In anticipation of the upcoming The Peanuts Movie and tying in with the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences' recent ceremony, Warner Brothers has gathered together 11 previously released specials into the new Peanuts Emmy Honored Collection. While it doesn’t contain all the Peanuts specials recognized by the Emmys, the two-disc set presents two winners, Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown (Outstanding Animated Program) and You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown (Outstanding Children’s Special), and nine others that were nominated. Like any collection of nuts, there are some that are better than others.
You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown (1979) sees Charlie Brown sign up to represent his school in the decathlon at the Junior Olympics. His training doesn’t provide much confidence, so his coach, Peppermint Patty, asks Marcie to join in. The other contenders are the Masked Marvel from Ace Obedience school and the previous year’s winner, Freddie Fabulous. It is basically a retelling of Aesop's The Tortoise and the Hare, as is You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown (1975), which finds Charlie Brown, the Masked Marvel, and Peppermint Patty competing in a charity motocross race. They are both enjoyable and filled with laughs, but it's surprising such similar stories were told only four years apart.
Someday You’ll Find Her, Charlie Brown (1981) is a bit odd as Charlie Brown becomes infatuated with a girl he saw just before a ball game ended on TV, calling her his only true love, apparently no longer infatuated with the little red-haired girl. He and Linus go in search of her, but how they expect to find her makes no sense. That is, until stadium employees inexplicably give out the address of stadium ticket holders. The story ends with an out-of-character choice Linus makes.
Love makes people and beagles do strange things. In Life is a Circus, Charlie Brown (1980), Snoopy leaves the neighborhood after he falls for an attractive poodle named Fifi and learns the life of a circus animal isn't all it's cracked up to be in this amusing special. Snoopy’s Getting Married, Charlie Brown (1985) is a disappointment for both Snoopy and viewers. He meets Genevieve, who looks like Fifi. Snoopy's brother, Spike, treks out from Needles, CA to attend the ceremony as Best Beagle. Then it seems like Schulz didn’t know how to conclude the story because the bride runs off with a never-before-seen/mentioned golden retriever.
During the '80s, Schulz and those behind the scenes altered the rules of the Peanuts universe on occasion, and most times when they did, it didn’t work. It was interesting to see them change things up and do a musical episode with It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984); however, I was freaked out a bit hearing adults speak during She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown (1980) rather than the familiar trombone wah-wahs.
Even more troubling, It’s Magic, Charlie Brown (1981) finds Snoopy turn Charlie Brown invisible, which allows him to finally gets to kick the football. Schulz tries to explain it away by having Lucy say it doesn’t count because no one saw Charlie Brown do it, but that’s complete rubbish. Usually, no one is ever around during these incidents, and Charlie Brown is doing it for himself, not for others. Plus, Lucy, and the viewers, knows he did it. Schulz wrote himself into a corner and cheated to get out, something I would expect from a Hollywood producer who was only using the characters to make a buck, not the man who created the iconic strip. It was a disappointment.
Three of the best specials are ones that dealt with the most serious issues. Is this Goodbye, Charlie Brown? (1983) sees the gang, particularly Snoopy and Schroeder, deal with Linus and Lucy moving away. It's a hard thing for many children to deal with, although modern technology makes the transition much easier.
Schulz paid tribute to the Allied Forces of D-Day in What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? (1983). Set after the gang's student exchange in the film Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!) (1980), Linus visualizes WWII through rotoscoped archival footage, bringing to mind the work of animator Ralph Bakshi. This has the feeling like it could have been part of a history series told with Peanuts characters.
Why, Charlie Brown, Why? (1990) is a very touching story about a new character named Janice, who has leukemia. Linus befriends her and has to deal with some serious facts of life. The subject matter is handled very well and seems like it should help explain to children what's not easily explained.
Even though some of these specials aren't worth watching a second time, I recommend the Peanuts Emmy Honored Collection for those who need to add at least half the contents to one's library.