Monday, April 7, 2014

Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown

Linus:I think our team is in trouble this year, Charlie Brown.We're weak at every position.
Lucy: Except for right field.  She's exceptionally cute!
Linus:Our right fielder is completely hopeless.
Lucy:But cute.

Premiered August 29, 2003.

Lucy misjudges a fly ball...
Charlie Brown (Wesley Singerman) is getting ready for another baseball season.  He wishes his team could become a winner.  Chuck believes the only thing preventing his team from winning is his right fielder, Lucy Van Pelt (Serena Berman).

...and another.
Charlie Brown calls her "the worst player in the history of baseball."

Linus looks at their team roster & isn't optimistic.
In their first game of the season, Charlie Brown's team plays a road game against Peppermint Patty's (Daniel Hansen) team.  But Chuck's first batter, Snoopy (Bill Melendez) is accidentally hit by a Peppermint Patty's first pitch.

Two managers shake hands, while Marcie snubs Snoopy.

Charlie Brown takes his team off the field, resulting in a forfeit.  Peppermint Patty is humiliated by this.

Snoopy gets beaned on the first pitch of the season!
Their team gets off to a bad start, losing its first 11 games.  Charlie Brown tries to trade Lucy to Peppermint Patty's team.  She's not interested, but says she'll trade Chuck 5 players for Snoopy.  Charlie Brown is torn, he wants to win but doesn't want to trade his own dog.

Linus & Snoopy are shocked when Chuck considers trading his own dog
He gives in to his desire to win a game.  Linus (Corey Padnos) and Schroeder (Christopher Ryan Johnson) are shocked that he traded Snoopy.  Chuck realizes his mistake and cancels the trade.

But Peppermint Patty says it doesn't matter.  The players traded to Charlie Brown's team would quit baseball before they'd play for him.

Snoopy is pleased to learn he won't be traded.
Peppermint Patty is having her own troubles in right field.  Marcie (Melissa Montoya) plays that position and is the team's worst player.  In desperation, Peppermint Patty trades Marcie to Charlie Brown's team for Lucy.

Chuck calls it "the greatest trade in the history of baseball," Peppermint Patty even throws in a pizza to sweeten the deal.

Will the teams improve after the trade?  Or will Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty regret making the deal?
J.A. Morris' says:
This is a good special, very different from the other two baseball themed specials I covered earlier this week. Unlike the earlier specials, there is no dramatic finish, no bottom of the 9th inning heroics or failures.

Lucy chats with Frieda while ignoring the ball she should be fielding.

It mostly focuses on how bad Lucy is at baseball.  We get multiple scenes of her missing fly balls.  You might think that would get old, but they found enough different depictions to keep it funny.

How Charlie Brown sees the sunrise on the first day of baseball season.
 Charlie Brown might seem a bit out of character in this special.  He almost trades Snoopy because he thinks it will help his team win a game.  As a sports fan (and someone who played a sport as a kid), I can admit that sports can make us act irrational at times.

Lucy's plan to perch atop the right field fence backfires & results in a homerun.
I was glad that we got to see Linus and Schroeder call him out for trading his own dog, but I understand why Charlie Brown wanted to know what it felt like to win, just once.

Charlie Brown's obsession with winning and the word "win" scares Linus & Snoopy
Peppermint Patty is used well here.  I don't recall too many scenes featuring her and Lucy in past specials over the years.  It was fun to see Peppermint Patty tell "Lucille" (as she calls Lucy)  exactly how she felt about her right fielding abilities.   She's a great character and this is her first appearance in a special built around baseball.  She hadn't been created when Charlie Brown's All Stars was produced and was (strangely) left out of It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown.

Peppermint Patty finds a "glove" big enough to help Lucy catch fly balls.
 While Lucy's athletic abilities (or lack thereof) are pointed out multiple times, you hardly feel sorry for her.  In addition to calling Charlie Brown a blockhead (her go-to epithet) she calls him "garbagehead."  She usually limits her insults to Chuck and Linus, but here she refers to Marcie as "that stupid girl with glasses."

Lucy "helps" Charlie Brown after he gets hit by a line drive.
David Benoit composed new music for Lucy Must Be Traded Charlie Brown.  In addition, the soundtrack features new recordings of some of Vince Guaraldi's earlier tunes recorded by Benoit's group. All the music sounds good.

Charlie Brown's field has an "automatic sprinkler system."

It looks like this special is currently out of print on dvd, but that dvd can still be easily found online.  It's also available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video and iTunes.

Schroeder sleeps in his catcher's mask & worries about making errors the night before opening day.

Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown is fun special and is recommended.  Since it was produced in 2003 it doesn't have the nostalgic pull that other specials have, but I think Peanuts fans of all ages will enjoy it.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 Sparkys.

Friday, April 4, 2014

It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown

Released on home video January, 1996, first TV broadcast February 23, 1998.

Linus:Well, how does the old team look this year, manager?
Charlie Brown:It's hard to say, but I try to be optimistic
Linus:Optimism is admirable in a manager, isn't it?  What other traits do you have?
Charlie Brown:Stupidity!

Spring has arrived, and with it comes the beginning of a new baseball season.

Charlie Brown (Justin Shenkarow) has gathered his team together for Spring Training.  No one is hitting or fielding very well.  Nevertheless, ol' Chuck is optimistic as usual.

Lucy (Marnette Patterson) takes a fly ball off her noggin.
A little boy named Leland (Gregory Grudt) arrives and tells Charlie Brown he wants to try out for the "Big Leagues."  Charlie Brown is reluctant, initially telling Leland he's too little for the team.  But Charlie Brown is impressed by Leland's persistence and gives him a spot on the roster.

Before their first game, Charlie Brown, Linus (John Christian Graas) and Snoopy (Bill Melendez) visit Hennesy's Hardware.  The store's owner, Mr. Hennessy says he will buy new uniforms for Chuck's team.  But there's a catch:They have to win their first
Snoopy, Linus & Chuck outside Hennessy's Hardware.
Will Charlie Brown's team finally win a game and get new uniforms?

J.A. Morris says:

This was a special I'd never seen until recently.  It was produced in 1992, but never aired on tv prior to its straight-to-video release in 1996.  I'm not sure why, because it's an enjoyable special.  Not great, but good.

Charlie Brown shows Leland his signal for a bunt.
It's always fun to watch the Peanuts kids play baseball.  I especially appreciated Charlie Brown's attempt to get the team together while the baseball diamond was covered with snow.  We've had a long Winter this year, so I could identify with this.

The shortstop arrives via ski lift on the first day of "Spring" Training.
Leland (who first appeared in late-70s comic strips) is cute and amusing here.  I liked his interactions with Charlie Brown, who maybe sees a bit of himself in Leland.  Chuck is nice to his fellow underdog and gives him a chance to make the team.

Leland is too short to bat, the pitch goes over his head. 
Snoopy fans will appreciate his trip to the hardware store.  The beagle winds up on the business end of a wrench, a paint shaker and a leaf blower!

Usually, Charlie Brown is the victim of Lucy's taunts.  But in this special, he shows he can give as good as he gets, calling her "the worst outfielder in the history of baseball".  Not the nicest thing to say, but it's somewhat refreshing to see Charlie Brown not being the perpetual victim.

But several things keep this from being a great special.

Charlie Brown wears his cap to bed the night before the first game...

...and Snoopy wears his too.
The plot (new uniforms from Mr. Henessey) is sort of a repeat from Charlie Brown's All Stars, produced 26 years earlier.    

There's a scene where the gang visits Hennessey's Hardware and Mr. Hennessy makes a brief appearance.  I'm sorry, but adults appearing onscreen in Charlie Brown specials just feels...wrong.  I can make exceptions to this "rule", but Hennessey's appearance adds nothing and feels intrusive.

An adult in a Charlie Brown special?
The music, credited to Judy Munsen, is a mixed bag.  Some of it is built around synthesizers and seems a bit out of date even for a special produced in the 1990s.  Some other music, credited to (a person? or group called) D'Cuckoo sounds like it was influenced by 90s hip-hop.  It reminded me of the theme from The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air and provides nice background music for the baseball scenes.

Schroeder (Travis Boles) tags out an opposing player.
Speaking of hip-hop, It's Spring Training contains the first appearance (to my knowledge) of rap music in a Charlie Brown special.  Franklin (Jessica Nwafor) performs a hip-hop version of "The Hokey Pokey" called "That's What It's All About".  My favorite part of the rap was these lyrics:
It’s time you started worryin’
Your strategy’s in a muddle
If you’re a little airplane
We’re the space shuttle!

Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus & Leland dance the Hokey Pokey.
Some Peanuts fans might think that's a sacrilege, but I liked it.  It was a nice way of acknowledging that times change, even in Charlie Brown's world.

Franklin raps & dances
One note of trivia about the voice actors in this special.  There's an unnamed girl with red hair and an orange shirt on Charlie Brown's team, pictured below next to Lucy:

IMDB refers to her as "girl player", she's voiced by Elisabeth Moss, best known for her roll as Mad Men's Peggy Olsen.

This special can found on a dvd called Happiness Is Peanuts:Team Snoopy.  It's also available for streaming on Amazon Instant Video.

 It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown, is a decent special.  It's worth watching at least once, but the reasons listed above place it a few notches below the classic specials.  The presence of an adult costs it about half a Sparky.

J.A. Morris' rating:


2 and a half Sparkys.