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.
This is one of the most endearing and enduring of the franchise. It’s loaded with memories too many to mention them all here. Charlie Brown tries to direct the school nativity play. He finds it hard to get the gang’s cooperation. In his own despair he discovers the true meaning of Christmas. Some of those memorable moments that I will never forget include: The scrawny little tree that Charlie Brown picks out, held up by Linus’s blanket. Snoopy wins first prize in a house light decoration competition. Of course the best of the best comes in the end when Linus recites the story of the birth of Christ. Today most people would be shocked to see a public school putting on a nativity play. Watching this one is a sad reminder of how much these basic principles have been swept away by intolerance and misrepresentation of “Jefferson’s Wall”, that First Amendment separation of church and state. This short, more than the others, is truly a product of its time. It depicts an America that no longer exists.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is presented in its original broadcast full frame format but, for the first time in a high definition 1080p image courtesy of a VC-1 codec. The colors stand out the most in this Blu-ray release. The print still suffers some damage, but the lines and image detail is quite remarkable for something this old. You won’t likely see it look any better.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 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.
These features are in VC-1 standard definition.
A Christmas Miracle – The Making Of A Charlie Brown Christmas: (15:59) Surviving production team members reminisce about making this, the first of the Peanuts specials. Charles Schulz’s wife offers her take on the production. It was strange to learn that CBS hated it when they saw it and only broadcast it out of contractual obligations, expecting it to disappear forever after. There was also a bit of controversy about Linus delivering verse from the Bible. Schulz insisted it remain. Good for him.
It’s Christmas Again Charlie Brown: This 1992 special never recaptures the heart of the original, but it is a welcome addition here. Charlie Brown is selling Christmas wreaths, and it’s another Christmas play to put on.
DVD and Digital Copies
They say you can’t go home again, and more times than not, I’ve found that to be quite true. There are some notable exceptions, however. The Peanuts specials are certainly that. It seems that no matter how old I am these features make me feel like a kid again. It’s one of those rare moments when you really can capture the spirit of the moment, even if that moment was originally felt in an 8 year old kid, 40 years ago. If you have been known to experience the same thing when you encounter one of these classics, then “behold, for I bring you tidings of great joy”.