Review by KC Carlson
The Peanuts: Deluxe Holiday Collection is a box set of three remastered classic Peanuts animated specials: A Charlie Brown Christmas; It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, complete with bonus episodes and all-new documentary material.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) was the very first Peanuts animated special and has since become not only a holiday classic, but one of the most beloved animated projects in history. It has been shown on television at least once every holiday season since 1965. It won an Emmy for Outstanding Children’s Programming and a Peabody Award for excellence in programming. It was also the first in a unprecedented series of over 40 animated Peanuts TV specials, two television series, four feature films, and many other TV documentaries and specials, all based on the classic comic strip Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz.
The Bonus Feature on this disc is It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992), the first Christmas-based Peanuts special since the original. It was also the first Peanuts special to once again use the classic music of Vince Guaraldi (arranged and performed by David Benoit) after his sudden death in 1976. This special is a little more disjointed than the original, mostly because there is no real central storyline, unlike the original. I did, however, enjoy the storyline of Charlie Brown selling his entire comic book collection to buy his girlfriend Peggy Jean a Christmas present, in a sequence lifted directly from the newspaper strip. This was also Peggy Jean’s only appearance in the animated specials. Another trivia note: The little Christmas tree from the original special makes a cameo appearance on Linus’ TV.
Currently, the Remastered Deluxe Edition of A Charlie Brown Christmas also comes with a 6-song CD sampler of the original Vince Guaraldi music from the special.
It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) was the third in the long-running series of Peanuts specials and was the first one to show Snoopy in his guise of the famous WWI pilot in battle with the Red Baron, in a wonderfully animated sequence by Bill Melendez and his crew. It also has been aired on television every year since it premiered in 1966. (The second special was the baseball-themed Charlie Brown’s All-Stars.)
Probably best known for Charlie Brown’s anguished refrain “I got a rock,” the first airing of the special caused a huge viewer response — bags and boxes of Halloween candy was sent in from around the world… “just for Charlie Brown.”
It’s paired on the DVD with It’s Magic, Charlie Brown (1981), a fairly pointless (and occasionally cruel) entry in the long-running series of specials. Snoopy, as The Great Houndini, puts on a magic show for the gang, but most of the tricks go wrong, except one — somehow, he manages to turn Charlie Brown completely invisible. Taking advantage of the situation, one good thing actually happens: the invisible Charlie Brown is finally able to kick the football out of a bewildered Lucy’s hands! Unfortunately — since he’s invisible — no one actually witnessed him doing it.
I don’t consider A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) a classic in the same league as the Christmas and Halloween specials, but it still has plenty of wonderful moments. Peppermint Patty invites herself — along with Marcie and Franklin — to “Chuck’s” house for Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, Charlie Brown’s family is having dinner with his grandmother, so he’s on his own making dinner for the gang, but all he knows how to cook is cold cereal and maybe toast! So, with the help of Snoopy and Woodstock — dressed as pilgrims — a Thanksgiving feast of toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans is served to the thankful travelers.
The special is paired with The Mayflower Voyages (1988), the first episode (of 8) of the This is America, Charlie Brown series. This was an odd series of cartoons compared to the original specials, as in this series, the kids played the part of children in different historical settings, as well as directly interacting on camera with adult characters (with actual voices). More like a historical presentation, these cartoons are also not humor-based. The Mayflower Voyages is, in fact, occasionally quite grim with its fairly factual account of the original pilgrims and their incredible hardships. It’s a wonderful little curio of the animated Peanuts canon.
Each one of the discs includes a new documentary about the main show in question with comments by Executive Producer Lee Mendelson; animator (and voice of Snoopy) Bill Melendez (filmed before his death in September of 2008); Charles M. Schulz’s wife Jeannie and various members of the Schulz family; several (now grown) voice actors; animation historian, POV Online author, and blogger Mark Evanier; and Peanuts historian Scott McGuire. Each documentary runs about 15-20 minutes and is packed with great anecdotes and trivia about the creation and production of each of the specials.
The three DVDs in this package come in a nice foil-like slipcase that houses the three DVD keepcases and includes lots of great Schulz artwork. It’s wonderful to see Warner Bros. take over the management of the Peanuts television animation properties, and these remastered DVDs — which restore the various TV edits made to the shows over the years — are assembled with the same care that Warners extends to its Warner Bros., Popeye, Hanna-Barbara, and DC Comics animation packages. The picture and sound quality is fantastic! I look forward to many more Peanuts projects in the future. (A complimentary copy for this review was provided by the studio.)