Everyone Hated One Thing About Nightmare Before Christmas, At First

The Nightmare Before Christmas originally got terrible reviews for its iconic songs.

By Britta DeVore | Published

If you’re a super-fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas, you’re sure to know every song of the animated musical by heart thanks to one man – Danny Elfman. And while you may be looking forward to seeing Phoebe Bridgers join the famous composer for a concert featuring the film’s music, there was a time – if you can believe it – that the movie was shunned for its memorable tunes. With a sequel rumored to be in the works, it’s impossible to imagine that Elfman’s score wasn’t a sweeping hit for fans and critics alike, but during a recent interview with Yahoo! Entertainment, he reveals that this wasn’t the case at all.

In a sit-down chat, Danny Elfman shared that, although it’s now an iconic soundtrack, “nobody understood it” at first, adding that he “got horrible reviews for it.” Around that same time period, Elfman mentions that Disney was gearing up to release The Little Mermaid, so when those tunes were paired up against that of The Nightmare Before Christmas, it wasn’t exactly a hit. Luckily for Elfman and Disney, the film would have a resurgence 10 years down the line with fans loving every second of the composer’s eerie, cheery, and spooky songs, something he says he’s “grateful” for.

Directed by stop-animation king Henry Selick (who’s recently made a return to the world of filmmaking following the release of Netflix’s Wendell & Wild), and based on a story by Tim Burton, The Nightmare Before Christmas wowed audiences everywhere when it premiered back in 1993. The feature was a different direction from what Disney had been known for in the past with a more spooky storyline than viewers were used to. Along with Elfman, an all-star cast of voices was set including Schitt’s Creek star Catherine O’Hara and The Princess Bride’s Chris Sarandon.

The Nightmare Before Christmas told the story of Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween Town, who discovers a forest full of portals to other holidays. When he stumbles upon the world of Christmas, Jack is overtaken by the spirit of the season and attempts to bring it back home with him to share with the spooky citizens of Halloween Town. Hijinks ensue as Jack bites off more than he bargained for and finds himself on a journey to save Santa Claus from the evil Oogie Boogie.

A celebrated name in the world of music, Danny Elfman’s career has spanned years before and after his once-divisive musical take on The Nightmare Before Christmas. Well known in the new-wave scene for his band Oingo Boingo, Elfman became a frequent collaborator with Tim Burton with whom he worked on several projects including Batman, Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland, and more. He’s also teamed up with both Sam Raimi and Gus Van Sant to pen memorable compositions for their projects including Spider-Man and Good Will Hunting, respectively.

For those of us who flocked to the theaters back in the spring to see Sam Raimi’s Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Elfman’s recognizable style was all over the MCU character’s sequel. While his work on The Nightmare Before Christmas may have ruffled some feathers 30 years ago, it’s clear that the fans have spoken and the score is here to stay.