Jack Skellington is the "Pumpkin King" of Halloween Town and the main protagonist in Tim Burton's 1993 stop-motion Disney film The Nightmare Before Christmas and the poem it is based on. His speaking voice is provided by Chris Sarandon while his singing voice was provided by Danny Elfman.
Jack Skellington is the patron spirit of Halloween, portrayed as being on par with Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny within his own holiday. As a living skeleton, he is immortal and can remove parts of his body without harm, as is often demonstrated for comic relief. He is the most important of many Halloween spirits, with the implication that their job is to scare people in the real world on Halloween night.
Jack is very much an (undead) gentleman, graceful and patient in equal measures and can usually be counted on to do what is in everyone's best interest.
Though his logic is sound. his reasoning can be questioned at times--he was quite thorough in his Christmas research, but opted to go with what he and his friends knew when he decided to give Santa Claus the year off and take over for him.
He was also oblivious to Sally's feelings for him throughout most of the story, showing that while among the more intelligent citizens of Halloween Town, he is a bit of a dope at reading people's feelings. This is backed up by the fact that he barely even recognized Santa's distress when they first met.
It seems that Jack might be slightly naive at times, as shown that he trusted Lock, Shock and Barrel enough that he believed that they would simply bring Santa Claus to him without causing trouble, despite them being in cahoots with Oogie Boogie. And he didn't realize all the chaos he was causing on Christmas Eve before it was too late.
Jack almost never loses his temper and hardly ever raises his voice, but Jack was unable to contain his contempt for Oogie Boogie and did not hesitate to severely punish his old foe for endangering his friends with grim dedication.
It is also shown that Jack enjoys things that are new to him. He quickly became delighted with Christmas and grew increasingly excited as Christmas was being remade in Halloween Town just as he pictured, even giddily laughing as he gave out presents on Christmas Eve.
He is also highly optimistic, as he is very certain everything will go perfectly...that is, until he realizes how "Everything has gone all wrong." Even when in despair after ruining Christmas, he is able to cheer himself up by realizing he didn't mean to do what he did and that "nobody really understood" (whether he is refferring to Halloweentown not understanding Christmas or humans not understanding his intentions is unclear). He is also humble enough to admit that he has failed and is willing to hand back the reins to Santa Claus in order to rectify everything.
Role in The Nightmare Before Christmas
The film commences with the grand finale of Halloween Town's Halloween celebrations, which are hailed by Jack as being "the most horrible yet". However, when Jack sneaks away from the adoring citizens, it is revealed that he is tired of the same old Halloween. He expresses a sheer sense of emptiness and he wanders off into the woods with his ghost dog Zero.
While walking through the Hinterlands, Jack stumbles upon a place in the forest he's never been before, discovering a grove of trees that have doors leading to different holiday towns. Jack is drawn towards the Christmas tree-shaped door and opens it, therefore ending up in Christmas Town. Soon after, he becomes infatuated with the holiday. After obsessively researching it, he decides that this year, the citizens of Halloween Town will manage Christmas in the hopes of "improving" it. Sally, an animated rag doll who is secretly in love with Jack, has a premonition that his plans for Christmas will be a disaster and attempts to warn him, but he politely dismisses her fear. Sally's premonition later proves to be right.
Not really understanding the "spirit" of Christmas, the citizens of Halloween Town create a celebration of the macabre rather than a "season to be jolly"; Jack, dressed as Santa Claus, unintentionally brings fear rather than joy to the children of the world. Wanting Santa Claus to rest, Jack had ordered local trick-or-treaters Lock, Shock and Barrel to bring Santa to Halloween Town; however, after Santa was firstly brought to Jack and greeted by him, the three kids took him to Oogie Boogie, who teased and eventually planned to kill Santa. Sally attempts to rescue Santa Claus after discovering that military forces are planning to destroy Jack, but she too is captured.
Upon realising the error of his ways, Jack overcomes his identity crisis and reaffirms himself as the Pumpkin King. With determination to set things right, Jack promptly returns to Halloween Town, where he discovers that Santa has been taken to Oogie's Lair. He manages to defeat Oogie and rescue Santa and Sally. Santa returns to the real world to save Christmas and, as a sign of no hard feelings, gives Halloween Town a taste of true Christmas spirit, fulfilling his former desire to a limited extent. Jack finds Sally atop Halloween Hill, which is blanketed in snow, and reveals his own affections for her as the film ends.
The official film soundtrack CD contains an epilogue not in the film, stating that "many years later", Santa returned to Halloween Town to visit Jack, where he discovered that Jack had "four or five skeleton children at hand" who play together in a xylophone band. Given the ending of the movie, it can be assumed that the children are Jack and Sally's offspring.
Taking place before the events of the film, Jack Skellington is shown to have had a rivalry with Oogie Boogie. Oogie makes plans to turn Halloween Town into a New Bug Day.
After Jack learns of Dr. Finklestein's daughter's kidnapping, Jack takes it upon himself to save Sally (for the first time) and restore Halloween Town. Jack confronts Oogie, thwarts his plans to take over the town and banishes him to his underground lair. He ultimately rescues Sally, thus leading to her falling in love with him. Few of the Townsfolk actually saw Oogie himself and so assume terrifying ideas about him.
Upon eliminating the threat, the town declares Jack the Pumpkin King and the king of Halloween and all things scary.
Tired of using the same old themes over and over on Halloween, Jack Skellington goes to Dr. Finkelstein, who gives him the Soul Robber, an invention that changes shapes.
Jack decides to leave Halloween Town to get new ideas for Halloween frights. When Jack comes back to town, he finds that Oogie Boogie has been resurrected. Now, Jack has to set things right once again.
Jack dances, fights and sings in this game as he attacks Oogie and his minions. Jack is also portrayed as being inept to some degree in this game.
It should be noted that Chris Sarandon did both the speaking and singing voice of Jack in this game.
Jack Skellington appears in four installments of the Kingdom Hearts video game series. He inhabits the world of Halloween Town, where the evil Heartless threaten its denizens. The games' main protagonists, Sora, Donald Duck and Goofy, befriend Jack and together, they battle the Heartless and also Oogie Boogie. In combat, Jack uses some of his scary powers with demonstrations of some magic, making him a formidable sorcerer.
His magical powers include spells:
- Blazing Fury
- Icy Terror
- Bolts of Sorrow
- Ghostly Scream
- Applause, Applause!
In Kingdom Hearts, Jack takes a liberal role of performing a scary Halloween, in this case, using the Heartless. He asks Dr. Finkelstein to make a heart for the creatures so they can dance, but the Heartless get loose and wreak havoc in Halloween Town. He requests the help of Sora to find a solution. However, they take so long to fight Oogie Boogie, he regretfully has to cancel Halloween for a year due to a lack of material to go on, promising something terrifying next year.
Jack makes an appearance as a figment of Sora's memory in Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories his role this time remains relatively the same. He requested Dr. Finkelstein to make a memory potion, hoping that it would help in teaching the Heartless new Halloween tricks. Like in Kingdom Hearts, Donald was not very fond of Jack, especially since he scared Donald.
In Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days, Jack appears once more, planning the perfect Halloween. He is at a loss of ideas, however, finally getting one when he catches Roxas leaving the world through a Dark Corridor. Upon Roxas's next visit, Jack is seen in the Town Square with Doctor Finkelstein, displaying decorated balloons that contained a horrifying surprise. The doctor liked the idea, Jack still not satisfied. Roxas later encountered the Pumpkin King and his dog Zero in the Graveyard, the ghost-dog showing Jack that Heartless could now be found in the balloons. Not recalling having put the Heartless in the balloons, he deciphered that another mind had decided to place the dark creatures in them to add an extra level of terror. Jack then continued brainstorming, hoping to prevent this other "great mind" from coming up with better ideas before he did. He then awarded Zero a bone after realizing the dog had given him a hint, Jack heading straight to Dr. Finkelstein's lab to tell him of a brand new, great idea.
Jack in his Santa costume in Kingdom Hearts II, he takes a comparable role to his character in the movie.
One day while walking through the Hinterlands with Zero, Jack discovers a clearing with trees decorated with festive doors. He opens a door shaped like a Christmas tree and falls through into Christmas Town.
When Sora, Donald and Goofy arrive in the Town Square, which is decorated with Christmas lights, Jack arrives in a makeshift sleigh pulled by skeletal reindeer. He wishes them a Merry Chistmas and tells them that he running Christmas "again". They visit Sally in Dr. Finkelstein's lab before Jack heads off to bring Santa Claus, but he comes back to tell Sora that Heartless have appeared in town. Jack helps the group defeat the Heartless and asks them to be Santa's bodyguards. They all travel to Santa's House in Christmas Town, but Santa is less than pleased to see Jack after the last time he tried to run Christmas.
When Lock, Shock, and Barrel invade Santa's factory with Maleficent's help, Santa sends the group after them, and they follow the pranksters to Curly Hill where they defeat the Prison Keeper. When Lock, Shock, and Barrel run off to see Oogie Boogie, Jack and the others are surprised to learn that he has been revived. On their way back, Sally tells them that Oogie has kidnapped Santa Claus and is headed for Christmas Town. They return to the Toy Factory, where they defeat Oogie Boogie.
Afterwards, Sally gives an excited Jack the Santa costume she had been working on, but Santa convinces him that they should each stick to doing the jobs they love and do best, and Jack, newly inspired, heads towards Halloween Town with The Mayor, who has come looking for him. As he leaves, his costume reveals the next Gate.
When Sora, Donald, and Goofy return to Halloween Town, they find Jack, still in costume, picking presents off the ground in the Hinterlands. Although Sora is skeptical, Jack explains he just found the presents and is only returning them to Santa. When they arrive at Santa's House, Santa informs them that a large number of presents have been stolen from his factory, and Jack volunteers the group for finding the thief. Although they find Lock, Shock, and Barrel in the Wrapping Room, they claim they are only looking for parts for Dr. Finkelstein's experiment and have no interest in Christmas presents.
Sally arrives with news of Heartless with presents in Halloween Town, so the group return and recover the gifts, only to discover the Doctor's experiment has also been stolen. Jack decides to set a trap for the thief using decoy Christmas presents, and they discover the thief to be the experiment itself. In gratitude, Santa lets Jack ride with him in his sleigh. After Jack returns, Sally helps him realize that meaning of giving a present is not the gift box, nor the present inside it, but the wish to make someone happy, and the two dance in the snow.
Some time after Xemnas's defeat, Jack is seen, sans costume, discussing plans for the next Halloween with everyone in the Doctor's lab.
In Disney Universe, Jack Skellington is featured in the Nightmare Before Christmas downloadable expansion pack which includes Jack Skellington, Sally, Oogie-Boogie, Dr. Finklestein and the Mayor as in-game playable costumes. The downloadable content can be bought from console stores (e.g. the PlayStation Store). The package included the costumes of which some could be found in the downloaded level. Unlike the worlds originally in the game which all had 3 chapters, the Nightmare Before Christmas world only had 1 chapter called 'Halloween Graveyard'.
Jack appears as a playable character in the game.
Other appearancesJack Skellington once made a cameo as a pirate in the 1996 stop-motion animated film James and the Giant Peach. He was the captain of the sunken ship that Centipede boarded in search of a compass. Perhaps in testament to his Shakespearean tribute, his head comes off during the movie.
Jack Skellington made his first onscreen appearance in Tim Burton's "Beetlejuice" (1988, Warner Bros./ The Geffen Co.). As Beetlejuice rises from the ground, a canopied miniature merry-go-round rests on his head; at the very top of the canopy is a comical white skull that would later become Jack Skellington's head.
A silhouette of Jack is shown in The Princess and the Frog as one of the shadows Dr. Facilier summons.
He is in the video game, LittleBigPlanet, as a DLC costume.
At Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland, Jack stars in Haunted Mansion Holiday, a seasonal overlay of the classic Haunted Mansion attraction which runs from September to January every year. In it, Jack takes on the role of "Sandy Claws" once again and brings his twisted vision of Christmas to the traditionally-eerie mansion.
Jack also appears with Sally as a meetable character in the parks during the Halloween and Christmas seasons.
He also serves as an emcee for the Disneyland Halloween fireworks show, Halloween Screams.
- Jack's head appeared on Beetlejuice's carnival hat.
- Jack makes a cameo appearance in James and the Giant Peach, when Mr. Centipede goes to the bottom of the Atlantic ocean to retrieve a compass from an army of pirate skeletons; Jack (in pirate attire) is the captain who fights back.
- In the original film, by a personal request, Danny Elfman does Jack's singing voice. Chris Sarandon wouldn't do his character's singing until "Oogie's Revenge".
- Jack Skellington makes an appearance in Bleedman's webcomic: Grim Tales Down Below. It is revealed that Jack is the younger brother of Grim (Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy) (Though the webcomic is non-canonical, so this isn't true).
- Jack was listed #22 in Empire Magazine's The 50 Best Animated Movie Characters. Stating as his stroke of genius The song "What's this", as Jack - accustomed as he is to the dark, twisted Halloween Town, tries to get his head around the sweetness and light of Christmas Town. Jack Skellington has become a recurring theme in Gothic-style clothing and accessories, mostly due to his character and nature (as well as the nature of the movie in general).
- In terms of appearance, Jack is very similar to Jafar due to them being very slender. Jack is similar in appearance to the internet sensation Slenderman, since both are tall, skinny, with suits and can scare most people (albeit Jack can scare anyone).
- Jack's birthday is May 11th, according to Disneytrology.
- Though Jack can use Black Magic, as shown in the Kingdom Hearts series, he is never shown using it in his other appearances. (Though the opening scene where Jack lights himself on fire inspired the redesign of his Blazing Fury attack in Kingdom Hearts II and the two The Nighmare Before Christmas games has Jack using magic through his costumes.)
- Though Jack is usually shown with white stripes on his clothes, his 2D artworks usually have them absent (or largly absent, some white can sometimes be seen).