These classic characters in ''The Nightmare Before Christmas'' were inspired by an episode of The Twilight Zone
The same concept was played for comedy in the film, but in the 1964 episode it was much more horrifying.
This is Halloween
The Nightmare Before Christmas was released in 1993. Originally met with skepticism by the studios who believed it was too dark and strange for kids, it proved that the dark and strange could not only be a critical but financial success — just ask the generation of teenagers who grew up wearing Jack Skellington merch from Hot Topic.
Tim Burton, whose name is often attached to the title, created the story and produced the film, and was a major creative force on the project. (He did not direct it, however, and heaven help you if you make that mistake around animation aficionados. That credit goes to Henry Selick, who went on to direct James and the Giant Peach and Coraline.)
Out of all the colorful residents of Halloweentown, a group that audiences remember the most is Lock, Shock, and Barrel — Halloween's "finest trick-or-treaters". The trio of children are voiced by Catherine O'Hara, Danny Elfman, and Pee-wee himself, Paul Reubens. They're tasked with kidnapping Santa Claus, which they do... only to deliver him to the film's villain, Oogie Boogie.
There's a moment when we're first introduced to Lock, Shock, and Barrel while they're wearing their masks — a devil, a witch, and a skeleton, respectively. They take off their masks to introduce themselves, and their faces underneath are... basically the same as the masks.
For the 15th anniversary special re-release of Nightmare Before Christmas, Burton hopped on a commentary track with Selick and Elfman, where he revealed what inspired the look of the trick-or-treaters and that scene specifically.
Burton cited the season five episode of The Twilight Zone, "The Masks", as an influence. According to Burton, he'd seen the episode as a child, and it had left a massive impact on the young creative.
If you recall that famous 1964 episode, a wealthy man on his deathbed invites his greedy family over for a Mardi Gras party. His one condition is that they must wear horrifying, grotesque masks until midnight... or forfeit his fortune when he dies. He himself dons a mask with the face of death. The episode culminates when — spoiler alert — the clock strikes midnight, the old man dies, and the family takes off the masks... only to find that their faces underneath have been twisted into the horrible visages permanently.