Holidays · Replica Props

Turning our home into the Haunted Mansion – Adding Some Nightmare

hm nightmare label

The Nightmare Before Christmas has reached mythic fandom proportions.  It has had a staying power longer than anyone could have anticipated or expected.   The film had a modest budget but only made 50 million dollars when it was released in 1993 and was considered a modest success.   That makes it the 27th highest grossing film in a year with hits like Jurassic Park raking in 357 million and alongside films like Mrs. Doubtfire, The Fugitive, and Sleepless in Seattle all getting well above 100 million dollars at the box office.  The film was the 4th highest grossing film for Disney’s Buena Vista Films.  Disney’s Cool Runnings, Sister Act 2, and Tombstone outperformed it.  But those numbers belay the legacy and timelessness of the film.  The film was conceived by the legendary Tim Burton and drips with his unique and bizarre style.  You may not know that Burton started out his career at Disney as a concept artist working on films like the Fox and the Hound, the Black Cauldron, and Tron.  Obviously, his work was never really included.  I can’t imagine, but would love to see, his Fox and Hound art.  Tron is 80’s perfection and came out wonderfully.  I can’t help but feel his Black Cauldron art would have really worked well in that medieval fantasy realm.  You can see it below how unique it was and could have really made that film stand out and shook Disney out of their slump a few years before the “Disney Renaissance”.  black cauldron

Nightmare was directed by Henry Selick who also got his start at Disney and would go onto make other classics like Coraline and James and the Giant Peach.  The Nightmare Before Christmas has strangely become part of American Halloween culture.  It always struck me as more of Christmas film with its themes and messages but Jack’s pumpkin king origin and its odd and creepy imagery has over time made it seem more of a Halloween film.  This has been helped by Disney’s amazing and annual Halloween seasonal overlays it does to the parks and rides.

hm hm

If you have missed our previous builds as we turn into home in the Haunted Mansion for our annual neighborhood Halloween party.  Previous entries include personalized entrance sign, the Hatbox Ghost, the Gargoyle Candelabra, the Madam Leota Seance projection, the Madam Leota Tombstone, the 13hr Monster Clock, the Haunted Organ, & miscellaneous touches.

One piece that we made years ago that I love is our Jack Skellington pumpkin.  For years I did not realize that those fake foam pumpkins, known as Funkins, were designed to be carved not just used as decorations.  I bought a white Funkin and carved out the Jack design using a template and a serrated blade attachment on a X-Acto knife.

hm funkin

Imagine Ears Nightmare Before Christmas Sally Jars Potions Night Shade Worms Wort Frog's Breath Jack Skellington Pumpkin

A piece that I started last year but did not finish in time for Halloween was the ingredient jars that Sally uses in her concoctions.  The jars and bottles are labeled with creepy components like Deadly Night Shade, Worm’s Wort, and Frog’s Breath. Replicas have been produced for 50$ and up but they are not quite accurate or to scale and I would always rather have a handmade item.  This started out with 2 jars/bottles bought at a hobby store on sale and a PVC pipe with a custom-made lid.  The lid was a scrap lit that fit on the PVC pipe that I rolled thin layer of Super Sculpey over to make the ridges.   After having the basic shapes and designs made I sprayed the jars liberally with a spray on orange peel wall texture.  It gave the rough and rustic look I desired.

Imagine Ears Nightmare Before Christmas Sally Jars Potions Night Shade Worms Wort Frog's Breath

I then rolled thin sheets of Super Sculpey and pressed them on the jars and cut out shapes of the labels.  While the cut outs were on the Sculpey I traced the letters by pressing a pencil through the paper over the letters.  I added definition and refinement to the letters and designs with the pencil lead and a toothpick.   I then baked the Sculpey using a hair dryer.  I then coated the new labels with a brush on super glue for protection and to not cause a reaction with the paint.

Imagine Ears Nightmare Before Christmas Sally Jars Potions Night Shade Worms Wort Frog's Breath

I spray painted the jars grey and then brush painted the labels a lighter color and gave then entire thing a wash of diluted black paint to rest in the cracks and crevices and show off the detail of the piece.

IImagine Ears Nightmare Before Christmas Sally Jars Potions Night Shade Worms Wort Frog's Breath


Imagine Ears Nightmare Before Christmas Sally Jars Potions Night Shade Worms Wort Frog's Breath


Check back next week for our next Halloween Haunted Mansion DIY project.


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Until next time…


The Imagine Ears features the DIY projects, adventures, and thoughts of a father and daughter who use a shared love of all things Disney to create memories together through encouraging her interests in architecture, design, Imagineering, while exploring history and science.

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