Casper the Friendly Case

Since they have been around, humans have been utterly fascinated by the idea of life after death. Some believe in heaven and hell, while others believe in reincarnation. And some believe that spirits can roam the earth after leaving their bodies. 

According to a 2019 YouGov poll, 45% of Americans believe in ghosts. It’s a fear that has plagued the nightmares of many, the idea that there are unseen spirits among us. But what if you found out that the ghost in your house isn’t mean? Would it change your mind if the spirit just wanted to be your friend? 

In the mid 1940’s, Paramount’s Famous Studios produced a short called, “The Friendly Ghost,” starring a cute little spirit named Casper. Casper went on to star in many other cartoons and comics, and in 1995 he starred in a major motion picture alongside Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci! 

So, if you’re the kind of person that believes in ghosts, this is the story of Casper. And if you’re the kind that doesn’t believe in ghosts, well, this is the story of Casper anyway! 

So before we start talking about the movie, let’s talk about Casper’s history! 

The Friendly Ghost, the first Noveltoon to feature Casper, was released by Paramount in 1945.


Casper, the friendly ghost (the friendliest ghost you know.) 

  • If you look at the original animation and subsequent comics, it’s tough to figure out exactly where Casper came from. But, in the real world, he was created in the late 1930’s by Joe Oriolo and Seymour Reit.
    • The story behind Casper’s origins was disputed between the co-creators. Joe Oriolo’s family says that he created the character to help his daughter  overcome her fear of the dark. Reit claimed that he wrote the story, but Oriolo drew up the images of the character. Let’s just say they were both correct and call it a day! 
    • Casper was originally designed to be a spirit in a bedsheet. The idea of a ghost in a white sheet dates back as early as the 15th Century, when people in England would report seeing apparitions wrapped in shrouds.
      • The idea stems from the fact that many people of lower economic status couldn’t afford coffins, and were then only buried in their burial shrouds.
      • By the time of Shakespeare, reports of people impersonating ghosts by wearing sheets were becoming somewhat common–it seemed a popular disguise for criminals.
      • Over time, this became the most iconic image of a ghost, and would become a popular Halloween costume.
  • Casper’s creators were animators, working for Max Fleischer! Originally the concept was for a children’s book, but that didn’t pan out. The project was put on hold as Reit served in the military during WWII.
  • During the war, the Fleischer Studios was purchased by Paramount, and was now called, “Famous Studios.”
    • Because of this, all rights to Casper were sold to Famous Studios for $200. 
      • Some sources say that Oriolo sold the rights to the book while Reit was fighting in the war.
  • In 1945, Casper made his debut in a Famous Studios short called, “The Friendly Ghost.”
    • The short introduced audiences to a sweet little ghost named Casper, who didn’t fit in with his ghostly counterparts because he didn’t like to scare people. In fact, he wanted to be their friend. You can even see him reading the famous book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People.” 
  • Between 1945 and 1959, 55 theatrical Casper shorts were released.
  • According to Dark Horse Comics, publisher St. John’s created Casper comics starting in 1949. In 1952, Harvey Comics took over and gave the ghost much of his iconic qualities, and animators that had developed him on screen, also worked on the comics as well.
  • There has been much debate about where Casper himself comes from. In one of the Famous Studios shorts, Casper can be seen sitting by a gravestone, which would imply that he is the ghost of a deceased child. 
    • In the comics, however, Casper was born a ghost. Ghosts in the comic universe are treated like any other supernatural beings, being born as what they are and not something another creature can become.
      • Casper’s parents were ghosts when they were married, so ghosts can procreate in the Harvey comic universe.
    • One theory for Casper came from a Simpsons episode in 1991, where Lisa theorizes that Casper is the ghost of Richie Rich, another Harvey comics property.
    • Casper wasn’t intended to be the ghost of Richie Rich, as he was created years before the Richie Rich comics were published. But, comics don’t usually follow strict timeline rules, so if you want to believe this theory, more power to you.
  • In 1963, The New Casper Cartoon Show premiered as an ABC Saturday morning cartoon. It featured many of the characters from the comic books, like Wendy the Good Witch, The Ghostly Trio (which have had a few different names over the years), and Spooky the Tuff Little Ghost.
    • Although Casper was a popular comic, the cartoon show really enhanced the character’s popularity and made him recognizable around the world.
  • In 1995, almost half a century later, Casper returned to movie theaters in the first-ever live-action film with a CGI character as the lead role! 


  • Casper (1995) has a main cast of four humans and four ghosts. When the snobby Carrigan Crittenden (Cathy Moriarty) inherits Whipstaff Manor, she and her male companion Dibbs (Eric Idle) soon discover it is haunted by malevolent spirits. They hire Dr. Harvey (Bill Pullman) a ghost therapist who has been traveling across the country, claiming to be able to help ghosts move on from their haunting places. He brings with him his young daughter, Kat (Christina Ricci). 

After moving into the house, Dr. Harvey and Kat become acquainted with the ghostly trio (Fatso, Stretch, and Stinky) and their young “nephew,” Casper. Casper is infatuated with Kat, and they form a strong friendship that can withstand life and death. 


  • Produced by Stephen Spielberg, with Amblin and Dreamworks, Casper was the first-ever hybrid animation/live-action movie made with Universal Studios.
  • Brad Silberling, who would later go on to direct “A Series of Unfortunate Events,” took on the role of director.
    • He was a TV director, and this was his first time directing a full-length feature film! He said that Stephen Spieberg was supportive as a producer, and let him make his own creative choices–this reminded me of the comments people made about Tim Burton as the director of Nightmare Before Christmas .
    • Silberling also has no experience with special effects, which would prove to be a huge component of the directing experience.
  • Originally, Alex Proyas (iRobot, The Crow) was hired as director, but left just before production began.
    • His plan was for the movie to be a darker take on the children’s cartoon, with influences from The Wizard of Oz. It would have been different, but we still wouldn’t mind seeing that movie if he still wants to make it! 
  • The Screenplay went through various changes throughout the movie process, but it was written originally by Deanna Oliver, Sherri Stoner, with an uncredited rewrite by JJ Abhams!
    • Deanna Oliver was also a writer on The Brave Little Toaster, and she played the main character! Sherri Stoner is also a prominent screenwriter who has worked on The Animaniacs and Tiny Toon Adventures.
    • The rewrite seems to have happened after Proyas left the film, to make it more light-hearted, and focused on the emotional connection between Kat, a grieving teenage girl, and Casper, a soul that mourns his lost life. Years later, Proyas remarked that the movie was a missed opportunity, and the attempts at emotion were forced.


  • Almost the entire movie was shot on a soundstage! The set with Whipstaff manor was three levels high, which was rare. Brad Silberling notes that usually directors are lucky to get to work with one level of a set, let alone three.
  • The set was designed by Leslie Dilley. The crew was careful not to make the house appear to be like any other haunted house, so they modeled it after the Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. 
    • Spirals in ceilings and other set pieces were references to the Harvey comic characters, like Casper and the Ghostly Trio, with their swirly heads.
  • The set was also inspired by the notorious Winchester House, with winding hallways and endless rooms. Scenes where Kat explores this were cut for time, but we can still get this feeling watching the movie.
  • The designers also wanted the sensation that “Dr. Suess Threw Up” with all the color, odd shapes, and various strange props that filled the house. It looked as if it had come straight from the comic books that Casper was known for.
  • There are cracks in the set that give it an old feel, like a broken-down house. These cracks were real! There had been earthquakes leading up to the shooting, and the set was damaged because of it. It was still safe for the actors to use, but they added to the realism of the set.
  • The crew also used hot resin guns that shot out spider webs to place all over the set!
  • The groundbreaking special effects were done by Industrial Light and Magic!
    • This Visual Effects company founded by George Lucas has worked on films like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Young Sherlock Holmes, Jumanji, and so much more. At the time when they were approached their Senior Visual Effects Supervisor and Creative Director Dennis Muren was not sure if Casper would be a big enough spectacle after the T-Rex from Jurassic Park. Once finished however, it was clear that Casper was different and a spectacle of his own.
    • The animation took 2 years and 28 terabytes (19 million floppy discs)! 
      • Compared to Jurassic Park’s 6.5 minutes of screen time for effects, Casper and his Uncle’s have a glorious 40 minutes!
      • The Special Effects team was well over 100 people, including about 30 animators and technical directors that would match the lighting of the characters to the lighting of the set.
    • The company needed fully edited scenes for them to add the ghosts, meaning that the actors had to act with only references to where the ghosts *might* be, based on Brad Silbering’s direction. Also, the film editor had to choose a lot of scenes with seemingly nothing happening in them during the editing process–it would be hard for him to understand at times what exactly was happening in the scenes he was editing.
      • The first edited scene sent to the company was the scene in the kitchen, where Casper makes breakfast for Kat and Dr. Harvey.
      • Because this was their first scene, you can see how the ghosts are animated differently here than they are in other scenes of the movie! The filmmakers didn’t like the way the characters were lit, as they seemed to look more like cell animation than the realistic CGI that they were going for.
        • They had to research more lighting techniques to get the translucent imagery that they were going for.
      • Previous films like, “Poltergeist,” and “Ghostbusters” used a combination of live-action and special/visual effects to make their ghosts. Casper had an entirely new look. 
        • What made Casper and The Ghostly Trio appear more real, was their relationship relative to light. These CGI characters casted shadows and refracted light, something that made them stand apart! Casper also has subtle body language and facial expressions, avoiding the over-the-top depiction that many animated characters have. Audiences have no trouble believing that he was once a living human, because he looks authentic.
      • Although computer graphics may seem faster and easier than traditional cell animation, each sequence was painstakingly animated at a high-resolution Silicon Graphics work-station. 
        • Artists had to choose shape, color and density, while maintaining correct lighting and camera perspective. A new model had to be created by an animator for each shape that Casper took. There are various scenes where the ghost becomes a shirt, a superhero, and a pillow. This had to be crafted each time, and the more creative the scenes were, the more difficult the animation.
        • There were perks over traditional animation, however. For example, animators were able to simulate objects that the ghosts would manipulate–rather than having to use actual props for the ghosts to move. Usually if a ghost is holding something, it’s actually CGI. When the Ghostly Trio first appears, Stretch is holding a CG newspaper; When Casper delivers pancakes, they are completely graphic as well!
      • There was originally a musical number shot for the film that did not make the final cut, because the animation would have been so expensive and hard to pull off, that they completely cut the scene. The song was called, “Lucky Enough to be a Ghost” and was sung by The Ghostly Trio.
    • Animator Phil Nibbelink was on the set of the film, standing by to render reference animation for the actors as they performed each scene! If you remember from our Space Jam episode, they employed a very similar process. Space Jam came out one year later in 1996.
  • There were also some practical effects used in the film, for example, in the construction scene, a wrecking ball hits a range rover–that’s a real wrecking ball and a real Range Rover! Also, lots and lots of fishing line was used to simulate the ghosts as they would interact with humans–the scene where Casper carried Kat away is an example.


  • The original Casper theme song is incredibly famous, and it was written by too wonderful songwriters who gave us a lot of classic themes over the years. They were Mack David and Jerry Livingston, and because both men were capable of lyrics and melody, it’s not entirely clear who wrote which. They worked together on Disney classics like, Cinderella, and Alice in Wonderland!
    • The film also included a cover of the song by Little Richard, and it’s a certified bop.
  • In 1995, composer James Horner scored Braveheart, Jumanji, Apollo 13, Balto, and Casper. Of course he wrote incredible scores for many more films throughout his career, but with Casper, he excelled at bringing forth child-like innocence and wonder, married perfectly with emotion. 
    • I will never agree with anyone who thinks that Casper lacks emotion, simply for this score and the track, “Casper’s Lullaby.”
  • On the site “Movie Wave,” they say this about Casper’s lullaby: “it’s truly wonderful, one of the most lilting and beautiful of all James Horner themes. With two distinct parts – the first usually heard on piano, the second usually heavenly wordless choir – it is woven throughout the score and always makes a mark, but especially in its album arrangement late on. As fashions changed, later in his career Horner was frequently criticised by film critics for going too far with the emotional manipulation; back in 1995 it was still considered to be one of the primary purposes of film music and none did it better.”


Brad Silberling was absolutely blown away by his actors and their ability to react to characters that weren’t there in the scene with them. The sets were being constantly manipulated, so everyone knew where the ghosts were supposed to be–almost convincing themselves they could see them. Silberling referred to this as “collective delusion.” The eye contact between the actors and the ghosts is what really sells the story, and the main cast delivered better performances than he could have hoped for.

  • Christina Ricci as the young girl Kat.
    • She is also well known for being Wednesday in  the 1991 Addams Family. She has appeared in other things like Ally McBeal, Saving Grace, and was Penelope in the movie Penelope. 
      • She originally met Stephen Spielberg as he was casting Jurassic Park, but she was too old for the role–but this was how she got her hands on the script for Casper.
      • Silberling believed that she was a genius performer, who really grounded the film as a strong, female character with a no-BS attitude.
    • The year of 1995 was referred to by Newsweek and The Christian Science Monitor as the year of the woman, or rather girl. It was dubbed this because up to that year many of the movie releases would feature boys or men as the main protagonists. In 1995 there was a bigger surge of movies with girls being the leads. This included A Little Princess, The Babysitters Club, Clueless, and more. While Casper is named for the boy ghost and is of course the title character, Kat fits into this role of the main girl because she is the living protagonist. 
      • When you look at it Kat and Casper are on equal grounding, helping each other. Kat’s character brings the emotional weight, providing her perspective as a young girl without her mother, who has been uprooted and forced to watch her father cope (unhealthily I might add) with the loss of his wife.
      • Kat is the one that reminds Casper that he once lived, bringing up the memories of his life that he had forgotten–and gives him the one thing he’s always wanted: a friend. 
  • Bill Pullman as Dr. Harvey
    • Many different actors were considered for the role of Ghost Therapist Dr. Harvey, but Brad Silberling was ecstatic to work with Bill Pullman.
      • Silberling was a huge fan of Bill Pullman’s subtle comedic ability, which he had seen in Spaceballs, and the 1992 film “Singles.”
        • He was looking for someone to be quote-on-quote “The Jimmy Stuart of the 90’s”–someone that could really anchor the audience and sell this universe and story so that it would completely believable, an everyday man. 
      • Stephen Spielberg was not familiar with Pullman’s work, but told Silberling that it was his movie and he trusted his judgement for a leading man.
      • After he had been cast, Pullman starred in While You Were Sleeping, and was cast in Independence Day! By 1996, he was a huge star!
  • Eric Idle as Dibs
    • He is of course of Python fame and you can hear more about him in our Monty Python and the Holy Case episode.
    • Silberling was thrilled to work with him as a Python fan, and he was able to improvise a lot in the film with his acting mate, Cathy Moriarty.
  • Cathy Moriarty as Carrigan
    • She has been in many other things including Raging Bull, Analyze That, Soapdish, Kindergarten Cop, and Tales from the Crypt.
    • Her Tales from the Crypt credit is funny, since the Crypt Keeper actually appears in Casper!
  • Devon Sawa as the onscreen live Casper
    • He has been in things like Final Destination, Now and Then, and Nikita. 
    • In “Now and Then,” he was Christina Ricci’s love interest as well! 

Ghost Voices

  • Malachi Pearson as Casper
    • He is known for being Rambo in Family Matters and Eric in Suburban Commando.
  • Joe Nipote as Stretch
    • Known for portraying Frankie Waters in Viper and Boomer in Meatballs II.
  • Joe Alaskey as Stinkie
    • He is a voice actor that has since taken over many of the voices that Mel Blanc used to do. He has done voices for Roger Rabbit, Avatar the Last Airbender, and he was Grandpa Lou Pickles in Rugrats. 
  • Brad Garrett as Fatso
    • He was the brother Robert in Everybody Loves Raymond, Eddie in Til’ Death, and has had many other roles as well. 


  • Dan Akroyd as a Ghostbuster (clever)
  • Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci
    • He has played characters with this name before on SNL, Sin City Spectacular, Unhappily Ever After, Married with Children, Blossom, and many others. He can also be found as the voice of Vinny in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
    • He also improvised nearly all of his lines as this character!
    • When he walks out of the mansion with his head screwed back behind him, it was a reference to the black comedy, “Death Becomes Her” as Meryl Streep’s character suffers a similar fate with VERY similar effects.
  • Clint Eastwood
    • He appears as one of the faces in the mirror that Dr. Harvey sees along with the next three actors.
    • In order to convince Eastwood to be in the movie, Speilberg told him that he himself would be in the scene as well. So, they did shoot a scene where Stephen also appears in the movie, but they cut it out.
  • Rodney Dangerfield
    • Rodney Dangerfield is thought to be the “human” version of Fatso–each actor that appears in the movie is thought to be what that ghost looked like when alive.
  • Mel Gibson
    • Gibson is Stinky’s counterpart as well!
  • The Crypt Keeper/ John Kassir
  • Jessica Wesson as Amber who wants to have the party at her house
    • If you are a Boy Meets World fan then you may recognize her but she was also in Home Improvement and Judging Amy.
    • Silberling said that her role in the movie was meant to be similar to Stephen King’s Carrie, as she plots to ruin the main protagonist’s life at a school dance.


At the box office, Casper was a success. It made over $100,000,000 in the US alone, earning the title of a summer blockbuster. But, critically, the movie didn’t do so well. 

Many critics felt that even though the movie attempted to achieve a certain level of emotion, it fell flat. The general consensus was that it was a popcorn flick, something to entertain the kiddies with sometimes-funny humor that was lost on more sophisticated audiences. One critic did not agree with Silberling in regards to his actors, feeling that Bill Pullman often looked dazed, as if he didn’t know where the ghosts were supposed to be in the scene. 

One thing that audiences didn’t expect was the romantic element of the story, between a ghost that has been dead for 100 years, and a living teenage girl. When Silberling first worked on the project, he felt that Casper was a bit too soft and androgenous. He and the other crew behind the story felt that they needed to add the layer of him as a 12 or 13-year-old boy who has the chance to hangout with a girl for the first time. The line, “There’s a girl…on my bed. Yes!” was fairly controversial, and the family that owned Harvey comics was not pleased with this interpretation. You see, before the movie, no one had ever given Casper a backstory as a dead boy, and the comics firmly believed he was born a ghost. 

Another famous line in the film, “Can I keep you?” may have missed its mark with some audiences, but for others it rings in an unbelievably sad expression of loneliness. Casper asks this as Kat falls asleep, unsure if she truly hears him. At the end of the movie, Casper gets one chance to be a human boy again, and he uses this time to dance with Kat. He asks again, but this time the line holds a different meaning. Casper asks this question, knowing that the answer is no. But, he wants Kat to know that he loves her enough to ask. In a Refinery 29 article, writer Anne Cohen took a look back at the movie to “write the wrongs” of the past critics. She spoke about the line, saying, “Casper stands as a powerful childhood introduction to the complex realities of death, and the need to let go of loved ones — even if, to echo those swoon-worthy four words, we keep their memories with us forever.


  • John Lassetter had a stuffed Casper doll as a child, with a pull-string back. This was the inspiration for Woody’s design in Toy Story!
  • Stephen Speilberg would appear on set a lot, but Silberling didn’t let him sit in his chair and watch. He would ask him to do various tasks for the movie–in one scene, he’s dangling a lighbulb in front of the camera as Dr. Harvey and Kat hide in a closet. In another, he was the one to throw a huge glob of pudding on Dr. Harvey!
  • In order to sell more VHS copies MCA/Universal teamed up with a few companies to make the purchase more appealing. One promotion was that if you bought it you would receive a free 12-pack of Pepsi and another movie title. Pepsi would help further by running a Casper themed commercial for two weeks. It is shown to the right.
  • Baskin Robbins also got in on the action by having a special Casper Halloween Polar Pizza Ice-cream and a flavor called Red, White, and Boo. 

The team behind Casper took a ghost from 1940 and placed him firmly in 1995. They even incorporated the show, “Hard Copy” to establish the time, and set the tone for a cheesy, yet beautiful film. Casper makes great use of believable characters, who interact with ghosts the same way you or I might. It introduces young audiences to the concept of death–even the death of a child. Romantic subplot aside, it represents a strong, beautiful friendship between Kat and Casper, and shows the healing journey of Dr Harvey with the unlikely help of The Ghostly Trio. Almost every character experiences growth (maybe with the exception of the two villains), meaning that this movie added a new depth to familiar characters. 

With great acting, a unique story, and incredible score, Casper is real to anyone, even those of us who don’t believe in ghosts.


The Night-Case Before Christmas

So, the harvest is upon us, and Samhain (Sow-en OR Sah-wen) is almost here. The days are shorter, the air is cooler, and we’re all enchanted with the scents of falling leaves and pumpkin. Yes, it’s time to talk about Halloween. But tonight, we’re covering a stop-motion musical classic that was born from a love of two holidays: Halloween and Christmas. In fact, if you ask anyone whether this film is a Halloween or Christmas movie, you might spark quite the debate. 

Released on October 13th, 1993, The Nightmare Before Christmas gleefully celebrates everything strange and wonderful about Halloween. The film immediately introduces the audience to a horrid cast of characters: personifications of our deepest fears, happily singing in friendly unison: “I am the clown with the tear-away face; here in a flash and gone without a trace! I am the ‘who’ when you call, ‘Who’s there?’ I am the wind blowing through your hair” 

Brought to life by a powerhouse team, led by Tim Burton, Henry Selick, and Danny Elfman, the film follows Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king of Halloweentown, as he faces issues with burnout and his own identity. Jack’s purpose in life becomes reinvigorated when he discovers Christmastown, and attempts to give this new holiday a try instead. 

Outside of its holiday connections, this is a movie that has inspired audiences for almost 30 years. So, goblins and ghouls, let’s talk about Tim Burton’s

The Nightmare Before Christmas!


  • You may notice that the movie is officially referred to as, “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.” Burton was the person who created the concept of the movie. 
  • Growing up in Burbank, California, young Tim Burton was fascinated by the Halloween and Christmas decorations in the local stores and shoppes. For years, as a joke, he would place Halloween decorations on his Christmas tree. He thought the holidays clashed in an interesting way, and it was funny seeing them mashed together.
    • For years, Burton built on that idea, imagining a story told in the tradition of classic Christmas specials like How the Grinch Stole Christmas and the Rankin and Bass Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer, but about Halloween.
  • After attending Cal-Arts, the school notable for uniting many famous animators that would go on to work for Disney Animation and Pixar, Burton worked on The Black Cauldron and The Fox and the Hound. 
    • He later said that it was a struggle to animate in the style of a classic Disney film, especially with “Disney eyes.” Making cute, cuddly creatures was difficult for him, which was why he would eventually move on from the animation department.
      • He also started working on his own side projects, one called “Vincent,” narrated by the incredible Vincent Price; and the original “Frankenweenie.” Vincent can be seen in the video above.
    • During this time, however, Burton developed the idea for his own movie even further. He wrote a poem, “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” as a twist on the first line of the Clement Clarke Moore poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”
    • This original story was the bare bones for the film, following the character of Jack Skellington as he attempts to take over Christmas–we can see how Dr. Suess’ Grinch really influenced this part of the story, with the rhyme scheme and subject matter–Jack Skellington was meant to be a reverse Grinch.
    • There’s even a 2-D animated version of this poem, performed by Christopher Lee! We will link to it in the blog so you can watch it for yourself:
  • Tim Burton shopped the idea around, but because animation wasn’t a very popular medium at the time, many places didn’t seem interested. Remember, this was still the Bronze Age of Disney, and the studio itself was danger of closing down.
    • Burton remembers that some people were interested in the idea, but weren’t sold on stop-motion. Stop-motion is much more popular today than it was in the 1980’s, and that’s really saying something. 
    • But Burton didn’t feel that this story could be told any other way. He felt that there was a magic to stop-motion, a reality to it. It had the realism of live-action with the creative freedom of animation.
  • In the mid 1980’s, after creating his live-action short Frankenweenie, Tim Burton directed his first full-length feature film: Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure.
    • This movie was huge for Tim Burton’s career, not only because it was a major movie, but because it was the first collaboration between Tim Burton and composer Danny Elfman!
    • Elfman was a rock artist before he composed films, and he felt like he had no idea what he was doing.
    • The two men continued to collaborate on films like, “Beetlejuice,” and “Edward Scissorhands,” and when Tim Burton brought the idea of Nightmare Before Christmas to Elfman, Danny embraced the idea and ran with it.
Skellington Santa.jpg


  • According to Burton and Elfman, the songs came first. Neither of them had ever done a musical before, and they didn’t want grand, show-stopping numbers, but instead something like a “Three Penny Opera,” where the plot continues through the songs.
  • Danny Elfman remembers that when Burton would come to him with new ideas for characters and plot, he would push Tim out of the room because the melodies were popping into his head and he needed to write them down before forgetting them.
  • Although Elfman is credited with writing the melodies and lyrics to the songs, he says Tim Burton deserves a writing credit for all the ideas and lines that he contributed.
  • The songs were written long before any scenes were shot, or even before there was a screenplay! The movie was structured around the songs, as each song signified one part of the plot.
  • Elfman felt a personal connection with Jack. At the time, he was in the band Oingo Boingo, and he had started branching out and doing scores for movies instead. He said that the song, “What’s This,” was slightly inspired by his own feelings at the time, where Halloweentown was playing in the band, and Christmastown was the new world of film music.
    • Because of this, and the fact that Elfman had written the songs himself, he approached Tim Burton and requested that he be the singing voice for the character.
    • Elfman said, “I realized that I was writing a lot from my own character. I went to Tim and said, `I’m not the best singer alive by a long shot, but no one’s going to sing Jack Skellington better than I am.’ And he agreed.”
  • Long after the songs had been written and the film was shot, Elfman also had to piece together a score. He later referred to it as a sort-of jigsaw puzzle.
    • He needed to work the songs into the score without giving too much of the melodies away, and they needed to fit together seamlessly. Musicals often alert audiences to an upcoming song, and although he had never scored a musical before, he was able to connect the songs with transitional music so no number was too jarring.
    • Elfman said it was a challenge–but not in a way that made him want to give up. It was challenging in a way that made him want to try even harder, and even more excited about the project.
    • The limited orchestra recorded in a small space, giving the tracks more of small-scale sound. This lent itself more to the operetta sound that Elfman and Burton were looking for.


  • After years of concept art and sketches, it was time to start putting the animation team together. 
  • Tim Burton had a visual consultant named Rick Heinrichs reach out to Henry Selick as the possible director of the film. Burton knew of Selick because of his recent work with stop-motion (for example, the Pillsbury Dough-boy commercials) and also because they both graduated from Cal-Arts.
  • After seeing the concept art, Selick happily agreed to do the project. He was giddy, in fact, and Tim Burton trusted his skill and vision so much, that he allowed Selick to be the sole director of the film.
  • Danny Elfman handed over the first completed song, “What’s This?” to Selick, and the crew started storyboarding and building sets and characters for the number. It was the first sequence shot in the movie.
  • Selick had his own team, from years of stop-motion animation, and he brought them onto the film with him. 
  • In the Disney+ series, Prop Culture, host Dan Lanigan asked Henry Selick about the pressure he felt as a first-time director on Disney’s first ever stop-motion film.
    • Selick explained that he didn’t feel pressure at all. Because Burton had so much faith in Selick, he was a little more hands-off than other producers, which gave the team creative freedom to explore concepts and ideas.
    • On the DVD audio commentary Selick said, “I never doubted that we would be able to figure everything out. I just wasn’t worried. I think I believed in the project so much that I assumed that things would fall into place, and 90% of it did.”
  • Selick’s impact on the film is immeasurable, but one of the things that he brought to the project that set it apart from other stop-motion at the time, was the moving camera shots.
    • In stop-motion, we always think of cameras sitting in a fixed position on the tripod while animators manipulate the characters in front of them. So you can imagine that moving camera shots would be technically difficult to pull off.
    • However, this special touch added a cinematic quality to the movie, with a dynamic energy that many other films in the same medium lacked.
Thicc Sally
Thicc Sally


Overall, the animation took three years and over 100 artists and technicians to complete.

  • Characters
    • Each character started with a metal armature, that was covered in foam latex by professional sculptors. 
      • Many of these armatures were built by legendary visual effects artist and stop-motion animator Tom St. Armand!
        • Armand has created armatures for many other stop-motion films, but also live-action films with stop-motion sequences and special effects.
        • For example: Honey, I Shrunk the Kids; The Rocketeer; and Jurassic Park.
        • He and Tim Burton both reference Ray Harryhausen as an early influence on their work!
      • After the characters were sculpted, the puppet fabrication department painted and clothed them as-needed.
      • After Jack Skellington had been created, the animators had to send the test of his armature to Disney, to prove that the character would translate well on the screen.
        • Originally, Jack was meant to wear all black, which proved to be a problem because he was too thin and wasn’t showing up on camera. So, Henry Selick decided to try pinstripes for him instead, and it worked very well.
      • They did this test with Sally as well. The animators wanted her to have quaky, doll-like movements, but they ultimately decided that she looked drunk, and they stabilized her.
      • In her concept art, Sally was, shall we say, Thicc. She wore a black and white striped dress before it was ditched for her classic patch-work dress.
    • There were about 200 puppets, many of them duplicates of characters. There were 400 different Jack heads, with separate eyepieces.
      • Jack was the first Disney leading character without eyeballs, so it was really important that the animators make his face as emotive as possible, so audiences would connect with the character. 
      • Disney reportedly asked them to give Jack eyeballs, but the animators stuck to their guns–they thought it was an interesting challenge to make him lovable without eyes.
    • Sally also had replaceable faces, since the animators didn’t want to re-make her long, red hair.
    • Animators used special techniques for the more ghostly characters! Rotoscoping, the technique of tracing over live-action footage to mimic realistic movement, was used for some of the ghost characters.
    • One of the most interesting characters in the film is Zero the ghost dog. He was created using a tool called a beam splitter, which is used to split a single beam of light into two, thus giving Zero his translucent appearance. 
Example of Edward Gorey’s Work
Example of Edward Gorey’s Work
Example of Ronald Searle’s Work
Example of Ronald Searle’s Work
  • Set Design 
    • Overall, the movie had 230 sets, filling up 19 sound stages. Some of the sets were lit with as many as 20-30 lights. 
    • There was a very simple color pallet for Halloweentown: Black, Orange, White. Tim Burton didn’t want any deviation from those colors, giving the town the bleak atmosphere of late fall and early winter.
    • For the Halloweentown sets, production artists took inspiration from the drawings of Ronald Searle and Edward Gorey.
      • Animators used styles that would call back to the cross hatching done in these drawings.
      • For example, they would use clay or plaster on the sets and scrape them to give an etched look.
    • Each set was first created at a quarter of the size first, so the artists could figure out where the sets should break so they could stand between them and reach the puppets for adjustments. When they weren’t able to make a clean break, trap doors were installed on the sets so they could open them and adjust when needed! 
    • It took about two years to build the sets.
      • One of the most iconic pieces, the spiral hill that moves with Jack in the song, “Jack’s Lament”, was built more than once. There was the stationary hill that was later covered in a foam substance to give the appearance of snow–and the mechanical hill built with its own armature to move as Jack walks across it.
      • Henry Selick said that it just felt right that the hill would move, but Tim Burton had told Selick that there was to be no magic in Halloweentown.
        • Selick got around this by saying that the hill is mechanical. So, in universe, that is a mechanical hill reacting to Jack’s movements, not magic. 
  • Movement
    • Overall, there were about 12-17 animators, and eight different camera crews tasked with capturing the animation. 
    • Every form of animation takes a little bit of acting, because animators need to understand the motivation behind their characters’ performances in order to draw them well.
      • But, with stop-motion, each animator is essentially putting on a performance through their puppet. This is something Henry Selick understands and tries to get from his animators while directing. On the DVD commentary for this film, he said, “In the end it’s an animator and their puppet and they have to breathe an actual performance into that puppet one frame at a time.”
      • Selick himself became the “actor/animator” for Jack. 
        • So, Tim Burton created Jack, Danny Elfman gave him his soul, and Henry Selick brought him to life. In their own ways, all three men saw themselves in the character, which would explain how Jack resonated with fans as well: he was completely authentic. 
      • Selick based Jack’s movements on his character design, and the movements of spiders and stick bugs. He also used Fred Astaire’s elegant dance moves as a reference as well! 
    • Animators did 2-3 test shots before Selick would sign off on the movement and acting before the final shoot was done. It was so meticulous, that one minute of film took an entire week to shoot.
Oogie Boogie.jpg


  • Horror writer Michael McDowell had previously worked with Tim Burton as the screenwriter for Beetlejuice, and actually started working on a draft of this film’s screenplay.
    • However, he was too ill to continue working on the project, and the screenplay was taken over by Caroline Thompson.
  • Thompson was actually Danny Elfman’s girlfriend. And at the time, she had heard every song in the movie, which made her the perfect person to write a story that connected them.
  • According to the DVD commentary, McDowell still made contributions to the story, like Sally’s tendency to break apart and piece herself back together. However, in the Disney+ series Prop Culture, Thompson says that she immediately elaborated on this idea, and pictured a scene where Sally would use her disembodied leg to seduce the villain, Oogie Boogie.
  • Caroline Thompson wrote the new script in about two weeks time, and was not required to make any major edits or re-writes! She received a few notes from Burton, but her story appeared to perfectly hold the film together, filling in all the gaps.
    • Thompson’s biggest contribution through her script was Sally’s personality and development. Sally went through a couple transformations throughout the film’s process–from the “babe” in Burton’s drawings, to a shaky rag-doll designed by Rick Henrichs, to a soft-spoken, yet strong and independent character that is an absolute hero behind the scenes of Jack’s shenanigans. 
    • Although Sally may at first appear to be weak, she has identified her strengths and attempts to use them to stop Jack and undo the harm he has caused.
    • Thompson is proud of her contributions to the story, as she should be.


In stop-motion, the voice acting is done first. Many of the songs were animated before the final voices were added in, so it actually took a year of going back and re-shooting scenes with new singing voices to match them perfectly.

  • Chris Sarandon provided the perfect speaking voice for Jack Skellington.
    • Serandon also acted in “Dog Day Afternoon,” and “Fright Night,” but he’s most well-known as the evil Prince Humperdink.
    • Serandon has never actually seen or touched a Jack sculpture until appearing on Prop Culture, when he got the chance to look at the character.
    • He still gets recognized for playing Jack, which is great news for someone who portrayed such an iconic villain as Humperdink.
  • Danny Elfman, of course provided Jack’s singing voice, but he also voiced The Clown with the tearaway face.
  • Catherine O’Hara voiced Sally! She had previously worked with Tim Burton on Beetlejuice just a few years earlier, however she is also known as Kate McCalister in Home Alone, and most recently Moira in Schitt’s Creek.
  • William Hickey played Evil Scientist, Dr. Finkelstein, and he was also known for playing Lewis in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, as well as Grandpa Wrigley in Pete and Pete.
    • Finklestein’s lair was modeled after his character. If you look closely, Jack’s house is modeled after Jack as well, and Santa’s workshop is modeled after Santa Claus!
  • Glenn Shadix played the Mayor of Halloweentown, and was also Otho in Beetlejuice (the interior decorator.) 
    • The mayor’s design was meant to point out the two-faced nature of politics.
Lock Shock and Barrel 16x9.jpg
  • Lock, Shock and Barrel were voiced by Paul Reubens (AKA Peewee Herman), Catherine O’Hara, and Danny Elfman respectively.
    • The three were inspired by a Twilight Zone episode that Tim Burton saw as a child. The episode featured characters that wore masks–and when they removed their masks, their faces were the same. It was a creepy image that stuck with him throughout his life.
  • Ken Page played the evil Oogie Boogie, and he was also known for All Dogs Go to Heaven and Polly! (1989) 
    • In a deleted scene, the identity of Oogie Boogie turned out to be Dr Finklestein! Through his dialog he explained that he was angry that Sally loved Jack more than him, he was her creator.
    • In the final cut of the movie, Oogie Boogie is made up thousands of bugs, being controlled by the single Boogie bug that gets squished at the end of the movie.
    • There was meant to be a scene where the bugs danced as well, but the animators found it to be too meticulous to make it happen.
    • There was also another deleted sequence of Oogie Boogie’s shadow, dancing on the wall, but it was cut for time.
  • Edward Ivory played Santa, and this was his most well-known role.
    • Santa’s voice can be heard at the beginning of the movie during the initial narration. Since the narration doesn’t return, it makes sense that it turns out to be a character in the movie, though this is not immediately obvious to the audience.


  • The Nightmare Before Christmas was technically made by Walt Disney Studios, but they released the movie under the Touchstone name, for fear that it may hurt their animation brand.
    • Disney was in a precarious position at the time, as they were trying to decide whether their animated films should be made at other studios (for example, should they allow PIXAR to make Toy Story?)
    • They also didn’t know how to market the movie, and because of this, it wasn’t a commercial blockbuster. It made money, and it was by no means a flop, but it’s true success would happen in years to come.
  • Although The Nightmare Before Christmas is not truly scary to anyone but really small children, Steven Greydanus in the Catholic Digest from 2014 had this to say, “The frightful or creepy galvanizes us. It speaks to us of mortality, of the moral and existential implications of the kind of beings we are: creatures of frail flesh and eternal spirit, alienated from our world and from ourselves, haunted by dreams we can’t attain and dread we can’t escape.” Surprisingly, he went on to say that it is for all ages.
Oogies Revenge Cover.jpg


  • In 2005 it was adapted into a video game by the art director Deane(Pronounced like Deen) Taylor and Tim Burton. It was made for the Playstation 2, X-box, and Gameboy Advanced.
  • On October 20, 2006 it was reissued as a 3D movie in theatres. It also came with a new CD that had the original songs with bonus tracks that paid homage to Danny Elfman’s scores. Some of the artists that contributed were Fall Out Boy, Panic At The Disco, and Fiona Apple.
  • Sales in toys/blankets/cups/etc.
    • You can find anything you want related to this beautiful film. Clocks, mugs, storage jars that say Frog’s Breath and Deadly NightShade, cookie jars, jewelry, and so much more. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas was the result of 20 years of ideas, drawings, and collaborations, culminating in an animated classic that will last for generations. It gave Henry Selick his first full-length directing job, which paved the way for James and Giant Peach and Coraline. It gave Tim Burton the opportunity to make animation in a new way–his own way–that he wasn’t able to do before. 

The realism with stop-motion moved audiences, and the fearlessness that this film had with its macabre imagery made it ground-breaking. It teaches lessons about passion and arrogance, and knowing your own strengths and weaknesses. This film spoke to children in a way that animation rarely did before, and helped popularize stop-motion just as Disney was healing from its dark age. 

The Nightmare Before Christmas happily shows how wonderful it is to be who you are–even if you are a nightmare. 


A Literary Case Submitted for Your Approval

Tonight we are joined by two new friends, JD Gravatte and Brett Wilson! Thank you for gracing us with your spooktacular presence, guys! 

This week, we are wrapping up our SNICK-tember and heading right into the spookiest month of the year with a special episode on the iconic show, Are You Afraid of the Dark?!

Back in the early 90’s, Are You Afraid of the Dark anchored the 8-10pm SNICK block with its bone-chilling 9:30pm timeslot. The show was geared toward pre-teens and teenagers, and featured an awesome anthology of scary tales told by a group of friends called, “The Midnight Society.” 

Sometimes the stories were refreshingly original–like one story about a carnival clown that stalks a young boy after he steals its nose. Others featured well-known monsters and existing lore; such as vampires, poltergeists, goblins, and even a leprechaun. Co-creator and showrunner DJ Machale has even been quoted saying that Nickelodeon asked for stories that had literary references, as a possible way to placate upset parents. 

Are You Afraid of the Dark was a show that not-only ignited the imagination of its viewers, it emphasized the power of a good story. Tonight, we’re taking a look at specifically three episodes (although there were many and we could do multiple episodes on this topic) that provided young audiences with new takes on well-known stories and folklore.

Before we launch into the episode, we want to take a minute to talk about our guests! Brett and JD are HUGE fans of AYAOTD. So huge in fact, they are actually here to promote a very special kickstarter connected to the show!




The first episode we will talk about tonight is often listed as the fourth episode of season 1, but it aired as a special pilot of AYAOTD on October 31st, 1991: The Tale of the Twisted Claw

  • This tale is told by David, one of the more soft-spoken members of the group. When he speaks up to tell the story, Kristen says that it’s been a while since he has told a story. If you follow the order of the episodes on the DVD, this doesn’t actually make sense since he told the story in the previous episode. 
    • Shows like this, that don’t follow a singular narrative, are not often shown in the order that the episodes were shot–or even in the order the creators intended. This is something we came across with The Muppet Show, where the networks got to decide the order and it was out of Jim Henson’s hands once the episodes were handed over.
    • The story begins with Dougie and Kevin, two young boys out playing pranks on Mischief night. They target Miss Clove, a woman who lives alone in a creepy house and is rumored to be a witch. After spraying shaving cream in her face, she knocks over a vase and the boys take off. 
    • The next night, while trick-or-treating, the boys return to Miss Clove’s house. She invites them in, and offers up an enchanted claw as a reward. Miss Clove explains that the claw will grant them three wishes, and she warns them to be careful what they wish for. 
    • The boys quickly discover that Miss Clove was indeed telling the truth, as each wish they made was swiftly granted–even in ways they didn’t like or expect. Each wish turns progressively worse, and when one of the boys accidentally wishes his dead grandfather alive again, the boys make one final wish that they never broke the vase–and all returns to normal. 
    • This episode was written and directed by DJ Machale, though he used the pseudonym “Chloe Brown” as the writer. According to IMDB, that is his cat’s name.
  • What the Story is Based On
    • This episode is a modern re-telling of the 1902 short story “The Monkey’s Paw” by W.W. Jacobs. 
    • The story follows the White family, who receives the paw from a traveling soldier that came to dinner. Mr. White initially wishes for $200, and gets it as a consequence of his son’s tragic and violent death while at work. He uses the second wish to hastily undo the first wish, bringing his mutilated son back from the dead and knocking at their door. Finally, he uses his last wish to undo his second wish. 
    • The story became incredibly popular, with adaptations beginning as early as 1903. The first film version of the story premiered in 1915, and beyond that, it has been referenced in visual and written media countless times since it was first published. The story is considered a literary classic, and performing it has become somewhat of a tradition (much like A Christmas Carol, which we discussed approximately 1000 years ago in our first episode.) 
      • At the time, the concept of three wishes was hardly new. Jacobs lifted the idea from The Book of 1000 and One Nights, which one of his characters even mentions in the story.
      • Jacobs also reveals the moral early in the story–that it’s impossible to find happiness through wishing. The paw was created to punish those who use it for attempting to alter fate.
      • The number 3 is also a highly common and significant number in storytelling. The rule of three dates back to ancient Greece. The idea is that concepts presented in threes are easier to remember and more interesting to the audience than with any other number. Most of us use the rule of three without even thinking about it! 
      • This is often attributed to the idea that humans want to make order out of chaos. Taking events and placing them into a short sequence makes a story much easier to follow. Three is also thought to represent time and magic, and is a sacred number in many religions. 
    • Differences and Similarities
      • Both stories actually have a lot in common, from the structure of the story to the actual events that take place. 
        • Besides both stories including a magical object that grants wishes, they both have incredibly similar final acts.
          • The scene where the two boys fearfully await the arrival of Dougie’s deceased grandfather mirrors the suspenseful climax of the original story.
            • Someone has been brought back from the dead and at their door. One of the wishers tries to open the door and greet them, while the other grasps the paw/claw and makes a final wish to undo the last wish.
      • The differences between the stories stem from the different settings and audiences (for example, the boys don’t wish for money because they are kids. Instead, one boy wishes to win a race at school.) 
        • In the original story, only three wishes are made overall, which worked well in service of teaching the audience the harsh lesson of, “be careful what you wish for.” 
        • But, in the AYAOTD version, each boy was allowed three wishes. This gave the characters more time to understand the consequences of their wishes, as they write off the first wish granting as coincidence. 
        • The Twisted Claw also has a much happier conclusion, as one of the boys uses his last wish to fix the vase they broke in the beginning of the episode, effectively erasing all the wishes.
        • In AYAOTD, the claw was a device used by Miss Clove specifically to teach the boys a lesson–while in the original story it was an item that Mr. White willingly took from an old friend.
  • Why the Story Works as an Episode of AYAOTD
    • The Monkey’s Paw drew from popular literary sources to create a tale that was both relatable and unsettling. Although the story has been told in various forms time and time again, it still sends chills up our spines–especially during its first telling. This episode was likely the first introduction that many kids had to the classic story. 
    • Writing a short-form story for television is harder than it seems, and using the structure of an already-existing story can be helpful as a baseline. However, it’s not easy to take an already established story and have it relate so well to a new audience that they felt like it was for them all along. 
    • The Tale of the Twisted Claw has a strong beginning, middle and end. It has relatable characters, a creepy vibe, and a strong moral. 



The second episode we’re covering tonight, is from the beginning of season 2: The Tale of the Midnight Madness! This is one of our all-time favorites, and we’ve read this is DJ MacHale’s favorite episode as well.

  • This horrifying tale comes to us from Frank, the “bad boy” of the group. In it, he brings back the recurring character Dr. Vink, played by Aron Tager. Aron Tager was also married to Ann Page, who portrayed Miss Clove in “Twisted Claw”!
  • Although the episode wasn’t a direct adaptation of another story like Twisted Claw, Midnight Madness pulled from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and used images akin to the infamous Dracula knock-off: Nosferatu. Although many episodes of the show deal with vampires, this one gave young audiences a look at the classic movie vampire.
    • The Realto Theatre is in trouble. One of its employees, Pete, loves the local landmark and is willing to do what he can to save it. One day, a strange man named Dr. Vink arrives with his own silent film and a proposition. Dr Vink guarantees the manager that this film, a silent vampire movie, will fill his theatre with people. There’s only one catch–in exchange for showing his movie, Vink wants one night a week to show his other films. Pete plays the film to a disgruntled audience, after another movie malfunctions. To everyone’s surprise, the audience loves it and the theatre has seemingly been saved. But, when Vink comes to cash in on his deal, the theatre manager refuses. 
    • Pete soon discovers that there’s more to the movie than he thought, when the vampire walks out of the screen. When Pete and his coworker/crush go to check on the manager later on, they find him passed out, and they are trapped in the theatre with a blood-thirsty vampire. Pete lures Nosferatu back into the movie and defeats him by exposing him to sunlight. 
    • After all seems well, Vink returns to alert the staff that he now owns the theater, and there are a lot more movies where this comes from.
  • This episode was written and directed by DJ MacHale (though he used the Chloe Brown pseudonym again.) 
  • Literary and Film Sources
    • This episode is special, because it doesn’t only draw slightly from literary references, but it’s also deeply rooted in classic film. 
    • The biggest literary reference would be Dracula, a horror novel written by Bram Stoker in 1897. 
      • When Bram Stoker wrote Dracula, he didn’t really consider it to be fiction. He did extensive research, and used eye-witness accounts of actual events as inspiration for major plot points of the novel. 
        • In Wallachian, a dialect of Romanian, Dracula means DEVIL. In a Time article, bestselling author JD Barker wrote, “Wallachians were accustomed to give it as a surname to any person who rendered himself conspicuous either by courage, cruel actions, or cunning.”
        • After his publisher initially passed on the book, for fear that it would create panic, Stoker made drastic changes and it was released as fiction. Not only were there narrative changes, but the first 101 pages were cut! 
        • However, Bram was able to get his original preface and parts of his original novel published in an Icelandic first edition. It translates into, “Power of Darkness.” There is also a short story called, “Dracula’s Guest” that holds pieces from the original, and of course Bram left behind his notes and other first editions for fans looking for the “truth.”
      • In “Midnight Madness,” the name Dracula is never mentioned. However, the male protagonist in Vink’s movie appears to be Jonathan Harker, the main protagonist of the novel. Another reference would be sensitivity to light (though light would not kill Dracula), and a coffin.
One of the few surviving pieces from Dracula’s Death (1922)
One of the few surviving pieces from Dracula’s Death (1922)
  • 1921 Dracula’s Death
    • Midnight Madness also pays homage to the infamous film Nosferatu (1922), which we will get to in a minute. But one year earlier, in 1921, a film called “Dracula’s Death” tried to convert Brom Stoker’s novel to the screen. There is not a lot known about it, for it is considered to be a lost film, but there are a few pictures from promotional items and the general plot is known. The premise was that a young woman visits a mental hospital where one patient claims to be Count Dracula. She experiences awful visions afterward and has trouble distinguishing whether or not these are truly just visions or if they were real. 
      • AYAOTD seemingly takes inspiration from this piece by having Frank in the beginning preface his story by saying “But sometimes the movie seems so real, that it’s hard to tell the difference between what’s make-believe and what’s really there.”
  • Nosferatu
    • Nosferatu has a bit of a controversial beginning. It’s creator F.W. Murnau did not obtain the rights to make a Dracula movie. Instead of obtaining rights he changed the names of the characters and a few plot points. One of the most important being that instead of a stake to the heart to kill the main antagonist, it is the sunlight. A bit of a dramatic way to get the villain to turn into a flame that burns out.
      • Stoker’s widow sued Murnau, and saw to it that as many versions of the film be destroyed as possible. Dr. Vink’s movie isn’t the same, but maybe he has one of the only copies? 
    • Obviously AYAOTD uses the name Nosferatu for the vampire character, but in the original film, the vampire’s name is Count Orlok. Dr. Vink’s movie is actually called, “Nosferatu: The demon Vampire.” 
      • In this way, Vink’s movie seems to be a mash-up between the original Dracula and Nosferatu
  • The similarities between Nosferatu and Midnight Madness are highly evident in its visuals. The scenes where Pete and Katie are running from the vampire mirror the actual movie scenes in an eerie and wonderful way. The shadows Nosferatu casts along the wall, his long, white fingers as he reaches for the door, and even the reactions from Pete and Katie are all reminiscent of the film. 
  • This tale is a love letter to silent film and monster movies. There tends to be more media focused on the dracula-style vampire, a talkative count that can take the form of a bat. It should be noted though, that this style comes more from the 1931 film adaptation of Dracula than the book. The image of Nosferatu is much more terrifying visually, and is less-often used in stories of vampires. 
  • This episode struck a chord with most audiences. When we watch a scary movie, we take comfort in knowing that it is indeed, just a movie. But, what if the movie was real


The last episode is another modern-day adaptation of a classic story: The Tale of the Midnight Ride!

  • Season three of AYAOTD starts out strong with the introduction of Tucker, Gary’s little brother. Tucker has to tell an initiation story to be accepted into the group, and he delivers a tale based on Washington Irving’s The Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow.
    • The story follows Ian, a teenaged boy who just moved to the New York town of Sleepy Hollow. The Halloween dance is coming up, and when he asks a girl named Katie, Ian becomes the target of ridicule from her jealous ex-boyfriend Brad. After a confrontation at the dance on Halloween night, Brad convinces Ian to go into the woods and retrieve the Headless Horseman’s pumpkin as part of an initiation ritual. While in the woods, Brad poses as the Horseman and scares Ian. 
    • After the dance, Ian walks Katie home. In the woods, they come across a mysterious man (that sounds a lot like Mr. Ratburn from Arthur). They give directions to the bridge of souls so he can find his way home. After the man disappears, Katie goes home and Ian heads back to the school to get his bike. 
    • While Ian is at the school, he discovers he’s being stalked by the real headless horseman, and he must find a way to cross the bridge of souls before he too will lose his head!
  • This episode was written by Darren Kotania, who also wrote, “The Crimson Clown,” and “The Dream Machine.” It was directed by DJ MacHale.
  • What the Story is Based On
    • So this episode is different from The Twisted Claw in that the story relies heavily on the fact that it’s an adaptation. Every character in the story knows about the legend of sleepy hollow, and it’s a major plot point.
    • The idea of a headless horseman was not completely original. There’s actually an Irish legend of the Gan Ceann (gon ke-yon) , a grim reaper that carries its head. Because Irving weaved actual locations and family names into the story, some believe that he based the headless horseman on an actual Hessian soldier who lost his head near Halloween in 1776. 
      • Other possible influences could be, Sir Walter Scott’s The Chase (a translation of The Wild Huntsman by Gottfried Burger), The Brothers Grimm, and tales of headless riders from the middle ages
    • Tucker starts the story by re-capping the original for the audience at home, a smart idea since a lot of children might not know the specifics of the story. He explains that the ghost was a soldier that lost his head to a cannonball during the revolutionary war–something that is directly lifted from the original story. 
    • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow actually turns 200 this year! It was written by Washington Irving in 1820. The story follows Ichabod Crane, a new schoolmaster in the area, who starts to fancy the beautiful Katrina Von Tassel. Katrina’s other suitor, Brom Bones, does not take kindly to the competition. 
      • Midnight ride does not only exist alongside the original story, with characters referencing it, it also adapts it. Ian is Ichabod, Katie is Katrina, and Brad is the brash Brom Bones. 
      • In the episode, Brad is the one to tell Ian the story of the headless horseman, just as Brom is the one to spook the schoolmaster with the tale in the original version. 
        • The episode also follows the lore of the Bridge of Souls, the one bridge the horseman cannot cross.
        • Brad also dresses as the headless horseman to scare Ian, and one theory of Sleepy Hollow is that Brom Bones dressed as the Headless Horseman to frighten Ichabod. 
      • The key difference between the two, however, is the definitive existence of the headless horseman. In Irving’s story, he leaves it up to the reader to decide if Ichabod was indeed spirited away by the Headless Horseman, or if he was killed–possibly run out of town–by Brom Bones. 
  • Why the story works as an episode of AYAOTD
    • The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is considered to be one of America’s first ghost stories, so it’s absolutely perfect to tell around a campfire. It was designed to be repeated, and the story itself references the oral tradition. Even if you don’t know all the details, or can’t quote the story verbatim, most of us can tell the story by heart. But somehow, this incredibly well-known piece of fiction has continued to capture our imaginations for 200 years. 
    • Even children watching AYAOTD are most-likely familiar with the story, so seeing it applied to their issues (school bullies, crushes) made it even more compelling to younger audiences. 


  • Jake and the Leprechaun (spoiler: lookout for a briefcase solely on this episode, around St. Patrick’s Day possibly?) 
  • Captured Souls
  • The Manaha
  • Nightly Neighbors, Night Shift, Vampire Town, any episode with vampires, really
  • The Tale of the Final Wish
  • Tale of the Full Moon
  • Guardian’s Curse
  • Walking Shadow

Thank you so much to JD and Brett for coming on the show! If you are a fan of AYAOTD, please consider supporting their kickstarter! Their content is incredible and hopefully with your support, we will see a lot more from them in the future!