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Paramount Studios presents
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

"I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?"
- Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins)

Review By: Jeff Ulmer   
Published: September 17, 2000

Stars: Peter Robbins, Tracy Stratford, Christopher Shea, Chris Doran, Geoffrey Ornstein
Other Stars: Karen Mendelson, Cathy Steinberg, Ann Altieri, Sally Dryer, Bill Melendez
Director: Bill Melendez

Manufacturer: PDSC
MPAA Rating: G
Run Time: 00h:25m:11s
Release Date: September 11, 2000
UPC: 097361561349
Genre: family


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A+ A+AA B

DVD Review

A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on CBS-TV Thursday, December 9, 1965 as the first ever Peanuts prime time animated special. The show came about after a failed attempt by producer Lee Mendleson to air a documentary on Charles Schulz, which featured Peanuts characters animated by director Bill Melendez, who had created footage for some Ford commercials. The Coca Cola company had seen the animated Peanuts footage when the documentary was shopped for sponsors, and approached Schulz, Mendleson and Melendez about creating a Christmas special. Once produced, studio reaction to the special was somewhat negative, due to its slow pacing compared to other cartoons, but the show was a hit when it aired, gaining almost 50% of the TV watching audience. The special has aired annually since then, though has until 1997 been edited for broadcast, with a complete scene missing. Also missing from all other broadcast and video releases were the original Coca-Cola spots that opened and closed the show. This DVD, while still missing the sponsor footage, restores the missing scene of the gang throwing snowballs at a can on a fence.

A Charlie Brown Christmas

Charlie Brown just can't seem to get into the spirit of Christmas. No one is sending him Christmas cards, and he is feeling rejected and depressed. Even Snoopy is falling victim to the over commercialization of Christmas, as he gathers lights and decorations for his dog house so he can enter a display contest. When psychiatrist Lucy concludes he needs "involvement" to cure his blues, she suggests he become the director of the Christmas play, much to the chagrin of all the other kids. Chuck does his best to get things organized, but the kids are busy having fun dancing to Schroeder's upbeat theme music, which doesn't quite fit Charlie's image of what Christmas is all about. He decides they need a Christmas tree to add the atmosphere they are lacking in their production, but when he and Linus go out looking for one, Charlie instinctively picks the scrawniest tree he can find. This doesn't go over very well with the other kids, but after Linus recites a passage from the Bible about the spirit of Christmas, everyone finally sees just how nice a tree they really have. Sigh...

It is interesting to note as an adult just how true to life the character interactions in this special are, for example, Lucy's fishing for a compliment from Charlie Brown is so realistic, it's scary. You might also note that despite Snoopy having a red dog house on the package, it is actually blue in the show.

Featuring the voice talent of Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Tracy Stratford (Lucy Van Pelt), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Chris Doran (Schroeder/Shermy), Geoffrey Ornstein (Pig-pen), Karen Mendelson (daughter of producer Lee Mendleson as Patty), Cathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Ann Altieri(Frieda), Sally Dryer (Violet) and director Bill Melendez as Snoopy, A Charlie Brown Christmas, won an Peabody award for "outstanding children's and youth's program," plus an Emmy for "Outstanding Individual Achievement in Children's Programming". It is now the longest running animated special in history, having been shown annually (though receiving trimming until its restoration in 1997) ever since. Vince Guaraldi, who composed and performed the music for the debut, was so well received that he continued scoring the TV specials until his death. Great family entertainment.

Rating for Style: A+
Rating for Substance: A+

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicno


Image Transfer Review: I don't think these shows were ever supposed to be seen with this much detail. Both episodes look extremely good, with solid color renderings and no sign of compression artifacts. The earlier episode does have a lot of color shifts in the character's faces, which I assume is from the original source. There are a few source glitches, but overall these look wonderful. Subtitles for the hard of hearing are included.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
MonoEnglishno


Audio Transfer Review: Audio is presented in its original mono. There is no hiss present, which at times seems almost unnatural. There are a few instances in the 1965 feature where the music track is warbled, either as a result of degradation over the years or from over processing in the remastering. Overall a really good job for material this age.

Audio Transfer Grade: A

 

Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 6 cues and remote access
Packaging: Amaray
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown
Extras Review: It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown

The 36th Peanuts TV special aired November 27, 1992 after being the first "direct to video" special a few months earlier as a promo at Shell gas stations. Featuring Charlie Brown, Franklin, Linus, Lucy, Marcie, Peppermint Patty, Sally, Snoopy, Woodstock and brief appearances by Frieda, Harold Angel, Patty, Peggy Jean and Violet, It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown contains a series of vignettes surrounding the Christmas season. Charlie Brown enlists the creative salesmanship talents of his sister Sally in an effort to sell Christmas wreaths. Meanwhile, plans for the Christmas play are underway, and Peppermint Patty is distressed by her role as a sheep and the fact she has to read a book over the holidays, while Sally agonises over her lines as the angel while reflecting on how nice it is to get things. Charlie Brown tries to come up with a way to buy his girlfriend Peggy Jean some gloves, and gets conflicting advice from Linus and Lucy about what gift giving is all about.

It is interesting to note the character voice differences between this and the feature, and also the changes to the animation. A nice addition to the disc, but.... I would have liked to see something commemorating Schulz' career on this release, and the original sponsor footage would have been a welcome supplement.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Excuse me while I rant a bit. While the inclusion of a second episode is highly welcome, I really have to question why a release of such historical importance did not receive better special edition treatment. Here we have the debut episode of the Peanuts TV franchise, not to mention the longest running animated special in television history, from a man responsible for entertaining the world for 50 years, and there is not a shred of historical documentation on this disc to celebrate that achievement! Good grief! Surely there could have been some documentary footage, commentary from interviews or other information provided to make this disc a really special commemorative for a man who single handedly brought joy to millions of readers and viewers the world over. I really hope Paramount revisits this title in the future and bolsters the content, even if it requires a second disc, to properly pay tribute to Charles Schulz.

Okay, with that rant over, I still put this disc on the "must buy" list. Paramount has done a stellar job in presenting these classics, despite the lack of supplemental information. Available separately or as part of the Peanuts Classic Holiday Collection.

 


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