hoped for.
Following his work from the first with EDWARD SCISSORHANDS then onto BEETLEJUICE (Are you kidding me? Michael Keaton is the man!), ED WOOD, MARS ATTACKS! (Yes, we make that irritating squawking noise still to this day), and on and on it goes. Now, Burton has a third-generation fan as my 8-year-old granddaughter Jaycie is a WENESDAY fan. She wanted to be Wednesday Addams for her birthday, dress and all, and had Thing on the top of a birthday cake. It was pretty cool, but then again so is she.
So, imagine her delight as I sat with her going page by page of this well thought out, colorful and brilliantly laid out book. She was in awe of the photographs, drawings and started reading all about how Jack and Sally came to be. Of course, this means I won’t be getting the book back for a while but that’s the thing about being a fan, sharing means more fans and I’m all about that.
Zemler has created something marvelous here with a stunning cover and, once I get it back, I will be reading it again and again. As October slowly approaches, we will once again see THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS come to screen, theme parks, and costume shops. Each and every person mentioned in Zemler’s book should be proud because what they accomplished is magical and making it to thirty years strong is pure gold.
Celebrating thirty years, you can find DISNEY TIM BURTON’S THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS: Beyond Halloween Town, The Story, The Characters, and the Legacy everywhere books are sold on August 22, 2023.