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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

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Remastered Deluxe Edition DVD Review

Buy It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Remastered Deluxe Edition DVD from Amazon.com Specials & DVD Details

Writer: Charles M. Schulz / Directors: Bill Melendez, Phil Roman / Executive Producer: Lee Mendelson / Music: Vince Guaraldi, John Scott Trotter, Ed Bogas, Judy Munsen

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Voice Cast: Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Sally Dryer (Lucy), Chris Shea (Linus), Cathy Steinberg (Sally), Gail DeFaria (Pigpen), Lisa DeFaria (Patty), Glenn Mendelson (Schroeder, Shermy), Ann Altieri (Frieda, Violet), Bill Melendez (Snoopy)

It's Magic, Charlie Brown

Voice Cast: Michael Mandy (Charlie Brown), Sydney Penny (Lucy), Brent Hauer (Peppermint Patty), Casey Carlson (Marcie), Cindi Reilly (Sally), Christopher Donohoe (Franklin), Rocky Reilly (Linus), Shannon Cohn (Marcie), Bill Melendez (Snoopy, Woodstock)

Running Time: 63 Minutes (49 - specials, 14 - bonus) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio), Dolby Digital Mono 2.0 (English, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish); Subtitles: English, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai; Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled in All but English
DVD Release Date: September 2, 2008 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5)
Black Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover

Buy from Amazon.com Buy the Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection from Amazon.com


The half-hour creations adapted from Charles Schulz's comic strip Peanuts are most commonly called "specials." Though that term is applied to any one-off TV program running an hour or less, I can't think of a better way to describe the animated stories featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Linus, Lucy, et al. For a good case in point, we needn't look further than It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Even if you haven't seen it, you must have heard of the Great Pumpkin. And that is testament to impact unattainable and practically unimaginable for a cartoon created today.

Of course, it helps that when this first aired, four days before Halloween 1966, there were just three major networks and no other in-home media to directly challenge the television set. Still, for an unseen character to have made such a lasting impact on society's consciousness suggests the special source deserves more credit than a lack of competing entertainment.

Great Pumpkin was the third Peanuts TV special aired and now it becomes the third treated to a Remastered Deluxe Edition from Warner Home Video, who acquired the rights to the Peanuts library nearly a year ago. This is noteworthy for being the first Warner disc to stray from the short selection of Paramount's Peanuts DVDs. Paramount's 2000 Great Pumpkin DVD paired it with 1972's You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, which Warner has scheduled for separate release as the title attraction in October. This new edition couples Great Pumpkin with It's Magic, Charlie Brown (1981), making its DVD debut.

After a night of anxious waiting in the pumpkin patch, Linus and Sally are startled to see what they think is the one and only Great Pumpkin. The Great Houndini, a.k.a. Snoopy, pulls a bunny, i.e. Woodstock with bunny ears, out of his hat in "It's Magic, Charlie Brown."

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (25:13) (First aired October 27, 1966)

The title and heart of this special are found in Linus' steadfast belief in a legendary holiday personality that sounds an awful lot like Santa Claus.
Though his theories about The Great Pumpkin are met with ridicule from all but the mildly sympathetic Sally, Linus does not allow his faith to waver even as hopes of a pumpkin patch sighting fade with the advancing night.

A lot else goes on here as well. Charlie Brown, Lucy, Pigpen, and others go trick-or-treating, then head to Violet's house for her Halloween party (Charlie's first). Dressed like an old pilot, Snoopy takes on his World War I Flying Ace persona and gets "shot down" in the French countryside. And brief but memorable gags abound, from Linus' Great Pumpkin letter to a depiction of some autumn activities.

It's Magic, Charlie Brown (24:14) (First aired April 28, 1981)

Using Charlie Brown's library card, Snoopy checks out a book on magic. He then puts on a show as The Great Houndini and after some difficulties, he gets a few tricks right. Alas, rain cuts the show short, leaving Charlie Brown invisible and willing to explore the possibilities.

Linus sends mail with a little help from his blanket. Still from Paramount's 2000 DVD - click to view screencap in full 720 x 480. Linus sends mail with a little help from his blanket. Still from Warner's 2008 DVD - click to view screencap in full 720 x 480.

Screencap from Paramount's 2000 Great Pumpkin DVD

The same frame on Warner's Remastered Deluxe Edition

The two DVD releases have different visions for tree brown, sky blue, and autumn leaves. Which do you prefer?

VIDEO and AUDIO

Naturally, both specials appear in the 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratio for which they were created. It's the Great Pumpkin is definitely treated to a new transfer, which though still short of perfection, qualifies as an improvement over Paramount's 2000 DVD. The biggest difference between the two presentations is color; Warner's DVD opts for a richer and more sensible palette. The new disc also ups the ante in the sharpness department; lines and details barely noticeable on the old DVD make more impact here.
Motion is a lot more fluid and the picture a lot less bleed-prone and compressed-looking in Warner's presentation, despite actually taking a considerable dive in average bit rate from Paramount's (suggesting that sometimes numbers do lie).

While undoubtedly more aesthetically pleasing, Warner's DVD still houses grain and minor specks, occasionally to a larger degree than Paramount's transfer. Such occurrences are noticeable but not to the point of distraction on an average-sized display, with the possible exception of the closing scene.

There is no immediate frame of reference for It's Magic, but it also looks pretty good and vibrant, if not quite as clean as Pumpkin. You can spot some mild grime, scratches, and other imperfections. In truth, some of that stuff figures into the Peanuts special charm.

Audio on both shorts is Dolby Mono, though it's encoded to two channels. The sound is simple yet satisfying. Reflecting the Peanuts' worldwide appeal, Warner has again loaded the disc with numerous foreign dubs and subtitle streams. The subtitles all carry over to the featurette with the strange exception of English.

So bushy is his moustache and so hearty is his laugh that it's tough to believe Peanuts director-producer Bill Melendez is in his nineties. His amusement here in the featurette "We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown" stems from remembering Vince Guaraldi's musical sensibilities. The menus may be simple, but so is Peanuts' trademark style.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, DESIGN and PACKAGING

Once again, the chief special feature is a brand new featurette. This one is called "We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown" (13:55).
It provides a terrific in-depth look at The Great Pumpkin's production, with vivid stories about the special's origins and development, the network's high hopes, and audiences' enduring warm reception. Much insight stems from the seven interview speakers: Charles Schulz's widow Jeannie and son Monte (who claims responsibility for the Flying Ace idea), a former CBS executive, producers Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson, and two animation/Peanuts historians. It's great to get such a well-made, informative companion piece.

Two noteworthy inserts are found inside the slipcovered keepcase. One provides a code for free iTunes downloads of two tracks from the 1998 album Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits. They are the Vince Guaraldi Trio instrumental "Great Pumpkin Waltz" (2:27) and the vocal song "Oh, Good Grief" (1:57). The remaining insert sides offer coupons for music and a frozen dinner plus an ad for a Great Pumpkin Patch sweepstakes.

The disc loads with Warner's Wizard of Oz anti-piracy spot and previews for the upcoming Remastered Deluxe Editions of Rankin-Bass' Jack Frost, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. The Trailers menu holds additional promos for The Wiggles: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing and Scooby-Doo! and The Goblin King.

The DVD's static menus adhere to the simple yet snazzy design employed for the menus and packaging of Warner's previous Peanuts discs. Character imagery is placed against a bright orange backdrop. The menus are silent, except for the main menu which per tradition plays the familiar "Linus and Lucy" theme. Each special is divided into five chapter stops.

Violet's house is the place to be for a fun Halloween party! Sally tests her temporarily invisible brother Charlie Brown (left) to confirm that the voice she hears belongs to him.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Every DVD collection should include at least some of the best Peanuts specials and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown ranks near the top of its class with charming little-known accompaniment It's Magic, Charlie Brown not far off. The improved picture quality and great new featurette are enough to make this Remastered Deluxe Edition stand as an upgrade to Paramount's Great Pumpkin disc (although some may lament having to get You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown separately).

Once again, though, the price feels a little steep for 49 minutes of featured content, even for TV programming of this caliber. That makes it easy for me to recommend this disc only for those whose appreciation of Peanuts specials is limited to this Halloween favorite (a stance incomprehensible to me). Everyone else is encouraged to pass on this disc... in favor of the Deluxe Holiday Collection coming three weeks later. Assuming that it gives the now-expected pleasing treatment to A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas, that 3-disc set will be a major winner and will save you a few dollars and purchases.

Buy from Amazon.com / Buy the Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection / Buy the Peanuts 1960's Collection

Buy from Amazon.com

Related Reviews:
Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (Remastered Deluxe Editions)
New to DVD: The Nightmare Before Christmas: Collector's Edition (1993) My Friends Tigger & Pooh: Hundred Acre Wood Haunt

Halloween:
The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad Mickey Mouse Clubhouse: Mickey's Treat Mickey's House of Villains
Hocus Pocus Halloweentown & Halloweentown II: Double Feature Sing Along Songs: Happy Haunting - Party at Disneyland

1960s Animation: The Jungle Book The Sword in the Stone Space Ghost & Dino Boy: The Complete Series
1960s Family Fare: Mary Poppins (45th Anniversary Edition) That Darn Cat! The Gnome-Mobile
1980s Animation: Smurfs: Season One, Volume One The Fox and the Hound (25th Anniversary Edition) The Black Cauldron

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Reviewed August 30, 2008.

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Text copyright 2008 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1966-81 United Feature Syndicate, Inc. and 2008 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.