Burton, Tim

Burton, Tim (1958– ) American filmmaker whose films as a director included Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), Batman (1989), and Edward Scissorhands (1990), before 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (which he co-wrote and produced).

The Nightmare Before Christmas has become probably the most beloved Halloween film ever produced, with its unique mix of traditional Halloween iconography (PUMPKINS, GHOSTS, WITCHES, etc.) and CHRISTMAS; in 2006, it was re-released to theaters in 3D.

Burton first created Nightmare as a poem while he was working as a Disney animator in the early 1980s. Disney initially passed on the idea (although it eventually produced the film in 1993), but Burton never gave up on the project, noting, “Nightmare Before Christmas is deeper in my heart than any other film.” Eventually Disney reconsidered and Burton, deciding he didn’t have enough experience in stop-motion animation, passed the directorial reins to filmmaker Henry Selick.

The film tells the story of Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town, who stumbles on a magical doorway into the realm of Christmas and, bored with Halloween, kidnaps Santa Claus and inadvertently wreaks havoc by posing as the Jolly Old Elf on Christmas night. Although Nightmare was only moderately successful in the U.S. (where it became a cult favorite), the film became very popular in Japan. Its overseas success produced a whole line of COLLECTIBLES long after the movie’s original American theatrical release (which produced surprisingly little merchandise), and re-energized Halloween as a collectible holiday.

In 2001, the film also provided the basis for a seasonal makeover of the popular Disneyland attraction the Haunted Mansion; “Haunted Mansion Holiday,” which features such popular Nightmare characters as Jack Skellington, Sally, and Zero, proved so popular that it has now become a regular feature, running each year from late September to early January.

Burton explored Halloween again in his 1999 version of the WASHINGTON IRVING classic Sleepy Hollow, which transformed Ichabod Crane from a gangly schoolteacher to a brilliant young inspector (Johnny Depp), investigating the mysteries of Sleepy Hollow. Christopher Walken appeared as the Hessian Horseman, who was depicted here with a head more often than not. The film’s art direction emphasized its Halloween aspects, with rich vistas of pumpkin fields, gothic villages and haunted forests.


The Halloween Encyclopedia Second Edition written by Lisa Morton © 2011 Lisa Morton. All rights reserved