Jack Skellington lives in a place where Halloween is celebrated every day of the year, so it's no surprise that his love for the holiday has broken the boundaries of his world time and time again. No wonder you’ve probably seen his face in other movies, TV, and even a comic without even realizing it.
The Nightmare Before Christmas, which premiered 25 years ago in October 1993, is a film that's been burgeoned by outside references for years. Elements of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas have been known to pop up throughout other films and shows — like someone’s tie, or an egg yolk, or a shipwreck at the bottom of the ocean.
Burton has made a point to hide the Pumpkin King where you’d least expect him in many of his films, some of which came out before there was ever a whisper of Nightmare, which could mean that Jack was already a figment of Burton’s wild imagination.
From the Mad Hatter to an other-otherworld to a magical place that may or may not exist in South Park, look carefully to see if you can make out the Pumpkin King with the skeleton grin.
Alice in Wonderland (2010)
The Mad Hatter is scary enough to be an escaped denizen of Halloweentown himself, but if you can somehow brave the terrible jokes and creepy white lashes and get close enough, you’ll see that isn’t just a polka dot bowtie he’s wearing.
The dots have holes, and one doesn’t just have holes but eyes, or the lack thereof, that frighteningly mirror a certain skeleton’s.
Beetlejuice, Beetlejuice, Beetle… Jack?
Had Jack already started to emerge from the dark recesses of Burton’s skull back in 1988? Nobody knows, but something that looks like Jack is the centerpiece of Beetlejuice’s hat when the ghost with the most rises out of the model town as a human carousel (at least an undead one), which may be proof of that Halloweentown already existed somewhere in the back of Burton's head.
Big Fish (2003)
There are two unlikely Nightmare flashbacks in Big Fish, even though it is more of a long, twisted dream than a nightmare.
You can see what appears to be Jack’s reflection in the fishing lure at the beginning of the movie (at about the 23-second mark in the above video), though it’s another one of those painful microseconds you’ll have to keep smashing pause to catch. Ed Bloom’s tie is more obvious. Zoom in and you’ll realize that strange red thing is actually Spiral Hill.
Things in the Other World are not as they seem, and not just Coraline’s human-looking Other Mother, who's really the arachnoid Beldam, who sews buttons over the eyes of anyone she wants to trap. Take a really close look at the yolk of that egg she’s cracking. It has a face. Jack Skellington’s face. At least Jack could never get stuck in the Other World because those buttons would just fall through his eye sockets.
Edward Scissorhands (1990)
The cybernetic human who was originally upgraded from a steampunk cookie-cutting machine literally has a piece of Jack Skellington in him, as most of Tim Burton’s creations do.
Those red glowing eyes are unmistakable. Edward Scissorhands cut his way into every Goth heart right before The Nightmare Before Christmas started filming, so it really is possible that what would become Jack crept into the director’s thoughts.
Finding Nemo (2003)
When Nemo ventures to the eerie shadows of Philip Sherman’s fish tank, something even scarier is bubbling out of Mount Wannahockaloogie.
You may have to backtrack for at least an hour to really see it (or just keep hitting the pause button a million times), but one of those bubbles furiously erupting from that plastic volcano looks terribly familiar. This isn’t the only time Jack materializes underwater. Keep scrolling…
James and the Giant Peach (1996)
The skeletal pirate that attacks the monstrous peach as it sets sail for New York City couldn’t be more obvious, and neither could his name: Captain Jack.
That fake beard isn’t fooling anyone. Sunken pirate ships aren’t the best places to look for a compass, but when you really think about it, the struggle between a giant centipede and a skeleton in a pirate costume is kind of hilarious. Centipede even calls him a “skellington."
If you were a late ‘90s or early 2000s teen who basically lived in Hot Topic, you’ll remember Lenore, the Cute Little Dead Girl, a bug-eyed, slightly deranged little girl who really only wanted a hug (or else she’d destroy you).
Her friends were also dead. In the second issue of Roman Dirge’s deranged comic, Jack’s pumpkin head appears on her doormat, and his skull is painted in shades of pink on the bed where she remembers dying.
"Grown-Up Halloween" is a hard-partying Halloween that parodies “This is Halloween” with beer bongs, beer pong, trashy costumes, and some sleaze in a Nixon mask, but the biggest ghoul isn’t even the herpes that haunts some random girl’s underwear.
It’s Jack, and he’s brought the Mayor with him. Looks like neither of these two wants to be left out, as Jack gladly passes a jack-o-lantern filled with whiskey — or whatever that is — to the Mayor.
Sleepy Hollow (1999)
When this pumpkinhead scarecrow flashes you a grin at the beginning of Sleepy Hollow, it will make you wonder what movie you’re watching — because it seems to have been taken right from the gates of Halloweentown.
It even blows in the wind the same way. Could that pumpkin have stood in for the Headless Horseman’s head before he upgraded with a human skull? He must have taken that secret to the grave.
When the Imagination Flying Machine shows you wonders by taking you straight to Imaginationland, you’ll find out Leprechauns do exist. And Zeus. And Strawberry Shortcake. And a certain talking skeleton that can take off his head to recite Shakespearean quotation.
When this fairy tale amusement park gets nuked, Jack dies a fiery death all over again, and it didn’t even serve him right for impersonating Sandy Claws this time.
The Princess and the Frog (2009)
Dr. Facilier has friends on the other side. Powerful friends, especially if one of them is the Pumpkin King himself.
When the witch doctor conjures spirits in a black voodoo ritual, you can see that one of them looks frighteningly like a certain skeleton — make that Skellington. Those enormous eye sockets are unmistakable. There’s even a fascinating fan theory that Dr. Facilier’s spirits really come from Halloweentown. Spooky.
When a seven-year-old boy thinks he’s Vincent Price and believes everything that happens to him is straight out of Edgar Allan Poe, things are going to happen, such as a really familiar bag of bones swirling around with the other phantasms of his imagination.
While the wraith next to Jack is supposed to be the aunt he fantasized about dipping in scathing hot wax for his imaginary wax museum, her face is almost a ghost of Sally.