Pamelyn Ferdin

A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969, Bill Melendez)

A Boy Named Charlie Brown gets by on a lot of charm. It takes writer and creator Charles M. Schulz forever to get to the story. It takes Schulz so long to get to the story–Charlie Brown, spelling bee champ–it seems like there isn’t going to be a story.

Schulz lays the groundwork for the story, sure; Charlie Brown enters the spelling bee as an attempt to bolster his self-confidence. Nothing else has worked. He’s lost a baseball game, he’s had a lousy–not just for him–therapy session with Lucy. He even losses at tic-tac-toe.

So, right after Lucy and two other girls sing a song to Charlie Brown about him being a “failure face.” Not a great song. Rod McKuen writes the melancholy Charlie Brown songs, John Scott Trotter writes the didactic spelling song.

Even with director Melendez’s suburban Expressionist visuals and the fantastic montaging courteosy Robert T. Gillis, Chuck McCann, and Steven Cuitlahuac Melendez’s expert cutting, Failure Face is a low point. It’s the meanest the girls ever get to Charlie Brown. Sure, maybe it’s the inciting incident for the spelling bee plot development, but Melendez doesn’t change tone with it. Just because Schulz is finally ready to go, Melendez isn’t speeding up Boy. It’s still going to be slow and deliberate, with visually outrageous montages, interludes, and asides.

Schulz’s spelling bee plot works out. Linus gave Charlie Brown his blanket to keep him comfort at the nationals. Linus didn’t know he’d go into fainting spellings without the blanket, he and Snoopy go to nationals.

Nationals appear to be in a beautiful and empty New York City. Why Linus gets the excursion to the New York Public Library and Rockefeller Center while Charlie Brown is literally studying in a movie called A Boy Named Charlie Brown doesn’t even matter. Snoopy goes with Linus. And has his own daydream about playing hockey.

It’s the last daydream–or aside or iunterlude–and it’s the worst. It’s cartoon Snoopy in front of silhouetted hockey footage. Boy Named Charlie Brown has this Beethoven “music video” full of Eastern Orthodox imagery (I think, I saw eggs) and all sorts of other amazing stuff. It’s wondrous. And everything else is good if not excellent. To end on a blah daydream?

Maybe if Schulz’s lesson came through, it’d work. Schulz has a lesson in A Boy Named Charlie Brown for Charlie Brown and it’s eighty-five minutes coming so maybe it should be good. It’s not a good lesson. It’s a “movie’s over in two minutes” lesson. The film’s just shown it can do New York City and scale and then it’s got a bad lesson for Charlie Brown, who spent the last third of the movie offscreen.

Even the spelling bee is from the perspective of the other kids. Charlie Brown narrates Boy for a while, yet Schulz doesn’t want to spend the time with him. Schulz is sympathetic to Charlie Brown, empathetic to him, but he never seems to like him. All of Charlie Brown’s details are jokes at his expense. Or at least Schulz goes that route in A Boy Named Charlie Brown. The eventual story arc starts with lengthy depression monologue thirteen year-old Peter Robbins gets to do as Charlie Brown. Schulz gets intense when he’s not trying to be funny.

And then sometimes he’s not funny. Like Lucy. Not funny. Pamelyn Ferdin’s never particularly likable as Lucy here because all she’s ever doing is being mean to Charlie Brown. She’s invested in it, nothing else. She and Schroeder only have the one scene–kicking off the great Beethoven music video–but Schulz gives Lucy almost nothing other than being mean.

Glenn Gilger’s the best performance. He’s Linus. Robbins’s is good as Charlie Brown. But Schulz doesn’t give him anything good. Gilger’s best because he gets the best material.

Excellent score from Vince Guarladi. Fantastic animation. A Boy Named Charlie Brown has all the parts it needs to be great–not McKuen, sorry, forgot about him; but it doesn’t work out. Schulz’s plotting is too cumbersome.



Directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis, Chuck McCann, and Steven Cuitlahuac Melendez; music by Vince Guaraldi; produced by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson; released by National General Pictures.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Pamelyn Ferdin (Lucy Van Pelt), Glenn Gilger (Linus Van Pelt), Andy Pforsich (Schroeder), Sally Dryer (Patty), Ann Altieri (Violet), Erin Sullivan (Sally), Lynda Mendelson (Frieda), and Christopher DeFaria (Pig Pen).

It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown (1969, Bill Melendez)

“It Was a Short Summer, Charlie Brown” is a rather ambitious cartoon, both from Melendez’s directorial standpoint and Charles M. Schulz’s narrative. It starts with the beginning of the school year, then moves back–through the writing of a theme–to the summer. Schulz uses Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy to establish the flashback, which gives “Summer” a very nice feel.

He is not, unfortunately, ambitious enough to use the format to explore unreliable narrators.

And Melendez comes up with some excellent composition. But his animators fail him one after another. There will be some beautiful layout and the animation detail is just terrible. Characters are static in one shot and animate in another. It’s disconcerting.

The cartoon succeeds overall, overcoming the animation problems. Peter Robbins is good as Charlie Brown and Christopher DeFaria amuses as Peppermint Patty.

“Summer” also shows, very briefly, a teenager, which is a Peanuts rarity.



Directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis, Chuck McCann and Steven Cuitlahuac Melendez; music by Vince Guaraldi; produced by Melendez and Lee Mendelson; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Pamelyn Ferdin (Lucy van Pelt), Glenn Gilger (Linus van Pelt), Hilary Momberger (Sally Brown), Christopher DeFaria (Patricia ‘Peppermint Patty’ Reichardt), John Daschback (Schroeder), Ann Altieri (Frieda), David Carey (Shermy) and Gail DeFaria (Pigpen).

Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971, Bill Melendez)

“Play It Again, Charlie Brown” is shockingly bad. About the only good part of it comes near the end, as Danny Hjeim’s Schroeder debates whether to play rock instead of Beethoven at a concert. There’s actual internal conflict and so on.

Unfortunately, it’s a small scene and can’t make up for the rest of “Play It Again”. No one escapes responsibility.

Melendez’s direction is mostly mediocre but occasionally bad. There are constant jump cuts and the editing, in general, is poor.

Charles M. Schulz’s script involves what boils down to a sci-fi deus ex machina, eradicating the other characters’ struggles in a few seconds.

But the worst part is Pamelyn Ferdin’s performance as Lucy. Maybe it’s mean to pick on a twelve-year old and whatnot, but she makes “Play It Again”‘s twenty-five minute runtime a grating annoyance. She’s just awful.

It’s a very disappointing Peanuts outing.

1/3Not Recommended


Directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis, Chuck McCann and Rudy Zamora Jr.; music by Vince Guaraldi; produced by Melendez and Lee Mendelson; released by Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Pamelyn Ferdin (Lucy van Pelt), Stephen Shea (Linus van Pelt), Danny Hjeim (Schroeder), Hilary Momberger (Sally Brown), Lynda Mendelson (Frieda), Christopher DeFaria (Patricia ‘Peppermint Patty’ Reichardt) and Chris Inglis (Charlie Brown).

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