In 1993, Tim Burton returned to Disney after getting fired in the early 1980's. Hot off the successes of Batman, Edward Scissorhands & Batman Returns, Mr. Burton was a hot commodity and Disney was eager to get him on board. Tim decided to take advantage of the company's eagerness by bringing two hard to sell projects to life. The first was the stop motion fantasy The Nightmare Before Christmas. After lining up the usual merchandising and marketing plans, Disney officials finally saw the completed film and were stunned. This film was dark, macabre and strange. The first thing they did was remove the Disney name from the film, releasing it as a Touchstone Pictures film instead. The film that was originally supposed to bridge the gap between 1992's Aladdin and 1994's The Lion King was seen as a marketing nightmare.
Unfortunately, the box office proved the naysayers right. Audiences didn't understand what the film was about and stayed away. Merchandise, such as the Sally doll remained on store shelves, unsold and marked down. Tim Burton's other film for the company- Ed Wood- met a similar fate. While critics loved both films, box office results were poor and the company quickly forgot about these costly mistakes.
However, after Nightmare got its video release, things changed. Virtually ignored in theaters, the film was embraced by a loyal cult of viewers. People started to "get" the humor and it quickly became a huge seller. Those Sally dolls that were unsold and unloved became highly sought after. Since Disney wasn't making new Nightmare merchandise, mint condition souvenirs from the 1993 release were getting huge bids on eBay; for example those Sally dolls were commanding $700 apiece. This definitely caught Disney's attention. But how could the company cash in? The folks at DISNEYLAND had an idea- convert the Haunted Mansion into a showcase for Jack Skellington!
In 2001, DISNEYLAND premiered Haunted Mansion Holiday, a seasonal overlay for the venerable Mansion. The story goes that the Haunted Mansion was the first place Jack stopped at to spread his twisted idea of Christmas. Of course, the 999 happy haunts loved Jack's surprises, which emboldened him to spread his brand of Christmas joy to the world, which had a much different reaction. Guests loved it and the Mansion helped DISNEYLAND post record attendance in a challenging year for tourism.
Soon both Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland were clamoring for their own overlays. Walt Disney Imagineering, swamped with projects, decreed that it could only work on one additional overlay at a time and Walt Disney World was next in line. For unexplained reasons, Walt Disney World dropped plans for its overlay. Tokyo Disneyland was more than willing to take its place in line and began its holiday overlay in 2004.
Perfectly bridging the gap between Halloween and Christmas, this Holiday Nightmare has become a tradition at both DISNEYLAND and Tokyo Disneyland and is sure to delight guests for years to come.