My favorite holiday of all time is quickly approaching and believe it or not, some stores already had the Halloween decorations on shelves in the final days of August. But at the same time, all of the orange, brown, and yellow decorations for Thanksgiving are being put up. By the time Halloween actually rolls around then we’ll begin seeing Santa and Frosty waving at us in their blow-up forms from the display windows. The fall season really brings about the start of my favorite time of year and then the last couple months bring the cold weather, football, and some really great holidays. And with all of that comes something else that makes these last four months even more special…the Charlie Brown television specials.
It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
Halloween night is on its way and everyone in the Peanuts gang is getting ready for some trick-or-treating. Decorations are being hung up, and all the kids are trying to decide what would be the best choice for a costume this year. There are going to be parties, scares, and tons of candy for all who want it. Make sure to realize that it is only for all who want it because one little boy in particular has other plans. Lucy’s blanket-toting little brother Linus is prepared to wait the entire night in a pumpkin patch so the Great Pumpkin can bring toys to all the little girls and boys. And always at the side of her sweet baboo is Sally who decides to miss the parties and candy, and wait it out with Linus.
Let’s not forget that at the same time all this is happening, Charlie Brown’s famous dog Snoopy is off on an adventure of his own. This Halloween night he is facing off against his arch-enemy, the dreaded Red Baron. He is shot down by his nemesis and must find his way across the countryside in order to find shelter and make it safely through the long night. It’s a great side story that brings a touch of seriousness to the fun and light-hearted tale involving the rest of the gang.
It’s Magic, Charlie Brown – This is another full-length special that first aired in 1981. It is a really cute story that involves Snoopy putting on a magic show and doing a trick that turns Charlie Brown invisible. Even though it seems like a big problem, Charlie Brown actually looks to make the most of his situation. It’s not a bad episode and really has nothing to do with Halloween nor is it as good as the holiday specials, but its fun getting the fans more episodes into their collections.
We Need A Blockbuster – A blockbuster is what they get with this featurette that has comments and discussion from numerous people involved with the Peanuts gang. Writers, animators, studio executives, and even Monte Schulz, who is the son of the late great Charles, talk about everything you would ever want to know about Charlie Brown and all of his friends. This must-see feature runs just under fourteen minutes.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
The Peanuts gang isn’t exactly keen on the changing of the holidays as we get to the middle of the road during Halloween candy and Christmas presents. Sally has to write a report for school but she hasn’t even finished her candy yet. Charlie Brown won’t even get to spend the holidays with his friends as his family has plans to head to his grandmother’s house for dinner. Trying to keep this information from his friends so he doesn’t disappoint them ends up being more trouble then its worth because they unexpectedly stop by and end up coming down on poor Charlie again.
Linus steps up once again with a “grand” idea and suggests that they have two Thanksgiving dinners. Charlie Brown can have one with his family and then one with all his friends. It works great until Snoopy and Woodstock get picked as the chefs and think that a dinner consisting of popcorn, candy, and sandwiches will suffice. It seems as if their Thanksgiving together will turn out to be a huge bust, but there is always one surprise waiting to make Charlie Brown come out on top.
The Mayflower Voyagers – Another full-length short that sees the entire gang go back in time to live the lives of the pilgrims. Coming across on the Mayflower, finding the new world, and starting a brand new civilization are just a few of the things they must learn to deal with, but they do it all in their own style. Not one of the better shorts, but still entertaining and very educational as a lot of information is given forth.
Popcorn & Jellybeans: Making A Thanksgiving Classic – Considered one of the “big three,” it was only fair that Thanksgiving got a Peanuts special just like Halloween and Christmas did. This feature goes behind the scenes and looks at the writing, animation, and everything about the turkey-day special. It is a fun twelve minute and twenty-six second featurette that shows a lot of the old comic strips and has a lot of great information as to how it all came about.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown may be a blockhead, but he still knows what it means when the holiday season comes around as he searches for the true meaning of Christmas. Taking his friend, and psychiatrist, Lucy’s advice, he takes over as director of the school Christmas play. None of the kids really take him seriously as is mostly the case with ol’ Chuck. Just take a look at their baseball team and you’ll realize that. Trying to get into their good graces, Charlie brown heads out to find the perfect Christmas tree for the play. What he returns with is a decrepit and small twig that ends up getting him relieved from his position of director.
While all that is going on, Snoopy is out decorating his dog house in a most extravagant way so that he wins first prize in a Christmas decorating contest. He goes all out and really makes it look as if it could take first prize in a worldwide decorating contest, but his decorations have a better use later on. When all is said and done, the other kids realize the true meaning of Christmas and that Charlie Brown was right. His little tree ends up being the grandest of them all and we are treated to some highly memorable songs and a retelling of the Nativity tale from Linus.
It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown – This is another full length special that doesn’t quite give nearly the same feeling that A Charlie Brown Christmas does. None of the gang is really together in this one as they are all in their own separate scenes doing different things. Charlie Brown is alone, Linus and Sally are together, Peppermint Patty is alone, and it doesn’t stop there. Everyone is virtually by themselves and it kind of defeats the meaning of togetherness at Christmas even though each little story tells a good story.
A Christmas Miracle: The Making Of A Charlie Brown Christmas – Like the other “making of” featurettes for the other specials, this shows some great behind the scenes stuff. Amazingly enough, Coca-Cola called so long ago and asked if they had a Christmas special which they said they did, but they actually didn’t. It was created on the fly and Charles “Sparky” Schulz came through again. There are some wonderful stories shared here in this feature which runs just under sixteen minutes.
A Charlie Brown Christmas Six Song Sampler CD – This is a wonderful extra that has six songs from the special you can play as you decorate and celebrate the holiday season. Awesome!
The films are shown in 1.33:1 Full Frame format and they look brilliant. Everything appears to have been touched up and made to look brighter, fuller, and more vibrant. They have really done a bang-up job here getting each episode to come through looking fantastic for being as old as they are.
The films are heard in Dolby Digital Mono sound and you can tell that this has also been remastered to come through a bit clearer then past releases. A little hiss and some pops can be heard here and there but for the most part all dialogue, and more importantly the music, is heard loud and clear.
This is an absolutely fantastic collection so don’t let my final scores fool you into thinking that this isn’t a brilliant creation from the master Charles Schulz. While the Halloween and Christmas specials deliver in every aspect; the Thanksgiving special remains good but doesn’t quite give the same great feelings. Don’t go thinking that I won’t watch this DVD collection numerous times and also watch each special when that time of year comes around and they appear on television; I will. Charlie Brown is just awesome in everything he does and the rest of the gang always keeps me cracking or tearing up. What really gets me here is how good the “making of” special features are. They provide a lot of good information with some fun interviews that will have you laughing right along with those that knew the master himself, Charles Schulz. I can only say that I wish there had been more special features included like the really cool CD packed in with the Christmas special. Oh well, it’s a great set that needs to be checked out by the older crowd, the middle of the age group, and all those too young to know anyone but Snoopy. So get it and get it now…blockheads.
Warner Home Video presents Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection. Directed by: Bill Melendez. Starring (voices): Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Sally Dryer, Cathy Steinberg, and more. Written by: Charles M. Schulz. Running time: 150 minutes on 3 discs. Rating: Not Rated. Released on DVD: September 23, 2008. Available at Amazon.