Friday, August 28, 2015

It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown.

Premiered September 27, 1969.

Lucy:I've signed everyone up for Summer camp!
Boys:Camp?  Everyone?
Lucy:There's to be no discussion and no need to thank me.
Charlie Brown: I feel like I've been drafted.

Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) and his classmates are assigned an essay.  Their teacher Miss Halverson says must write a 500-word theme about how they spent their Summer vacation.  Chuck and Linus flash back to how it began:

School has just ended, Charlie Brown, Linus (Glenn Gilger), Schroeder (John Daschback) and Shermy (David Carey) are discussing how they plan to spend their Summer reading comics, watching TV and playing piano.  

The kids rush out on the last day of school.
But Lucy (Pamelyn Ferdin) arrives and announces she has enrolled all of them in Summer Camp!  No one is happy about this, especially Linus.  Lucy's brother is terrified he'll be attacked by queen snakes. 

The boys react (poorly) when Lucy tells them she signed them up for camp.
When the kids arrive at camp, they are separated by gender.  Charlie Brown is the leader of his team.  They compete with a team of girls in various games and contests.  The girls team is led by Lucy, with Peppermint Patty (Christopher DeFaria) serving as her lieutenant.    

Charlie Brown's team challenges the girls to a swimming race.  But the boys are is easily defeated. 

Charlie Brown is undaunted and challenges the girls to a game of softball.  This results in the boys losing 43-1.  

Peppermint Patty wins her team the first at-bat by using "eagle claws!"
   After more losses, Charlie Brown and his team are despondent. 

But Chuck gets an idea for a final challenge:wrist wrestling.  The boys' team selects the Masked Marvel, who is actually Snoopy in disguise, as their wrist wrestler.  The beagle begins a strict training regimen.  When the girls are challenged, Lucy selects herself to represent her team.  

The two wrestlers have an intense wrist duel.  They're evenly matched, but one has a secret weapon that will decide the match.

The Masked Marvel vs. Lucy!
 Can the Masked Marvel finally win a contest for the boys?  Will Linus be eaten by a queen snake?   Will Charlie Brown be able to complete the 500-word assignment?  

It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown is not up there with the best Peanuts specials, but it's solid fun the whole time.  Most of the original voice cast had aged out of their roles, with the exception of Peter Robbins as Charlie Brown.  But the new voice actors do a fine job.  
The boys aren't impressed with the camp food...

...but Snoopy has alternate sources of nourishment!
There are two lines of dialogue that mark this special as a product of the 1960s.  Sally (Hilary Momberger) says she wants "a deferment" from Kindergarten and Chuck says he feels like he's been drafted when Lucy signs him up for Summer Camp.  The Vietnam War and the draft were still part of every day life when It Was A Short Summer first aired, so "drafted" and "deferment" were household words. 

Producer-Director Bill Melendez began his career as an animator for the Disney, UPA and Warner Brothers studios.  I felt like this special had more classic "cartoony" images than other Charlie Brown outings, perhaps influenced by Melendez' past.  For instance, Chuck says Sally will jump 30 feet in the air if anyone mentions Kindergarten.  Lucy tests that theory, which results in this odd-looking image of a stretched-out Sally:

And we get a humorous reaction from Charlie Brown when he accidentally burns his marshmellow:

Speaking of animation, Schulz said his favorite animation of all time was Snoopy and Lucy's wrist wrestling match.  This scene still looks great today, 46 years after the special first aired.  

Snoopy's bus driving fantasy sequence includes some hidden jokes.  We see a map that includes place names like Schulz City...

and La Ciudad De Melendez: 

These are obvious (but cool) references to Peanuts creator Charles Schulz and the aforementioned Melendez.  I also think it's funny that Snoopy imagines other vehicles he passes are being driven by dogs!

Linus & Chuck play Hangman.  Check out the detail in the pictures on the classroom wall!
 Vince Guaraldi's music is great as usual.  His trio had expanded by this point and includes saxophones, flutes and horns.  The new theme music Guaraldi wrote for the special is very catchy and will be stuck in your head for a while.   

As part of his training, Snoopy wrist-wrestles a bird that looks like it could be Woodstock's tougher brother!
One of the unusual things about this special is that the girls' team includes both Peppermint Patty...and Patty (Lisa DeFaria).  Confused?  Patty was featured in the very first Peanuts comic strip and was often featured in the cast into the 1960s.  

Something rarely seen:Patty (left) and Peppermint Patty on screen at the same time, with Violet (Ann Altieri) in the middle.
Schulz later said he grew bored with Patty, which explains why she could be replaced by a character with a similar name.  There's a scene here where Lucy calls Peppermint Patty "Patty," which adds to the confusion.  It's also worth noting that Patty is voiced by Lisa DeFaria, while Peppermint Patty is voiced by Lisa's brother Christopher.    

The girls attempt to cheer up the boys by singing campfire songs.
If I have any criticism of the special, it's the way the camp contests are presented.  The girls beat the boys in swimming and then softball.  But we don't see the softball game.  The kids talk about the game...and the next thing we see is the boys mourning their loss.  It doesn't ruin the special, but it violates the "show don't tell" rule of visual media and it's disappointing.  
The girls march onto the bus with military-style precision...

...while the boys are a bit less organized.

 Vince Guaraldi's music is great as usual.  His trio had expanded by this point and includes saxophones, flutes and horns.  The new theme music Guaraldi wrote for the special is very catchy and will be stuck in your head for a while.   

As part of his training, Snoopy wrist-wrestles a bird that could be Woodstock's tougher brother!
This special is available on dvd as part of Peanuts 1960s collection and also streams on Amazon and iTunes

It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown is a fun special from the "classic" era of Peanuts specials and it serves as nice "end of summer" entertainment.  

J.A. Morris' rating:
3 and a half Sparkys

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