Warner Home Video’s latest Peanuts DVD release highlights a special that’s already been available as part of the Peanuts 1960’s Collection, which came out last year. He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown is a rather odd Snoopy-focused episode in which the dog gets sent away to obedience school but instead ends up staying with Peppermint Patty, who puts him to work. As KC said in his original review:
A very strange episode, although very interesting to watch. Peppermint Patty comes off looking almost villainous. Snoopy, despite all the trauma, doesn’t really learn a thing and quickly reverts back to his disobedient and mischievous ways. Lots of mixed messages here. In fact, some 40 years down the line, watching this episode today is not unlike watching an episode of Seinfeld.
Here’s a sample clip showing the premise:
I’m guessing most fans already have the 1960’s Collection, since it’s a strong group of cartoons. If someone only wanted to buy one Peanuts DVD set, that one would be my choice, given its grouping of episodes and the extra feature on the music of Vince Guaraldi, who’s so important to the shows. So what’s the draw for this new release? There are two new-to-DVD items.
The first is another Peanuts cartoon, Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown, first shown in October 1980 and winner of the 1981 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program. It’s a bit odd seeing the humanoid Snoopy, far from his beagle days at this point and more resembling a walking peanut, next to relatively realistically drawn circus animals. In addition to the elephant and giraffe (really? in a circus?), there’s a troupe of performing poodles that provide the plot, as Snoopy is instantly smitten by one. He joins the circus as a result, failing miserably at first and becoming a figure of fun.
His new circus career requires a lot of hard work and high expectations that Snoopy struggles with, plus the new name “Hugo the Great”. His circus cage doesn’t match up to his cushy life with Charlie Brown, who misses him. During a talk with Linus, Charlie Brown tells how he first came to get his dog, an interesting bit of Peanuts history.
Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown is remarkably entertaining. The wordless sequences are the best, in my opinion, when Snoopy is dancing his love or playing with the other animals. Also funny are Snoopy’s training sequences, when his new master pushes him into doing ridiculous things for a dog, like riding a unicycle across the high wire. How exactly does a dog grab a trapeze bar, anyway? Never mind, it’s the magic of cartoons.
Snoopy’s new master, Polly, takes her orders from an unseen voice on the telephone called the Colonel, which I found a surprisingly subtle commentary on working in the entertainment field. There’s always someone ordering you around with capricious decisions on what your work should look like. Your successes — as when Snoopy learns a new trick quickly — are ignored or only briefly acknowledged while there’s always a new directive on what more you should do to improve. It’s thankless and frequently ridiculous.
Also new to this disc is the 21-minute featurette, “Snoopy’s Home Ice: The Story of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena” (excerpt shown here):
That indoor skating rink was built by the Schulzes in 1969. Now, it’s next door to the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California. That would have been a much more entertaining visit — this is a boring promotional puff piece of little interest. There’s next to no Peanuts-related material, unless you want to see a few clips of a clumsy-looking Snoopy on ice with Peggy Fleming, although many people fondly recall their interactions with Schulz. I found it a waste of time. Also included on the disc is a trailer for the previous DVD release, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown. (The studio provided a review copy.)