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Life and Arts

Burton fans pay ‘Nightmare’ tribute

A 6-foot-tall Jack Skellington from “The Nightmare Before Christmas” still needed its appendages. It sat in the Kaufmanns’ living room, along with a 7 1/2-foot tall Oogie Boogie, two singing skeletons and three singing pumpkins.

Bill Kaufmann and his son Thomas, 21, put the finishing touches on their animatronic creations this week, making sure the pins and other parts were still able to hold Jack’s remaining limbs in place.

They also tested the computer program that makes various characters fly, wave, tilt their heads, smile or roll their eyes to music. The father-son team selected three songs from the movie, along with “Dead Man’s Party,” from the 1980s band Oingo Boingo, to set the tone.

By Monday, Jack will stand 10 feet and the rest of its hand-sewn, striped suit will be delicately pinned on. His wingspan will reach 13 feet.


Jack and Oogie Boogie will be ushered out on Halloween, but over the weekend, various props, including an iron gate and a 30-foot canvas backdrop with a scene from the movie, will convert the Kaufmann’s front yard into their seventh annual “The Nightmare Before Christmas” tribute.

Tim Burton’s cult classic was released in 1993, and Thomas Kaufmann said they’ve been devoting their lives to it for several months a year since 2004.

They attend special screenings of the movie at the El Capitan Theater in Hollywood and just saw the Tim Burton exhibit at the Los Angeles County Museum of Modern Art.

“I guess you could say we’re fans,” Thomas Kaufmann said.


“We’re hoping to simulate snow this year with bubbles and a laser,” Bill Kaufmann said.

The display is built from scratch — with the exception of several skeletons, which were purchased and then mechanized by the Kaufmanns.

Kaufmann, a city employee for more than 30 years who worked in vehicle maintenance as a supervisor and then as a superintendent, retired three years ago. He has long had a fondness for hot rods and model trains, as well as all things Halloween.

“I’ve been into this stuff all my life,” he said.

Thomas Kaufmann shares his father’s passion for the ghoulish holiday, and used to help his mother, Susan, set up their Halloween window displays before losing her to cancer five years ago.

“My mom always liked Halloween,” he said. “Keeping up on building things helped with the healing process. It keeps your mind off it and [you’re] able to go in and enjoy what you’re doing.”

The combination of the experience of working on a months-long project, along with the excitement of the mechanical and technical challenges, are also what keep the Kaufmanns coming back.

“I get to do sound with mechanics, the programming — it’s the one time of the year I get to bring all those together and just have fun with it,” Thomas Kaufmann said. “My dad builds them and I give them their soul.”




The Kaufmann’s Halloween display will be up by Monday evening. Their address is 1015 E. Verdugo Ave.


The following residences will also be decked out for Halloween:

246 S. Sparks St., Burbank, through Sunday, decorated by Marv Walker. It features swinging shipwrecked skeletons and crawling dead people against a backdrop of fog and music.


907 N. California St., Burbank, through Sunday, 20th anniversary of Rotten Apple 907— “Nightmare at the Museum,” created by family and friends of Diane and Preston Meyer. Visit



1561 Hillside Drive, Glendale, from dusk to 10 p.m. Sunday. Haunted Hillside presented by James and Amber Comisar, haunted cemetery with ghosts, Madame Leota, pirates cove and 999 other haunts. Full-size candy bars to the first 500 kids in costume.


4015 Vista Court, Glendale, sundown to 10 p.m. Sunday. David Krohn and friends create “Nightmare on Vista Court #9 — Alien Invasion. Pandemonium breaks out when aliens crash land into a cemetery.