One of the greatest things about the Christmas holiday is the availability of Christmas specials from years past. Even when specials sit on one's DVD (or Blu-ray) shelf, though, they really only come out once a year. These specials contain iconic moments – moments which are, perhaps, known universally. Out of all of those moments, all of those sad and happy scenes, there is perhaps nothing more iconic, nothing more memorable than Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. That sad little Christmas tree not only encapsulates Charlie Brown beautifully, but perhaps also our own Christmastime frailties. The special which brought that tree into all of our homes, the first Charlie Brown special ever, A Charlie Brown Christmas, is now available on Blu-ray.
Charlie Brown's main issue throughout the 25-minute runtime is the crass commercialism of the holiday. Charlie Brown looks around him and notices that everything at Christmas has become about purchasing gifts, about selling things; that it is no longer about the Christmas story itself. He is left saddened by what he sees all around and in the face of that he opts to purchase the saddest Christmas tree on the whole lot, hoping to salvage some sort of truth about the holiday.
As the special reminds us, Charlie Brown is, in this instance, absolutely correct. Christmas is about more than just what can be bought and sold during the holiday. It is, at its core, a religious holiday, and one that has expanded into being about love and family and hope in general. Charlie Brown's little Christmas tree can be made beautiful, all it needs is some tenderness and love, all it needs is for people to get into the Christmas spirit.
The special has been released several times previously, including last year in a "Remastered Deluxe Edition." This new Blu-ray contains the exact same material as that release, save for the fact that the main feature as well as the second Charlie Brown special that appears on the disc, It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, are in high definition. The one other special feature, "Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas," appears in standard definition, and the digital copy of the special is not compatible with any Apple device.
The story in A Charlie Brown Christmas is a simple one and a small one, but what makes it so endearing is the fact that it is well told and manages to resonate so well today. There may be an argument to be made here about the irony of this special getting released to DVD (and now Blu-ray) repeatedly, that doing as much is the exact sort of thing Charlie Brown rails against in the special. However, it does look exceedingly good on Blu-ray. There are still bits of dirt and imperfections in the print, and there are those odd little moments when a character's skin will suddenly change tint a few times within a single scene, but that is part of the charm of the entire affair. The dialogue here is unquestionably muffled and somewhat disheartening as well, but as the documentary that accompanies the main feature reminds us, the special was made under severe time constraints.
From the music by Vince Guaraldi; to the classic dialogue ("of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest."); to the simple, unadorned story, A Charlie Brown Christmas is simply beautiful. It is difficult to contemplate purchasing this new Blu-ray version if one purchased last year's Remastered Deluxe DVD (or possibly any of the earlier DVD releases), but for anyone who in any way appreciates Christmas or anything to do with Christmas, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a must own.