Few holiday specials are more indelibly sealed into our collective consciousness than those created by Charles M. Schultz. The 'Peanuts' gang has been gracing our TV screens for decades. 'It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown' has become one of the premiere Halloween staples that you absolutely must watch before your kids don their costumes and go out Trick or Treating. 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' has become synonymous with the season of giving and receiving gifts, just much as movies like 'It's a Wonderful Life,' and 'White Christmas.'
I don't think doing just a review of the material here does it justice. These three holiday specials have stood the test of time, and no matter what one critic says, the populous has fallen in love with them and will never let them go. 'Peanuts' continues to gain new followers year after year.
I am a fan of the 'Peanuts' specials. There's just something about them that screams "the holidays." Watching 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' takes me way back to those early Christmas mornings with my family all gathered around the tree opening presents.
It's true that today's children may not appreciate 'Peanuts' as we grew up appreciating them. They aren't full of flashy animation or high-octane action scenes. Except for the inexplicable Red Baron/Snoopy snippet in 'It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown,' which I still don't fully understand.
The one film of the bunch that I don't remember watching as much is 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.' This one seems sandwiched between the two more famous juggernauts of Halloween and Christmas. Still the Thanksgiving special holds its own. We visit the Peanuts gang as they prepare for Thanksgiving with a yummy plate full of jelly beans, popcorn and buttered toast. Peppermint Patty reveals her mean side, as she comes to terms with her bossiness. Everyone learns a lesson, 'Peanuts' style and then they all head off to grandma's for some real Thanksgiving dinner.
'Peanuts' is a load of nostalgic fun that can be shared with the whole family. It's an iconic piece of American entertainment. The short specials do follow the same type of flow as the comics in the funnies section. If you're not a fan of the comics then chances are you'll not want to bother with these either.
Overall, this whole set captures a brief piece of our history as a nation and the way we celebrate certain holidays. It helps us recollect the past and our fond times we have had with our families. It's great to see all of these movies released on Blu-ray since now we can watch them in the best possible way they can be presented. Here's to the Peanuts gang, and here's to all of you out there that love them. Happy holidays!
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Now this is what I like to see in a Blu-ray set that features a number of different individual movies. Each movie gets its own Blu-ray keepcase, which contains both a Blu-ray and DVD copy of the movie. They're all housed nicely in an elegantly designed cardboard splipcover that looks wonderful if presented on the shelf with the front cover facing outward.
These video presentations are tough to review. After closely viewing each and every film I'd have to conclude that the 1080p VC-1 encoded transfer used for each of them arrives with pretty much the same look all around. None of the films look spectacularly better or dreadfully worse than the others. Each film keeps its character and charm from their original airings, but the colors and edges have been bumped up nicely with the extra definition that 1080p offers.
Source noise is a frequent occurrence, but that's to be expect with movies of this age. 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving' seems to have a stationary hair (Crap in the ap as folks in the biz say!) for much of the football kicking opening that resides at the bottom middle of the screen. After the scene is over the hair disappears. Other white specks, flecks and blips pop up constantly, but again it's nothing that really distracts from the overall nostalgic beauty of the picture. I'd argue that the somewhat ragged look created by the original source noise adds to the old-time charm.
Colors seem to be given the most help from the high-definition treatment. The colors from some of our favorite cartoon specials shine here. From the earthy yellows and browns from the Thanksgiving episode to the bright greens and reds from the Christmas episode, this entire set is as colorful as the 'Peanuts' collection is going to get. Blacks are also handled well, appearing deep and dark, like Charlie Brown's striped shirt or the black skies that populate 'It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown.' Detail is also ramped up a bit from the previous DVD releases of these same movies. Individual drawing and color lines are completely visible to the naked eye. Casual and die hard fans alike should be very pleased with how these specials have been treated.
Here's where we get some differences in quality. While 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving,' and 'It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown' are presented in a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio format, poor 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' is given the sparse Charlie Brown Christmas tree treatment as it's hindered with a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital mix.
The two lossless tracks do a fine job at creating a nice, albeit subdued listening environment. Even though it's a 5.1 arrangement, there's not much action happening in the surround speakers. Ghosts and goblins growl and it echoes through the rears, sometimes the theme music bleeds back there, but it isn't a sonic feast of ear-tickling delights. Dialogue is always clear and never becomes muffled or unintelligible. Directionality even works to some degree as Charlie runs across the grass to kick the football only to wind up on his back after flipping through the air with the whirring sound effects that today's cartoons are missing.
It's sad that the one special that actually has a prominent musical number is encumbered with a lossy Dolby Digital track. Of all the Peanuts specials to not include a lossless track, why this one? Still it's a satisfying, but ultimately under-achieving mix that doesn't give us all that 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' could have been.
'It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown'
'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'
'A Charlie Brown Christmas'
It's hard to put into words, or even review movies that are just a part of us as a culture. Like 'Peanuts' or not, there's no denying the influence they've had over the years. We've just got to watch them. We don't know why, but something in the fiber of our beings demands it. They look great on Blu-ray, and will please any fans. It was sad to see 'A Charlie Brown Christmas' get stuck with a lossy audio format, but they all still sound relatively well done. There's a nice list of special features and the bonus episodes are something that hardcore fans will really enjoy having in HD. This set comes recommended, especially around this time of year.