The Peanuts comic strip has been around since 1950, but it never became really popular and groundbreaking until its animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas. Since then there has been countless specials, but back in 1967, playwright Clark Gesner wanted to take the created works of Charlies Schulz and make a musical. He wrote a bunch of character-specific songs and formed an off-Broadway musical that became a hit called You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. It eventually had a less successful run on Broadway with a new cast in 1971 before being adapted into a live-action TV special in 1973, and finally an animated special in 1985 – the last of which has debuted on DVD.
Just like the musical, the animated television adaptation of You’re a Good Man is still a series of mostly musical vignettes that will be very familiar to most Peanuts fans. Lucy sings a song for Schroeder, and her hope to marry him one day, while he plays a Beethoven number on his toy piano. Snoopy daydreams in the afternoon and awaits suppertime in the evening. Linus sings and dances with his blanket. Charlie Brown attempts to fly his and experiences another disappointing Valentine’s Day. Of course, he later finds himself at bat in the bottom of the final inning, with a chance to either win or lose the game. It doesn’t help that the Little Red-Haired Girl is in the stands watching him too. At the end of the day, even after the rest of the Peanuts gang looks done on Charlie Brown for all of his flaws, they still sing “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” to him.
For this particular special, it has no plot. Therefore, there’s nothing that holds all of these vignettes together, as they all span across many different seasons. This is not one musical number after another either. All of these vignettes appear to just be deleted scenes from past Peanuts specials. They all feel a little too familiar. That is not to take away from the musical numbers themselves. They are all good, but there is nothing spectacular. The most memorable and beloved one is “Happiness,” but everything else is just good enough to get the job done.
Despite its familiar feeling, there are quite a few out-of-character moments for the Peanuts gang. The most glaring is Snoopy belting out a song in a human voice. It just doesn’t feel right. They also replace some characters with others, and it affects actions that were already known about the Peanuts world. For example, Marcie turns down a Valentine’s Day card from Charlie Brown and Charlie Brown wants to give Lucy a Valentine’s Day card. Long-time Peanuts fans know that Marcie loves Charlie Brown and Lucy has always been mean to Charlie, so why would bald-headed Charlie want to give her a valentine?
Aside from some good music, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown feels that it’s of borrowed parts with no real plot to speak of. This once off-Broadway musical just didn’t make for a winning animated special. Unless you are a hardcore Peanuts fan, best bet is to rent and see how it compares to other Peanuts TV specials.
The video is given in 1.33:1 fullscreen color. Warner Bros. has digitally remastered the 25-year-old special making for a stellar transfer considering the age of the source.
The audio included is available in either English Mono sound, Japanese Mono sound, or Portuguese Mono sound. There are subtitles available in English, Japanese, Chinese, French, Portuguese, and Thai as well.
“Animating A Charlie Brown Musical” Featurette –
This runs 14 minutes, and it look at the origins of the show and the process of adapting the strip to the stage and then from the stage to the television screen. There is various interviews with cast and crew behind all of these different versions. It’s fun to see some of the odd footage of Charles Schulz himself promoting this musical on the The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
You’e a Good Man, Charlie Brown is only must-see viewing if your a big fan of Charles Schultz’s original comic or TV specials. If you find yourself curious about Snoopy singing with a human’s voice, give it a rental.
Warner Home Video presents You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown. Directed by Sam Jaimes. Starring Kevin Brando (singing voice), Michael Dockery (voice), Brad Keston (voice), Jeremy Scott Reinbolt (voice), Tiffany Reinbolt (voice), Jessie Lee Smith (voice), Robert Towers (singing voice), David Wagner (voice), and Bill Melendez (voice). Written by Charles M. Schulz. Running time: 48 minutes. NOT RATED. Released on DVD: January 26, 2010. Available at Amazon.com.
I'm not embarrassed to say that my favorite television show of all-time is The O.C. I live by the motto "you can't fight fate!" More importantly, I watch WAY too much television, but I do so for the benefit of everyone reading this now. So to my mom and my wife, I say thanks for reading! To everyone else that might stumble across this, remember TiVo should be your best friend!