December 19, 2005TV ON DVD
The Peanuts Classic Holiday Collection
Luckily for us, there are still animated Peanuts television specials in development. You can also now own many of the specials on DVD. One of the most endearing of these is the Peanuts Classic Holiday Collection, which features two of the all-time cartoon classics A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. The collection consists of three discs, each featuring a classic holiday special as well as a "bonus feature". Each episode runs a little less then half an hour and with a total of six episodes, this gives you about three hours of material. This may seem to leave a bit to be desired, especially since there is also no additional bonus material, but the content looks and sounds wonderful on DVD and the set is extremely affordable (I got mine on Amazon.com for less than thirty dollars) and is a better deal then buying each special separately (for example, A Charlie Brown Christmas on DVD runs around twelve dollars). You can even sometimes find a copy that includes an inflatable Snoopy chair for kids... something which, regrettably, I did not discover until AFTER I'd made my purchase.
Here's a rundown of the joy that awaits you if you too decide to partake in the delicious Peanutey goodness...
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
It's Halloween and Linus is camped out in the pumpkin patch. He informs his friends, "Every Halloween the Great Pumpkin flies through the air with his bag of toys". His friends lambast him for his beliefs and his sister Lucy is especially cruel. But Sally, Charlie Brown's little sister and hopelessly in love with Linus, agrees to wait with him. But when Linus mistakes Snoopy for the Great Pumpkin, she's had enough. "I was robbed!", she laments, "I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin when I could have been out for tricks or treats! Halloween is over and I missed it! You blockhead! You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin and all that came was a beagle!" Linus asks Charlie Brown, "You've heard about fury in a woman scorned, haven't you? Well, that's nothing compared to the fury of a woman who has been cheated out of tricks or treats." Linus, I think every man has been there at one point in his life...
Mmmm...Tasty Information Nuggets:
- This was the third Peanuts special after A Charlie Brown Christmas and Charlie Brown's All Stars. It first aired in 1966 and quickly became an annual event on ABC.
- The show's main story was adapted from an actual series of Schulz's comic strips. This is not true of most of the other Peanuts specials.
- This is the first special in which we see Snoopy do one of his "characters", in this case, it is the WWII Flying Ace. We watch as Snoopy searches for the infamous Red Baron and gets shot down behind enemy lines in France.
|I would have much preferred to see another Holiday special, such as Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown or It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. Heck, I'd even take It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown.|
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
Though Charlie Brown already has plans to have Thanksgiving dinner at his Grandmother's, Peppermint Patty somehow gets him to agree to invite herself, Marcie, and Franklin to dinner as well. As Charlie Brown laments what he will do, Sally informs him, "it's your own fault because you're so wishy-washy". Linus comes up with a plan of hosting two dinners, one for the friends and then Charlie Brown can go to his Grandmother's. Snoopy and Woodstock (Snoopy's little yellow bird friend) agree to cater but this results in the dinner consisting of toast and popcorn as the main dish. Peppermint Patty is furious and explodes in rage at the table, ruining the meal for everyone. Marcie must play peace-keeper and in the end, Charlie Brown's Grandmother invites everyone to a real Thanksgiving dinner. All, that is, except Snoopy and Woodstock, who have their own turkey outside Snoopy's doghouse.
Does anyone else find it kind of disturbing that Woodstock, a BIRD, is eating TURKEY? Just wondering...
Mmmm...Tasty Information Nuggets:
- First broadcast in 1973, this special, like all the Peanuts specials,
includes music composed by Vince Guaraldi. Thanksgiving includes
a jazzy little number called "Little Birdie", which includes the vocal talents
of Mr. Guaraldi and which is guaranteed to get your toes tappin'. Who guarantees
it? I do, buddy!
- Though not the strongest of the Peanuts specials, it does leave open the possibility of recreating the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Which, for the record, I am ALL FOR.
|It is special in that it makes a conscious effort not to talk down to youngsters on the hardships they faced, openly discussing death and disease. It's also unique in that adults actually speak words.|
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Charlie Brown is depressed about the overwhelming materialism he sees during the Christmas season, so he goes to Lucy for some advice. She suggests that he "have more involvement" and so volunteers him to direct the school Christmas pageant. His directing style is met with much resistance and he is finally told to "do something right for a change" by going to pick out a Christmas tree for the show. When he chooses a forlorn little fir tree, which he explains just "needs a little love", his fellow students simply laugh at him. Linus then steps forward and tells the story of Christ (taken straight from the Gospel of Luke in the Bible), reminding everyone what the true meaning of Christmas is.
Mmmm...Tasty Information Nuggets: (Being the very first of nearly 50 Peanuts television movies, this one is chock full of 'em...)
- It is the longest-running cartoon special in history. It has aired every year since its debut in 1965.
- Lee Mendelson had made a documentary about Charles Schulz called A Boy Named Charlie Brown which included a few minutes of animation by Bill Melendez, who had animated the Peanuts characters for a series of Ford commercials. No television network wanted to air it until 1965, when the Peanuts made the cover of TIME Magazine. An advertising agent for Coca-Cola asked if Mendelson had ever considered creating a Peanuts Christmas special. Mendelson lied and said he had, the next day he and Schulz wrote the story that would become A Charlie Brown Christmas.
- The opening and closing credits used to contain references to Coca-Cola, the show's original sponsor. The main titles had Linus and Snoopy crashing into a Coca-Cola sign and the final credits listed, "Merry Christmas from your local Coca-Cola bottler". Years later, when the FCC imposed sanctions preventing sponsor references in the context of a story, these segments were removed. Also removed was a scene where the Peanuts throw snowballs at a can on a fence, but in 1997, it was put back into the story.
- It has won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program and a Peabody Award for excellence in programming.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is paired with It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, which features the Peanuts gang again being involved with a Christmas pageant. It also features an appearance by Peggy Jean, Charlie Brown's girlfriend from 1990 to 1991. Yup, old Chuck had a special lady, who he met in summer camp. He was so nervous when he met her that he introduced himself as "Brownie Charles" and this is what she calls him for the remainder of their "relationship".
|Charles Schulz, however, never considered these appearances to be canonical to the Peanuts history and officially, she remains unseen and unnamed.|
Charles M. Schulz's inspiration for The Little Red-Haired Girl was Donna Mae Johnson (the maiden name of Donna Wold). Johnson and Schulz were co-workers at an art correspondence school in the late 1940s. She was supposedly engaged to Schulz at one point, but ended up marrying another man. Despite this, she and Schulz remained lifelong friends. She is quoted as saying, around the time Schulz announced his retirement in 1999, "I'd like to see Charlie Brown kick that football, and if he gets the little red-haired girl, that's fine with me."
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