Friday, October 2, 2015

Happiness Is A Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown


 Premiered March 29, 2011.

"I can't get rid of this blanket!  It's the only thing that keeps me going!
 -Linus Van Pelt
(Note from J.A. Morris:The Peanuts comic strip debuted 65 years ago today.  The special reviewed here today has a connection to that first strip, as you will see below)

Linus Van Pelt (Austin Lux) is very attached to his security blanket, never letting it out of his grasp.  His sister Lucy (Grace Rolek) is fed up with the blanket and tells Linus he needs to give it up.


Lucy has some bad news for Linus:Their grandmother is coming to visit and she is determined to rid Linus of his blanket.  He has seven days to break his "addiction" to the blanket.


At the same time, Snoopy (Andrew Beall) is determined to steal the blanket for himself and drags Linus around the neighborhood several times. 


Linus gives the blanket to Charlie Brown (Trenton Rogers) and asks that he keep it, no matter how desperate he becomes.  This lasts for several seconds, before Linus takes back the blanket.  When Linus goes to his sister's psychiatric clinic for help, Lucy yells at him and tells him to "grow up!"


Lucy reaches her limit and takes the blanket away, telling Linus he can have it back after dinner.  Within a little while, his "whole nervous system" is shot.


Lucy catches her brother using Snoopy's ear and other objects as a substitute for the blanket.  She then tells Linus that "no substitutes" are allowed either.


Will Linus give up the blanket?  Will his grandmother force him to get rid of it?

Review:

Happiness Is A Warm Blanket was the first Peanuts special produced without the involvement of Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez.  The five years between this and the previous special also mark the longest time between specials.


Charles Schulz' son Craig served as a writer and executive producer on Happiness, with some story assistance from Stephan Pastis (creator of the comic strip Pearls Before Swine).  But most of the story and dialogue are taken directly from Peanuts comic strips.


This new creative team made a conscious effort to make the characters act and look like they did in the late 50s and early 60s.  They also used the cast from the earlier era as well, so we get to appearances from Patty (Ciara Bravo), Shermy (Andy Pessoa) and Violet (Blesst Bowden) plus cameos from 3, 4 and 5.

We get a "Snoopy's-eye view" of 5 and his twin siblings 3 and 4.
When Linus asks Chuck if he has fears and frustrations, Chuck flashes back to unpleasant moments in his past.  This includes a scene where Shermy says "Good ol' Charlie Brown.  How I hate him!" This is a reenactment of the very first Peanuts comic strip, which is another nice touch.  So Pastis and Schulz bring lots of nostalgia to this special.


Lucy mellowed over time in both the specials and comic strip.  But the Lucy we see in Happiness is her earlier, meaner self.  Throughout this special she takes pleasure at threatening to take away Linus' blanket and actually punches Charlie Brown when he calls her "crabby."


This might surprise some views, so consider yourself warned.  I won't spoil the ending, but at the end, Lucy shows that she's not quite as cruel as she seems.

Even Sally (Amanda Pace) get's tired of her Sweet Baboo's blanket & tosses it into a tree.
 On a lighter note, we get a touching scene where Charlie Brown sits up all night to help Linus deal with the loss of his blanket.  We often see these two ostracized by the other kids, so it's nice to see that they're not "alone" in the world.


In between the scenes about the blanket, we get short vignettes that deal with Chuck's attempt to fly a kite, Violet critiquing Pigpen's cleanliness and Lucy vying for Schroeder's attention.


The only problem with taking an "oldschool" approach is that we don't get to see characters that were introduced later like Peppermint Patty, Franklin and Marcie.  Charles Schulz said he stopped including Violet and Patty in the strip because they were less interesting than Pepperment Patty, so I'm not sure why this was done.  Otherwise, Happiness Is A Warm Blanket is lots of fun.


The actors in this special all do a good job voicing their characters.  Happiness centers on Linus and Austin Lux does a nice job carrying the story.  Grace Rolek is very convincing when she delivers Lucy's hostile dialogue.  Trenton Rogers does double-duty voicing Charlie Brown and Schoeder.  It's a credit to Rogers that I didn't notice this until I read the credits.


Music:
The music of Happiness Is A Warm Blanket was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh.  He's composed music for dozens of films and TV shows and won awards, including an Oscar nomination last year for The Lego Movie soundtrack.  Mothersbaugh first gained fame as the lead singer and songwriter of the band Devo. 

Mark Mothersbaugh, at the 2015 Oscars, wearing a "Devo" hat made of Legos!
His music pays homage to Vince Guaraldi's tunes without ripping off Guaraldi.  While most of the music is piano-based, Pigpen's (Shane Baumel) scenes are accompanied by music that puts the harmonica at the forefront.


Availability:
 This special is available on blu-ray, dvd.  It also may be streamed on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video.

Happiness Is A Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown is a very good special with nice music and good voice actors.  It's too bad that the personnel involved with its production didn't make any more TV specials, since this one should lots of promise.

J.A. Morris' rating:





.5

3 and a half Sparkys.


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