CFP:  Nightmare Before Christmas (Key Films/Filmmakers in Animation series, Bloomsbury) 

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This edited collection will consider Nightmare Before Christmas as a milestone in animation and film history as well as a key cultural object with lasting impact. The book will be inserted in Bloomsbury’s Key Film/Filmmakers in Animation series. 

In the thirty years since its release, Nightmare Before Christmas has drawn repeated academic attention. Many of these contributions have seen the film as an entry point to larger arguments about Tim Burton’s work, whether in terms of its animation (Cuthill 2017), representations of gender (Mitchell 2017), and use of fairy tales (Burger 2017). Less often, Nightmare Before Christmas has been considered in relation to other frameworks, such as its presence beyond the film industry, in theme parks (Williams 2020a, 2020b), and the way it negotiated changing cultural expectations of children’s media and horror (Antunes 2020). Though this literature has shed light on several aspects of the film’s significance, there is to date no sustained scholarly inquiry that brings these insights together and examines the historical and cultural significance specifically of Nightmare Before Christmas. This edited collection seeks to address this gap, considering the different layers of meanings and history of Nightmare Before Christmas from pre-production to the present day.  

Nightmare Before Christmas was released quietly in 1993 under Disney’s Touchstone banner and sold primarily on the art-house appeal of its animation technique, amid fears that a close association with child audiences would harm Disney’s reputation. But the film was an immediate success and has since been reclaimed by Disney as one of its most beloved family titles. Growing into a cult phenomenon, Nightmare Before Christmas still cultivates a dedicated fandom across the globe today with an array of merchandise, tie-in products, and other media. 

Nightmare Before Christmas marks an important moment of technological development in stop-motion animation, and the technique has continued to have a key presence in the industry, particularly associated with horror- and gothic-inspired narratives (Selick’s Coraline and ParaNoman, or Burton’s Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie), where it blurs questions of suitability for child audiences and continues to fuel debates about the art of animated films and its target audiences. Indeed, the specific combination of stop-motion and children’s horror in Nightmare Before Christmas is key to how the film has negotiated genre, suitability, and other cultural categories in its original and retrospective reception, questions which often become tangled with ideas of nostalgia. 

More recently, Nightmare Before Christmas continues to serve as a point of reference for negotiations of genre and of the boundaries between mainstream and niche cultures, both on screen and in spaces of fandom. Its many afterlives expand well beyond the film industry, occupying manga and comic books , board games, and other paraphernalia, as well as physical rooted localities through events such as the live-staged musical, theme parks, and in exhibits (Hicks 2013), as well as through the fan practices that the film has inspired, such as fan fashion (Cuthill 2017) and makeup, cosplay, textual production, and transcultural fandom. 

How can we best understand Nightmare Before Christmas and its significance in the history of film and animation? What is Nightmare Before Christmas’ legacy thirty years on, and how does it continue to challenge and delight audiences, scholars, and industry today?  

This book aims to collect diverse and original insights into the meanings and impacts of Nightmare Before Christmas from a range of disciplinary perspectives and methods. Some suggested topics include: 

  • Nightmare Before Christmas in animation and film history; 
  • animation and genre (musicals/fairy tales/horror/family/etc); 
  • narrative structure in Nightmare Before Christmas and the audience; 
  • stop-motion as animation technique and cultural object; 
  • animation and branding practices; 
  • Nightmare Before Christmas as seasonal media (Christmas/Halloween); 
  • suitability, animation, and young audiences; 
  • children’s horror animation before and after Nightmare Before Christmas;
  • animation and nostalgia; 
  • animation, technology, and art; 
  • the music of Nightmare Before Christmas (songs, covers, re-releases, etc.); 
  • the politics of representation in Nightmare Before Christmas
  • childhood in Nightmare Before Christmas and its associated texts and practices; 
  • authorship and associated debates (Burton/Selick/Elfman/Disney), including the links between Nightmare Before Christmas and other works; 
  • franchises and franchising relationships; 
  • live and experiential events linked to the film (live musicals, theme park attractions, the Beetle House restaurants in New York and Los Angeles, Tim Burton exhibitions, etc.); 
  • transmedia and merchandise (Funko figures, action figures, board games, clothing and make-up, cookbooks, etc.); 
  • transnational critical and audience/fan reception; 
  • fandom, subcultures (Goth/emo), and fan practices, including transformative works (fan animation, fanfiction, fan videos,…); 
  • cosplay and the body in Nightmare Before Christmas fandom. 

JQuestions and informal discussion can be directed at any of the three co-editors: Filipa Antunes (a.antunes@uea.ac.uk), Brittany Eldridge (brittany.eldridge.18@ucl.ac.uk), and Rebecca Williams (rebecca.williams@southwales.ac.uk). Formal proposals (under 300 words) and short bio should be emailed to Rebecca Williams by 3 May 2021. 

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