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Remembering Disney-MGM's "Nightmare Before Christmas" display

Remembering Disney-MGM's "Nightmare Before Christmas" display

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For years now, WDW visitors have been grousing about Disneyland's "Haunted Mansion Holiday" attraction. Wondering when this "Nightmare Before Christmas" -themed overlay of the Haunted Mansion will finally be coming to Disney World.

Well, what a lot of Disneyana fans don't seem to remember is that Jack Skellington and his ghoulish gang have already been to WDW. Over 10 years ago, these creepy characters descended on Orlando.

Mind you, they didn't stop off at the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom. But -- rather -- Jack, Sally and Zero set up shop in Disney-MGM's Studio Showcase area.


Photo by Jeff Lange

With the hope that it would help make the movie-going public aware of this upcoming Touchstone Pictures release, Disney had a number of sets from this Henry Selick film shipped directly from his San Francisco studio to the studio theme park in the Fall of 1994. Disney-MGM staffers then resembled the set pieces, which included Halloweentown's town square ...


Photo by Jeff Lange


Photo by Jeff Lange


The interior of town hall ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

Christmastown ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

Oogie Boogie's underground lair.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Plus some intriguing background structures, like the witches' house.


Photo by Jeff Lange

These sets were on display (in one form or another) at Disney-MGM's Studio Showcase for at least two years. Then -- in October of 1996 -- when the American Film Institute took over as the sponsor of this studio theme park attraction, these "Nightmare" puppets, props and sets were all packed away.

Or should I say that they were supposed to be packed away? Over the past nine years, I've had a number of Disney-MGM cast members tell me that -- rather than spend the money necessary to ship the sets back to Southern California -- the studio theme park managers decided that only the puppets would be sent back to Burbank. As for "Nightmare" 's sets ... They'd then be broken up and tossed into a backstage dumpster.

Given the number of movie fans that actually work at Disney-MGM, you can imagine that this particular decision didn't go down all that well with WDW cast members. Which is why (I'm told) that a number of studio theme park employees deliberately dropped by the dumpster where all the broken-up "Nightmare" sets had been tossed. And -- under cover of darkness -- they then "liberated" pieces from this Tim Burton production. Which these cast members then reassembled once they got home.

So -- if you were wondering whatever became of that curly-queue hill that Jack & Sally stood on at the end of "The Nightmare Before Christmas" ...


Photo by Jeff Lange

... Don't assume that it eventually wound up in Disney's archives. The way I hear it, this memorable setting may have actually wound up being stashed in someone's garage in Kissimmee, FL.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Your thoughts?

Jeff Lange is the staff photographer / archivist here at JHM. He recently released his very first DVD, "Jeff Lange's Trick or Treat." Which offers full coverage of last year's "Mickey's Not-so-Scary Halloween Party" at WDW's Magic Kingdom. If you'd like to learn more about this entertaining recording, we suggest that you follow this link.

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