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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

Peanuts 1970s Collection, Vol. 1 DVD Review

Buy the Peanuts 1970's Collection Volume 1 DVD set from Amazon.com Specials & DVD Details

Writer/Creator: Charles M. Schulz

Directors: Bill Melendez, Phil Roman / Producers: Lee Mendelson, Bill Melendez

Voice Cast: Stephen Shea (Linus), Todd Barbee (Charlie Brown, Russell, Franklin), Hilary Momberger (Sally), Robin Kohn (Lucy), Christopher DeFaria (Peppermint Patty), Jimmy Ahrens (Marcie), Lynn Mortensen (Sally), Melanie Kohn (Lucy), Bill Melendez (Snoopy, Woodstock), Chad Webber (Charlie Brown), Linda Ercoli (Violet, Peppermint Patty), Pamelyn Ferdin (Lucy), Danny Hjelm (Schroeder), Brian Kazanjian (Schroeder), Chris Inglis (Charlie Brown), Donna Forman (Peppermint Patty), Robin Reed (Franklin), Thomas A. Muller (Pig Pen), Linda Mendelson (Frieda)

Features:
Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971), You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972),
There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown (1973), A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973),
It's a Mystery Charlie Brown (1974), It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)


Running Time: 164 Minutes (151 - specials, 13 - bonus) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Aspect Ratio)
Dolby Digital Mono 1.0 (English, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Thai
Not Closed Captioned; Featurette Subtitled in Spanish, Portuguese, Japanese, Thai
DVD Release Date: October 20, 2009 / Suggested Retail Price: $29.98
Two single-sided discs (DVD-9 & DVD-5) / Clear Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Box

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The animated television special took flight in the 1960s. Over a four-year stretch, there came Mr. Magoo's Christmas Special, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
The warm reception given these 30-60 minute broadcasts inspired the companies that made them to create more. Mr. Magoo got a primetime series from UPA, Rudolph established a near-annual tradition of Rankin/Bass holiday musicals, Grinch became the first of several Dr. Seuss books given the cartoon treatment.

A Charlie Brown Christmas was perhaps the easiest act to follow. Charles Schulz had already spent 15 years telling stories with his beloved characters in daily Peanuts newspaper comic strips. Schulz had a distinct voice, a wealth of ideas, and a vast landscape of seasons and subjects to tackle. More than willing to write, adapt, and draw for television, Schulz sensibly continued to collaborate with Christmas producers Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson on half-hour shorts. By the end of the 1960s, six such specials had aired and the trio's feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown was playing in theaters.

Schulz, Melendez, and Mendelson had further tales to tell in the 1970s and both CBS and Paramount Pictures were happy to distribute them. With the full decade in play, animated Peanuts output was exactly double that of the 1960s. The '60s brought six official specials and one film; the '70s delivered twelve specials and two big screen features. Recognizing this, one can understand why Warner Home Video, the franchise's current distributor, would choose to split the decade's productions into two batches for the complete, chronological DVD series initiated last summer. So, next week brings Peanuts 1970's Collection, Volume 1, which holds the six CBS specials that debuted from 1971 to 1974. (The rights to the feature films remain at Paramount, who have kept the two they've released in print.)

Instead of the art museum field trip they're supposed to be on, Marcie, Sally, Peppermint Patty, and Charlie Brown wind up at the supermarket next door and treat it with the same amount of respect in "There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown." In "It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown", every big bubble Snoopy blows from his Sherlock Holmesian pipe lands right on Woodstock, making him wet.

The 1970s Peanuts lack the iconicity of Schulz's two most famous specials (Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown). But taking a cue from their success, other holidays began getting the Peanuts treatment, with agreeable results. Kid-friendly Thanksgiving and Easter are covered here, while the second 1970s volume will hold the gang's observations of Valentine's Day and Arbor Day.

The cast of the specials grows and changes. Having appeared in the comic strip for a few years and only recently been named, little yellow bird Woodstock is introduced in animated form. Immediately, he becomes nearly as focal as Snoopy; the two are almost always seen together. One exception is when Snoopy adopts his Joe Cool persona,
Clip: Snoopy prepares dinner in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving:
something he memorably does in back-to-back '70s specials as his actions become lyrics in Vince Guaraldi's feel-good songs.

Bespectacled Marcie makes her official debut as Peppermint Patty's formally-addressing friend. The mismatched buddies appear prominently in three of these specials. The regular kids -- unlucky Charlie Brown, profound Linus, bossy Lucy, guileless Sally -- remain present and true to character, although nearly all the roles are recast to younger siblings and other children of appropriate age.

These Peanuts specials are starkly different from today's cartoons and even keep a distance from their contemporaries. Although marketed to and enjoyed by children, the writing speaks to anyone who has ever been a child. Certainly, grown-ups may be more likely to appreciate these shorts than those fond of today's fast-paced and often blandly educational programs. Peanuts tales take their time and are willing to spend several minutes sans dialogue on visually comedic storytelling. At the same time, each of these specials contains a distinct, amusing story that's sure to put smiles on viewers' faces.

Snoopy dances with half a dozen bunnies in a surreal interlude from "It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown." Peppermint Patty's phone call and self-invitation is the impetus that sets "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" in motion.

With one to two half-hour specials created each year, the Peanuts specials had clearly achieved some degree of success. Charlie Brown and his friends were now even big enough draws that people would pay to see their adventures on the big screen. That doesn't, however, mean that the animation shortcuts and irregularities that marked the earlier TV specials suddenly disappeared.
The sparse detail and one-colored backgrounds, the incongruities between dialogue and image, the repeated groups of children, and the odd floating act are all here. This doesn't detract from the specials and nostalgic fans no doubt consider such quaint oddities part of the series' charm.

Of the six shorts of 1970's Collection, Vol. 1, three have been earlier released to DVD both by Paramount and then last year as the title attractions of Warner's Remastered Deluxe Editions: You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. A fourth -- There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown -- was one of two classic specials designated as bonus shorts on the long-discontinued 2004 DVD release of 2002's A Charlie Brown Valentine. The remaining two cartoons -- Play It Again, Charlie Brown and It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown -- have never before been on DVD. They're the weakest of the bunch, but still fun, and noteworthy for respectively starring Schroeder and Lucy, Snoopy and Woodstock.

Not that the path to Emmy glory in Children's categories has ever been especially competitive, but four of the six specials featured here were nominated in the Outstanding Achievement in Children's Programming and/or Outstanding Children's Special fields. The only one nominated in both of those categories, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, is also the only one that won an Emmy statue.

In theory, Warner's decade collection DVDs sound like a Peanuts fan's dream come true. They provide a sense of chronology not felt since the original airings. They make available specials that may not be popular enough to sustain standalone releases. And they provide a better value, with six half-hour cartoons and a $29.99 list price being preferable to two at $19.99.

Like its predecessor, though, 1970's Collection, Vol 1. disappoints in two ways. First, it drops the excellent featurettes that accompanied title specials on their earlier Deluxe Edition DVDs. Secondly, this material would fit on just one dual-layered disc with no additional compression needed. The 7.66 GB of data used is well within a DVD-9's capacity. Disc 1 is already a dual-layered disc too. Warner could have put it all one disc, save some manufacturing costs, and make the entire set accessible on one platter. Doing otherwise is nothing more than an unneeded illusion to demonstrate the decade collections' superior value to the Deluxe Editions. Customers can grasp that just from the price and (exaggerated) runtime differences. With a total of 14 specials including three hour-long ones, the inevitable 1980s Collections will each need two discs. But that doesn't mean the '60s and '70s sets did too.

With those sour notes mostly out of the way, let's look in depth at the six featured specials.

Lucy tries to turn the unflappable Schroeder's mind from Beethoven to her in "Play It Again, Charlie Brown." Snoopy and Woodstock proudly show campaign manager Lucy their sign artwork in "You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown."

Disc 1

Play It Again, Charlie Brown (25:12) (First aired March 28, 1971)
A smitten Lucy attempts to turn Schroeder's attentions away from his classical piano playing and onto her. She accepts advice from everyone, eventually scheduling Schroeder to perform at a PTA function. But there's a catch; he can't play his beloved Beethoven. Charlie Brown is nearly absent from this weaker Peanuts special, in which the most memorable things may be Lucy's disarmingly older voice and her sound spray cans.

You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown (25:12) (First aired October 29, 1972)
Lucy's preliminary data puts an end to Charlie Brown's student council ambitions before they can even form. Her aggressive polling also reveals younger brother Linus has more than a good shot to win president. Running, Linus makes promises, takes calls on a radio talk show, and seems destined to defeat opponent Russell Anderson. But Linus' prospects take a dive when he mentions the Great Pumpkin at an assembly. Also, Sally takes a roundabout way to explain her dissatisfaction with school, where Snoopy briefly introduces his Joe Cool persona. Ranking among the best non-holiday Peanuts I've seen, this special succeeds poking gentle fun at the political campaigning process.

There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown (25:00) (First aired March 11, 1973)
The first third of this special is comprised of short sketches illustrating all of the kids' school woes, from being a straight-C student to wrapping one's head around "New Math." The rest deals with a field trip, which prompts worries in Marcie, Sally, and Charlie Brown (who needs a good grade on the report to pass). Along with Peppermint Patty, they wind up exploring the supermarket next door to the art museum they're supposed to tour, a witty idea well mined for humor. Snoopy again becomes Joe Cool as a cashier at the grocery store.

With the gang gathered around the ping pong table for an early afternoon holiday dinner of popcorn and other treats, Linus prepares to make a speech in "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving." Lucy changes her services and price as the situation calls for it in "It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown."

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (25:16) (First aired November 20, 1973)
Peppermint Patty invites herself as well as friends Marcie and Franklin over to Charlie Brown's for Thanksgiving. Rather than explaining his family's conflicting plans, Charlie Brown and Linus host an early dinner of toast, popcorn, pretzels, and jelly beans, with Snoopy and Woodstock handling much of the preparation. There's less of a classic feel to this than the better-known Halloween and Christmas episodes that preceded it, but the kids' makeshift celebration still amounts to a very fun observation of the fall holiday.

Disc 2

It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown (25:14) (First aired February 1, 1974)
Largely void of traditional dialogue, this special puts Snoopy and Woodstock in the foreground. When Woodstock's nest disappears, Snoopy pulls out his magnifying glass and bubble pipe to investigate every kid he knows for clues. You'll probably have it solved before the case is even opened, but when the pooch finally discovers the truth, the matter is brought to court, Lucy's that is, for some jabs at legal writing and a ruling.

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (25:01) (First aired April 9, 1974)
It's Easter time. After rain destroys his nest, Woodstock needs a new birdhouse. Sally wants new shoes. Peppermint Patty needs new eggs after Marcie botches egg-dying preparations. Everyone winds up at the same department store, where they're already selling Christmas merchandise. Linus sees no point in shopping because he insists that the Easter Beagle will come and deliver eggs, a belief that's questioned even as he promises this won't be another disappointment of Great Pumpkin proportions. Two short, surreal Snoopy dance sequences feature here.

Shooting out from the horizon with colorful trails, the title logo for "There's No Time for Love, Charlie Brown" is probably the grooviest one on this set. The race for student body president is close and it's even closer if we're to believe the dialogue instead of Schroeder and Violet's inconsistent chalkboard tally.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The six specials are appropriately presented in 1.33:1 fullscreen and Dolby 1.0 Mono sound. Picture quality is generally pretty good throughout. One of the most noticeable shortcomings is the presence of specks here and there. Seemingly the product of some kind of imperfect digital clean-up, these gray specks are most apparent on characters' peach skin. They also turn up in hair and backgrounds. There are some stretches of graininess, most noticeably on Elected (which looks a little pale in places) and Thanksgiving (which is the closest Warner has come to providing a presentation inferior to an earlier Paramount one). Other times, colors seem overly bright. There is one instance of cel grime. On the whole, though, the vibrant video satisfies and mostly improves upon the shortcomings of Paramount's editions.

As usual, these Peanuts cartoons come with a bevy of language options from Warner. They're dubbed in Spanish, Portuguese, and Japanese, with subtitles offered in those languages plus English for the hearing impaired, French, and Thai. Par for the course, the native sound is dated but perfectly intelligible and with only the mildest of discernible flaws.

"Woodstock: Creating Snoopy's Sidekick" interview subject Derrick Bang kind of looks, dresses, and talks like you'd imagine a Peanuts historian to. Linus tries kicking a football to Sally, something they don't do on this DVD on the slight features menu of the unnecessary second disc.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

The Warner tradition of one bonus feature per Peanuts SKU is upheld here. This set's extra is more on the order of the Remastered Deluxe Edition pieces than the '60s Collection's Vince Guaraldi documentary. That is to say it runs about half the length of a special and bears more relevance to the franchise. But rather than detailing one cartoon's making, "Woodstock: Creating Snoopy's Sidekick" (12:43) considers an entire character.

The bird's purpose, origins, and manners are discussed, from his relationship with Snoopy to the source of his name to his whistling skill revealed in a 1980 special.
The interview pool is a little shallower here than in the past and sadly, Peanuts director and Woodstock voice Bill Melendez is absent, having passed away a year ago. Still, Schulz's widow Jean, author Phil Cousineau, Peanuts historian Derrick Bang, producer Lee Mendelson, and cartoonist Alexis Fajardo offer nice insight and perspective. Plus, the piece is appropriate on a set holding Woodstock's animated introduction and swift rise in prominence.

Those who have picked up all of Warner's Peanuts DVDs can tell you that the bonus featurettes accompanying Elected, Thanksgiving, and Easter on their standalone discs do not resurface here. It's unfortunate that those 12-15 minute companion pieces haven't been carried over, especially considering all the untapped disc space here. On the one hand, the studio doesn't undermine the "Deluxe" Edition claims of those earlier DVDs. On the other hand, I can't think of anyone buying this set who wouldn't want those well-produced retrospectives included.

Disc 1 loads with promos for Peanuts 1960's Collection and I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown. Its Trailers menu holds spots for A Miser Brothers' Christmas and Scooby-Doo!: The Mystery Begins. Disc 2 opens with ads for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1960s & 1970s Volume 2s. A trailer for DVD game Harry Potter: Wizarding World curiously gets its own listing on Disc 2's Special Features menu.

The static 16x9 menus place a 1-2 character image against a white background. As usual, "Linus and Lucy" plays on the main screens.

Like the 1960's Collection, 1970's Vol. 1 holds its two discs in a clear keepcase that slides horizontally into an embossed cardboard box. Mixing things up, Lucy claims the top of the spine, something Snoopy has done on all Warner Peanuts DVDs until now. Synopses of the specials are provided on the keepcase art's reverse.

An in-case insert supplies a final bonus feature: free iTunes downloads of two tracks from Fantasy Records' Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits album. Both "Thanksgiving Theme" (2:00) and "Charlie's Blues" (1:21) are jazzy Vince Guaraldi Trio instrumentals. Between these and the downloads included on last year's Holiday Collection DVDs, Warner has given away nearly the entire Holiday Hits CD to Peanuts collectors, with some overlap.

Snoopy is Joe Cool in school and in this grocery store checkout line. Sally shows Charlie Brown the discounted, nearly-outdated platform shoes she would like to purchase on the gang's Easter shopping excursion in an unseasonably-decorated department store.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Peanuts 1970's Collection, Vol. 1 seems to clarify Warner's intention to release chronological 2-disc sets, each holding 6-7 specials and one exclusive bonus featurette. If those exciting plans are carried out in full, that makes this the second of seven collections that should make all 44 official Peanuts specials available.
(Not included in that count are four feature films, two short-lived 1980s television series, and a number of documentaries/retrospectives.)

With only minor cast differences, the six specials of this DVD offer about as good a time as the six 1960's shorts. Picture and sound satisfy, the Woodstock featurette is solid, and the price is fairly reasonable. Once again, though, fine bonus materials from the two-short DVDs are dropped and Warner asks Peanuts fans to choose between getting bonus features or more specials, with those wanting both forced to make multiple purchases of the same programs. One wonders if the studio will eventually issue a big collectible short with 6 shorts to a disc and all the bonus features produced. That would be ideal and no doubt offer an even better price-to-special ratio. Unless or until that happens, these sweet decade collections are highly recommended, especially for those who won't feel the need to own every Peanuts cartoon made.

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Related Reviews:
Peanuts 1970's Collection, Vol. 2 Peanuts 1960's Collection Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown
New: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Diamond Edition Blu-ray) A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa
Early '70s Television: Schoolhouse Rock! (30th Anniversary Edition) The Odd Couple: The Third Season The House Without a Christmas Tree
Early '70s Movies: Bedknobs and Broomsticks Robin Hood (most Wanted Edition) Napoleon and Samantha Snowball Express
Holiday Treats: T.V. Sets Forever Funny: T.V. Sets Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Very First Alvin Show

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Reviewed October 15, 2009.

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Text copyright 2009 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1971-74 United Feature Syndicate, Inc. and 2009 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.