Christopher Lee Narrates a Beautiful Animation of Tim Burton’s Poem, Nightmare Before Christmas

Almost nine­teen years ago, the ide­al fall-hol­i­day ani­mat­ed film first opened: The Night­mare Before Christ­mas, direct­ed by stop-motion mas­ter Hen­ry Selick and pro­duced by Tim Bur­ton, pos­ses­sor of one of the best-known imag­i­na­tions of our time. Over a decade before that, in 1982, Bur­ton wrote a poem of the same name, telling essen­tial­ly the same sto­ry as would the film. Work­ing at the time as an ani­ma­tor at Dis­ney, he man­aged to catch his employ­er’s atten­tion by turn­ing these vers­es into con­cept art, sto­ry­boards, and char­ac­ter mod­els for adap­ta­tion into a poten­tial half-hour tele­vi­sion spe­cial fea­tur­ing Vin­cent Price. But the world, much less Dis­ney, did­n’t yet seem ready for the Bur­ton­ian sen­si­bil­i­ty, much less the par­tic­u­lar note of jol­ly grim­ness struck by The Night­mare Before Christ­mas. Years would pass, both in terms of get­ting the project into the right hands and in terms of the painstak­ing pro­duc­tion itself, before we could enjoy Jack Skelling­ton’s acci­den­tal jour­ney into Christ­mas Town and his well-mean­ing but ill-fat­ed attempt to take that hol­i­day for him­self.

But when we got to enjoy it, boy, did we ever enjoy it: in its near­ly two decades of exis­tence, The Night­mare Christ­mas has, with its dis­tinc­tive intri­cate dark-yet-light aes­thet­ics, askew humor, and sur­pris­ing intel­li­gence, spawned a vast inter­na­tion­al sub­cul­ture of enthu­si­asts. But you can still expe­ri­ence the core of every­thing the film is, and every­thing it has become in the zeit­geist, in Bur­ton’s orig­i­nal poem. So why not also see it ani­mat­ed and read aloud by Christo­pher Lee, as you can in the video above? “It was late one fall in Hal­loween Land, and the air had quite a chill,” the hor­ror vet­er­an intones. “Against the moon a skele­ton sat, alone upon a hill.” Night­mare Before Christ­mas fans know where this is going, but they’ll still want to hear the rest; though clear­ly the direct source of so much in their beloved movie, the poem looks on Skelling­ton and his mis­ad­ven­tures from a few angles they would­n’t quite expect.

Relat­ed con­tent:

Six Ear­ly Short Films By Tim Bur­ton

Tim Bur­ton: A Look Inside His Visu­al Imag­i­na­tion

Tim Burton’s The World of Stain­boy: Watch the Com­plete Ani­mat­ed Series

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • Juan Carlo says:

    Such a unique and icon­ic voice, for­ev­er silenced, after a long, unique, full and rich life. A vam­pire, a Bond vil­lain, a poly­glot, a Sith lord, an evil wiz­ard, an opera buff, a met­al­head, a knight… So much con­tri­bu­tion to the arts and enter­tain­ment world. RIP, dear Sir Christo­pher.

  • Walter says:


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