Thirty-One Days O’Horror: Making The Nightmare Before Christmas

“This is Halloween!”

The Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the most celebrated films of the holiday season. It works as both a Halloween film and a Christmas film, so many families and fans (such as myself) watch it multiple times during the final months of the year. The movie is twenty-seven years old as of this writing and it shows no signs of losing its place as a holiday classic. Considering how long it took to create the film, I’m sure that Tim Burton and the cast and crew appreciate how beloved this film has become.

I’ve already reviewed this film in a prior post, so feel free to check that out here. For this post, I want to give you a little glimpse into the “making of” process that brought Jack, Sally, and the rest of the gang to life.

As far back as 1982, Disney toyed with the idea of bringing Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas to life as either a television special or a short film. The basis for the project was Tim Burton’s poem of the same name. Burton initially wanted it to be a television special but as time went by, Disney lost interest in the project and shelved the idea.

Finally, Disney agreed to produce the film but only if it was done through their Touchstone property. They felt that the movie was too bizarre for the Disney name, but they could not pass up the potential profits of a Tim Burton film. Working with director Henry Selick, screenplay writer Caroline Thompson, composer Danny Elfman, and a crew that had more patience than you could imagine, the film was completed in three years.

Thirteen animators and numerous other prop and stage builders gave Jack and company a world to play in for the musical. What appears in one minute in the film took a week to produce. As many as twenty different sets were in use at one time while shooting the film. Over two hundred puppets had to be designed and created for the film as well and according to Richard Rickitt, Jack alone had over four hundred heads for filming. The stop-motion process was brutal but the end result was so beautiful.

Even though the film was produced by Touchstone, Disney attempted to set limitations on and had a few demands for Burton and Selick’s project. The company felt that the movie was just too weird for most Disney audiences but knew that they could potentially make a ton of money from the project. One of the oddest demands was that Jack needed to have eyes. Thankfully this was one battle that Burton and Selick won, as Jack would just look silly with eyes in my opinion. Disney didn’t even push the film that hard with advertising, instead slowly rolling the film out until it became so large on its own that Disney finally embraced it as one of their films.

I love this film. From the music to the set design, it’s nothing short of wonderful. I hope that you enjoyed this brief glimpse at the making of one of the most beloved holiday films around. Let me know in the comments what you think about this movie.

Thanks for reading my post. Whether you were brought to it by your love of Jack Skellington, Disney, or film in general, I’m glad that you visited my blog today.

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: Don’t Look Under The Bed (1999)

“Just because you’re getting older doesn’t mean you have to get old.”

In 1999 the Disney Channel and director Kenneth Johnson stuck their necks out to produce the channel’s first true horror film: Don’t Look Under The Bed. The movie succeeded in scaring youngsters….and their parents. Parents demanded that the film be removed from the Disney Channel lineup and the movie was placed in the Disney Vault until the Disney+ streaming service dusted it off and made it available to viewers once again.

It’s a real shame that this film was shelved for being too scary, because it’s probably one of the best Disney Channel films ever made. Featuring very real dangers such as leukemia and a child’s fear of growing old, the movie deals with subjects not often found on the Disney Channel. Combine those topics with evil imaginary friends and a literal Boogeyman living under the bed, and this film is nightmare fuel for the younger crowd. It’s perfect.

In the film, Frances Bacon McCausland (Erin Chambers) has to get to the bottom of a number of strange pranks happening in her sleepy average town, Middleberg. Each event that occurs points to her as the culprit and she quickly finds herself battling the town and an apparent Boogeyman with a vendetta against her. To help her fight the Boogeyman, an imaginary friend named Larry Houdini (Ty Hodges) appears. While attempting to capture the Boogeyman, Frances’ little brother, Darwin (Jake Sakson), is captured and taken to Boogeyworld, a literal bizarro version of the space under a child’s bed. Filled with giant toys, old gym socks, and other things one might find in a child’s room, Frances and Larry have to team up in order to defeat the wicked Boogeyman. Do they prevail? You’ll have to watch the film in order to find out!

The film features some genuinely scary moments. The creature effects are amazing, especially when one character begins to slowly transform into a Boogeyman. I can definitely see where younger children would have been scared by this film in 1999. The special effects are somewhat dated, but for a 1999 made-for-tv movie, they are pretty good.

The cast is brilliant. Erin Chambers carries the film as its heart and soul. She battles with the realization that she is getting older and is responsible for her brother losing his imaginary friend. She struggles with the fact that she didn’t want to donate bone marrow to help her little brother during his battle with leukemia even though he nearly lost his life. Ty Hodges provides most of the film’s funnier moments, especially the silly ones geared towards the younger members of the audience. He also provides a few of the film’s scarier moments as well. Steve Valentine is wickedly wonderful as the Boogeyman. Speaking in rhyme and able to grow his nails out to sword-like lengths, he’s a creepy monster sure to make any youngster hide behind the couch. The rest of the cast do superb jobs as well. The always reliable Stephen Tobolowsky and Robin Riker portray Frances’ parents and the school counselor is played by Mary Parker Williams. Williams provides some excellent adult humor during one moment in the McCausland home. You’ll have to be quick to catch it.

With credits that include V, The Incredible Hulk, The Six Million Dollar Man, and the television series Alien Nation, it’s no wonder that Kenneth Johnson was the perfect choice to direct this film. Johnson guided this film along the fine line of being “scary but not too scary,” a direct request from the Disney Channel. Unfortunately he did his job too well, and as a result the film was denied to thousands of viewers for years after its initial release. The film wasn’t even released on home media of any form officially, but a few bootleg copies are floating around for purchase on the web. I recommend watching it on Disney+, as that’s the best version available.

Thanks for reading today’s post. Let me know in the comments if you’ve ever seen this film or any of Kenneth Johnson’s other work. I was a massive fan of most the television shows that he worked on while I was growing up, so it’s no surprise to me that I love Don’t Look Under The Bed. See you tomorrow!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: All Hail The (Evil) Queen!

“Mirror, Mirror On The Wall…”

In today’s Thirty-One Days O’Horror entry I decided to pay homage to the original bad girl, the first villain to ever grace the big screen in a feature-length Disney film: Snow White‘s Evil Queen. Scaring children and adults alike since 1937, the Evil Queen has appeared in multiple Disney productions, live and animated, over the years.

Originally voiced by Lucille La Verne, the character has since been voiced by at least six other women including June Foray (The Rocky And Bullwinkle Show) and Janet Waldo (Josie And The Pussycats). Live versions of the character have been portrayed by a number of actresses over the years including Jane Curtin (Coneheads) and Kathy Najimy (Hocus Pocus).

One of the more recent versions of the character was on Once Upon A Time, the ABC/Disney fantasy series that featured new twists on classic Disney versions of many of the company’s most popular characters and other fairy tale characters as well. Portrayed by Lana Parilla, this version of the character has come to be my favorite not only for Parilla’s wonderful acting skills, but also for her amazing beauty.

The original look and design of the character in 1937 is said to have been influenced by a number of women both real and from film. While there is no definite agreement on exactly which women truly influenced her, most agree that Helen Gahagan’s portrayal of Queen Ayesha from 1935’s She was the primary inspiration.

Since her first appearance in 1937, the Evil Queen has gone on to become one of Disney’s most feared and beloved villains. Rivaled only by Maleficent and Chernabog, the Evil Queen is one of the company’s most recognizable villains. She has appeared in stage plays, films, television, books, video games, board games, and more.

The Evil Queen has appeared in her queen and witch form as toys, on clothing, as statues, Funko Pops!, jewelry, and more. At the Disney theme parks, she appears in shows and is available for photographs as well. Have you ever met the queen at a park? Do you own any merchandise or collector’s items featuring the character? Is she your favorite Disney villain? Let me know in the comments!

Thank you for reading my post. Tomorrow I’ll be taking a look at an older Disney Channel film that caused a bit of controversy when it was initially released.

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter

“Here kitty, kitty, kitty….”

Way back in 1979, director Ridley Scott and writer Dan O’Bannon brought science fiction horror to another level with Alien. Starring Sigourney Weaver as Ellen Ripley and an ensemble cast that featured Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, and more, the film became an Academy Award winner and launched a franchise that is still successful to this day. It also inspired Disney Imagineers to create their own terrifying alien experience: Walt Disney World’s ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter.

Designed as a theater-in-the-round experience, ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter featured dozens of sensory overloading visuals, sounds, and direct contact with the audience. It used lights, animatronics, sound effects, water, pressure effects, and air-filled tubes to trick the audience into believing that an alien was on the loose in a darkened room.

As with any Disney theme park attraction, the story is set up in the line queue. For the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, a story about the X-S Tech Corporation is told in which the audience learns about the company’s newest technological advancement: teleportation. The audience then sees a somewhat successful use of the technology and then they proceed to the theater.

Once inside the theater, the audience meets Spinlok and Femus (portrayed by Kevin Pollak and Kathy Najimy), who, along with Clench, the company’s chairman portrayed by Jeffrey Jones, decide to give the audience a demonstration of their technology using the tube at the center of the theater. Clench decides to teleport himself to the audience but during the teleportation, Clench is teleported to another location and a giant alien joins the audience instead.

A glimpse at the alien. Clear images of the creature are notoriously difficult to find on the web.

The alien goes on a rampage in the room. The lights go out and the creature runs through the crowd, breathes on them, attacks X-S Tech workers, and drips and sprays blood or saliva (both if I remember correctly) on the audience members. Eventually the alien is returned to the tube and destroyed, saving the audience.

The experience was originally supposed to feature a Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, but Disney shut down the idea due to the fact that the experience would be too scary for younger audience members. That being said, the eventual end result of the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was actually very scary. It was also extremely fun. I had the opportunity to experience the encounter myself with my wife on our honeymoon. It was a highlight for both of us on our visit to the Magic Kingdom.

The experience officially ran from 1995 to 2003 with a soft opening in December of 1994. It was replaced in 2004 by Stitch’s Great Escape which I’ve also had the pleasure of experiencing. Stitch’s Great Escape is essentially the same story but with a toned down experience that includes farts, snot, and other Stitchy things. It catered to children and focused more on light comedy instead of sheer terror. The show proved to be less popular than its predecessor and was closed in 2018. Disney permanently shut down the attraction in July of 2020.

There are videos of the alien encounter on YouTube and other sites if you would like to check out the experience for yourself. I really enjoyed the attraction and was saddened to hear that it closed down. I liked the Stitch version of the attraction also, but the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was, at least in my opinion, a far superior experience.

In case you’re wondering, there was one Xenomorph located in the park. At Walt Disney World’s Hollywood Studios, the alien (along with Ripley) was featured as part of the Great Movie Ride. I also experienced this ride on two of my trips to the park and, sadly, it was shuttered in 2017. It was an amazing attraction, especially for hardcore film lovers such as myself. For a real treat, check out this article featuring the staff of slashfilm.com recounting their own memories of that attraction.

Were you one of the folks lucky enough to experience the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter or even the Great Movie Ride before they were closed? Let me know what you thought about them or even Stitch’s Great Escape in the comments section.

Thanks for reading my post. More Disney spookiness is headed your way tomorrow!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: Famous Monsters Speak

“You are the one who wants to know everything…be brave!”

In 1963, Wonderland Records released Famous Monsters Speak on vinyl. Produced by Jim Warren of the magazine Famous Monsters Of Filmland, with a script written by Cherney Berg, the album features Dracula and Frankenstein’s Monster in a pair of recordings roughly twenty minutes each.

Voicing both of the characters is Gabriel Dell, an actor who appeared on Broadway with The Dead End Kids, starred in multiple East Side Kids films, and eventually made his way to The Bowery Boys films. I’m especially fond of his work with The Bowery Boys, as I find those films to be hilarious. Dell might have also voiced Boba Fett in the Star Wars Holiday Special, although that hasn’t been confirmed yet and the character’s voice actor was not listed in the show’s credits.

Gabriel Dell, top center, with The Bowery Boys.

Both of the stories are surprisingly well done. Dracula’s story, told to a reporter hoping to learn about the monster, features the murder of a young woman and a frightful chase through the streets. The story of Frankenstein’s monster features the creature talking about revenge, stalking victims, and struggling with Dr. Frankenstein. Of the two stories, Frankenstein’s monster is my favorite, but both of them feature crystal clear audio with amazing sounds that help the listener visualize the action as it unfolds. Some of the audio is extremely graphic and violent, only adding to the overall creepiness and terror of the recording.

In June of 2011, Rockbeat Records reissued the album on compact disc. I recently purchased the disc as the vinyl is both difficult to find and very expensive. The stories are also available on YouTube and other free video sites.

Thanks for checking out my post. More horrific awesomeness is coming on Monday!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: Disney Halloween Decorations

“Life’s no fun without a good scare!”

While the theme parks of Disney decorate year round, Halloween seems to be a special time when the parks really go all out. From fall colors scattered throughout the park to Disney costumed characters with spooky twists to their attire, nothing is as beautiful as a Disney park celebrating Halloween.

Of course, Disney is well aware that its littlest patrons are also its biggest fans, so there’s nothing too scary about any of the decorations in the parks. Obviously Jack Skellington and his friends have a larger presence during the fall than they do throughout the rest of the year (with Christmas being a slight exception), but Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and the rest of the gang get into the festivities as well.

I’ve personally never visited any of the parks during Halloween, but the web is littered with official posts from Disney, articles by personal bloggers such as myself, and tons of other websites featuring beautiful images of the parks. On top of that, there are tons of Disney decorations, custom and mass produced, that can be purchased at stores and online or created at home.

What are some of your favorite Disney decorations? Have you visited any of the parks during Halloween? Do you have any custom decorations that you display each year? Let me know in the comments section!

As always, thanks for reading my post. I’ve got a special treat for everyone tomorrow. It features two legendary monsters and I’m sure that you’ll be delighted to see what’s in store!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: Now That’s What I Call Halloween (2015)

“Dig Through The Ditches And Burn Through The Witches….”

I decided to throw in a quick review of 2015’s Now That’s What I Call Halloween. I’ve been wanting a decent Halloween album for a little while now and whenever I saw this one, I decided to give it a go. To be quite honest, it’s hit or miss.

Released by Universal and Sony Music, you’d think that this album would be loaded with some great Halloween themed tunes, especially considering Universal’s horror legacy. Instead, we get a hodgepodge of great tunes mixed in with a few questionable ones.

I understand that getting the rights to some of the more ideal tracks for this compilation might have been difficult and/or expensive, but I wish that Universal and Sony would have put a little more effort into this release.

Here’s the track listing:

  1. Halloween Theme: John Carpenter
  2. Dragula: Rob Zombie
  3. O Fortuna: St. Louis Symphony Orchestra & Chorus
  4. Tubular Bells (Theme from The Exorcist): Mike Oldfield
  5. (Don’t Fear) The Reaper: Blue Oyster Cult
  6. Devil Inside: INXS
  7. Bad Things (Theme From True Blood): Jace Everett
  8. Werewolves of London: Warren Zevon
  9. Ghost Town: The Specials
  10. Dead Man’s Party: Oingo Boingo
  11. Monster Mash: Bobby “Boris” Pickett and the Crypt-Kickers
  12. This Is Halloween: The Citizens of Halloween
  13. Season of the Witch: Donovan
  14. I Put A Spell On You: Nina Simone
  15. Beetlejuice Main Title/End Title: Danny Elfman
  16. Ghostbusters: Run DMC
  17. A Nightmare On My Street: DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
  18. Somebody’s Watching Me: Rockwell

There are a few obvious tracks on the album that sound great such as This Is Halloween and music from the films Halloween, Beetlejuice, and The Exorcist. Then there are a few tracks that fit in perfectly with the Halloween theme like Dragula, Ghost Town, Nightmare On My Street, and Dead Man’s Party, all of which are excellent tunes in their own right. In fact, some of the best tracks on the album are pop and rock tunes from the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Unfortunately there are a few songs that, while they sound perfectly fine, are a little out of place. INXS’ Devil Inside is an awesome song, but just because it has the word “Devil” in it doesn’t mean that it’s a Halloween track. The same goes for songs like O Fortuna which, despite being used in a few horror movies over the years, is more associated with comedies these days.

My favorite tracks include Bad Things (True Blood theme) by Jace Everett and Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon. Donovan’s Season of the Witch has never been a favorite of mine, but it does fit in with the album’s theme. My biggest gripe is with the inclusion of Run DMC’s Ghostbusters. While I have no personal issue with the song, I seriously wonder why this track was chosen over the much more popular Ghostbusters theme song by Ray Parker, Jr.

Almost the entire album is listenable, but a few questionable additions and one major missed track (the Ray Parker, Jr. version of Ghostbusters) throw off the rhythm of the entire album. Apparently another Now Halloween album was released in 2018 and features sixty tracks including many of those featured on this album. That might be a better choice in the long run.

I hope that you enjoyed this look at Now That’s What I Call Halloween. What are some of your favorite Halloween tracks? Let me know in the comments. Thanks for checking out this post!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror (Disney Theme Parks)

“You’ve Just Crossed Over….”

Narrated by Rod Serling, Disney World’s The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror is one of the most popular rides in the Orlando park. An accelerated drop dark ride, the Tower is the second tallest structure in all of Walt Disney World and features a 130′ drop that is randomly adjusted by the controller to give riders a unique experience.

The ride takes place at the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel where a terrible accident occurred in 1939. The tower is struck by lightning causing five people to mysteriously disappear and apparently die. Their ghosts supposedly haunt the now damaged hotel which has fallen into disrepair.

The line queue for the ride is scattered with all sorts of memorabilia from The Twilight Zone and cobweb-covered rooms. The narration video features manipulated footage of Serling voiced by Mark Silverman. Both Silverman and the rooms that riders walk through do a wonderful job of building an eerie and suspenseful feeling.

Riders are then placed into a “maintenance elevator” and are lifted up. While lifting, more scenes are shown to riders as the elevator doors open at seemingly random intervals. The final scene shown transports riders into the fifth dimension and the drops begin. The drops are random, but one of them opens up to show the riders a beautiful (and short) view of the entire park. It’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time.

The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror is a really fun ride. The set up makes it very creepy and the anticipation of the first drop and each following drop gives riders and their hearts some breathtaking moments. Other versions of the ride have opened in other Disney theme parks, but the Walt Disney World version seems to be the most beloved and popular of the bunch. A television film was also released based loosely on the ride featuring Steve Guttenberg and a young Kirsten Dunst. I haven’t seen that film yet, but I’d like to catch it one day. It’s only available on DVD as far as I know.

If you’ve taken a ride on the maintenance elevator at the Hollywood Tower Hotel, let me know what you thought about it in the comments, especially if you’ve ridden one of the versions of the ride that isn’t at Walt Disney World. If you’ve seen the movie, let me know what you think about that as well.

As always, thanks for reading my post. More towering terror awaits tomorrow!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: A Disney Halloween (1981)

“A warm sunset can turn into a chilling twilight”

In 1981, The Magical World Of Disney presented A Disney Halloween. It opens with Disney CEO Michael Eisner welcoming viewers and introducing Mickey and Minnie Mouse in their Halloween costumes. It also features Goofy in his costume….as Michael Eisner. From there, the special goes into a number of segments and skits focusing on some of Disney’s scarier moments.

The episode is divided into two segments. The first segment features cartoon shorts and segments lifted from numerous Disney productions including The Sword In The Stone and Fantasia.

The second segment is hosted by the Magic Mirror from Snow White. The mirror introduces segments featuring some of Disney’s popular villains including Captain Hook, Maleficent, and Cruella De Vil.

The show ends with two Disney shorts that I’ve covered in posts earlier this month: Lonesome Ghosts and Trick Or Treat. The episode is bookended by a colorized version of The Skeleton Dance that is interlaced with images from different films and shots from Disney them parks.

The special has been released a few times over the years on television and has been repackaged and reused for other specials such as Disney’s Halloween Treat. Unfortunately it isn’t available yet on Disney+, but you can find it in its various forms (and of varying video quality) on YouTube.

Did you see this special in any of its forms while growing up? Let me know in the comments. Also, thank you for checking out my post. Tomorrow I’ll be taking a look at one of Disney’s famous scary theme park rides!

Thirty-One Days O’Horror: The Scream Team (2002)

“There are some advantages to being dead.”

While most Disney Channel films are enjoyable, especially for their target audience, they rarely rise above the level of Hallmark Channel films. They are generally well done films, but they all tell the same basic story and viewers almost always know the ending well before it actually arrives on the screen. That being said, 2002’s The Scream Team is a delightful treat. It’s cast is well above average and includes a comedy legend, an In Living Color veteran, and an actress who always shines in her roles. It also includes a youngster who will go on to bigger and better things.

The legend is none other than Monty Python‘s Eric Idle. The veteran is Tommy Davidson, whose physical comedy and multiple characters made him a fan favorite on In Living Color. The shining actress is Kathy Najimy, who Disney fans know as Mary Sanderson, the child-smelling witch sister in Hocus Pocus. The youngster? None other than Kat Dennings, who would go on to star in 2 Broke Girls, The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Thor, and many more films and television shows.

In the film, Dennings portrays Claire Carlyle, who teams up with her little brother, Ian (Mark Rendall), to help their recently deceased grandfather (Gary Reineke) cross over into the afterlife. Unfortunately for the duo, their grandfather’s soul has been captured by Zachariah Kull (Kim Coates), a local legend whose ghost is stealing the souls of the deceased who aren’t ready to cross over to the afterlife due to unfinished business. Kull is out for revenge on the town of Steeple Falls for burning him at the stake over two hundred years prior to the film. Accused of murdering his own wife, Kull is collecting souls in order to build up enough power to get his revenge.

Ian and Claire enlist the help of the “Soul Patrol” to help them rescue their grandfather and all of the other souls that Kull has collected. The “Soul Patrol” consists of Jumper (Davidson), Mariah (Najimy) and Coffin Ed (Idle), who help the deceased cross over. Sometimes they have to wrangle up lost souls and Jumper and Coffin Ed are sent out to catch the wandering spirits.

Kull proves to be a powerful foe for the Soul Patrol. As their battle goes along, Claire uncovers the truth about Kull and the greedy intentions of a local man named Warner (Nigel Bennett) who is profiting off of Kull’s legend. Can the Soul Patrol stop Kull? Will the truth ever be revealed about the death of Kull’s wife? You’ll have to check out The Scream Team in order to find out!

Despite some sketchy CGI, this film is surprisingly good. The cast is solid, especially Idle, Najimy, and Davidson. Kim Coates was a superb choice to portray the vengeful Hull, but his performance is hindered by the bad CGI. Dennings and Rendall do great jobs as well. The film does have a somewhat slow start, but things pick up after the first ten minutes or so.

Of all of the Disney Channel horror films that I’ve watched, this one is definitely one of my favorites. It’s funny, has a great story, and has just enough scares to satisfy a family wanting a film that’s a little bit spooky and a little bit funny. I recommend giving it a look.

As always, thanks for reading my post. More ghouls and ghosts are on the way tomorrow!