Why The Nightmare Before Christmas Studio Was Afraid To Call Tim Burton-Produced Classic A Disney Movie



  • Disney initially hesitated to embrace The Nightmare Before Christmas, releasing it under the Touchstone studio imprint instead of their own brand.
  • As The Nightmare Before Christmas grew in popularity and critical acclaim, Disney realized the benefits it offered.
  • The company has capitalized on its success with merchandising, even incorporating the film into its parks with a seasonal adaptation of the Haunted Mansion ride.



Disney was not originally willing to embrace Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The movie stars Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon and Danny Elfman) as the King of Halloween Town. As Jack discovers Christmas Town, the two towns confront each other as their conflicting spirits begin to change the entire holiday landscape. The movie was a success for Disney, bringing in over $90 million on a budget of $25 million and has since become a holiday classic.

While its popularity grew over the years, Disney was not originally willing to embrace the movie. As the hopes for The Nightmare Before Christmas 2 continue to resound, director Henry Selick spoke to People about Disney’s initial hesitance to utilize its own brand for the original movie. Worried that it would be too strange for the beloved family-friendly company, Disney instead released Burton’s movie under the Touchstone studio imprint. Check out Selick’s explanation below:

There was very little merchandising at first, but then Disney realized the film’s growing in popularity and they capitalized on that. And then finally, Disney called it a Disney film because originally, they were afraid it was too strange, it would damage their brand, and it was released as a Touchstone film. They embraced it and they took the Haunted Mansion [at Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland] and, for Halloween, turned into a Nightmare Before Christmas thing. So it didn’t seem to happen suddenly. It was just this steady growth, and then it ramped way up.

Why Disney Accepted Nightmare Before Christmas

Jack as Santa Claus in front of a child in The Nightmare Before Christmas 

While Disney initially ignored the merchandising and public relations opportunities provided by The Nightmare Before Christmas, they quickly learned the benefits that the movie offered. After all, it has become an international hit with extraordinary critical acclaim. It was nominated for a Hugo Award, an Academy Award, and several Saturn Awards. Its success has survived and grown to earn the love generations of viewers since it was first released in 1993. Disney has even embraced the movie enough to use the brand for the Haunted Mansion ride in Disneyland.

Since its release, Disney has also branched into different genres, having adopted both Star Wars and the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is no longer the company known for producing traditional animation or educational content under its main imprint. Nightmare broadened the horizons and introduced elements of family-friendly horror that Disney was not originally inclined towards.

Today, there are calls for both a sequel and prequel to Nightmare Before Christmas. The story of Jack Skellington continues to resound through the decades as viewers return to the movie every holiday season. While Disney may not have embraced The Nightmare Before Christmas from the start, it has quickly come to capitalize on the extraordinary success of the movie.

Source: People