Unfamiliar Famous Faces: Nightmare Before Christmas
I am a huge movie buff, and a natural sponge of movie trivia and casting. I would connect any two working actors through movies, and would often know the entire casts of movies I’ve never actually seen. As a collector of random trivia, one of my favorite things to do is show people that characters they knew and loved were played by the same actor as a completely different character that they would never have realized was the same person.
I’ve got so many of these in my head this is going to be an article series. Some will be themed to a particular movie series, while others will just be random. In honor of the upcoming Halloween let’s start things off with one of my favorite movies: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Before I get into the Famous Faces, here’s a little trivia about the movie itself. Nightmare began as a three page poem by Tim Burton. It was inspired by holiday specials like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. You can see its influence not only in the stop motion animation, but in the style of the narration. In the original release, the opening was narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, and you can still find this feature on the DVD release.
In the original poem, the only characters were Jack, Zero, and Santa. All the other characters were conceived for the movie. Those familiar with Burton’s earlier work know of his fondness for the late Vincent Price, but you might be surprised to know that Price was originally slated to voice Santa. Sadly Price’s wife passed away shortly before he was approached and his own health was starting to fail him. His recordings are deemed too frail, and Santa was recast. Price passed away in 1993, the year Nightmare was released.
While the movie is distinctly Burton’s style, many don’t realize that Burton didn’t actually direct it. Burton was too busy filming Batman Returns and the upcoming Ed Wood. Burton and his famous composer partner Danny Elfman actually had a creative dispute during the filming, and because of this Burton did not ask Elfman to compose the soundtrack for Ed Wood.
And now, without further ado, here are some of the people you didn’t realize were behind some of these beloved characters:
That’s right. Jack was voiced by the dastardly Prince Humperdink. Sarandon actually has a decent career playing monsters. He’s played the creature in Frankenstein in a TV movies, and lots of vampires, including the notable Jerry Dandrige, from Fright Night. The role was recently played by Colin Farrell in the remake.
I chose her role in Beetlejuice to show her connection to another Burton movie, but many people would recognize her as the mother from Home Alone. She also played the diminutive trick or treater Shock. O’Hara is also the SNL actor that never was. She was on a similar great show called SCTV, where she works with tons of funny people like John Candy. She was hired on at SNL, but quit without appearing on Air. She is a very funny person, and too many people only know her for her non-comedic roles.
Glenn Shadix is recognizable to anyone who grew in the late 80s, where he played big officious characters. I most often think of him as Otho from Beetlejuice or as Assosiate Bob from Demolition Man, which released the same year as Nightmare. His famous face may be even harder to recognize these days as he had surgery in 2002 and has lost over 100 pounds.
Greg Proops was a regular on both the U.S. and London cast of Who’s Line is it Anyway. Another role you might not recognize him in as is Fode and Beed Annodue, the two-headed pod race announcer from Star Wars Episode 1. He spoke both the English and the Huttese parts.
Ken Page is more of a Broadway star, so it was difficult to find something where he appeared on camera. The picture above is from Dreamgirls (2006), but many people would be surprised to learn that he was also the flamboyant reptilian monarch, King Gater from All Dogs Go to Heaven. When people make little spin-offs and games of Nightmare, a lot of times the characters get recast with cheaper, more available, actors, but Page has been the only actor to play Oogie Boogie in any official production of Nightmare.
Paul Reubens is a longtime friend of Tim Burton. Burton got his big break with Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure. Ruebans’ character Lock, the boy with the devil mask, is the only one of the three trick or treaters to have an exclusive performer. Barrel, the skeleton boy, was voice by Danny Elfman, who also performed Jack’s singing voice. Shock the witch, as we already know, was performed by Sally’s actor Catherine O’Hara.
This wraps up the first installment of Unfamiliar Famous Faces. I’ve got many more ideas swimming around in my head, but it you have any ideas of movies I should cover let me know. Please share your thought on the movie and its actors in the comments below!