Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Some HUGE Peanuts news!

There is some exciting news this week about Charlie Brown's past and future animated adventures.  

But first, let me go back to last month.  Reddit hosted a chat with Jeannie Schulz, the widow of Peanuts creator Charles Schulz.  I asked her if there were any plans to release Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown or Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back) on dvd.  These theatrical movies were released on VHS in the 1990s but have now been out of print for years.  Here's Jeannie's response:

"You know, I don't know any plans, and it's terrible, because I have a distant relative in France who LOVES that movie. The rights to them are owned by - and now my mind is going blank... it's the company that we did them with originally... and they don't, I guess, have any interest in exploiting them? And i suppose from their point of view, it's too small a market, so they might sell 1,000 or 5,000 but in their world, you need to sell 10,000. I don't know. I can't think of the company that owns the rights to that, I'm sorry. So it's a shame, because I think they are fun, and even though the animation is old-fashioned, and people would say they are slow-moving compared to today, I still think there are people who would enjoy them."

This was very disappointing news to a fan like myself.  But the other day, I learned that Jeannie Schulz was mistaken.  Paramount is releasing both films on dvd next year!  Race For Your Life comes out on dvd on February 10, here's the cover art:

Bon Voyage celebrates its 35th anniversary next year and will be released on dvd in October 2015.  

Original 1980 movie poster for Bon Voyage.
But that's not the only news.  We are now less than a year removd from the release date (November 6) for the new Peanuts movie.  Yesterday, some new images from the film were released.

It's too soon to tell if the story will be good. But producer Paul Feig says that Charlie Brown goes "on a quest to get something he's sure he needs, even though he discovers he's pretty OK just as he is." Director Steve Martini stated that Snoopy will be putting on his old World War I Flying Ace helmet and going behind enemy lines.    

As I was getting ready to publish this, I learned that another trailer for the movie has been released, so here it is:

I'm not crazy about the song in the middle (I doubt it will be there when the movie is released), but the animation looks great!  2015 is shaping up to be a great year for fans of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang.



Monday, November 17, 2014

'You're At The Comic Con, Charlie Brown!'

No, that's not a title of a forthcoming Charlie Brown special (though it would be a lot of fun!), but it's a good way to begin my very, extremely belated look-back at the Richmond Wizard World Comic-Con.  You can find a more in-depth report at my sister blog, Holiday Film Reviews.  It was the first time I ever attended an event of that size and it was lots of fun.  Wizard knows how to throw a great party! 

Like any comic-con, there were lots of great cosplayers in attendance.  We saw a bunch of superheroes, Star Wars villains and Lord Of The Rings characters.  I figure "when in Rome", so I decided to get into the act and dress as a certain "round-headed kid.":

While walking around the Con, "Chuck" attracted attention wherever he went.  I was stopped by quite a few people who wanted to get their picture taken with Charlie Brown, including:

"Wash" from the series Firefly tv series:


The Tick:

And Gamorra, daughter of Thanos and a Guardian of the Galaxy!:

I'll be honest, after donning the bald wig & yellow shirt, I was a little nervous about how "Chuck" would be received.  Would Charlie Brown be appreciated by hundreds of people dressed as Asgardian gods, zombies and Dothraki?  The answer was a resounding YES!  Everywhere I went, people yelled out "Hey, it's Charlie Brown!!" and sent smiles in my direction.  Which is a very good sign, with 2015 being Chuck's 65th anniversary and a new Peanuts movie in the works.   

And I was happy to see that I was not the only one dressed up as a "old school" comic strip character:

"Dick Tracy" and "Charlie Brown", together again for the first time!
But my favorite pictures of all were taken at the Rolling Dead Zombie Tech booth.  They are super-fans of The Walking Dead tv series and built a motorcycle inspired by the one Daryl Dixon rides.

If you are fan of The Walking Dead, check out the Rolling Dead's Facebook page, here.

I don't think Lucy would pull the football away from this guy:

Monday, September 8, 2014

He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown

Premiered February 14, 1968.

"That dog is gonna drive us crazy!"
-Lucy Van Pelt.

Snoopy (Bill Melendez) is annoying all the kids and driving them crazy.

He's been playing pranks and sneaking up on kids and assaulting them.

Charlie Brown  (Peter Robbins) decides to send the beagle back to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm for "a refresher course in obedience and the social graces."

Charlie Brown writes a letter to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, Snoopy doesn't approve of its content!

Since it's a long walk to the puppy farm, Snoopy will stop on the way and spend the night at the home of Peppermint Patty (Gail DeFaria).

But things don't go according to plan.  Peppermint Patty is glad to have Snoopy as her guest.  But he tries her patience, demanding root beer, demanding service, treating her house as a resort, making a big mess and eating Peppermint Patty's family out of house and home.

At the same time, Charlie Brown and Linus (Christopher Shea) start to miss Snoopy.  They talk about how quiet it is without the beagle around.

Charlie Brown receives a call from Daisy Hill and learns Snoopy never showed up for training.  He calls Peppermint Patty and discovers Snoopy spent a week at her house.  Peppermint Patty is happy to see Chuck, who is forced to put Snoopy on a leash.  But Snoopy turns the tables on his "owner" and escapes to Schroeder's house, then back to Peppermint Patty's place.

Peppermint Patty says he can stay, but mentions that everyone in the house pulls their own weight.  Snoopy is put to work washing dishes, mowing the lawn, sweeping and vacuuming the floors.

No one can eat dinner until Snoopy finishes his chores.  The beagle gets frustrated and breaks a bunch of dishes.  After this tantrum, Peppermint Patty forces Snoopy to spend the night in the garage.

Snoopy ran back to Peppermint Patty because he didn't want to kept on a leash.  But he starts to think life was better with Charlie Brown.

Will Snoopy return to Charlie Brown?  Will he be taught to curb his bad behavior?

While I had the children's book that adapted He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown, this is another special that wasn't aired very often when I was a kid.

It's an enjoyable special, even if Snoopy is more of a jerk than usual.  We're used to him stealing Linus' blanket, but assaulting Charlie Brown, Schroeder and Linus crosses the line.

I won't spoil the whole ending, but I don't get the impression that Snoopy learned a lot or paid for any of his transgressions.  But that's okay, Peanuts storylines (in animation and the comic strip) often didn't have resolutions or happy endings.

Most of the special takes place at Peppermint Patty's house.  Usually, the specials take place at school, Chuck or Linus' house, I appreciated the "change of venue."  Hardcore Peanuts experts will appreciate the appearance of Roy, an obscure character from the strip, in a non-speaking role.

Peppermint Patty & Roy watch Snoopy eat.
We also get a fantasy sequence that features Snoopy battling the Red Baron.  This is the last "air war" featured in a Charlie Brown special.

"Curse you, Red Baron!"
The animation is great here.  Lots of fun action scenes, and I love Snoopy's expressions when he attacks the kids. 

Peter Robbins, Gail DeFaria, Christopher Shea and Sally Dryer all do a nice job as Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty Linus and Lucy.  It should be noted that this is the last special produced that features the same voice actors who appeared in A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Speaking of voices, this is the closest Snoopy comes to speaking onscreen.  When he pretends to shoot Patty and Violet, he makes a sound that sounds very much like the word "bang."

We get a nice new piece composed by Vince Guaraldi  that serves as theme music (called "New Snoopy Theme" and "It's Your Dog, Charlie Brown", depending on the source) for the opening and closing credits.  It's an uptempo tune that always brings a smile to my face.

There's a nice montage of Snoopy performing household chores, accompanied by Guaraldi's bossa nova-influenced composition "Pebble Beach."  John Scott Trotter arranged Guaraldi's music and it's all very good.

This special is available on 2 different dvds.  One is simply titled (appropriately enough) He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown, and it's also part of the Peanuts 1960s Collection.  It can also be streamed on Amazon.

He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown is a very good if lesser-known special from the classic era of Charlie Brown specials.  It's recommended for all Peanuts fans and everyone who has owned a dog who needs obedience training.  

My rating:

4 Sparkys!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A visit to Planet Snoopy

I've got some more reviews on the way shortly, but I have to post a brief recap of a recent "adventure." 

Last month, I visited Kings Dominion with Rigby_Mel, my co-blogger at Holiday Film Reviews.  For those who don't know, Kings Dominion is a theme park located 20 miles north of Richmond,VA. It's a place we visited frequently when we were kids.

Kings Dominion is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year.  The park has brought back many attractions that were part of our childhood, like the Singing Mushrooms.  Here's a video that features the Mushrooms:  

Since my last visit, they added a section to the park called Planet Snoopy!  While it's aimed at kids, this Charlie Brown fan had to check it out.

When I was a kid, one of my favorite rides at the park was the Scooby Doo Coaster.  Since KD no longer has an affiliation with Hanna-Barbera, it has been rechristend the Woodstock Express.

It's a nice "mid-tempo" rollercoaster, still as much fun as it was years ago.

We also checked out other rides, like the Flying Ace, which went up a lot higher off the ground than expected.

And we made a point of being photographed with a certain beagle, also known as "that funny looking kid who plays shortstop."

Left-to-right:Rigby_Mel, Snoopy and I.
And while I'm way to old for Snoopy's Moon Bounce, the giant Snoopy astronaut is pretty cool.

I am dwarfed by the giant Snoopy.
So if you're a Charlie Brown enthusiast, and you find yourself in the vicinity of Kings Dominion, a visit to Planet Snoopy promises fun for Peanuts fans of all ages.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

He's A Bully, Charlie Brown

 Charlie Brown:As soon as school is over, I have to go to camp for two weeks.  I don't really care about going to camp.  Besides, I get homesick.  I'm afraid, when I'm miles away from home, I'll miss my friends.
Lucy:What friends?!

Premiered November 20, 2006.

It's Summer and Charlie Brown (Spencer Robert Scott) and the gang are preparing to head off to camp.

But Chuck is nervous about going away for Summer Camp.  Peppermint Patty (Rory Thost) is jealous and disappointed, because she has to attend summer school and won't be joining them at camp.

Rerun Van Pelt (Jimmy Bennett) goes up to his family's attic and finds an old jar of marbles.  Upon further inspection, he learns the marbles belonged to his grandfather, Felix Van Pelt, who was a marbles champion.  Rerun takes the marbles with him to summer camp.  He hopes someone at camp will teach him how to play marbles.

Rerun takes the marbles with him to summer camp.  He hopes someone at camp will teach him how to play marbles.

Upon arrival at camp, Charlie Brown and Snoopy (Bill Melendez) encounter a boy named Joe Agate (Taylor Lautner). Chuck offers Joe a handshake, only to be smacked in the nose.

 Joe goes on to call Snoopy a "funny looking kid" and pinches the beagle's nose.  Snoopy responds by "accidentally" dropping a bowling ball on Joe's foot.

Rerun watches Joe playing marbles with another kid.  Agate easily beats his opponent and takes the kids marbles.  He introduces himself to Rerun and says he's been the marbles champion at camp for 3 years straight.

Back home, Peppermint Patty is angry about being left behind.  She is jealous of Charlie Brown and Marcie (Jessica Gordon) being at camp together.  When Peppermint Patty phones, they tease her by pretending to be getting "romantic" with each other.

Peppermint Patty is stuck at home & not amused by Marcie & Charlie Brown's reports from camp.
Later, Rerun meets with Joe and says he's there to "learn" how to play the game.  Agate acts like he's teaching the younger boy how to play marbles and wins the game easily.

Rerun says that he's ready to play, but Joe has other ideas.  He tells Rerun the game was "for keeps" and takes all of Rerun's marbles, even his grandfather's prized shooter.

Charlie Brown sees Rerun crying and asks what's wrong.  When he hears what happened, Chuck says that Joe has been picking on everyone and promises to win back Rerun's marbles.

But Charlie Brown has never won anything. Thankfully, Snoopy will coach him up and (hopefully) turn Chuck into a marbles champion.

Can Charlie Brown win back Rerun's marbles from Joe Agate?

As I write this He's a Bully, Charlie Brown is the 2nd to last Peanuts special produced.  It's based on a comic strip that ran in 1995 and the Peppermint Patty/Marcie subplot came from a 1989 strip. It shows that long after the "classic" era of Peanuts, Charlies Schulz' characters were still evolving.

  Maybe that's why some of the characters act "out of character", but that's okay.  Charlie Brown stands up to Joe Agate, I thought it was cool to see Chuck help Rerun and not act like his usual "wishy-washy" self.  It's also fun to see Marcie and Charlie Brown mess with Peppermint Patty.

A disguised Peppermint Patty sneaks into camp.
Bullying is a problem that lots of us have faced.  If I'd seen this as a kid, I would have identified with the kids who were picked on by Joe.  So in addition to being entertaining, this special could be used as an anti-bullying video.

Snoopy also gets a few funny scenes, skateboarding on a halfpipe...

 ...and building a totem pole with help from Woodstock and his friends.

It's also worth noting that this is the last Charlie Brown special produced by Lee Mendelson and directed by Bill Melendez, both of whom worked Peanuts specials for more than 40 years.  So He's A Bully marks the end of an era.

Charlie Brown tells Joe to "Knuckle Down!"
David Benoit arranges the music, most, if not all of it consists of Vince Guaraldi tunes.

The gang is worried about Charlie Brown's chances in the big marbles match.
 A note of trivia about the voice actors:

Joe Agate is voiced by Taylor Lautner, who went on to play Jacob in the Twilight movies.

This special can be found as a bonus feature on the You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown dvd.  It also streams on iTunes and Amazon.

He's A Bully, Charlie Brown is a solid special, that expresses a very important message.  But it's also funny and it's a nice farewell for Mendelson and Melendez. Recommended to fans of all ages.


3 and a half Sparkys.