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The World that Never Was: Nightmare Before Christmas

by Josh Taylor

Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Tim Burton was on a role with film choices. He made Beetlejuice, Batman, and Edward Scissorhands, and our topic for today, The Nightmare Before Christmas. So when I think of October and Halloween time, I think Tim Burton and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

If you are unfamiliar, Tim Burton was a Disney animator during the early 1980s, having worked on Tron, The Fox and The Hound, and The Black Cauldron. He had been fired from the company previously for using the company’s money to make a short film that was too dark and scary for children, Frankenweenie. Despite the firing, he was still interested in working alongside the company in getting a story of his made into a stop-motion animated film in 1990. The Nightmare Before Christmas was Disney and Tim Burton’s first work together after his firing and it proved to be a big success. The film was released under Touchstone Pictures so if it were too scary, the Disney name would be somewhat distant from it; however, it was generally loved by all ages. It was nominated for an Academy Award in best visual effects and Danny Elfman won a Golden Globe award for the soundtrack to the film. Despite the movie being nearly 20 years old now, as it came out in 1993, it continues to have a cult following and a strong showing annually at the box office when it has been released in 3D.

So why am I talking about the Nightmare Before Christmas on a blog about Disney attractions? Well, it is true that Disneyland adds a Nightmare Before Christmas theme to The Haunted Mansion every year between Halloween time and Christmas time, but was there ever a time when Disney Imagineers thought that Nightmare hold up as its own attraction? The answer is yes. Imagineer Chris Merritt had drawn up designs for a dark ride attraction, similar to many of the attractions in Fantasyland, that would take you through the story of Nightmare Before Christmas. The design was intended for both coasts, but was later adjusted to fit only into the Disney-MGM Studios. (Now Disney’s Hollywood Studios.)

The attraction was to be similar to the movie. After boarding your coffin sleigh, which was to be suspended from above, like the boats in Peter Pan’s Flight, you would enter through the tree with the pumpkin door. Just like in the film, the attraction would host many of the Elfman songs while taking you through the story. The attraction would also implement many color and lighting effects, like many of the indoor attractions being built today. The ride through would end after Jack and Sally kiss on the hill top, giving you the Disney happily-ever-after moment that many of the dark ride attractions do.

Although this sounds like an amazing ride to many of us who are Jack Skellington fans, the idea of riding in coffins and seeing the Boogie Man in person was not something that Disney would really jump behind. Despite the success of the film, Disney has only recently attached its name to it instead of the Touchstone Pictures name. Could we ever see an attraction like this? Highly doubtful. I think we will see a Nightmare Before Christmas layover of the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom before we see a full fledged attraction in Florida. With the characters as popular as they are, I would assume you will eventually see them as walk-around characters during Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween party at the Magic Kingdom in the future, but not at any of the other parks and with their own area. Sadly, the Nightmare fans of the world only have one place currently to see these characters and that is at Disneyland during the last few months of the year.

 What do you think?  Would you have enjoyed this attraction?  Would you like to see Jack and Sally meet and greets more often (see blog about the recent one at Downtown Disney.) How about a Haunted Mansion overlay?  Post your thoughts in the comments below!