Sally From ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ Is Based on Tim Burton’s Best Batman Villain

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sally in nightmare before christmas

Credit: Walt Disney Studios

Tim Burton is undoubtedly one of the most exciting creators in the world, which is how he has come up with macabre films like The Nightmare Before Christmas. While Burton has never combined any of his films, he has taken inspiration from one to another, like basing Sally on a fan-favorite Batman villain.

Hollywood actor Johnny Depp on the left and 'Nightmare before Christmas' (1993) on the right
Credit: Inside the Magic

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Sally’s design is certainly intentional, as she is made up of stitching and is stuffed with leaves. Though her appearance is meant to showcase that of a doll, she is also meant to mimic a creation that is to be controlled or dominated. Dr. Finkelstein creates Sally out of a deep need for a permanent companion, though she continually defies him.

The stitching aspect of her costume from The Nightmare Before Christmas was also meant to showcase the element of being pieced together. Sally is not a whole person until the film’s end when she and Jack finally realize their love for one another.

Though Sally’s design is certainly unique to the film, it was borrowed from one of Burton’s other great creations: Catwoman. 

Tim Burton Used Catwoman to Create Sally From ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’

catwoman and sally batman and nightmare before christmas
Credit: Inside the Magic

There is currently a book that covers the ins and outs of the stop-motion classic film. In it, Burton reveals how his inspiration for stitching at the time made it into The Nightmare Before Christmas and Batman Returns. He also shows how Catwoman and Sally are mirror images of characters. The Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Beyond Halloween Town: The Story, the Characters and the Legacy book by Emily Zemler reveals how Catwoman inspired Sally. According to Burton:

“I was into stitching from the Catwoman thing. I was into that whole psychological thing of being pieced together.”

Burton also revealed how both Sally (Catherina O’Hara) and Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer) are into emotionally unavailable men. Catwoman (Selena Kyle) is in love with Bruce Wayne but realizes after they injure one another that she can never be with him. Max Shreck creates Catwoman, and her creation leads to pure chaos. Catwoman only exists to cause chaos because of the power-hungry man who killed her and created her new persona.

Sally is much of the same, though her comparisons are far less adult. Dr. Finkelstein makes Sally his forever companion, but she does not want that. She does not want to be controlled by a power-hungry man who sees her as an object and not an equal, so she defies him by poisoning him and escaping any chance she gets.

Sally also falls for Jack Skellington but realizes she can’t get through to him. She wants Jack to hear her out when her premonition reveals his destruction as Santa Claus. However, Jack has tunnel vision and won’t listen to the one person who truly cares for him, not what he brings to Halloween Town.

Both Sally and Catwoman have similar arcs in their respective movies. Catwoman presumably gives her life to take down Shreck in Batman Returns, but she still understands the life she could live with Bruce Wayne if given the chance. She finally breaks the chain of her dominance by ending the person responsible for creating her.

Sally in The Nightmare Before Christmas also ends her being dominated by Dr. Finkelstein, who gives up after he realizes he cannot control her. Instead, he creates a wife who is a spitting image of himself. Sally can then rightfully fall in love with Jack forever.

Nightmare before christmas Jack Skellington danny elfman
Credit: Disney

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Batman Returns was released in 1992, and The Nightmare Before Christmas in 1993. It makes complete sense that Tim Burton would go from Catwoman to Sally, as those films followed one another. He might have unintentionally created mirror images of his strong female characters in both films, but we are glad he did so. Catwoman and Sally are some of his best creations.

What do you think of Sally from Nightmare Before Christmas being based on Catwoman? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!


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