I grew up on the Peanuts creations of Charles M. Schulz. Most of us have, in some way or another. His newspaper comic strip is one of the longest running and most successful strips of all time. The work has been translated into every language currently spoken on the planet. The images of Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, and the rest of the Peanuts gang have appeared on just about any kind of product imaginable. Our pop culture contains too many references to the strip to mention briefly. For me, it was the television specials starting in the mid 1960’s that brought the gang into my life. The classics are running annually, still after nearly 50 years. A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown are the most mentioned and certainly beloved by generations of children and adults. I thought I never missed an airing.
Now Warner Home Video has brought together a special collection of the cartoon specials that started it all. It includes those annual greats and a few that I don’t really remember so much. Now we get into the first volume of the 1970’s specials. The two discs include the following Peanuts specials:
Play It Again, Charlie Brown: (1971) Lucy is still trying to win the affections of her maestro Schroeder. She and Peppermint Patty set up a musical program so that he can give a performance. They forgot one important ingredient: Beethoven’s not part of the program. Instead he tries his best to accompany Charlie Brown’s Jazz band. Plenty of great music makes this one of the better Peanuts specials.
You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown: (1972) Linus convinces Charlie Brown to run for student body president but ends up pushing him out to run himself after Lucy conducts a popularity poll. Finally it’s between Linus and Russell. It’s neck and neck to the end.
There’s No Time For Love, Charlie Brown: (1973) Charlie Brown has a report due, and he’s falling behind. Unfortunately, Peppermint Patty keeps putting the moves on our hapless Romeo. Now Marcie’s getting in on the action. Will Charlie Brown ever finish his report? This one I had not seen before. It’s not one of the more popular specials and for good reason.
A Charlie Brown Christmas: (1973) This is the one you’re going to buy the set for. It’s easily a classic along with the other three main holiday specials. Peppermint Patty invites herself and the entire gang over to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. The problem is that Chuck doesn’t know what to make. The feast ends up being a disaster of popcorn, candy, and burnt toast. All is not lost. Thank God for Grandma.
It’s A Mystery, Charlie Brown: (1974) Snoopy takes on the persona of Sherlock Holmes and Woodstock his Watson. Someone has stolen Woodstock’s nest. The pipe smoking beagle is hot on the trail, of something.
It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown: (1974) The streak of three powerful holiday specials is broken with this rather disappointing Easter special. It never attained the classic status of the other three and was not as much of a perennial telecast. Linus settles into a repeat of his “Great Pumpkin” beliefs. This time it’s the Easter Beagle. We all know who that’s going to be. Unlike the three classic holiday specials, there is no heartwarming moment that tugs at your emotions.
All of these specials are presented in the original full frame broadcast aspect ratio. The colors are actually pretty good here. I was overall impressed with the brightness and richness of the colors. Unfortunately, there were some significant print defects. You’ll find more than the occasional scratch or dirt speck. There is some variance between the episodes. There is considerable restoration here, and these look about as good as they likely ever will. Black levels are fine.
The Dolby Digital Mono track does exactly what it was originally intended to do. It delivers dialog and some mid-range music. Nothing to write home about, but nothing to distract. I think you’ll be somewhat disappointed here, as the music often carries with it some unpleasant distortion.
Woodstock – Creating Snoopy’s Sidekick: (12:43) This feature profiles Snoopy’s foil and friend, Woodstock. Historians join with Charles Schulz’s widow to examine the origins and evolutions of the tine bird character, which was not one of the strip’s original residents. There’s vintage footage from the specials and plenty of very early comic panels to illustrate the points.
It’s another groundbreaking collection of timeless cartoons, Charlie Brown. Certainly a couple of these are a letdown, but not because they are bad pieces at all. The bar was set so high with the first specials that expectations are so much higher for these stories. All of your favorites are there. Don’t even think about passing it up. You don’t get an entire decade of shows here. You’re going to have to wait for the next release to relive all of those 70’s memories. “Good Grief!”