‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ Director Reveals the Joke He Regrets Cutting

The Nightmare Before Christmas director Henry Selick has revealed he was urged to cut a gag centered around the decapitated head of creator-producer Tim Burton.

“There’s a shot — and I really regret replacing it — at the very end of the film when Jack comes back and then Sandy Claws flies overhead and there’s snow and Christmas comes to Halloween Town,” Selick told THR as part of the beloved stop-motion animated film’s 25th anniversary celebration.

“We show a lot of Halloween Towners enjoying winter sports and snow and you see the vampires playing hockey and they hit the puck right at the camera — and originally it was Tim Burton’s head. And it was really funny.”

Selick recounted the shot was filmed, but ultimately pulled. The finalized shot happens at 2:11 in the above video.

“And [producer] Denise Di Novi or one of the Hollywood producers told me, ‘I don’t think Tim’s going to like that.’ And I feel so stupid for not just asking him,” Selick said.

“But that’s one of the shots that we reshot and we put in a pumpkin instead. I don’t know if that shot still exists, but I’d love to replace the one in there and I’m sure Tim would love it.”

Burton famously conceived The Nightmare Before Christmas when he was an employee of Walt Disney Feature Animation, developing a three-page poem that would eventually be turned into a feature film more than a decade later. Because Burton was busy developing the sequel to his 1989 live-action blockbuster Batman, Selick was tapped to helm Nightmare.

The film was pushed forward in the hopes of luring Burton back to Disney after the studio fired the filmmaker in 1984 over short film Frankenweenie, which Disney deemed a waste of money because its subject matter was said to be too frightening for children.

Nightmare was a gift to Tim to come back, and they hoped he’d do films as successful as Batman,” Selick explained.

“[Tim and I] reconnected, and he told me Danny Elfman was going to write some songs and there was going to be a script by Michael McDowell who had done Beetlejuice. And then we were off to the races.”


The fan-favorite film grossed $75 million in its original theatrical run and was later reissued to theaters in the 3D format in 2006, a tradition that would be run annually through 2009. Nightmare proved such a favorite it launched a continuous stream of merchandise and inspired an annual holiday-themed overlay at Disneyland’s iconic Haunted Mansion attraction.

The Nightmare Before Christmas was most recently re-released to Blu-ray in September as a special sing-along edition commemorating its 25th anniversary.