Joel Fletcher was the primary still photographer for The Nightmare Before Christmas. He shot photographs for the promotion images for the movie. He was also hired to be an animator for the film. When the film was near completion, Disney hired Fletcher after determining that his skills were needed to promote the movie.
Although he was a 3-D stereo photographer, Disney decided that his 2-D formatted pictures were all that was necessary for the promotions.
Prior to Nightmare, Fletcher used a Nikon SLR with Kodachrome 40 for film, which was balanced for tungsten light. He shot at f/22 in order to get the depth possible. He used a tripod as a result for the long exposures. He said that the Kodachrome imparted a distinct look, which was much more different than the film stock used for Nightmare.
His 3-D Anaglyph technique is captured using a Nikon Stereo Rig or the Nimslo 3D camera. He also used Kodachrome film for this technique. He had to use a tripod for the Nikon Stereo Rig. He set the camera setting manually to ensure consistency, exposure, and focus. This resulted in two slides, also known as a "stereo pair". These produced slides could be viewed in 3D or even projected in a stereo. His stereo images were captured on slide film and digitized. To do this, Fletcher scanned them with a Nikon scanner and loaded them into Photoshop so he could align them carefully to fix any errors. He adjusts the depth of the images. Then he converts them to black and white monochrome before loading them into Anabuilder, which then makes the final anaglyph.
Skellington Productions Incident
The Shot from Hell
Fletcher was assigned to animate Howie running away from one of the Christmas presents down a hallway.
This was troublesome for him to complete. The shooting stages were busy, resulting in him using a makeshift stage in the middle of the production offices. His workspace was a small, curtain-offed section from the rest of the Skellington Productions building. The set was walled in on all sides except the front, which was then blocked by a majority of the Mitchell camera. This gave Fletcher a narrow space to work in, thus limiting the space he needed to animate the puppets. The Howie puppet was also defective, consisting of a dense foam latex body, making it resist extreme poses. The puppet's paint rubbed off from handling as the scene moved forward. Fletcher routinely touched up the paint as he animated the puppet.
Due to these complications, his progress on the shot went slow. Management wanted it done quickly in order to meet their quota. Fletcher worked late at night to try and get it done. One night, when he thought he was alone, Fletcher started swearing without any provocation. He decided to take a break and stepped out of his space. There, he met Tim Burton and his girlfriend, Lisa Marie.
Tim Burton asked Fletcher if he was okay. Fletcher showed both Burton and Marie his work on the shot to show them what he was going through. This was Burton's firsthand experience witnessing the crew's frustration working on the film. Due to his hard work, the "Howie" scene was included in the final movie.
In total, Fletcher captured 64 scenes presented in 2-D. He shared some of the pictures on his website online.
Fletcher also published a collection of photographs of artists in Skellington Productions back in 1993.