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Burton fans pay 'Nightmare' tribute

Father-and-son team build a Halloween display in homage to a cult movie favorite.

October 28, 2011|By Maria Hsin, maria.hsin@latimes.com
  • Bill Kaufmann, and his son Thomas, are the co-creators of original animatronic characters, modeled after Tim Burton's 'The Nightmare Before Christmas,' with one of the characters they created, Jack, in their living room in Burbank on Wednesday, October 26, 2011. Their creations will decorate their front yard on Halloween. (Tim Berger/Staff Photographer)
Bill Kaufmann, and his son Thomas, are the co-creators…

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.

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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.

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