There are many movies everyone knows. Star Wars, Jaws, and more recently The Avengers are just a few of these films. Perhaps the most well-known and influential stop motion film is Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. It was originally based on a poem, which is a pretty good read. However, what a lot of people forget is that it wasn't directed by Burton, he was the producer. It was directed by Henry Selick, who would go on to direct Coraline 16 years later, another great (and I would say better) stop motion flick. The Nightmare Before Christmas is a unique movie. I'm personally not into musicals, but the story is whimsical and doesn't get dull.
The story follows Jack Skellington, the 'Pumpkin King.' He's basically the leader of Halloween, every vampire, ghost, and werewolf looks up to him when it comes to the yearly event. Jack however has grown tired of Halloween Town, he yearns for something different. While traveling deep into the woods he stumbles upon a few trees. The one with the engraved Christmas tree stood out, so he enters and is transported to a place called Christmas Town. Here he sees the wonders of the Christmas holiday, from the trees to Santa Claus himself, he becomes amazed with all of it. So, when he comes back to Halloween Town, he wants to experience the Christmas spirit himself.
The story is pretty fun with a contrast between Christmas and Halloween, two vastly different, almost opposite holidays. Jack is a legendary character, one of Disney's best, right up there with Buzz Lightyear. His personality never gets old, being that of a horror figure, genius, yet a bit blinded by ambition. In short, he's one of the best characters Disney has brought us. The other main character would be Sally, a creation by Doctor Finklestein. She's a sweet girl with really the most sense in the whole thing. She easily grows on the viewer since she has a sad demeanor and often 'trapped' by Finkelstein.
The antagonist is Oogie Boogie. Despite appearing almost of nowhere and not having that much screen time, he's definitely a highlight and one of the best Disney villains. Seriously, he's fantastic. Ken Page does an excellent job voicing him, almost a mocking gentlemen tone of Jack's elegant voice. Santa Claus has a nice little role, despite being captured for most of it. Dr. Finklestein is your average jerk mad scientist. The film gave the illusion that he was perhaps the main antagonist. Thankfully, that wasn't the case. There aren't many other notable characters other than perhaps the bumbling mayor who provides some funny scenes.
The music is a major part of the film. I can't help but wonder how it would have gone if the music were absent. But, it's a musical and it's handled pretty well. The opening Halloween theme perfectly sets up the tone and atmosphere. Danny Elfman did a solid job with the soundtrack. The climax is pretty exciting, even having a 'final battle' against Oogie Boogie. In the end, you're left with a nice picture of Jack and Sally.
Overall, The Nightmare Before Christmas earns the title of 'classic.' No matter how many years go by, it's a fun watch. The film pioneered Burton's dark stop-motion type that is still in effect today. (Go watch Coraline.) Jack is a great focus, and is countered by the fantastic Oogie Boogie. Sally is a nice girl and the romance between her and Jack is subtle throughout and only blossoms in the final scene. Nightmare is a truly whimsical 76 minutes!