Summary

  • Tim Burton’s rejection of Disney’s request to give Jack Skellington eyes was crucial to preserving the character’s distinct design and ensuring the long-term success of The Nightmare Before Christmas.
  • Jack Skellington’s unique design, with his sunken eyes and wide smile, has become an iconic symbol of the film and contributes to its continued popularity and recognition.
  • The decision to keep Jack Skellington’s face devoid of eyes allowed Tim Burton to convey emotions and expressions through unconventional means, enhancing the character’s appeal.


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Disney had a request for Jack Skellington’s design that would have caused massive changes for The Nightmare Before Christmas had Tim Burton not rejected it, likely harming its long-term success and adoration. Tim Burton is highly notable for his unique character designs, with a gothic mood and eerie, almost uncomfortable configurations for his protagonists. Ultimately, these quirky designs have been key to establishing Burton’s style as its own identifiable brand, including his drawing of the iconic The Nightmare Before Christmas character Jack Skellington.

Though Henry Selick is responsible for directing the 1993 stop-motion animated movie, Jack Skellington’s original design comes from Tim Burton, who wrote and illustrated The Nightmare Before Christmas poem on which the movie is based. Jack remains one of Burton’s most iconic characters today, alongside immediately recognizable figures such as Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and Emily from Corpse Bride. However, Jack may not have become so memorable had Disney’s idea to change a key part of his claymation design in The Nightmare Before Christmas actually happened.

Related: All 11 Nightmare Before Christmas Songs Ranked From Worst To Best


Tim Burton & Henry Selick Rejected Disney’s Request To Give Jack Skellington Eyes

Jack Skellington holding a snowflake in The Nightmare Before Christmas

In a decision that would have changed any vision of Jack Skellington for audiences, Disney suggested to Tim Burton and director Henry Selick that they add eyes to the design of the Pumpkin King. Since Jack’s face is more recognizable with his sunken black holes, a pair of eyeballs would be oddly jarring for The Nightmare Before Christmas’ skeleton. According to MousePlanet, Tim Burton revealed that “Disney really fought for us to give Jack these friendly eyes instead of dark holes,” as eyes would seemingly be able to give the character more expression while connecting with audiences more.

However, Burton enjoyed the task of giving expression and life to characters with no eyes, which certainly worked out for Jack Skellington. It’s difficult to imagine what Jack would have looked like with filled-in eye sockets, especially given how much emotion and facial expression he’s already able to convey without them. As macabre as the designs of Jack and The Nightmare Before Christmas’ other Halloween Town creatures already are, eyes may have oddly made the iconic skeleton even creepier.

Jack Skellington’s Unique Design Helped Make The Nightmare Before Christmas So Iconic

Christmas Town Nightmare Before Christmas Disney Jack Skellington

Jack Skellington’s face is among the most identifiable skeleton characters in pop culture history, which is largely due to his sunken eyes and wide smile. It’s difficult to make such a distinct design for such a general Halloween creature – most skeletons will end up looking the same when they’re simply bones. While Jack’s costume certainly adds to his notable appearance, it’s easy to comprehend The Nightmare Before Christmas character simply from his face. By having such a recognizable character with a marketability that extends beyond the film itself, Tim Burton’s Jack Skellington design doubtlessly aided The Nightmare Before Christmas’ continued popularity and notoriety over time.

Source: MousePlanet

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