Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer.
As a fan of all things Peanuts, I am always interested to see the repackaging of older specials. This early October release from Warner Bros is a great addition for fans of the more popular specials. The DVD release of Charlie Brown's All Stars! comes with an additional Peanuts special call A Charlie Brown Celebration. It's been a long time since I saw this program and I was anxious to see how it held up to my memories.
In December 1965, the popular comic strip characters made their TV special debut in A Charlie Brown Christmas. It was just June 1966 that their second special Charlie Brown All Stars! made it to the television screen. The baseball theme has always been a strong part of the Peanuts strips. It feels very natural that this would be the follow-up to the Christmas special. Baseball was still the National Pastime in the 1960s and the team was a reason to bring all the characters together. The consistent losing encapsulates all the long-term suffering that Charlie Brown feels. The sport is pastoral and strategic at the same time. Each character can show their personality through their play here. Snoopy the imaginative trickster, Linus the clever thinker, Schroeder the forever tortured musician, and Lucy the fussy curmudgeon.
Fifty years later, this special is still really endearing. The losing team has a chance to receive a sponsorship and get every kid's dream, a real uniform. Everyone is excited by the prospects until Charlie finds out that girls and dogs aren't allowed in the league. It's the typical Charlie Brown dilemma to feel like everything is going right and then to be faced with a decision between success and his friends. Coming off the Charlie Brown Christmas, I saw much more of the spirit of the comic strips in this special. The characters are still evolving in 1966 in their portrayal on television and movies. Many of the scenes here would be lifted in whole or part in future specials. The surfing Snoopy scene would expand into one of my favorite parts of Snoopy Come Home. Thematically, this shares very much with the most recent Peanuts Movie in the way the kids do what is right without calling attention to the reasons why they did it.
This special isn't one that people are very familiar with. It's sandwiched in history among the great holiday shows for Christmas, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and even Easter. It's been available before on DVD as a companion to other newer specials. I remember it on the air from time to time in the 1970s but rarely since then. I think viewers will be happily surprised at the quality of this show. I forgot how comfortable this show could be when just allowed to breath. The story isn't big or hard to follow it's just the comfort of hanging out with friends. I don't know why a baseball-themed special is getting released in time for the World Series during what most people consider football season. This is a breath of fresh summer air that I rank somewhere up there as an equal to the It's The Great Pumpkin.
I've been reading through the Peanuts strips and that made the additional feature A Charlie Brown Celebration a fun special. It's a series of vignettes based directly on stories from the daily strips. They follow so closely it's almost just an animation of the ones you read in the newspaper of the day. It's from 1982 and these shorts were of a length that they would be able to be recycled in other programs or shows. The two best shorts are Peppermint Patty going to dog obedience school thinking it is an alternative school. And I wish there was a full special about Linus and Truffles and Sally where Linus ends up on the roof of the barn. It's still one of the best print stories of that era and translates well to television.
As far as these releases go, this is one of the best values. You get two specials that capture the spirit of the characters from the strips and you avoid the holiday specials that air all the time. These are on the verge of being "lost" to current generations. I hope there's time for adults to share these stories with their kids. Peanuts was the first reading I did on a daily basis. I'm a huge supporter of reading and the dreamer in me hopes it would encourage a few more readers of the strips or comics in general.