Tim Burton has said the original poem was inspired after seeing Halloween merchandise display in a store being taken down and replaced by a Christmas display. The juxtaposition of ghouls and goblins with Santa and his reindeer sparked his imagination.
In 2001, Walt Disney Pictures began to consider producing a sequel, but rather than using stop motion, Disney wanted to use computer animation. Tim Burton convinced Disney to drop the idea. "I was always very protective of [Nightmare] not to do sequels or things of that kind," Burton explained. "You know, 'Jack visits Thanksgiving world' or other kinds of things just because I felt the movie had a purity to it and the people that like it," Burton said.
There is something of a controversy over exactly who has the rights to call the story and film their own, Henry Selick is the director and spent more time on the set and production than Tim Burton, however Burton has often claimed he is the owner of the story as it was all his idea, he wrote the original poem and most of the script, created the characters, served as a producer, and even wanted to direct but was simply too busy at the time to do so. However popular culture has long accepted the film as Burton's as the film heading is "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas". Burton does however reinforce the fact that Selick directed the film, and is often annoyed that people don't remember him for that.
According to Henry Selick, Vincent Price was originally cast as Santa Claus. However, after the death of Price's wife, his own health began to fail and his voice performance was very frail and weak. The tracks were deemed unusable which led, much to Selick's regret, to the role being recast.
It is stated in "The Making of..." book that the most difficult shot to film in the entire movie is the shot in which Jack is reaching for the doorknob to Christmasland. Viewers can see the perfect surround reflection of the forest around Jack in the background.
Tim Burton had hoped to direct, but placed Henry Selick in the director's chair instead as Burton was busy working on Batman Returns (1992) and had Ed Wood (1994) in pre-production. Selick estimates that Burton was present 8 to 10 days total during production.
Two items were invented to facilitate the filming of the movie: One was a "light alarm" which would warn the animators if any of the stage lights failed to come on. The other was a system that enabled a puppeteer to seamlessly switch to a replacement puppet if a puppet broke during a shot. Prior to this, either situation, a light failing to come on or a puppet breaking would destroy a shot.
The teaser trailer tells us that the film was originally intended to be released under the Walt Disney Pictures banner, playing the movie heavily as the next generation of filmmaking following in the proud tradition of Walt Disney. By the time the theatrical trailer was released, the release label had changed to Touchstone Pictures, an alternate designation of the Walt Disney Studios. Michael Eisner, the then CEO and Chairman of The Walt Disney Company, found the film to be 'too dark for kids' and had it moved to their Touchstone Picture banner. In October 2006, the film was re-released in 3-D under the Walt Disney Pictures banner.
Since 2001, a seasonal overlay of the Disneyland Park California and Tokyo Disneyland Haunted Mansion attractions called Haunted Mansion Holiday combines the characters and setting/theme of the ride with the characters and storyline of this film.
There are only two shots in the entire film that were filmed at normal speed (24fps), one is the opening overhead shot of the trees in the forest and the other is the bugs falling into the molten pit in Oogie Boogie's lair.
In the original poem written by Tim Burton, the only characters that existed were Jack, Zero and Santa. All the other characters were made up for the movies, although he describes some of the presents which were given out, including in some cases the names of the children.
In 2013, Catherine O'Hara participated in "Danny Elfman's Music from the Films of Tim Burton" to perform "Sally's Song" from this film. She received a standing ovation when she entered the stage, as well as when she left.
In the first home Jack visits, there appear to be two commemorative Elvis Presley plates on the living-room wall. This is likely a reference to Presley's 1964 song "Blue Christmas" (and its apropos line "I'll have a blue Christmas without you").
A crossed-out calculation on Jack's blackboard seems to equate 3 times the square of pi multiplied by 12 to Christmas Day (a Santa hat). The true numerical answer is approximately 355.31. If the decimal portion is dropped, this then equates to December 21st, the 355th day of the year--hence the crossed-out equation. December 21st however is the first day of winter in the northern hemisphere (winter solstice). It is also the birthday of Jeffrey Katzenberg, the film's executive producer and most often credited for turning Walt Disney Studios and its animation division around after joining in 1984.
Jack rides across the sky under a Christmas Eve full moon. Between the end of World War II and the end of 1993 (year of the film's release) there were only five Christmas Eves with a full moon, or as close to full as no matter: 1950, 1958, 1969, 1977 and 1988.
While no sequels have been produced, the worlds and characters are featured in the Disney and Square Enix video game series "Kingdom Hearts," including a boss battle between the game's heroes and Oogie Boogie.
The half-obscured gatekeeper in bowler hat seen in the musical opening appears to have the head of an ibis. This might be a reference to the ibis-headed Egyptian god Thoth. Though Thoth was anything but a gatekeeper, he was considered a deification of the moon, and controlled his own domain in the underworld.
Jonathan Davis of Korn did a cover in his own metal stylings of "Kidnap the Sandy Claws". He did it live via webcam at his own home studio so that the fans could watch it as he produced it. The version is wonderfully heavy and really fits the theme overall.
In Oogie Boogie's Song, there was a story boarded sequence where bugs came out of Oogie's eye and danced on his arm before he belches them off. It was removed from the film because it was considered difficult to make miniature armatures for all the bugs. Despite this, the lyrics during that scene were included in the film's soundtrack.
The scarecrow with a pumpkin for a head and Halloween Town on his stick in the opening song is Jack. Later in the song, he jumps into the well a scarecrow in flames and rises as the Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington.
In Making Christmas, there was a story boarded sequence after Mr. Hyde and his two little copies sang, Jack inspects more of the citizens' work, followed with the singing of the Man Under the Stairs and the Bethemoth. This was only bit of the song that was trimmed from both the film and the soundtrack.
Originally, a longer version of Jack trying to get to the true meaning of Christmas through science was fully animated. Some of the best gags, including a scene of Jack doing illustrations of Santa and his "monster" form, were cut simply due to time purposes.
When Mr. Hyde asks Jack if the stocking still had a foot in the Town Meeting Song, two smaller copies appeared from his hat. This was a homage to Dr. Seuss' The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, when the Cat released twenty-six smaller cats (Cats A-Z) to get rid of pink stain from the snow.
Joe Ranft: Igor, Dr. Finkelstein's assistant when he gives him the plans to create the skeleton reindeer. He appears in several scenes in the film, but only had one line. Despite this, Ranft was not credited for his role.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Some of the presents Jack delivers to the kids are nods to Tim Burton films. The snake looks like a Sandworm from Beetlejuice (1988),and the shrunken head is from the afterlife waiting room in the same film. The Cat and Duck are both featured in Batman Returns (1992) - the Cat as the mascot for Shreck's department store, the duck resembling a vehicle driven by the Penguin.
In a test shot, in the end where the vampires played hockey on the frozen lake, they used a head that resembled the head of the film's creator and producer Tim Burton. However, it was changed in the last moment where in the final film, the head was replaced with a jack o' lantern.