One Disney movie villain that doesn’t get talked about enough is Oogie Boogie. It’s probably because he was rather frightening in Tim Burton‘s 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. Can we even call that a Christmas movie? Perhaps we can until that devious bag of bugs pops up. When he takes center, we’re reminded of the Halloween theme that is that movie. In fact, you can pretty much claim that he’s a horror villain. Think of him as a fusion of Jigsaw and Leatherface. What’s his goal? Aside from his hatred of Pumpkin King Jack Skellington, all he cares about is putting his victims in inescapable traps and enjoying watching them being tortured to death. Oh, and he also eats whatever’s left of them. A cannibal monster as a Disney villain? Now that’s a bit odd.
That should make you wonder if Oogie Boogie is really an appropriate Disney villain. By all accounts, he shouldn’t be, but he is a good one. When he’s too scary for a town that is literally called Halloween Town and is referred to as the Boogie Man, even by his own henchmen, you know he means business. Even his character design is nothing too complicated, as he is a common burlap sack filled with thousands of bugs and to top it all off, a snake that acts as a type of “tongue”. Just imagine if it wasn’t a movie for kids.
If it wasn’t, we’d be seeing a more detailed look of Oogie Boogie, specifically the horrors that literally keep him together. We see him neatly sewed together with that creepy smile, looking bloated and actually rather happy. Put him in a live-action horror movie, and he’d be much more deformed with some of the bugs crawling out of him and a lot of blood being spilled through his traps. But given that The Nightmare Before Christmas is a movie meant for children, Tim Burton found a way to make him ghastly and yet rather fun.
For most of his screen time, Oogie Boogie was always smiling and enjoying being bad. When he wasn’t cheating at gambling or terrorizing the citizens of Halloween Town, he was usually singing and dancing. How many Disney villains spent that much time actually enjoying themselves? They’ll have their fun moments, but Oogie Boogie was meant to be scary. He very much is, and yet Tim Burton found a way to make him more appropriate for kids by making him more jovial and facetious.
Speaking of which, how many villains can sing a song you can actually dance to that was directed at Santa Claus? We’ve seen almost all the Disney villains have fun while they were singing their songs, but Oogie Boogie was always having fun. That didn’t make him any less villainous, but it did make him compelling and fun to watch. We need to remember that Oogie Boogie was meant to be every child’s worst nightmare. Even though he’s always having fun and loves to sing and dance, he’s also probably Disney’s most diabolical villain.
Again, it should be pointed out that he has a cannibalistic appetite. Yes, he actually eats his victims after forcing them to participate in his torture games. Sounds a lot like Jigsaw, doesn’t it? And when he’s done with them, he likes to add whatever’s left to his infamous snake and spider stew. Not too many Disney villains have done that, have they? That really puts Oogie Boogie above them in terms of being amongst the most evil, but you can’t have a compelling villain just because he’s evil. There are very few movie villains that get away with being great villains just because they’re dastardly evil.
Now Oogie Boogie is one of those very dastardly evil villains. What fans like about him is his simple character design that really defines less is more. The plain burlap sack doesn’t reveal what’s actually inside him until Jack Skellington destroys him. He could’ve easily lacked a personality and sulked around in his lair, but in his spare time, he was singing jazzy tunes. And for such a bloated burlap sack filled with thousands of bugs, he actually moved pretty well. And aside from putting his victims in dangerous but creative traps, he had a penchant for gambling. Of course, he wasn’t any good, but being the villain that he is, he always found a way to cheat.
By ordinary means, Oogie Boogie should never have been appropriate for a Disney movie. A cannibalistic villain should have never passed, but Tim Burton found a way. He did it by making him fun to watch and actually a bit realistic. It wasn’t enough for him to be a cannibal, but a cheating gambler as well. One thing’s for sure, Oogie Boogie had no redeeming qualities. That’s okay because we all loved watching him sing and dance to that jazz.
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