- Henry Selick directed The Nightmare Before Christmas, not Tim Burton, despite the confusion caused by the marketing credit.
- Burton’s involvement in creating the story and characters warranted his name being put on the film for recognition and to avoid confusion with other horror films.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas was a seminal work in Selick’s career, establishing him as a major voice in stop-motion animation, and he deserves credit for directing it.
The Nightmare Before Christmas director opens up about the long-held confusion about Tim Burton directing the film. Released in 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas has often been billed as “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” on posters and other promotional material. This has, understandably, led to the belief that Burton directed the film when in reality, it was stop-motion visionary Henry Selick.
As per People, Selick speaks out on this The Nightmare Before Christmas mix-up. Selick admits that the accreditation ambiguity did “irk [him] a bit in the past.” Now, Selick has mostly moved on from this and claims that “it doesn’t bother [him] at all now,” especially “everyone in the industry” knows it is Selick who directed it. Check out the full quote from Selick below:
It’s not really a problem. For the most part, at least everyone in the industry, everyone in animation, knows it’s me who directed it. I think it made sense to put his name on it to make sure people didn’t confuse it, maybe with Nightmare on Elm Street or some out-and-out horror film. So yeah, it bothered me more years ago. It doesn’t bother me at all now.
Why Henry Selick Deserves More Recognition for The Nightmare Before Christmas
Despite Selick helming the film, Burton received the marketing credit due to his creation of the story behind The Nightmare Before Christmas. Burton was involved in the film, serving as a producer in addition to his creation of the Nightmare Before Christmas characters and story. Selick is gracious to say that “it made sense to put [Burton’s] name on” the film, so that The Nightmare Before Christmas could be easily recognizable for what it is.
Despite Burton’s accreditation, The Nightmare Before Christmas is actually a seminal work within Selick’s career. After The Nightmare Before Christmas, Selick would go on to direct two major works of stop-motion animation, including the style-blending James and the Giant Peach and Coraline. In Coraline especially, the influence of The Nightmare Before Christmas visuals–from the lanky figures to the sparse lighting–can be glimpsed.
Like The Nightmare Before Christmas, both James and the Giant Peach and Coraline are pivotal creative works within the field of stop-motion. As such, The Nightmare Before Christmas should get more recognition as Selick’s work, as it established the director as a major voice within stop-motion animation. Selick may not be perturbed by the Burton mix-up anymore, but he still deserves credit for directing The Nightmare Before Christmas.