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‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ Director Says Disney Execs Were ‘Afraid It Might Hurt Their Brand’: It ‘Would’ve Been More Successful’ With Studio Name on It

Henry Selick and Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is officially 30 years old. In a recent interview with The New York Times, the two collaborators recalled Disney not wanting to have its name on the project due to its darker tone. The studio had the film developed under its more adult-leaning production banner Touchstone Pictures. “Nightmare” grossed $50 million in its original domestic box office run, but Selick believes the film would’ve performed even better had Disney put its name behind it.

“Anytime you’re doing something like that, which was unknown: stop motion, the main character doesn’t have any eyeballs and it’s all music, what’s to feel comfortable about?” Burton said, noting that he totally understands why Disney didn’t put its full name behind the project. “Of course they would be nervous about it.”

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“They were afraid it might hurt their brand,” Selick added. “If they had put the Disney name on it right then, it would’ve been much more successful, but I understand it just didn’t feel anything like their other animated films.”

While Burton often gets the credit for “Nightmare,” it was Selick who was the actual director. Burton cracked the story, co-produced the film and came up with character designs, but Selick helmed the picture. The filmmaker told AV Club last year that he is a bit tired of the misconception that “Nightmare” is Burton’s film, although he has made his peace with it.

“That was a little unfair because it wasn’t called ‘Tim Burton’s Nightmare’ until three weeks before the film came out. And I would have been fine with that, if that’s what I signed up for,” Selick said. “But Tim was in L.A. making two features while I directed that film, and I mean, Tim is a genius — or he certainly was in his most creative years. I always thought his story was perfect, and he designed the main characters. But it was really me and my team of people who brought that to life.”

“Now, of course, if you ask Danny Elfman, well, that’s his movie,” Selick continued. “When we finished the film, it was so funny because he came up to me and shook my hand. ‘Henry, you’ve done a wonderful job illustrating my songs!’ And he was serious, and I loved it! Fine. But my thing was I’m going to hang in there long enough to where people actually say, ‘Oh, that guy Henry, he does stuff.’”

In a recent interview with People magazine, Selick shared his idea for a potential “Nightmare” prequel. “There might be a more interesting story there about how Jack became the King of Halloweentown,” he said.

As for a sequel, Selick explained that the large amount of work isn’t what would deter him from creating a follow-up — rather, he just believes “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is “a perfect movie [that] came out of the perfect time, only to grow into something far bigger over the years.”

“The Nightmare Before Christmas” is now available to stream on Disney+. A re-release is also currently playing in theaters.

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