We’ve reached that glorious time of year when we all come together to debate an essential cultural question: is Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas a Christmas movie or a Halloween movie? As unanswerable as this may be (why not just watch it twice?), director Henry Selick seems to think there’s a more pressing misconception surrounding his iconic animated film: who deserves credit for the thing in the first place?
While most would give kudos to Tim Burton (his name is in the title, after all), the director recently settled the score in an exclusive interview with The A.V. Club’s Todd Gilchrist.
“That was a little unfair because it wasn’t called Tim Burton’s Nightmare until three weeks before the film came out,” Selick revealed. “And I would have been fine with that, if that’s what I signed up for. But Tim was in L.A. making two features while I directed that film, and I mean, Tim is a genius—or he certainly was in his most creative years. I always thought his story was perfect, and he designed the main characters. But it was really me and my team of people who brought that to life.”
Selick is not the only creator hungry to claim credit for the film, it seems. “Now, of course, if you ask Danny Elfman, well, that’s his movie,” he continued. “When we finished the film, it was so funny because he came up to me and shook my hand. ‘Henry, you’ve done a wonderful job illustrating my songs!’ And he was serious, and I loved it!”
It seems this is a perfectly friendly competition among artists who have a huge amount of respect for one another. This may have something to do with the fact that Selick “really, truly like[s] to collaborate,” most recently with Nope director Jordan Peele on Wendell & Wild, a stop-motion demonic romp loosely based on the talents of Peele and his longtime creative partner, Keegan-Michael Key.
Still, Selick wants to remind audiences that despite the big name, this new film is almost all him. “With Jordan, it’s 90 percent me and 10 percent him at the most,” he said. “These are my movies and other people have contributed.”
Wendell & Wild is now streaming on Netflix.