Thursday, December 29, 2016

Peanuts By Schulz


Premiered in the U.S. May 9, 2016.

Hi again everyone, I haven't posted in a while, I've got several reviews in progress that will be posted in the near future.  Until then, here's a short review of "shorts."

Back in 2014, a new series of Peanuts shorts, titled Peanuts by Schulz premiered on French television.  This series premiered in the states earlier this year on the Boomerang network and Cartoon Network.


Peanuts By Schulz is somewhat slight compared to the classic specials of the 1960s, 70s and 80s.  The episodes are only seven minutes long, sometimes they're shown in fifteen minute blocks.  The series' content is very similar to The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show, which featured several short stories each episode.


This series consists of adaptations of classic comic strips.  Sometimes we even see borders that are seen between panels of strips.  Peanuts By Schulz features beautiful animation that looks like a combination of watercolors and newsprint.



The voice actors are all well cast.  While the French version used adult actors, the American version used child actors who auditioned for the Peanuts movie but didn't make the cut.  

I don't plan to review every episode, but I give these shorts a solid recommendation and encourage all fans of Charlie Brown to seek out the series.


Some long-time fans of animated Peanuts were put off by the computer-animated look of the characters in the Peanuts theatrical film.  I liked that movie, but Peanuts By Schulz shows that traditional Peanuts cartoons are alive and well.


Those who don't get Boomerang or Cartoon Network will be pleased to learn that the series will be released on DVD on January 24 on a 2-disc set titled Peanuts:Snoopy Tales.



You can watch a 2-minute "minisode" from Peanuts By Schulz in this video:




That's all for now, check back in early 2017 for some new reviews of Charlie Brown specials, thanks for stopping by,

J.A.

Friday, February 5, 2016

You're In The Super Bowl, Charlie Brown.


Premiered January 18, 1994.

Marcie:I'm not sure I'd want to go to the Splendid Bowl, sir.
Peppermint Patty:Super Bowl, Marcie!

The Animal Football Legue (AFL) season is winding down.  Snoopy (Bill Melendez) is coaching his Bouncy Birdies in a game that will decide the winner of the AFL's Eastern Division.


The Birds easily defeat a team of cats.


Coach Snoopy is rewarded with the Division Championship trophy and a bath of Chirpade!


Later, Lucy (Molly Dunham) is trying to get Charlie Brown (Jimmy Guardino) to fall for her "kick the ball" gag.  Peppermint Patty (Haley Peel) arrives and interrupts them with some exciting news.


She's learned of a Punt, Pass and Kick skills contest.  The winner will receive a new bicycle and a trip to the Super Bowl.  Chuck and the others are excited and decide to enter the competition.


While practicing for the contest, Linus and Charlie Brown, meet a girl named Melody Melody (Crystal Kuns) and invite her to join them at an ice cream parlor.


It's obvious that both Chuck and Linus are both smitten with Melody.  She tells the boys she has confidence in them and will be rooting for them during the competition.


Later, during halftime of a football game, it's time for the Punt, Pass and Kick contest.  The boys see Melody in the crowd.  Linus thinks she's come to watch him, while Charlie Brown presumes she's there to see him.


All the kids are representing different NFL teams and wearing their helmets.


Lucy is the first competitor, wearing a Raiders helmet.


Next up is Franklin, representing the Houston Oilers...


...followed by Peppermint Patty, representing the Broncos.


Pigpen competes in a Green Bay helmet.


Marcie wears Washington's burgundy and gold.  She does okay with passing, but feels kicking the ball would be cruel.



Charlie Brown, showing off his 49ers uniform, does great and takes the lead in the contest.


Peppermint Patty believes Chuck has won, but Linus, wearing a Rams helmet, beats his friend by a few inches.


Linus thinks he's won a trip to the Super Bowl and a new bike, but it turns out there's one more surprise competitor.


Meanwhile, Coach Snoopy is preparing his Bouncy Birdies to face the Beastly Bisons in the Animal Football League championship game.


The Birds come out fired up and take a 14-0 lead.  Lucy isn't impressed and suggests Snoopy should call more "modern" plays.


Who will win the Punt, Pass and Kick contest?  Can Snoopy's team of birds defeat the Bisons and win the championship?

Review:
I had not seen You're In The Super Bowl, Charlie Brown until now.  It's a decent special built around a sporting competition, even if the story is a bit thin.  The animation looks great, especially during the Punt, Pass and Kick contest.

While Charlie Brown doesn't win, it's somewhat refreshing to see him depicted as a good athlete.


In real life Punt, Pass and Kick competitions, kids wear official NFL team.  So their inclusion adds a bit of realism to the special.  It's interesting to note that Franklin wears the colors of the Houston Oilers, a team that doesn't exist today.  They've since moved to Nashville and changed their name to the Titans.


Lucy represents the Raiders in the contest.  Historically, the Raiders have been considered by some to be a "bad guy" team, so it makes sense that Lucy wears their colors.


During the football games, the bird players are given humorous names.  When the birds play the dogs, the announcer mentions players named Unitas, Namath and Csonka, which are names of Hall Of Fame football players.


The bird players are given Presidential names like Tyler, Fillmore and Van Buren when they face off against the Bison.


The football game scenes in this special are entertaining and they contain lots of action.  But the game portions rely on lots of recycled animation.  The opening game against the Cats re-uses the same footage at least four times.  In fact, all three games feature the same footage, with  different animal opponents added. Such overuse of animation gets distracting and a bit annoying after a while. I also recognized footage of cheerleaders that was taken from It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, Charlie Brown's previous gridiron-themed special.


But the biggest problem I had was the ending.  You're In The Super Bowl just sort just...ends.  I found myself saying "is that it?" the first time I watched the special.  It even feels unfinished.  But I don't think it's a bad special, just sort of middling.

The voice actors are all good, they "sound like" their characters should sound.  Jimmy Guardino is especially convincing as Charlie Brown.  This special is Guardino's only acting credit, it's a shame he didn't voice Charlie Brown in future Peanuts productions.


During the football scenes, the action is described by a sports announcer voiced by Steve Stoliar.  In addition to some voice-acting work, Stoliar has written for television series and produced documentaries. He first gained notoriety when he worked as Groucho Marx's secretary and archivist during the legendary comedian's final years.  Fans of Groucho should read Stoliar's book Raised Eyebrows (I highly recommend the book) and visit him online at stevestoliar.com.

The Birds celebrate a fumble recovery!
Music:
David Benoit provides the score here, it's all newly recorded versions of Vince Guaraldi's classic tunes.  Guaraldi's "Charlie Brown Theme" is performed in a nice up-tempo horn-based arrangement, which makes it sound like a football fight song.  "Peppermint Patty's Theme" is used to accompany Linus and Chuck's football practice. Slowed-down performances of "Charlie Brown And His All Stars" and "Surfin' Snoopy" serve as the soundtrack for the Punt, Pass and Kick contest.  Nice work by Benoit.

Availability:
This special has never been released on DVD.  That's likely due to the inclusion of real NFL team logos.  Current rights holders would need to make a new deal with the league for any possible reissue.  However, you can still find copies of the VHS at libraries (which is how found my review copy) and you can buy used copies from online vendors.

Lucy gets a bath of Chirpade!
You're In The Super Bowl, Charlie Brown is a decent special with some entertaining action.  If you're a Peanuts fan who also enjoys NFL football, it's worth watching at least once.  But its overdependence on recycled animation and thin plot keep it from receiving a higher rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:




.5
 2 and a half Sparkys.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

You're In Love, Charlie Brown


Premiered June 12, 1967.

Charlie Brown:Why can't I have lunch with that little red-haired girl?  I get all worked up and my stomach starts to hurt I don't know what's the matter with me.  I don't feel very well
Linus:I know what's the matter with you.  You're in love, Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) is nervous all the time.  He can't stop thinking about one of his classmates, the little red-haired girl.  Linus (Christoper Shea) understands right away that Chuck is in love.  He encourages his friend to tell the girl he likes her, but Charlie Brown is too shy to express his feelings.  But Chuck is running out of time.  There are only two more days of school before Summer Vacation begins.


This unrequited love dominates every moment of Charlie Brown's daily life.  He composes a love letter to the girl while at school.


When the teacher calls on him to present an oral report about Africa, he takes his notes up front to read.  Unfortunately, he gets his love letter gets mixed up with notes about Africa and he reads the letter aloud in front of the whole class.


During lunchtime, the little red-haired girl walks right by Charlie Brown.  It's a great opportunity to talk to her, but Chuck is so nervous he puts his lunch bag over his head!


The events of the day make Charlie Brown the laughing stock of the school.  Lucy (Sally Dryer) and Violet (Ann Altieri) are particularly cruel to him when he encounters them after school.  They mock him and sing a song about how no one could love Chuck because his head is "too darn round."


Charlie Brown is dejected.  He walks home alone declaring that he's just experienced "the worst day of my life."


Love is also in the air for other kids.  Lucy vies for Schroeder's attention.  When conventional methods fail, she takes drastic action.


Sally (Kathy Steinberg) also swoons over Linus, much to his embarrassment.


Chuck is unsure of what he should do, so he turns to Peppermint Patty (Gail DeFaria) for advice. Charlie Brown tells her he has a crush on a girl in his class, so Peppermint Patty decides to play matchmaker.

 
 The results of her matchmaking are less than spectacular.


The last day of school arrives and Charlie Brown decides that he's going to break down and tell her how he feels.   Knowing that the girl takes the bus to school, Chuck wakes up at the crack of dawn to be the first one at the bus stop.


Will Charlie Brown tell the little red-haired girl that he likes her?  If he does, how will she react?

Review:

You're In Love, Charlie Brown is the 4th Peanuts special and it's very good.  This is the first special to introduce the unseen little red-haired girl that Chuck crushes on.  I enjoyed this special, but I should mention that you may tire of hearing the phrase "that little red-haired girl" after the umpteenth time Charlie Brown says it.

Chuck plays "she loves me, she loves me not; Linus doubts that "a flower has the gift of prophecy."
Just like in other specials, some of the dialog was taken directly from Peanuts comic strips.   One of my favorite lines from Charlie Brown is "there's nothing like unrequited love to take all the flavor out of a peanut butter sandwich."


We get a rare sign of "continuity" between Charlie Brown specials.  Lucy mentions that she was "the Christmas Queen," which is, of course, a reference to A Charlie Brown Christmas.

You're In Love, Charlie Brown is historically important for two reasons:

Peppermint Patty makes her first appearance in animated form.  She's a great character and an important member of the cast.  In my book, the definitive Peanuts "ensemble" doesn't really come together until Peppermint Patty arrives on the scene. 


This is also the first time we hear Chuck's school teacher speak in the "wah-wah-wah" voice.  This would become a staple in Charlie Brown specials for more than a decade.  The teacher's "voice" was created using a muted trombone.

Most of the original Peanuts voice actors appear in this special.  Peter Robbins is good as ever as Charlie Brown.  When Chuck says he's having the worst day of his life, Robbins makes us believe it.  Gail DeFaria makes her first of three appearances as Peppermint Patty and she's great too.  Ann Altieri and Sally Dryer are perfectly vicious as Violet and Lucy.  

Sally prepares to graduate from Kindergarten.  We get a rare glimpse of her room.
The animation in this special is gorgeous from beginning to end.  There a lots of beautiful flowers in the background, giving the impression that Springtime is in full bloom.  We even get a nice brief scene of various animals falling "in love."


And we get some great animation of Charlie Brown's reactions whenever he sees the little red-haired girl.


There's an odd moment near the end of this special I must address.  Charlie Brown runs out to the school bus so he can talk to the little red-haired girl before she gets on.  We see a crowd of students walk past Chuck.  Linus walks past him twice.  


Charlie Brown doesn't see the little red-haired girl, but in this shot, you can see a red-haired girl through the bus' windshield:


Perhaps it's not THE little red-haired girl, but this would've bothered me as a kid.  I'm sure this is just a case of the animators running out of time, money and characters to use.

Peppermint Patty talks to "Lucille."
Music:
Vince Guaraldi's title theme is very bouncy, catchy jazz waltz.  It also serves as the tune for Lucy's and Violet's nasty song about Chuck.  Guaraldi also wrote a new theme for  Peppermint Patty that's introduced here and it's one of my favorite Guaraldi compositions. 

Snoopy's visit to the playground is nicely choreographed with a Guaraldi piece titled "The Red Baron."

Snoopy jumps rope while simultaneously kicking a tetherball!

Availability:
This special has been released multiple times on dvd.  It can be found in the Peanuts 1960s Collection and another dvd called Happiness Is Peanuts:Friends ForeverIt also streams on Amazon.


You're In Love, Charlie Brown is a great special from the classic era of Peanuts animation.  It has universal appeal because we've all likely been in a scenario where we were too shy to express our feelings.  The first appearances of the teacher's voice and Peppermint Patty earn it an extra half-Sparky.


4 Sparkys!