I grew up on the Peanuts creations of Charles M. Schulz. Most of us have, in one 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.
I’d like to be able to say that I’m a fan of all of the cartoons, but that wouldn’t exactly be very honest. At some point they lost their innocence and eventually lost their charm. I never did see the live musical production of You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown. This is actually the first time that I saw the animated version. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that this animated cartoon is nothing like the production, at least I hope so. The play appears to be universally beloved. I often hear only the fondest recollections from those who have seen it. That’s not the case with this particular version of the material. In cartoon form it plays out quite awkwardly. None of the numbers really combine into anything resembling a plot or story. They are all basically short vignettes with each of the major characters getting at least one moment to themselves. I can see this having far more impact on a stage with actors and sets. The traditional cartoon characters just aren’t animated enough, excuse the pun, to pull this kind of thing off.
In keeping with the cartoon special’s tradition, this feature uses children’s voices for the characters. That was always a strong break from normal animated practice that made these shows stand out, to feel authentic. In this instance it hurts. The voices are not strong enough to create the kind of presence necessary to instill life into these characters and their performances. The lone exception is Snoopy. An adult, Robert Towers. I have to say that it was unsettling to hear a full spoken voice come out of Snoopy. The show might be most notable for the uncredited appearance of Stacy Ferguson (better known as Fergie) as Sally’s singing voice. The play utilized adults in the role.
The material was written by Clark Gesner, who approached Charles Schulz with the idea and received his blessing for the production in 1973. The animated version was done in 1985.
You’re A Good Man Charlie Brown is 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. 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.
Animating A Charlie Brown Musical: (14:42) The crew talks about the origins of the musical and the task of turning it into a cartoon. As usual, Jeanne Schulz participates. The piece includes a 1973 appearance by Charles Schulz on The Johnny Carson Show.
Can’t say I recommend this one. The songs aren’t the catchy variety that will entertain the kids, and this one holds no real interest to adults. The play, on the other hand, might be a better bet, if you can find it. I understand it’s one of the most performed plays in history. Trying to reduce it to the traditional animated format? “Good Grief!”