"Did you know that Charlie Brown has never pitched a winning baseball game, never been able to keep a kite in the air, never won a game of checkers and never successfully punted a football? Sometimes I marvel at his consistency."
I'm dropping my usual format since this special is a bit different from most. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the premier of the musical You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, so I thought it would be a good time to revisit the animated TV adaptation.
A little background for those who unfamiliar with the show. You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown began as a 1966 album of songs based on the comic strip. It was produced as an Off-Broadway musical in 1967, with dialogue added in between the songs. It was highly successful and ran until 1971.
This TV special was produced nearly twenty years after the stage show. As Peanuts historian Nat Gertler notes in the DVD's bonus documentary, this animated special is an adaptation of the Off-Broadway show, which adapted the album, which adapted the comic strip!
You're A Good Man could be described as "Peanuts' Greatest Hits, with songs and dancing!" There's no unifying story, just a series of vignettes that cover such Peanuts tropes as Charlie Brown's team losing baseball games...
Chuck failing to fly a kite...
The gang struggling to write book reports...
Lucy leaning on Schroeder's piano and expressing love for him...
Charlie Brown pining over the Little Red-Haired Girl, but afraid to talk to her, etc.
One interesting aspect is that since it was produced in the 1980s, we get to see Schroeder using a personal computer to type his book report.
While typing his book report, Schroeder also imagines a video game, so we're treated to animation that depicts 80s-style graphics.
It makes this special an interesting product of its time.
I'm generally not a fan of Broadway musicals. However, I've seen a live production of You're A Good Man and I've always felt its songs, written by Clark Gesner are pretty good.
The closing song "Happiness" is probably the most famous song of the musical and deservedly so. It's a nice list of little things that bring smiles to our faces and help us get through tough days. As an adult, I can tell you that when you've had a bad day "two kinds of ice cream" may not solve all your problems, but they can help you see that tomorrow may be different and better. It should be noted that since this special runs just under an hour, some songs from the stage musical are not included.
Snoopy gets two numbers, "Supper Time" is my favorite of the pair.
Unlike the stage musical, which cast adults as Charlie Brown and friends, Melendez and Mendelson continue their practice of using children to voice the characters. All of the voice-actors do a good job with their characters. Charlie Brown has a different voice-actor for speaking and singing parts, with Brad Kesten (who voiced Charlie Brown in several other specials) voicing Chuck's dialogue and Kevin Brando performing the songs. The creative team did a nice job casting actors with similar voices.
It's worth noting that this is the first time Snoopy gets a "speaking" voice. In addition to Bill Melendez' usual dog noises, Robert Towers (an adult voice actor) provides the beagle's singing voice, and speaks for Snoopy when we hear his thoughts. Towers played Snoopy in a stage production and his voice is a good match for the character.
It looks like the producers gave a little more effort than usual, perhaps out of reverence for the musical. The animation looks great. There's a particularly beautiful sunset scene where the background looks like watercolor painting.
This special has been released on DVD and it's also available for streaming on Amazon and iTunes.
You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown isn't among the best Peanuts specials, but it's a good adaptation of the beloved musical with good voice-actors and better-than-average animation.
J.A. Morris' rating: