Why Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride Is So Different To Nightmare Before Christmas

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride looks remarkably different from The Nightmare Before Christmas, but there’s a reason behind the stylistic departure.

corpse bride nightmare before christmas

Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas are both iconic Tim Burton stories, but the two films are quite different from each other. The Nightmare Before Christmas is about Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon), Halloween Town’s Pumpkin King who schemes to take over Christmas, while Corpse Bride focuses on Victor (Johnny Depp), a Victorian-era man who accidentally weds a dead woman named Emily (Helena Bonham Carter). Though both films are part of the dark fantasy genre Burton is known for, Corpse Bride is a divergence in style from his first animated feature, The Nightmare Before Christmas.


The Nightmare Before Christmas and Corpse Bride went through different creative processes. The 1993 film The Nightmare Before Christmas was made as part of a development deal that Tim Burton struck with Walt Disney Studios, where he’d previously worked as an artist’s apprentice who did concept art for films like The Black Cauldron and The Fox and The Hound. On the other hand, unlike Nightmare Before Christmas and 2012’s Frankenweenie, Burton’s 2005 movie Corpse Bride was distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures. Both films were made using stop-motion animation, though Corpse Bride was shot with digital cameras as opposed to the 35 mm film cameras used for The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Related: Why 2 Different Actors Play Jack In The Nightmare Before Christmas

Is Nightmare Before Christmas A Tim Burton Movie?

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Although Tim Burton came up with the poem on which The Nightmare Before Christmas’s story is based, the film was actually directed by Henry Selick, who Burton had previously worked with when they were both animators at Disney. As Selick explained in an interview (via The AV Club), “Tim Burton had very little to do with the making of Nightmare Before Christmas. But it was his idea. It was his character designs.” At the time, Burton was busy working on Ed Wood and Batman Returns, so he entrusted Selick with The Nightmare Before Christmas. The duo would collaborate again on the Selick-directed film James and the Giant Peach, a 1996 adaptation of the Roald Dahl novel.

Why Corpse Bride Uses Different Animation Compared To Nightmare Before Christmas

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Corpse Bride, inspired by a Jewish folktale from the 17th century and co-directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson, was originally going to be shot on film. However, two weeks before production started, visual effects supervisor Chris Watts suggested to Allison Abbate, the film’s co-producer, and Chris DeFaria, a visual effects VP at Warner Bros, that Corpse Bride should be shot digitally. Corpse Bride was groundbreaking for being the first stop-motion movie to be filmed with a digital camera, specifically a Canon EOS-1D Mark II. Animators for the film revealed the advantages of shooting digitally (via Animation World Network): it shortened the editing process and allowed for more flexible camera movements.

Though Corpse Bride is a departure from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas movie due to its usage of digital film and CGI, it’s still a stunning film with an eye-catching style. The Nightmare Before Christmas still looks good today, but Corpse Bride had the advantage of newer technology to help improve the filmmaking process, and Tim Burton was more involved due to being the director. Corpse Bride and The Nightmare Before Christmas may be fairly different from each other, but they’re still entertaining examples of Tim Burton’s dark yet whimsical style.

Next: Casting A Tim Burton Live-Action Corpse Bride Movie