Tuesday, March 10, 2009

It's An Addendum, Charlie Brown

It'll be an annoyance to people who have to buy certain specials twice, but I'm still glad that the first six Charlie Brown specials will be released on DVD in a two-disc collection on July 7.

The non-seasonal specials aren't seen very often because they don't have a holiday peg, but the second special, "Charlie Brown's All-Stars," is actually my favorite of the specials. Bill Melendez and his animators had learned a few things from "Charlie Brown Christmas," so it's a bit more polished in animation and writing, but it's still early enough that it retains the awkward, rough charm of the first special. And the baseball theme allows them to use many of the best jokes from the strip without losing the story thread. (Almost any baseball-themed strip fits in with the theme of the special, whereas in other specials and movies, the repurposed strips can seem shoehorned in or awkwardly re-assigned.) And the baseball theme has one more advantage: on the baseball field, Snoopy can be a purely physical character and his lack of a voice, or any way of expressing his thoughts, isn't really a problem. In other specials, especially some of the later ones where they gave Snoopy a bigger part, he's severely weakened as a character by the decision to keep him silent. (I understand why they did it, and I think it worked for the first two specials, but by "Great Pumpkin," his World War I Flying Ace routine is just not as much fun without Snoopy narrating it himself.)

It might be nostalgia talking, because my introduction to Charlie Brown in other media was an audio record based on Charlie Brown's All Stars, but I really do think it's the best of the Melendez/Mendelson specials.



13 comments:

Griff said...

I think I agree, Jaime. Melendez and Mendelson had learned a lot since "A Charlie Brown Christmas," and the production is both polished and charming in the best manner of Schulz' strip. This is also probably the best idea -- the best story -- for a Peanuts TV special that Schulz ever came up with. [Other than "A Charlie Brown Christmas," of course.]

James said...

Charlie Brown's All Stars also benefits from not having been as over-exposed as Christmas and Great Pumpkin.

Snoopy is a more endearing character in these early specials. The later ones, taking their cue from what the strip was doing, got much too wrapped up in Snoopy's fantasy life.

Anthony Strand said...

Oh, that's great. I haven't seen any of the non-holiday specials in that set, and I own the old collection with Christmas/Great Pumpkin/Thanksgiving. But I'll probably buy this.

Tice said...

I listened to that same record in second grade. It was my first introduction to Shermy. My initial reaction was "Who the hell is Shermy?!" I haven't made much progress answering that question, and it's been 20 years.

Thad said...

I am SO fucking sick of Peanuts.

Jaime J. Weinman said...

I am SO fucking sick of Peanuts.

No you're not.

Thad said...

The vast majority of these specials are mediocre to the last degree. I liked Bill and all, but I wonder if someone as outspoken on the art of animation as him felt like a sellout for being firmly attached to someone else's sellout.

"How Much Money Do you Need, Charlie Brown?"

Jaime J. Weinman said...

I liked Bill and all, but I wonder if someone as outspoken on the art of animation as him felt like a sellout for being firmly attached to someone else's sellout.

He felt pretty good about it at the time. Of course, we are talking about the '60s, when self-produced TV animation was considered the future of the animation business.

Anonymous said...

I am Sofa King sick of know-it-all upstart "historians" whose idea of rational discussion of animation is shouting out the most hateful, reactionary things in places that don't really call for it.

Thad said...

I am so fucking sick of anonymous pansies.:)

Anonymous said...

Thad,

Go away.

Thad said...

:)

Mike said...

I too, grew up with the Charlie Brown's All-Stars" read-along book and record set. ("Turn the page when you hear the chimes ring like this...") Indeed, I listened to it many, many times before I ever saw the special itself. (Ditto It Was a Short Summer.)

This has always been, if not my favorite Peanuts special, then certainly in my top five. The fact that I'm a huge baseball fan probably doesn't hurt.