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Peanuts Specials DVDs Reviewed:Peanuts 1960's Collection Peanuts 1970's Collection, Vol. 1 Peanuts 1970's Collection, Vol. 2
Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection (It's the Great Pumpkin / A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving / A Charlie Brown Christmas)
It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown
You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales DVD Review

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales DVD cover art - click to buy DVD from Amazon.com Specials & DVD Details

Writer/Creator: Charles M. Schulz / Directors: Larry Leichliter, Phil Roman / Producers: Lee Mendelson, Bill Melendez / Music: Vince Guaraldi, David Benoit, Judy Munsen, Steve Riffkin

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales

Voice Cast: Wesley Singerman (Charlie Brown), Serena Berman (Lucy van Pelt), Corey Padnos (Linus van Pelt), Megan Taylor Harvey (Sally), Christopher Ryan Johnson (Schroeder), Timmy Deters (Rerun), Lauren Schaffel (Jezebel, Lydia), Bill Melendez (Snoopy)

Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?

Voice Cast: Brad Kesten (Charlie Brown), Jeremy Schoenberg (Linus van Pelt), Angela Lee (Lucy van Pelt), Victoria Vargas (Peppermint Patty), Michael Dockery (Marcie), Stacy Tolkin (Sally), Kevin Brando (Schroeder, Franklin), Bill Melendez (Snoopy)

Running Time: 42 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Aspect Ratio)
Christmas Tales: Dolby Stereo 2.0 (English), Is This Goodbye?: Dolby Mono 1.0 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French; Not Closed Captioned
General Retail DVD Release Date: October 5, 2010 / Suggested Retail Price: $14.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

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Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang have as strong a hold on Christmas as any cartoon characters in television's history. Their attachment to the December holiday is based entirely on A Charlie Brown Christmas, the beloved 1965 CBS special that marked the franchise's foray into TV animation.
Forty-five years after its debut, that half-hour program carries as much meaning to people as nearly any piece of seasonal entertainment. Only a couple of its contemporaries (How The Grinch Stole Christmas!, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer), a handful of more enduring works (It's a Wonderful Life, the poem A Visit from St. Nicholas, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, and the Nativity story itself), and maybe A Christmas Story can muster a comparable amount of sentiment and good will.

In fact, A Charlie Brown Christmas was merely the first of several Christmases that have been at the foundation of Peanuts specials. The second came in 1992's It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. Since Peanuts creator Charles Schulz's death in 2000, two of the series' programs created for ABC have centered on the holiday. Among the five posthumous specials, Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales was the first to tackle Christmas.

After hearing someone complain about "Oh! Susanna", Snoopy Claus uses his accordion for something more seasonal, playing Vince Guaraldi's delightful "Christmas Time is Here." Sally Brown vows to sue Linus after he stands her up on the movie date he never agreed to and moves out of town in "Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?"

Christmas Tales is noteworthy for being the shortest item in the canon of Peanuts TV specials, which seems to number 44. It runs just 17 minutes and 52 seconds. That is just a few minutes shorter than the most recent creation, 2006's He's a Bully, Charlie Brown, but it's nearly eight minutes shorter than Charlie Brown Christmas. The reason for that disparity is in the increasing allotment of network airtime to commercials. Over the years, commercial television's ratio of programming to advertisements has gradually but significantly diminished. A modern half-hour show now gets just around 21 minutes to tell its story, whereas in the 1950s and '60s shows had close to 26 minutes.

That is actually a large reason that Christmas Tales was made at all. In order to fit the 25-minute, 25-second A Charlie Brown Christmas in a standard primetime slot, cuts had to be made. Fans, for whom the special has long been a holiday tradition, noticed and complained. When ABC acquired TV rights to the Peanuts library beginning in 2001, the network decided instead of trimming the genesis and apex of the charming comic strip-adapted franchise's TV presence to fit commercials, they would leave it uncut and fill out an hour's airtime with a companion piece slightly shorter than usual. In 2001, that companion piece was the Whoopi Goldberg-hosted mini-documentary "The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas." In 2002, it was supplanted by Christmas Tales, which is more of a series of short sketches than a standard Peanuts special.

Warner Home Video, distributor of the Peanuts catalog on DVD since 2008, has largely followed the models established by former distributor Paramount in bundling two or three kindred specials per disc, most of them appropriate for various holiday promotions. For example, A Charlie Brown Christmas, naturally among the first Peanuts specials to get reissued, was accompanied, as on Paramount's DVD, by It's Christmastime Again. Here, though, Warner has diverged from Paramount's pairings. Paramount had included both Christmas Tales and the Whoopi Goldberg special as bonus features on the 2004 DVD debut of 2003's I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown. Warner's I Want a Dog DVD, released last year, paired the title short with 1986's Happy New Year, Charlie Brown. The studio debuted a separate release of Christmas Tales the same holiday season... but only in CVS Pharmacy stores.

Lucy tries to butter up her very good friend Santa Claus in her letter to him. The catering services of Joe Cool at the van Pelts' going away party leave something to be desired by all those not fond of kibble.

Earlier this fall, Christmas Tales reached general retail with a 2010 copyright date on its case but no changes to the disc itself. It again includes as a special feature Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown?, a more typical Peanuts special that filled a half-hour of commercial airtime in early 1983.

The DVD is an anomaly among Warner's Peanuts DVDs,
for it doesn't bear the "Remastered Deluxe Edition" banner of their 2-3 show discs and doesn't include an all-new featurette of any kind. Nevertheless, it is clearly closer in design to those Remastered Deluxe Editions than Warner's more inclusive alternative, their chronological decade collections. But, reflecting the lighter content, this carries a list price of $14.98, $5 less than the Deluxe Edition standard.

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales (17:52) (First aired December 8, 2002)

We check in with much of the Peanuts gang in this series of holiday vignettes. Linus writes to Santa Claus and tries to send a Christmas card to the girl who sits behind him and changes her name every week. An annoyingly-voiced Sally writes to Samantha Claus and claims a neighbor's fallen Christmas tree for herself. Lucy tells Linus he has to buy her a gift. Snoopy gets into the spirit.

Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown? (24:16) (First aired February 23, 1983)

Linus and Lucy's father gets transferred at his work, requiring the Van Pelts to move away. Following a farewell party unappetizingly catered by Joe Cool, Charlie Brown and a supposedly stood-up Sally deal with their loss, while Peppermint Patty gets Charlie Brown to profess feelings for her, or something like that.

This unidentified "ugly" kid claims Sally can have this Christmas tree if it falls down on its own. When it does, he's not so good to his word. Charlie Brown reads a postcard from Linus to Snoopy, who has inherited the blue blanket and thumb-sucking in their friend's absence.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Picture quality on Christmas Tales would be perfect if lines did not often become strangely pixelated throughout. This mildly distracting feature gives the program more of a 20th century Internet animation feel than a Peanuts TV special. Otherwise, the production values of the 2002 show satisfy, with clean backgrounds and simple character designs
remaining true to the spirit of Schulz's first-hand work.

The older Is This Goodbye?, never before released to DVD, is a lot less presentable. Its visuals are kind of murky, marred by washed out colors, ringing and mosquito noise. To boot, though 4:3 TV overscan will mask this, the sides of the frame are marked by bright lines which stand out. Specials designated as bonus features on Warner's Peanuts DVDs have been subsequently more carefully remastered for decade collection release. If the studio hasn't already worked on improving this special's appearance, it can't be long until they do.

Given far fewer language options than Warner's globally-minded other Peanuts DVDs, Christmas Tales presents its programs exclusively in English with optional English SDH and French subtitles. The newer special is heard in plain stereo and the older one in 1.0 Mono. Both meet modest expectations for TV animation, with clarity proportional to their age.

The DVD lists "Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown" on the Features menu but calls it a bonus feature, letting you consider it either one while admiring the Christmas tree cursor.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

As already mentioned, Is This Goodbye? is the only real bonus feature of the disc and you're just as likely to consider it part of the feature presentation (and the slightly bigger "half", at that). There is, however, a "Trailers" menu holding a promo for Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown and It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown and another for the Peanuts 1970's Collection, Vol. 1. Covering additional bases, the DVD opens with a menu-inaccessible ad for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas and one for I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown.

Like just about every DVD Warner has put out in years, this one features static 16:9 menu screens. Like most of the studio's Peanuts DVDs, the main menu includes Vince Guaraldi's famous "Linus and Lucy" theme and the other pages offer variations on the cover art, which here is not reproduced in a cardboard slipcover, presumably more out of Warner's new Peanuts policies than this not having "Remastered Deluxe Edition" branding. There are no inserts within the black Eco-Box keepcase.

Schroeder is shocked that thoughts of the relocated Lucy can throw his piano concentration. The short segments of "Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales" are introduced by character cards like this bordered blockhead one.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

It's tough to imagine people getting nostalgic about Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales, quite possibly the weakest Peanuts special I've seen.
If I observed the annual airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas (instead of just watching it on DVD), I'd be bothered to see this modern post-Schulz work regularly accompanying the classic. Headlining a DVD of its own, your expectations will have to be pretty low to appreciate it, even at the modest selling price of around $10. Is This Goodbye? is much better, but it can't be too long before it joins the other Peanuts specials from its era in the now overdue first 1980s Collection set, where it will look better and have more worthwhile company. This featherweight disc is strictly for completists and even they would be wise to wait the couple of years until Warner gets to putting a 2000s Collection of the most recent and least impressive Peanuts fare.

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Related Reviews:
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown Peanuts: Deluxe Holiday Collection Peanuts 1960's Collection He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown
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Also New: The Search for Santa Paws A Christmas Carol (2009) 12 Men of Christmas Phineas and Ferb: A Very Perry Christmas
Christmas TV in the 2000s: A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa Shrek the Halls A Colbert Christmas Eloise at Christmastime
2000s Christmas Movies: The Santa Clause 2 Fred Claus Four Christmases Unaccompanied Minors Deck the Halls Santa Buddies
Mickey's Christmas Carol Alvin and the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift Set The House Without a Christmas Tree The Christmas Star One Magic Christmas

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Reviewed December 17, 2010.



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