Peanuts: It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown Review
Whilst the idea of a holiday special round about Christmas time now sounds like it's going to be an hour of S Club 7 or 8 turtle watching from Madagascar, thus telling us, the stinky public, how dreary our little lives huddled around a television set in suburbia in December really are, at least we'll have our memories of Noel Edmonds in Telecom Tower, Why Don't You and a seasonal episode of Charlie Brown.
Although, write it down like that and us kids of the seventies appeared to have had a childhod that, in terms of entertaiment, was as bleak as Sheffield in the post-nuclear attack half of Threads.
No prizes, not even a Lindt chocolate bunny, for guessing that It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown has been released to tie in around the forthcoming Easter break, presumably for those for whom The Passion Of The Christ would be a tough couple of hours for when they're feeling festive. Featuring two episodes, this DVD sees the gang happy when they're celebrating Easter yet also sad when Snoopy leaves to join the circus...
It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown: As Linus gets Sally's hopes up about the arrival of the Easter Beagle - although she still hasn't forgotten about waiting up all Hallowe'en night after a similar story - Snoopy buys a birdhouse for Woodstock and Peppermint Patty fails to teach Marcie how to prepare and decorate Easter eggs. As everyone else gets ever more excited about Easter, Charlie Brown can't help but thinks that it'll be just one more disappointment amongst a never-ending run of them.
Life Is A Circus, Charlie Brown: As if things couldn't get much worse, Charlie Brown finds himself all alone as Snoopy leaves with the circus having fallen in love with Fifi, a performing dog. As Snoopy becomes Hugo The Great, all Charlie Brown's friends try to console him but when the circus owner decides that Snoopy would look better were he coloured pink, he guesses that the kennel in Charlie Brown's yard might not be such a bad place to stay.
There's no doubt that it celebrates the side of Easter concerned with paganism and consumerism, which will result in its creators burning in Hell for all eternity, but just to ensure that my soul remains clean, I'll read Anthony Burgess' Man Of Nazereth in the coming weeks, maybe a bit of Matthew's gospel and try not to make my enjoyment of eating chocolate eggs quite so obvious.
Yet it's the warm hug of nostalgia this Charlie Brown DVD has that means even the lack of extras and only the two short episodes doesn't mean it's not worth a little time and money. Whilst the animation is basic, moreso than many series that are played exclusively on television, this has ensured that the move from three or four panels of a newspaper cartoon onto film was always an easy one for Charlie Brown. Even the voice acting, which is often bone dry, fits easily into the animated mouths of the gang meaning that even a difficult character like Charlie Brown, a downbeat little kid who once introduced himself as Brownie Charles to his only ever girlfriend and who called him that until they split, appear natural. Indeed, it's Charlie Brown who's the soul of the show and why Peanuts stood apart from the heroics of other strips and television cartoons. Instead of a winner, Charlie Brown's a nice guy who'll always be picked last for football, will follow on a pace or two behind the pack and even when he's all grown up, his friends will still call him a blockhead. In one of the cartoons in this set, you just know that the Easter Beagle will have run out of eggs before reaching Charlie Brown's house but it's alright because Charlie Brown is always hopeful that things will eventually get better. Invariably, they don't, but it's this optimism that drives Peanuts and gives all kids, no matter the age, the thought that maybe next year, there'll be an egg in next year's basket.
It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown has been transferred onto DVD in its original aspect ratio of 1.33:1 and if you look past the odd imperfection - the occasional mark is evident on the print - this isn't bad but nor is it a great example of animation on DVD.
Unsurprisingly, Firefly have not taken the opportunity to remix the soundtrack into 5.1 Digital Surround, although not that it's necessary as the original Mono soundtrack is fine. Whilst the dialogue is never particularly exciting, the music - that mix of late-sixties/early-seventies psychedelia, pop and bizarre little playing - is terrific. No matter that this DVD doesn't feature any scenes set in Charlie Brown's school, thereby missing the wahk-wahk-wahk of his teacher, the piano and guitar playing is like having nostalgia drift from your television and through your living room.
There are no bonus features included on this DVD release.
So it's only fifty minutes long, the two shows date from the seventies and you've probably seen both on television countless times but this DVD shows why Charlie Brown has lasted from the year when Charles Schulz was first published. Watching this as an adult, the animation is basic, the telling of the story is simple and the presentation of the DVD is strictly no-frills but Charlie Brown is heartfelt and without cynicism. As a parent, it kept my two kids interested and, at only twenty-five minutes an episode, doesn't outstay its welcome.