This collection features three classic Peanuts television specials on all-new remastered Deluxe Edition DVDs. It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown has already been released individually, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas will soon be available separately on Oct 7. This review will only be covering two of the DVDs in the set as I have previously reviewed Great Pumpkin.
Thanksgiving premiered in 1973 and was the first from an original script as opposed to being based on Charles Schulz’ comic strips. After the opening where Charlie Brown attempts to kick Lucy’s football, the story deals with Peppermint Patty inviting herself, Marcy, and Franklin over to Charlie Brown’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. He already has plans to go to his grandmother’s, but he is unable to say no, partially thrown off by her inaccurate declarations of his affection for her. Linus suggests Charlie Brown make dinner early for everyone and Charlie Brown confesses he can only make “cold cereal and maybe toast,” but they proceed anyway, creating a meal of buttered toast, popcorn, jellybeans, and pretzel sticks.
Before dinner is served, Linus offers a prayer by telling the story of the first Thanksgiving between the pilgrims and the Indians. Upon seeing what dinner is comprised of, Peppermint Patty complains about not having the traditional items like turkey and mashed potatoes and embarrasses “Chuck.” After he leaves the table, Marcie points how rough and ungrateful Peppermint Patty was. Marcie then straightens things out. All ends well when Charlie Brown’s Grandma invites everyone over for dinner.
The special presents a good message, explaining that people should be thankful for what they have. It is also very funny, especially the mishaps of Snoopy and Woodstock as they set up the dinner table and make toast.
An included bonus special that ties in thematically is “The Mayflower Voyagers,” the first episode from the This Is America, Charlie Brown miniseries that aired in 1988 and ’89. The Peanuts gang play pilgrims headed to the colonies, but it is very odd seeing them mixed with adult characters. The special is rather dry and doesn’t offer much humor. It seems better suited as a teaching aide.
An All-New Featurette “Popcorn & Jellybeans: Making a Thanksgiving Classic” continues in the tradition of previous Peanuts DVD releases, providing great insight into the making of the project. It is funny to hear the widow Mrs. Schulz say Charles was against Charlie Brown kicking Lucy’s football because “that’s not funny. You know, once he kicks the football the whole thing is over,” yet he did just that years later in It’s Magic, Charlie Brown, which is paired with Great Pumpkin.
A Charlie Brown Christmas was the first Peanuts special and it deals with Charlie Brown not understanding the holiday because he’s put off by the commercialization and selfishness, especially in his own family. Snoopy attempts to win a lights-and-display decorating contest and Sally sends a letter to Santa that asks for $10 and $20 bills. Charlie Brown goes to see Lucy the psychologist who suggests he direct the Christmas play. When he can’t get the gang focused, he goes in search of a Christmas tree and finds the now-iconic pathetic tree with falling needles. Naturally, it goes over poorly when he brought it back. Linus reveals what Christmas is about, quoting the Gospel of Luke. The special won an Emmy and a Peabody award.
It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown premiered in 1992 and was the last to debut on CBS. It revisits the holiday using storylines from the comic strip. Charlie Brown goes door to door selling wreaths to make some money to buy Peggy Jean, a girl he likes, a present. Peppermint Patty is assigned a book report and searches for ways to complete it without reading the book. Sally works on a theme on what “The True Meaning of Christmas” is, apparently forgetting what Linus explained in the previous special. She asks Linus about Christmas but as he tries to repeat the Gospel of Luke passage, she complains about shopping throughout . Like the original, there is a Christmas play, which this time gets performed.
Unfortunately, this special, like many of the bonus specials on the recent Deluxe Edition DVDs, is disappointing filler. It falls far short of the original’s quality, and Schulz appears to be coasting on his legacy. The insight is insignificant and there’s very little humor in part because the pacing of the jokes is flat. It’s surprising Schulz was involved with its creation because it comes across like other people trying to cash in.
Extras in the release include the all-new “A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which provides background of the show’s creation by principals involved and historians, and a six-song sampler CD from the first Christmas special soundtrack. Unfortunately the 2001 documentary entitled “The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas” is not included.
The featured specials in Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection make the entire set worth owning. They are important holiday traditions to the television generation. The bonus specials may work for young children, but will likely disappoint adults who hold Peanuts in high esteem.