Ten Things You May Not Know About Jack Skellington

by | Oct 21, 2018 | Lists and Trivia

1. The Nightmare Before Christmas is highly regarded for many reasons, not the least of which is it’s incredibly complex stop-motion filming technique, in which every scene was shot one frame at a time, with the filmmakers manipulating the scenery and puppets for every shot. Every second of film required 24 frames (which translates to 110,000 frames for the entire film). Every character in the film was animated through the use of multiple puppets (227 were used in all) in order to facilitate their full range of motion as well as emotion. And what about Jack Skellington? Jack alone had somewhere in the neighborhood of 400 heads alone, which allowed him to convey a wide variety of emotions.

2. The look of Jack Skellington was of course developed by Tim Burton, though originally Burton had Jack dressed all in black. Director Henry Selick was responsible for adding white stripes to Jack’s outfit. Though partially a stylistic decision, the more important reason was that an all-black Jack would have blended right into the background; the addition of white stripes helped make him easier to see.

3. Interestingly, in order to stay consistent with Jack’s surrealistic and twisted appearance, the design team used their non-dominant hand to draw the concept sketches for the other characters and sets. (Try it yourself and see how you do!)

4. Now, about those ghoulish eyes. Walt Disney Studios originally requested that Jack Skellington should have actual eyes rather than empty eye sockets. (Traditionally, eyes have always been a crucial part of animating a character, as it allows them to connect with the audience.) However, Selick and Burton insisted that Jack’s eyes remain as they were, and in the end their instincts were proved correct, as Jack Skellington went on to become a fan favorite…despite having no eyes.

5. But that’s not to say that Jack didn’t need to blink (evidently to keep those eye sockets nicely moisturized!). In order to make Jack blink, a series of wedges were placed in each eye for three successive frames whenever Jack needed to blink.

6. Jack Skellington became such a memorable character that he’s made several cameo appearances in other films. In Tim Burton’s 2010 remake of Alice in Wonderland, you can spot Jack’s face on the Mad Hatter’s bow tie. Jack makes a cameo as Captain Jack in James and the Giant Peach, and eagle-eyed viewers will see a silhouette of Jack in The Princess and the Frog, being one of the shadows summoned by Dr. Facilier. Jack can also be found in Henry Selick’s 2009 stop-motion film Coraline. If you look closely, you’ll see Jack’s skull hidden in the yolk of a cracked egg as the Other Mother makes breakfast.

7. Some people insist that Jack Skellington actually made his first onscreen appearance in Tim Burton’s 1988 film Beetlejuice. As Beetlejuice rises from the ground, a tiny merry-go-round rests on his head, and at the top of the canopy you can see a small white skull, which bears a striking similarity to Jack Skellington. But is it really Jack? Since Beetlejuice came out a full five years before The Nightmare Before Christmas, it’s entirely possible that this was merely a coincidence. (But you can watch both films and judge for yourself…)

8. Even though The Nightmare Before Christmas was released under Disney’s Touchstone brand (and is thus not considered to be a part of the canonical list of Walt Disney Animation Studios’ films), a few Hidden Mickeys did make their way into the final movie. For example, during Jack’s Christmas gifts attack, you can see a sinister Hidden Mickey in the form of a flying stuffed animal, sporting a sharp-toothed grin.

9. During the holiday season at Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion is transformed into the Haunted Mansion Holiday, with Jack and his fellow film characters appearing throughout the attraction adorned in Christmas attire.

10. Jack Skellington is voiced by Chris Sarandon (composer Danny Elfman provided Jack’s singing voice in the film, though Sarandon has since sung Jack’s parts in subsequent appearances in video games and so on). Sarandon is also well known for playing Prince Humperdinck in the 1987 film The Princess Bride.

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