Jack Skellington is the main protagonist of the 1993 Disney film Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Jack is the "Pumpkin King" of Halloween Town and lives in a fictional world based solely on the Halloween holiday. His usual appearance is a skeleton dressed in a black pin-striped suit and a bow tie resembling a bat, but there are some points in which he dresses as a scarecrow with a pumpkin for a head. His name is a pun on skeleton. He has a pet ghost dog named Zero, who has a small glowing nose that looks like a Jack-o'-lantern. His love interest is Sally, a rag doll created by Dr. Finklestein. Jack is voiced by Chris Sarandon, and his singing voice is provided by Danny Elfman.
The character is a popular design on bags, hats, clothing, umbrellas, belt buckles, pet collars and other items. According to Ultimate Disney.com's Top 25 Heroes, Jack is #25.
It appears that Jack, being undead, may be immortal, and may or may not feel physical pain. At the climax of "This Is Halloween", he sets himself on fire without serious injury. He also has the ability to remove bones from his body. Jack can take off his head (to apparently "recite Shakespearean quotations") and remove ribs to play fetch with his dog Zero. Despite this inability to feel pain, Jack reacts negatively when Sally accidentally pricks his thumb with a needle. Jack also is very flexible for being a skeleton and possesses incredible agility which makes it easy for him to climb ledges and walls. Occasionally hints are made to further powers, particularly during an episode in one of the original film's video-game spin-offs, in which he fights Oogie Boogie and his army of bugs with fire and ice magic as well as possible dark and musical magic. In the Kingdom Hearts series, he also can use dark magic. This appears to be unfaithful to the original story, as Tim Burton has stated on the audio commentary for The Nightmare Before Christmas, that Halloween Town does not possess any "magic".
Jack in The Nightmare Before Christmas
The classic film commences with the grand finale of Halloween Town's Halloween celebrations, which are hailed by Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloween Town. However, when Jack sneaks away from the adoring citizens, it is revealed that he is tired of the same old Halloween routine and he wanders off into the graveyard and then the woods with his ghost dog, Zero. As he bemoans his misery, he is unaware that his friend Sally the rag doll is listening and siding with him.
Accidentally sleepwalking through the woods, Jack stumbles upon a place in the forest he has never been before, revealing to be a grove of trees that have doors leading to different holiday towns. Jack is drawn toward the Christmas tree-shaped door and opens it, finding Christmas Town. Inspired by and infatuated with the holiday, he attempts with little success to explain it to the citizens of Halloween Town. After obsessively researching it, he decides that this year the citizens of Halloween Town will manage Christmas, in the hopes of "improving" it. Sally on the other hand, has a premonition that his plans for Christmas will be a disaster. She attempts to warn him, but Jack is too wrapped up in "his" Christmas to recognize her warnings and politely dismisses her fear.
Sally's premonition proves to be right: Not really understanding the "spirit" of Christmas, the citizens of Halloween Town create a celebration of the macabre rather than of joy. Jack, dressed as Santa Clause ("Sandy Claws" as Jack calls him) unintentionally brings terror rather than joy to the children of the world. Wanting "Sandy Claws" to rest, Jack had ordered a trio of trick-or-treaters, Lock, Shock, and Barrel, to bring Santa to Halloween Town. However, after Santa is first brought to Jack and greeted warmly by him, the three take him to their master, Oogie Boogie, who mocks, tortures, and plans to eventually kill Santa with his sadistic games. Sally attempts to rescue Santa Claus after discovering that military forces are planning to defeat Jack, but she too is captured. When delivering presents, Jack is shot down by the military and lands in a graveyard. Upon realizing the error of his ways, Jack overcomes his identity crisis and reaffirms himself as the Pumpkin King. Determined to set things right, Jack returns to Halloween Town, where he discovers that Santa has been taken to Oogie's Lair and that Sally is also there. He manages to rescue Santa and Sally, and defeat Oogie Boogie. Santa Claus 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 Jack's former desire to a limited extent. Upon seeing that Sally's creator Dr. Finklestine, has replaced Sally (this was due to his annoyance with her frequent escapes), Jack follows Sally out into the graveyard. There she stops on Halloween Hill which is blanketed in ghostly white snow and is in front of a full moon. After gently getting her attention with singing, Jack romantically reveals his own love for her. At the film's end, the two embrace each other and their newly shared future together and share a kiss while Zero looks on.
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 these children are Jack and Sally's.
In video games
The Nightmare Before Christmas: The Pumpkin King
Jack Skellington is shown to have had a rivalry with Oogie Boogie. Oogie makes plans to turn Halloween Town into a New Bug Day and kidnaps Sally, Dr. Finklestein's creation. After Jack learns of Sally's kidnapping, he takes it upon himself to save Sally (for the first time) and restore Halloween Town. Jack confronts Oogie and defeats him, after which he banishes Oogie to his underground lair. Having defeated Oogie Boogie and saved Sally (thus enticing her love interest in him), the town declares Jack "Pumpkin King" — the king of Halloween and all things scary.
The Nightmare Before Christmas: Oogie's Revenge
Tired of using the same old themes over and over on Halloween, Jack Skellington goes to Doctor Finkelstein, who gives him the Soul Robber, an invention that changes shape. Jack decided 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 again. Jack dances, fights, and sings in this game to attack Oogie Boogie's minions. Jack is portrayed as inept to some degree in this game.
It should be noted that Chris Sarandon did both the speaking and singing voice for Jack in this game. Elfman only provided the singing voice in the original film due to his personal request.
Kingdom Hearts series
Jack Skellington appears in all four installments of the Kingdom Hearts video game series, excluding Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep. He inhabits the world of Halloween Town, where the evil Heartless threatens 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.
Chris Sarandon reprises his role for the English version, and Masachika Ichimura provides Jack's Japanese voice.
Jack Skellington introduces himself to Sora, Goofy, and Donald Duck as the ruler of Halloween Town. Jack plans to use the heart that Finklestein created to control the seemingly docile Heartless to make a festival called "Heartless Halloween" so that Halloween can be frightening, but the idea fails when not only the first experiment cause the Heartless to go berserk, but Oogie Boogie steals the finished heart, and plans to use it to take over Halloween Town. At Oogie's manor, Jack, Sora, and the gang confront him. After Oogie is defeated, Jack finds out that Oogie uses dark orbs as his source of life, which Oogie combines himself with his manor to become a giant boss. Once the gang defeats Oogie once again, and his manor crumbles, revealing Halloween Town's keyhole. Jack is considerably shorter in this game than as he appeared in the movie, though he is still rather tall when compared to the game's main protagonists.
Chain of Memories
"Created" from Sora's memories of Halloween Town, when Jack Skellington wanted to ask Doctor Finkelstein what happened when he sniffs the potion that can bring "true memories", Heartless appeared. When Jack Skellington had found out that Oogie Boogie had stolen the Doc's potion, he must stop him before Oogie drinks the whole potion. They fail to reach him before he does, but they defeat him, as Oogie becomes overwhelmed with fear as a side effect of the potion. Sora becomes worried about what will happen when he discovers his true memories, but Jack reassures him that fear is a sign of a strong heart.
Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days
In this game, Roxas arrives at Halloween Town while Jack is in the middle of a brainstorming for Halloween. Jack is having trouble with thinking of things but gets inspiration when he sees Roxas leaving through a Dark Corridor. Time after time, Roxas' adventures through Halloween Town inspire Jack to create such things as balloons filled with spiders, exploding frost pumpkins, and Halloween lanterns. When Roxas is sent to find the source of a terrible drop in heartless population, he finds the town overrun with monsters called Tentaclaws. After seeing Roxas defeating the source of the Tentaclaws, the Leechgrave, Jack invents a terrifying scarecrowish version of Roxas as his centerpiece for that Halloween.
Kingdom Hearts II
Following the film loosely to some degree, out of reference, Jack tries to take Santa Claus's place again. To that end, Jack asks Sora and gang to help him be Santa's bodyguards. But after fighting the Heartless and Oogie Boogie, who has been resurrected by Maleficent, Santa explains to Jack that they each have a job to do with their respective holidays. Despite this, he begins to wear a Santa suit Sally sewed together for him. In the second trip to Halloween Town, Jack still wears the Santa suit, as he still longs to deliver Christmas presents and feels that it would be rude not to wear the suit Sally worked so hard on. Along with Sora and the gang, he helps defeat Doctor Finkelstein's experiment, who stole Christmas presents from Santa in search of a heart. As a reward for all his hard work and assistance, Santa brings Jack on a ride-along with him in his sleigh for a while. After Santa drops Jack off at Halloween Town, Jack learns the true meaning of Christmas by understanding the act of giving. He dances with Sally in the end, finally realizing all of the gifts she had given to him were all from the heart and wishes to give her something in return. She tells him that the nicest present she could ever ask for is just to be with Jack. Jack responds telling her that she does not even have to ask for that, meaning Jack feels the same way for her. During a cut scene in the end credits, he is shown to be wearing his original suit, suggesting he has taken Santa's previous advice to heart completely, and apparently begins presenting new ideas for next Halloween.
Once a year at Disneyland during the holidays, Haunted Mansion is taken over by the cast of The Nightmare Before Christmas and is turned into Haunted Mansion Holiday. Jack and other characters appear throughout the ride wearing Christmas attire. Additionally, Jack hosts the Anaheim version of the Halloween Screams fireworks show. Again, Sarandon supplied his voice for the character.
He also appears at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as a meetable character.
- Jack cameos in several other movies directed by Tim Burton.
- In Vincent, Jack appears as one of the phantasmic imaginisms of the titular character, during the final minutes of the short film.
- During the last minutes of Beetlejuice, Jack's head appears at the top of Betelgeuse's hat, when he turns into a carousel-like creature.
- During the opening scene of Sleepy Hollow, Jack's scarecrow outfit can be seen.
- During the opening scene of Big Fish, Jack's face is reflected in one of the fishing lures.
- During the cookie factory scene of Edward Scissorhands the mixer machine looks like Jack.
- He made cameos in movies directed by Henry Selick as well.
- In James and the Giant Peach, Jack appears as the captain, in the pirate scene. Upon seeing him, the Centipede even says "It's a Skellington".
- In Coraline, Jack's face appears in an egg yolk.
- Jack has also made a cameo in other Disney films
- A silhouette of Jack is shown in The Princess and the Frog as one of the shadows Dr. Facilier summons.
- Jack Skellington's face made a cameo appearance on a doormat in the first volume of the graphic novel series Lenore created by Roman Dirge.
- Jack appears in an episode of The Critic in a short parody called "The Nightmare before Chanukka", done in the same puppet style as the original movie. In this parody, Jack wears a red suit rather than his usual black and striped one.
- Jack also appears in Adult Swim's show Robot Chicken finding "Chanukka Town" and watches children open up presents, but finding out that it is just socks and pencils for their first day of Chanukka, he says to himself: "This sucks..."
- Jack also appears in the background of a South Park made-for-TV movie called "Imaginationland"
Jack Skellington has been made into a Bendies figure. He also released as Japan's Sci-fi REVOLTECH in 2010, along with the Japanese monsters, Gamera and Gyaos.
Jamie Frater adds, "Jack is perfectly realized as the 'town hero' who seeks more in his life (or death, as it may be), a place we all find ourselves time to time."