For the second year in a row, Disney is bringing Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D to theaters across the country just in time for both Christmas and Halloween. It will be playing at the El Capitan on Hollywood boulevard from October 19th until December 18th with a sing-along presentation starting every night at 11:30 pm. It will also be playing at a theater near you (hopefully).
To commemorate this exciting re-release of the film in Disney Digital 3-D, Disney held an opening night extravaganza at their trademark theater, which has become an exciting spectacle all in itself. The line outside the El Capitan matched the line for Jimmy Kimmel Live, which was right next-door. Only, the line for Tim Burton's film was filled with pasty-faced Goths in Jack Skellington socks and t-shirts while the other line was filled with frat daddies looking to get their drink on. It was an interesting night on Hollywood boulevard to say the least.
Inside, before the film unspoiled, we were treated to an hour-long presentation by director Henry Selick, co-producer Kathleen Gavin, and supervising animator Mike Belzer. While they chatted with fans about the 14-year-old film, Belzer manipulated a metal stick figure while taking snap shot after snap shot of it with his Macintosh computer. In less than forty-five minutes, he had created a short stretch of animation that saw the figure twirling and taking a bow. The audience loved it.
After this incredible feat, Henry Selick previewed a few minutes of unfinished footage from the upcoming animated film Coraline. The project is based on the best-selling book by Neil Gaiman. The story revolves around a young girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) who unlocks a mysterious door in her new home, and enters into an adventure in a parallel reality. The surprise of the evening was when Neil Gaiman came out. He made it clear that none of us were supposed to talk about the actual footage we saw. Consider my lips zipped. Though, I will say, it looked awesome.
Just as the actual movie was about to start playing for the large fan-based audience in attendance, I was pulled away from the screening to talk to the animation group backstage. It was a real treat to get to sit down with the creative force behind this classic holiday film, which will continue to please audiences for at least another fourteen years into the future.
The first thing everyone wanted to know was how Mike Belzer pulled off his live animation performance. He stated, "I did two rehearsals." He was nervous that it might not work, but indicated that there was a lot of pressure on him. He pointed to Kathleen Gavin and Henry Selick, telling us that he knew he had to get it just right, "Because they were all watching me."
Kathleen laughed, "It was fabulous. You pulled off much more than I thought you could get in those twenty minutes. You weren't that fast when you made the movie." Selick was quick to explain that Belzer had done much of the work, "He did all of the characters. He also did one of the most difficult shots which was Oogie Boogie's demise when he gets his cloth pulled off."
Belzer, who was sitting on the floor Indian-style, seemed impressed with the whole process, "Those were the last couple of shots we did. It was truly an exciting time." Kathleen went on to pay him a huge compliment, which he took modestly, "We were so desperate to have him because Eric Leighton was the supervising animator. He really didn't animate very much because he was trying to work with everybody else. We were just so desperate at the end to get Mike. He did a great job."
From here, the discussion took a sudden shift towards the main presentation itself. The Disney Digital 3-D, a wonderfully exciting way to watch this iconic film. Selick was quick to point out that he wasn't involved in the decision to have the film reformatted, "I wasn't involved. This is the second year that we have shown it. It was finished exactly one year ago. When I was first hearing about it, I thought it was a huge mistake. Seriously? How were we going to pull this off? But Don Hahn had actually build new sets and puppets. It was never captured that way. Basically we built everything again and used original images."
The excitement from seeing a few moments from Coraline pushed the discussion in a different direction. One of the journalists on hand asked about the difference in the animation process between Nightmare and the new film. Selick said, "We sort of have a 3-D script for Coraline. We're learning as we go. What they did with the 3-D in Nightmare so well is they didn't over sell it. Everybody thinks it's 3-D, you know? Turn it on, turn it up louder. In the end, I was always looking for Coraline's two different worlds. I wanted the equivalent of The Wizard of Oz in color. So I thought of the 3-D a couple of years ago."
What about the decision to make Coraline without the English accents? Selick told us that; "I talked about it with the guys that were producing the film. We talked about the location and all of that. We do have some English characters. But it's just one of those things where it felt like the right idea." Then he addressed the They Might Be Giants rumor. The one about them doing a couple of songs for the soundtrack, "They're doing two songs. It's not like a musical. Her father in the other world can play the piano instead of typing at his computer. When she goes to get him for dinner, he's written this song for her. It's a really cool crazy song that they have written."
Shifting back to Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D, Kathleen was asked why she thought the film had become such a classic, "I remember when it first came out and people said, "Don't take your kids. It's scary." But I never once heard any parent tell me that when they took their kid to see it. I think the reason it holds up is, even though those characters look scary, they don't do anything scary. They're really lovely charming characters that are trying to give the world something. Jack goes awry in terms of Christmas, but really he believes that bringing Halloween to the world is a lovely thing. So that's what they all do. I think the characters are so well meaning that people can connect with them. It's a very sweet movie despite its look."
What about the people who haven't yet seen Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas 3-D yet? Are there going to be any surprises for them? Kathleen told us, "The movie is still the movie we made. We didn't go back and add ladders coming out towards people's faces or whatever. It's our movie. It's additive. Doing it with a 3-D pass of it, it's still the same movie, but it just adds to it."