DVD Picks & Passes

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)

Max and Ruby: Max & Ruby’s Perfect

Pumpkin (2008)

With September only just beginning, is it too early for Halloween?

Leading this week’s pack of Halloween-themed DVD releases is perennial October favorite Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas in a pair of new editions, a two-disc collector’s edition and a Blu-Ray edition.

Bonus features for the collector’s edition include a reading of the original text of the Burton storybook by Christopher Lee and a new introduction to Burton’s short film Frankenweenie.

There are also featurettes on the making of the film and the “worlds” of Halloweentown, Christmastown and the real world.

The film itself is a loving homage to the 1960s Rankin-Bass stop-motion animated holiday classics with a lively dash of Halloween mischief. Set in a world of spooky thrills and grotesque creatures who live to scare, Nightmare offers Halloween’s answer to Santa Claus — Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King — who, after years of routine, has lost his creative inspiration … until a chance visit to Christmastown re-fires his imagination. Now Jack wants to try jollity and good cheer instead of bumps in the night. But can the denizens of Halloweentown understand Jack’s new vision?

Also returning to DVD this week is that other animated Halloween classic, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Extras include a bonus “Peanuts” special from 1981, It’s Magic, Charlie Brown, also written by Charles Schulz.

Drawn directly from Schulz’s daily strips, It’s the Great Pumpkin is classic “Peanuts,” with all the creativity, zaniness and painfully heartless humor of Schulz’s timeless funnies. From Snoopy’s restless imaginary life as a WWI flying ace to Charlie Brown’s pathetic trick-or-treat woes and poor Linus’ Great Pumpkin fundamentalism and tortured efforts at “sincerity,” It’s the Great Pumpkin has delighted and chagrined generations of young viewers — and will do so for generations to come.

It’s Magic, Charlie Brown features Snoopy’s short-lived career in magic under the stage name “The Great Houndini.” Best of all, Charlie Brown finally, finally, finally gets to kick that stupid football. Just that one cathartic moment is worth the whole price of the DVD.

Also new on DVD, Max & Ruby’s Perfect Pumpkin offers animated Halloween fun for even the youngest viewers, from the ultra-gentle Nickelodeon cartoon based on the wonky children’s books by Rosemary Wells. In this typical episode, Max and Ruby are shopping for the perfect pumpkin, but Max’s antics keep distracting Ruby while other shoppers nab the best pumpkins. One nagging question about the show: Where are these kids’ parents?

Content advisory: The Nightmare Before Christmas: Macabre images and themes; recurring menace. Might be too scary for younger kids. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and Max & Ruby’s Perfect Pumpkin: Nothing objectionable. Fine family viewing.

Labor of Love

In time for Labor Day, the Register pays a visit to St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Parish in Pittsburgh, Pa., built by Croatian immigrants who had a reputation as strong, hard workers.