Songwriter Elfman treats the aud to a panel discussion

HOLLYWOOD — The trick was keeping secret a surprise panelist, while the treat was a rare showing of “The Skeleton Dance,” one of Walt Disney’s first meldings of animation and music, at Touchstone’s celebration of the re-release of “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas” Friday at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood.

Another treat was that Danny Elfman, who wrote the songs and the score for “Nightmare,” took part in a panel discussion about the making of the film. Also on the panel, moderated by Disney archivist Scott MacQueen, were director Henry Selick, animation supervisor Eric Leighton, animator Mike Belzer, assistant art director Bill Boes and actor Glenn Shadix, a staple in Tim Burton’s films who was the voice of the Mayor in “Nightmare.”

Elfman recalled how as Burton would “tell a little bit of the story and I was already getting ideas” for the songs. “I related to Jack Skellington immediately,” he said. He said the songs evolved as Burton told him the story. “I wrote each song in order until we got to the end.”

MacQueen noted how “Nightmare” had become an instant classic and asked director Selick if he would change anything about the film.

While Selick acknowledged he would have changed a couple of things at the time the film was first released, looking at it now he said: “It’s pretty close to perfect as you can get to making a movie, ever.”

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