Rhyming Verse? Seriously???
While I was working for Disney's merchandise division in California, a team from the Japanese office visited, saying they needed more art and more product design for Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas (a Disney-owned property that's hugely popular in Japan). They had the idea of writing new stories in which Jack Skellington visits the other Holiday Lands. We all knew that Burton would have to approve such a venture, so it seemed as futile as it was interesting.
I was into the challenge, though, and wrote two sequel stories as long-form poems, like Burton’s picture book. His poem, which became that book, was written in 1982. The film was released eleven years later.
My first sequel is titled The Nightmare Before Easter. Fascinatingly original, I know, but the point there was to tie it to the franchise that was at that time over 10 years old! The second story is A Midwinter Nightmare Scream (a Valentine's Day parody of Shakespeare.)
Everyone loved the stories but the consensus was: “What can we do with them?” Even Disney Publishing couldn’t get anything going.* A little frustrated, I learned that Tim Burton still approved all Nightmare product and packaging from our offices, so I sent the stories along with the next review batch.
About a week later, Burton’s assistant called me and said: “Tim loves the stories and wants to meet you.”
I replied: “Well . . . there’s this afternoon, and . . . when I die – so yeah, pretty much any time in between works for me!”
CUT TO: I had a great meeting with Tim Burton. We talked about the sequel stories and the licensed merchandise business in general. He was worried that I (representing Disney in a sense) was thinking movie(s) and a bigger commitment from him. I wasn’t. I just wanted these books published with my name on the cover.
While the project inched forward and stalled*, I left my position at Disney and began work on an original story about the 8th Dwarf named Creepy, who didn’t make it into the Snow White fairytale. 8 was meant to be my follow-up to the Nightmare sequels and is targeted to that same audience. That's also why TaleSpins stories are written in rhyming verse.
As a freelancer I also created a Nightmare board game, and while working on the first Nightmare video game, I met Deane Taylor, who was Art Director on Burton’s film. Deane loved the sequel stories and sketched out some illustrations for the Easter book, a few of which I’ve posted here with his permission.
Years later, I acquired a contact at Dark Horse Comics, and the project resurfaced, thanks to their keen interest. But it soon proved too late. Burton’s camp had moved on, and publishing the sequels was not something they wanted to embrace. I took 8 the self-publishing route and started work on the next story in the TaleSpins collection. I still hope the Nightmare sequels get published someday. I know fans would enjoy them.
*I actually don’t know why those books weren’t published when the project was approved, but I do know that it was no one person’s or department’s fault. The company is so huge, that any project or initiative, no matter how “obvious” it seems to some, can struggle to survive the seemingly endless processes in place there. There’s always a bigger, more urgent priority that can derail things.
CLICK ON THESE IMAGES FOR A SLIDESHOW OF DEANE TAYLOR'S ILLUSTRATIONS
©Michael Mullin & Gemiknight Studios .