Over the years, I’ve tasked myself with watching and writing about new updates of shows that I loved as a kid. These updated versions would sometimes be simple revamps of the old show and sometimes they would be very different, modern takes on the characters. The most common example is Scooby-Doo. I’ve seen versions recently that expanded upon the mystery-solving attraction of the show and other versions that try to meld the trends in animation and culture to retell the old stories. Both failed and succeeded to varying degrees. I tried to entertain the new Peanuts animated shorts with the same open mind to see what works and what doesn’t in 2017.
Peanuts is an almost-70-year-old franchise that has existed across multiple mediums. It’s impossible to compare even a 50-year-old show like Scooby-Doo to this group of characters because of how pervasive the characters of Peanuts are in popular culture. The comics still appear daily in newspapers, there are monthly comics, the specials air on television, the characters are still on all kinds of products, not to mention the recent return to the big screen. You might think that raises the bar, but it actually leads to very low-entry level entertainment needed. The characters are developed and come with built-in humor. There isn’t much needed to create an entertaining story when the characters appear on jelly jars.
The title alone is a mouthful of overdone group project speak. Peanuts by Schulz: Snoopy Tales is the new DVD release by Warner Brothers. It is a two-disc set including over three hours of material on 32 new shorts. Animated versions of the characters have a long legacy to live up to. Some of the most beloved animated shows in our history are the Christmas and Thanksgiving specials. These shorts all run about the length of a normal Warner Bros cartoon or just long enough to put three in a half-hour block on television.
As the title would suggest, they are mostly Snoopy based in a way that the franchise became through the ’80s and ’90s. But all of the characters are present here. The animation has never been the hallmark of the TV specials but they always had the benefit of classic musical scores and brilliant color schemes. The animation here is barely passable – it resembles more of a motion comic at times than a major animated release.
There are some fun stories here. The formula doesn’t differ from some of the later Peanuts TV shows. There are short vignettes that take themes from the comic strip and expand on them slightly, often leading to a single joke. As a fan of the strip first and foremost, I appreciate the way they try to capture the spirit of the source material. Centering so many of the stories like “A Day With Snoopy”, “Nice Doggy”, and Train Your Dog” around Snoopy doesn’t lend itself to a huge variety of jokes. I would like to have explored more of the characters than to pander to the younger fans of Snoopy.
Is it entertaining? Yes. There is a nod to the strips but that has rarely been the problem with other specials. The animation tries too hard to suggest an animated version of the strips. The stories are simple and probably not full of enough jokes to entertain adults or children. There’s an innocence to the stories. Some of my favorites, “Let It Snow”, “Christmas Is Coming” and “Winter Wonderland”, don’t tread on any new ground but just feel comfortable. I am all for continuing to keep the franchise in the public eye and this will serve as a bridge until another movie comes along or another special.
In the meantime, can they send a copy of this over to the Scooby-Doo offices at WB.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the DVD reviewed. The opinions shared are our own.