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A Nightmare Before Christmas Title Sequence

Client: Self Initiated

Year: 2020

"What if The Nightmare Before Christmas had a Netflix style title sequence?" I created this title sequence as an answer to that question and as an homage to one of the greatest animated films of all time. This is one of my favorite films, and last Halloween I thought it would be fun to recreate that world in 3D and design and build very tactile feeling textures and models that feel like they're actually hand sculpted clay. I pushed myself outside of my normal style and took great care in modeling everything myself and even painting custom textures in Photoshop. I hope this stirs as much of a sense of nostalgia in you as it did for me. Enjoy!

The Process


Making this piece was one of the more fun projects I have done. I started off spending some time drawing out some thumbnails and storyboards of how I imagined this animation progressing. I wanted the animation to loosely follow the narrative arc of the film and depict some of the main story beats either literally or metaphorically. I tried to make things that were familiar, but at the same time unique and different from what the film shows even if it was just a recognizable environment shown from a different angle than the film. I wanted it to feel like it belongs to the same movie, but was still uniquely it's own piece. I modeled everything from scratch using a combination of Cinema 4D, Zbrush, and a little bit of houdini. The goal was to capture the handmade and tactile look and feel of the sculpted clay environments and characters from the film. Fortunately I had a perfect reference for every shot to look at while I sculpted and set up my lighting and compositions. Tim Burton is known for having lots of crooked lines and imperfect shapes, which made my asset creation process really easy and fast since working quickly and sloppily without refining my shapes was actually what looked the best. Despite making every asset from scratch, the entire project took less than a month.

I used Cinema 4D to make my basic models, then I would bring them in to Zbrush and sculpt in a bunch of imperfections and mess it all up to make it feel hand made.

There were a few shots that needed to have snow resting on windowsills and rooftops, so I would bring those models into Houdini and use a procedural snow making tool that I built to quickly add snow to the tops of things, then export that back into CInema 4D for texturing and rendering.

I hand painted a ton of textures in Photoshop and created my own custom displacement maps in order to really nail the look and feel of the original film.

One of the things that took me the longest was hand drawing every line in this custom displacement texture that became the texture for the 'raked clay' look that is ever-present on the ground in the graveyard scene. I knew I needed it to look really good, so I spent a good deal of time making it.