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Peanuts 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 Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown
It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown "The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show"
Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown

Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection DVD Review

Buy the Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection DVD set from Amazon.com Specials, Episode & DVD Details

Writer/Creator: Charles M. Schulz
Directors: Bill Melendez, Phil Roman, Evert Brown / Producers: Lee Mendelson, Bill Melendez
Music: Vince Guaraldi, John Scott Trotter, Ed Bogas, Judy Munsen, David Benoit

Features:
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966)
It's Magic, Charlie Brown (1981)
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973)
The Mayflower Voyagers (1988)
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992)


Running Time: 189 Minutes (147 - specials, 42 - bonus) / Rating: Not Rated
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Ratio)
Dolby Digital Mono 2.0/1.0 (English, Japanese, Portuguese, Spanish; no Spanish on Thanksgiving)
Subtitles: English, Chinese, Japanese, Portuguese, Korean, Thai, Spanish; no Spanish on Thanksgiving; Not Closed Captioned; Featurettes Subtitled in All But English
DVD Release Date: September 23, 2008 / Originally Aired Between 1965 and 1992
Suggested Retail Price: $29.98 (Reduced from $44.98)
Three single-sided, single-layered discs (DVD-5s) and audio CD sampler
Three Black Keepcases in Embossed Cardboard Box
Also available as Blu-ray + DVD Pack ($39.98 SRP; October 5, 2010)

Buy from Amazon.com: DVD Blu-ray + DVD Blu-ray

For many people, the holidays just wouldn't be the same without the Peanuts animated TV specials born out of Charles Schulz's popular, enduring comic strip. Perhaps you saw some in childhood and love the nostalgic feeling they now provide. Maybe you caught them later in life and appreciate the rare wit found within.
It could be a tradition in your household to observe a holiday season by watching the requisite network airing or scheduling a family DVD viewing. Just about the only way you could be unaffected by the trials of Charlie Brown, Linus, Lucy, Sally, Snoopy, Woodstock, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Schroeder, Franklin, Pig-Pen et al. is if you've never seen a Peanuts special before.

If that's the case, you need to do something about it immediately and new Peanuts distributor Warner Home Video is making that quite easy with its ongoing Remastered Deluxe Edition DVD releases of various half-hour highlights in the Peanuts gang's careers. The subject of this review, the Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection, gathers the recent and subsequent standalone discs given to October-December mainstays It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and, the one that started it all and remains the most beloved, A Charlie Brown Christmas.

If you're a big fan of the Peanuts specials, then chances are you've at least given thought to buying some of them on DVD. In fact, you may very well own some of the ten releases that former owner Paramount treated the franchise to. The first wave of these came in September of 2000 and included Pumpkin, Thanksgiving, and Christmas -- probably the three best-known Peanuts specials -- on their own and in a Holiday Collection box set. Now, after tackling the Valentine's Day and Easter specials at the peak marketing times, Warner gets to the A-list Peanuts and, following Paramount's lead, issues this 3-DVD set.

Christmas brings happiness to most children, but not Charlie Brown, who consults Lucy for a nickel's worth of counsel. Woodstock and Snoopy enjoy a traditional Thanksgiving meal together. Don't think too hard about it.

Your gut reaction may be "been there, done that", but that isn't entirely justified. For one thing, Warner shakes up the established roster by dropping Great Pumpkin's former partner You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown (since given its own release) in favor of the lesser-known It's Magic, Charlie Brown.

More importantly, Warner has shown a bit more care to the specials, which number nearly 50 and span over 40 years. The studio's DVDs have delivered better picture quality, insightful new featurettes, snazzier packaging, and a uniform design. Those factors are enough to make the faithful Peanuts fan base consider upgrading and to push non-owners towards buying.
But really, nice though those touches may be, the specials themselves are what really attract your attention. Adapted by Schulz himself, produced by Lee Mendelson, and directed by accomplished animation veterans Bill Melendez and Phil Roman, the Peanuts specials are loaded with humor, heart, and humanity.

In addition to the famous title-claiming specials (the first, third, and tenth primetime Peanuts works) and the aforementioned It's Magic, this set holds two other less treasured pieces. "Mayflower Voyagers", an episode of CBS' late-'80s "This is America, Charlie Brown" series, fits well with an historical perspective on Thanksgiving. It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown is another obvious choice as well, as the second of four Peanuts Christmas specials produced and the last one Schulz lived to see.

The discs in the Deluxe Holiday Collection are identical to the standalone releases. Sensibly, this set arrives at a much lower price than buying the titles individually. In addition, there are some differences in packaging, the most notable being the inclusion of an exclusive audio CD, a 6-track A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack sampler.

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown DVD coverIt's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Remastered Deluxe Edition
(Buy on its own from Amazon.com: DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video)

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

Though ridiculed by peers, Linus puts his devout faith to the test by waiting in a pumpkin patch with Sally all night for the Great Pumpkin to arrive bearing gifts. Snoopy, on the other hand, experiences life as a World War I Flying Ace.
Opting for a more traditional holiday of trick-or-treating and costume party, Charlie Brown has his Halloween marred only by embarrassment and a stream of rocks. Probably the second most popular special, this one captures the holiday's spirit in a distinctly Peanuts way.

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

Snoopy uses Charlie Brown's library card to read up on magic and before long, the dog is giving a show as The Great Houndini. One of his successful tricks renders Charlie Brown indefinitely invisible, a state both he and the special enjoy exploring. Indulging in fantasy beyond Snoopy's usual anthropomorphism, this is maybe the silliest Peanuts special I've seen, but it's also fun.

Six of the Peanuts gang goes trick-or-treating on Halloween including holey ghost Charlie Brown, crabby witch Lucy, and the ever-filthy Pigpen. Snoopy seems initially unfazed by the sight of his food bowl floating. It's held by an invisible Charlie Brown. It's magic. Toast, pretzels, popcorn, and jelly beans... this isn't the Thanksgiving dinner Peppermint Patty was expecting.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving DVD coverA Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: Remastered Deluxe Edition
(Buy on its own from Amazon.com: DVD, Blu-ray + DVD, Instant Video)

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (25:16) (First aired November 20, 1973)
Voice Cast: Todd Barbee (Charlie Brown), Robin Kohn (Lucy), Stephen Shea (Linus), Hilary Momberger (Sally), Christopher DeFaria (Peppermint Patty), Jimmy Ahrens (Marcie), Robin Reed (Franklin), Bill Melendez (Snoopy, Woodstock)

Self-inviting Peppermint Patty ropes Charlie Brown into hosting a Thanksgiving dinner for several guests. The makeshift backyard feast consists of buttered toast, pretzel sticks, popcorn, and jelly beans. Wrangling with a garage door, a ping pong table, and a lawn chair, Snoopy helps with the preparations and celebrates with Woodstock. Less iconic than Pumpkin and Christmas, this later special still rampantly entertains.

"The Mayflower Voyagers" (24:14) (First aired October 21, 1988)
Voice Cast: Erin Chase (Charlie Brown), Brandon Stewart (Linus), Brittany Thornton (Sally), Erica Gayle (Lucy), Jason Mendelson (Peppermint Patty), Frank Welker (Squanto), Gregg Berger, Chris Collins, Tani Powers (Marcie), Sean Mendelson, Bill Melendez (Snoopy, Woodstock)

English pilgrims' arduous 1620 journey to America and early struggles settling there are depicted with the Peanuts gang in the ranks and narrating. The first of eight episodes in CBS' "This is America, Charlie Brown" educational TV series, this program has a noticeably different feel than the specials. For instance, breaking a tradition, we both see and hear adults, who outnumber the kids and include the resourceful Squanto.

A Charlie Brown Christmas DVD coverA Charlie Brown Christmas: Remastered Deluxe Edition
(Buy on its own from Amazon.com: DVD, Blu-ray, Instant Video)

Squanto towers over the Peanuts gang, as one of several adults fully seen and intelligibly heard in "The Mayflower Voyagers." The Peanuts gang could take direction from Charlie Brown or they could rock out to Schroeder's beats. Here's what they chose. Everybody children dance ahhh ohhh now. The message being relayed from Angel Gabriel (Franklin) to Mary (Marcie) is interrupted by one Peppermint Patty-flavored sheep in the nativity play of "It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown."

A Charlie Brown Christmas (25:25) (First aired December 9, 1965)
Voice Cast: Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Chris Shea (Linus), Tracy Stafford (Lucy), Cathy Steinberg (Sally), Sally Dryer (Violet), Geoffrey Ornstein (Pig-Pen), Chris Doran (Schroeder, Shermy), Karen Mendelson (Patty), Ann Altieri (Frieda), Bill Melendez (Snoopy)

Christmas is making Charlie Brown depressed not cheerful. At the advice of "real in" shrink Lucy, Charlie decides to direct his schoolmates in the annual Christmas play. Even there, though, the season's commercialism and cast's lack of focus keep Charlie Brown bummed.
Will a trip to the local Christmas tree lot make things better? This is perhaps the most perfect, wonderful half-hour of television ever made.

It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (22:55) (First aired November 27, 1992)
Voice Cast: Mindy Ann Martin (Sally), John Christian Graas (Linus), Philip Lucier (Peppermint Patty), Lindsay Bennish (Marcie), Brittany M. Thornton, Jamie E. Smith (Charlie Brown), Marnette Patterson (Lucy), Matthew Slowik (Harold Angel), Deanna Tello (Peggy Jean), Sean Mendelson (Franklin), Bill Melendez (Snoopy, Woodstock)

More a collection of short sketches than other specials, this Christmas story finds everyone doing their own thing. Wrapped up in getting, Sally tries to remember her one-word line for the school nativity play, which also features Marcie as Mary and Peppermint Patty as a sheep. Meanwhile, Charlie Brown sells wreaths and tries to raise funds to buy a pair of gloves for his girlfriend Peggy Jean. Diverting, if no classic.

Charlie Brown takes to this tiny, real Christmas tree standing out among the colorful, aluminum offerings. Still from Paramount's 2000 DVD - click to view screencap in full 720 x 480. Surprised to see "they still make wooden Christmas trees", Linus isn't sure this one fits the modern spirit. Still from Warner's 2008 DVD - click to view screencap in full 720 x 480.

Screencap from Paramount's 2000 Charlie Brown Christmas DVD

The same frame on Warner's Remastered Deluxe Edition

Clarity, sharpness, color, and detail differentiate identical frames of Charlie Brown and Linus' Christmas tree lot run.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The six programs appear in their native 1.33:1 fullscreen aspect ratios. The succinct assessment: picture quality is not perfect, but then would that be appropriate for a series whose simplicity factors into its charm? While the specials probably could a look a little better, there is no doubt a fine line between optimizing the video and cleaning up shortcomings that existed in the original broadcasts.

But Warner calls these DVDs Remastered Deluxe Editions and that's no mere marketing banner.
Halloween Costumes
It is evident that the studio hasn't merely dragged and dropped files provided them. On the whole, the transfers do clearly offer improvement over Paramount's incarnations. Sharpness, brightness, detail, and color are all sources of difference between the DVD incarnations and in nearly every A/B comparison I did Warner's transfers fared better.

Warner is the clear winner on It's the Great Pumpkin. Being new to DVD, It's Magic has no frame of reference, but it is of pleasing quality. I was a little disappointed by A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which is a lot grainier than on its previous DVD, about as cluttered with tiny marks, and occasionally oddly-colored. Though I can't compare it to Paramount's "This is America, Charlie Brown" set, "The Mayflower Voyagers" looks much better here than on the original Thanksgiving DVD. Scratches and specks are easier to notice on A Charlie Brown Christmas than before, but the new transfer is preferred overall. It's Christmastime Again shows considerable improvement, and its few shortcomings can be attributed to a seemingly sloppy production.

In the sound department, each program arrives in Dolby Digital Mono, which is encoded as two channels for Pumpkin and Magic and one channel for everything else. I did notice that the audio sounds mildly cleaner on Warner's DVD, but the specials are so simple in design than you'd really have to be listening closely to discern the mixes.

Peanuts historian and website operator Scott McGuire puts the specials in context with his featurette appearances. Todd Barbee, the voice of Charlie Brown in three 1970s specials, recalls his experiences in "Popcorn & Jellybeans: Making a Thanksgiving Classic." A Bill Melendez-signed drawing of the iconic closing image of A Charlie Brown Christmas is seen in the featurette "A Christmas Miracle."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, DESIGN and PACKAGING

Each DVD designates a new featurette and "Trailers" as its special features. Needless to say, the former are more fulfilling.

They are: "We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown" (13:55), "Popcorn & Jellybeans: Making A Thanksgiving Classic" (12:25),
and "A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas" (15:56). Driven by interviews, the featurettes address a variety of topics pertaining to the creation and reception of the disc's title short. Each one covers production facts, the comic strip equivalents, themes, music, voices, specific scenes, and awards. The Christmas piece stands out for discussing network opposition, the religious aspects, missing scenes, and the special's tremendous success; it even provides fleeting glimpses at storyboards and a vintage Peanuts Ford commercial.

The ever-impressive lineup of on-camera speakers here includes producer Lee Mendelson, director/producer Bill Melendez, Peanuts historian Scott McGuire, director Phil Roman, Charles Schulz's widow Jeannie and son Monte, animation writer Mark Evanier, former CBS executive Fred Silverman, and Peanuts voices Todd Barbee (Charlie Brown), Christopher DeFaria (Peppermint Patty), and Hilary Momberger (Sally).

These wonderful featurettes are both highly informative and welcomely celebratory. The only real shortcoming I see is that the discs' B-side programs go outright unmentioned in them.

With making-ofs running half as long as a typical special, the DVDs are no slouch in the supplements department. But I think that getting the original CBS TV ads for the specials would certainly have been appreciated, as would be galleries holding corresponding comic strips and commentaries featuring the interview subjects. In addition, there is the half-hour Whoopi Goldberg-hosted "Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas" documentary that debuted in 2001. Paramount put that on DVD with I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown and maybe Warner will do the same, but it really belongs here.

Each DVD opens with Warner's Wizard of Oz anti-piracy promo and a few previews. Advertised either there or in the Trailers sections are Jack Frost: Remastered Deluxe Edition, Scooby-Doo DVD Game: Funland of Freaky Frights, Scooby-Doo and the Goblin King, Popeye the Sailor, Volume Two, "The Smurfs": Season One Volume Two, Fred Claus, The Wiggles: You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, and, in a composite promo more logical on the standalone releases, the very Remastered Deluxe Editions of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas featured here.

Like the others, the main menu for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving closely resembles the DVD's cover art. Choose from the 1960s and 1990s Peanuts Christmas specials with the candy cane cursor of A Charlie Brown Christmas' Features menu.

Menus choose the DVD cover's color scheme and place character shots from the title special against a solid background, while displaying creative cursors. Pleasantly simple and consistent, they are all static. They're also silent, except for the main menus, which provide a robust 70-second loop of Vince Guaraldi's familiar "Linus and Lucy" theme (Christmas uses Guaraldi's "O Tannenbaum" arrangement instead).

The Collection loses the cardboard slipcovers of the individual releases and gains a slick cardboard box to comfortably hold the trio of keepcases.
Like the individual Peanuts slipcovers, the box boasts reflective sections, selective embossing on four sides, and an apt use of simple character imagery against colorful backgrounds.

Each of the DVD keepcases holds a double-sided insert offering a discount code for Concord Music Group's website and a unique code for two free iTunes song downloads. Four songs offered are from Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits: "Great Pumpkin Waltz" and "Oh, Good Grief" on It's the Great Pumpkin, "Camptown Races" and "Thanksgiving Theme" (not yet active) on Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. A Charlie Brown Christmas provides "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and "Christmas Time is Here" (vocal version), two tracks from the special's original soundtrack. That soundtrack is further sampled in a six-song audio CD exclusive to this box set and packaged within Christmas' keepcase. Between the downloads and the 18-minute CD, you end up with seven of the twelve tracks ("Hark" comes twice) from that delightful Vince Guaraldi Trio album. Not a bad deal, although I imagine many Peanuts fans buying the set will already own the full Christmas soundtrack.

Linus stands alone in a pumpkin patch awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. Any time of the year is fine for Lucy to try her old pull-the-football-away gag on Charlie Brown. Variations of it appear in three of the six specials on the Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

You simply must let the best-known Peanuts animated specials into your collection, even if you're not particularly into seasonal DVD viewings.
Ranging from great to amazing, the title-claiming cartoons remain delightful and able to put just about any person of any age in the holiday mood.

Warner's Deluxe Holiday Collection really is the smart way to add three recommended DVDs to your collection in one fell swoop. This may not be the definitive Peanuts specials DVD set -- that would provide more shows and bonus features and also make more of the format's capacity (everything here could have fit snugly on one disc). But, without a doubt it's the best Peanuts DVD now on the market and very much worth owning. Even those who have Paramount's versions stand to benefit by upgrading for the enhanced presentations and fine new supplements.

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Related Reviews:
Peanuts 1960's Collection Peanuts 1970's Collection, Vol. 1 Peanuts 1970's Collection, Vol. 2 The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show
I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
New to DVD: Alvin and the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift Set Jack Frost: Remastered Deluxe Edition Sleeping Beauty: Platinum Edition
Mickey's Christmas Carol DreamWorks Holiday Classics Prep & Landing It's a Wonderful Life Holiday Treats: T.V. Sets
The Muppet Christmas Carol The Santa Clause A Special Sesame Street Christmas
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Classic Holiday Stories The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
One Magic Christmas The House Without a Christmas Tree Christmas Treats: T.V. Sets
Classic Cartoon Favorites: Holiday Celebration with Mickey & Pals The Easter Bunny is Comin' to Town (Deluxe Edition)
Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Alvinnn!!! Edition Schoolhouse Rock! Election Collection Smurfs: Season 1, Volume 1

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Reviewed October 9, 2008.



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