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PEANUTS CLASSIC HOLIDAY COLLECTION

Review by Michael Jacobson

Creator:  Charles M. Schulz
Audio:  Dolby Mono
Video:  Full Frame
Studio:  Paramount
Features:  Three Bonus Features
Length:  75 Minutes
Release Date:  October 4, 2005

"Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest!"

Shows ***1/2

I once saw an interview with producer Lee Mendelson where he talked about the year CBS contacted him about doing a Peanuts holiday special.  He got on the phone with comic strip artist Charles M. Schulz and told him he had sold "A Charlie Brown Christmas".  What was "A Charlie Brown Christmas", Schulz queried?  Mendelson didn't know, but suggested the artist get to work right away.

That 1965 special has been a Christmas tradition for forty years now, and the magic has passed from one generation to the next.  It not only perfectly captured the wonderful Peanuts characters, but expressed the true meaning of the holiday, as Schulz insisted the passage from the book of Luke describing the birth of Christ be used.

Now it, and two other holiday staples have been included in one nicely packaged box set.  The Peanuts Classic Holiday Collection is a joyful treat that will keep families smiling and ready for the big celebrations from October through the end of the year.  Here is the rundown:

A Charlie Brown Christmas

"MERRY CHRISTMAS, CHARLIE BROWN!"

The one that started it all is just as winning as ever.  Not only did this show become a staple of the Christmas season, it also laid the groundwork for all future Peanuts television specials, with the prevailing holiday themes and the terrific, unforgettable music by Vince Guaraldi and his trio.  In this initial offering, Charlie Brown struggles with the true meaning of Christmas in the face of endless commercialism.  It takes his friends and a little pathetic tree to make the real spirit of the holiday come to life for him, and us.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

"My grandmother lives in a condominium."

We can be thankful that the Peanuts gang returned for this holiday treat.  Charlie Brown and family are going over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house for the big day.  The problem?  Peppermint Patty and friends have invited themselves over to Chuck's place for dinner.  Can he, Sally and Snoopy make the day bright using a feast of toast and popcorn...or will Charlie Brown end up as the turkey?

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

"I got a rock."

Charlie Brown doesn't fare much better at Halloween, what with his costume problems and bad luck at trick or treating.  But come on...Halloween isn't nearly as important as the other two holidays, so the spirit stays light and the humor constant.  The centerpiece is, of course, Linus' neverending faith in the Great Pumpkin, and Sally's regret at having spent her whole Halloween in the pumpkin patch waiting for the elusive visitor!

Owning these on DVD for yourselves and your children is a great way to insure your holiday fun gets off on the right foot.  In fact, you may notice some things in these specials you'd forgotten...over the years, as commercial time increased, some trimming had taken place with this classic cartoons.  But now, thanks to DVDs, they are fully intact and won't play Grinch with your festivities.

It was a sad day when Charles Schulz finally left us after decades of great entertainment in our newspapers, on TV and in films.  But the magic of what he created will never leave us.  These programs are the proof in the pudding.

Video ***

It's still sometimes hard for me to believe that two of these shows have been around longer than I have.  It's even harder to believe when you watch them on DVD.  They've held up well, and enjoy a clean, crisp presentation on disc.  Not much in the way of aging artifacts to speak of, and the colors and lines have been maintained quite well.

Audio **

The mono mixes are passable...not much dynamic range existent or required.  The spoken words are fairly clean, and Vince Guaraldi's music sounds as great as ever.  A little background noise here and there, but nothing distracting.

Features **

Each disc includes an extra Peanuts TV special:  "The Mayflower Voyagers" and "You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown" are both good, but I was partial to "It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown".  That's the one where Sally is in the school Christmas play...her job is to say "Hark!", and then Harold Angel starts to sing.

Summary:

What would our holidays be without these timeless specials?  I don't even want to think about that.  Charlie Brown is as much a part of them as Santa Claus, tricks or treats, or big pilgrim hats.  The Peanuts Classic Holiday Collection is a great way to relive your memories...not to mention make new ones for your kids!

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