Peter Robbins

He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown (1968, Bill Melendez)

He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown opens with Snoopy terrorizing the kids. He’s indiscriminately vicious, leading to the kids complaining to Charlie Brown about it. Charlie Brown’s solution is to send Snoopy off to the puppy farm for reeducation.

Snoopy is Dog’s draw. His worst moments are the initial terrorizing and even those are perfectly good. They’re beautifully animated. The transitions from cute Snoopy to terrorizing Snoopy are phenomenal. Melendez’s direction is strong throughout, particularly during the travel montages, but the opening terrorizing is more than solid stuff. Charles M. Schulz’s script works fast, getting Snoopy in trouble–after a quick, well-directed Red Baron (ish) sequence–and getting him off for retraining.

Unfortunately, Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) decides to give Snoopy a layover on his trip. Snoopy’s going to spend the night at Peppermint Patty’s. Peppermint Patty (Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter) who just thinks Snoopy is a funny-looking kid.

Once Snoopy gets to Peppermint Patty’s and she treats him so well, he decides he’s not going to leave and instead goes on furlough. I mean, she’s got an in-ground swimming pool and waits on him hand and foot. While Snoopy’s various antics–and his eventual emotional breakdown–are Dog’s essentials, DeFaria Ritter is the one who makes it all work. Snoopy (despite director Melendez contributing growls and such) is nonverbal. DeFaria Ritter gets a lot of dialogue–all of the verbal jokes and gags–for most of the cartoon.

Even after Charlie Brown comes back in–he finds out Snoopy is skipping retraining and heads over to Peppermint Patty’s leash in hand, causing a further rift between he and Snoopy–DeFaria Ritter still gets the best material. When Snoopy comes back to her house after his dust-up with Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty has had enough with the waiting on him and instead puts him to work cleaning the house, which ends up being as hilarious as when she’s waiting on him.

Charlie Brown once again comes back, this time because he and the kids miss Snoopy, only for the reunion to again go south, leaving Snoopy more trapped than ever.

Schulz’s plotting is outstanding, Melendez’s direction is spry, the animation is exquisite–Vince Guaraldi’s score is a little wanting but still fine. He’s Your Dog is a fine cartoon, a great showcase for DeFaria Ritter, as well as Snoopy as a lead character. Schulz gives Snoopy multi-layered adventures. There are his daydreams, his main plot, then the incidentals. There’s always something different, even when they repeat the same animation (just once, but noticeably). Schulz and Melendez do a great job keeping Snoopy’s adventure fresh.

And when Dog needs to be sentimental or emotional, Melendez and Schulz always make it happen without getting too saccharine.

The cartoon’s pragmatically exquisite.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Sally Dryer (Lucy), Christopher Shea (Linus), and Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter (Peppermint Patty).


Charlie Brown’s All Stars! (1966, Bill Melendez)

Despite being all about baseball–specifically baseball games–“Charlie Brown’s All Stars!” barely has any logic to how its baseball works. It’s summertime and Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) loses the kids’ first game of baseball for them. Although, really, no one else on the team is any good, but he’s the only one who wants to play so it’s all his fault.

He’s able to convince them to come back and play again because the hardware shop owner is willing to get them uniforms and back the team in the Little League. Only it turns out Little League teams can’t have dogs or girls on them, in that order, so Charlie Brown decides to lie about the uniforms and just inspire everyone to play well.

And they do. Probably. There’s not just no adults in “All Stars,” none of the other team appears either. Even during the baseball games. Even during the baseball game where it’d be real important for them to show up so there was some logic about how the kids are playing (and losing) the games. But they get enough hits to stay competitive in the game, though the other team only has two runs at the bottom of the ninth.

For as much as “All Stars” goes on about baseball, it never seems like writer Charles M. Schulz particularly cares about it, which is fine for comic strips, but not really for a narrative. Especially not one about baseball.

The baseball story line–which has Charlie Brown making a tough, but moral decision (though it’s not really a tough decision and the cartoon barely pretends it to be)–kind of finishes before the end, when Schulz goes for a different laugh and fumbles it. Lots of fumbles in the script. You can see the scene as a four panel comic strip and it just does not translate.

There are a handful of decent jokes–always involving Christopher Shea (as Linus) though he’s in the last one and it bombs–and there’s some cute animation. All the kids nonsensically have skateboards, if only so they can skateboard away from Charlie Brown and his promise of baseball. The Pigpen jokes all fall particularly flat and Sally’s one scene trying to tempt Linus in her bikini is… really awkward and sort of concerning. It’s a short scene though (even if the failing joke gets drug out), which is probably for the best.

Most of the performances are uneven. Shea’s best. Robbins’s rocky. Sally Dryer has more bad line readings than good as Lucy. Glenn Mendelson’s flat as Schroeder, who’s not in it enough for it to matter. But Karen Mendelson (as Violet) and Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter (as Shermy) are probably the most consistently good. All of Ann Altieri’s Freida moments–usually about her curly hair–flop except one.

“All Stars” just don’t have any narrative flow. It’s not rushed, but it’s kind of aimless. Melendez’s direction doesn’t have any personality–except avoiding the particulars of the baseball game. Sadly Vince Guaraldi’s score is minimal. More music might’ve helped.

Nothing really works right in “All Stars.” It’s too bad, but nothing really works from the start so it’s not particularly surprising.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Sally Dryer (Lucy), Christopher Shea (Linus), Karen Mendelson (Violet), Glenn Mendelson (Schroeder), Cathy Steinberg (Sally), Geoffrey Ornstein (Pigpen), Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter (Shermy), Ann Altieri (Freida), and Lynn Vanderlip (Patty).


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.

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

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’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966, Bill Melendez)

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is near perfect. Director Melendez and writer Charles M. Schulz create this beautiful little experience. The special’s excellence is in its structure. “Pumpkin” has the main plot–Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, which actually starts as Linus writing the Great Pumpkin–and then the two subplots. First, the other Peanuts gang having Halloween and, second, Snoopy’s adventures as a World War I ace.

The three threads mix a lot–Snoopy shows up memorably in Linus’s story and Lucy is always giving Linus crap when she passes through his pumpkin patch–and the special creates its own cohesive universe. There’s no concern for anything outside it; Melendez and Schulz conceive it beautifully.

They even have time for capsule scenes, like Snoopy’s reactions to Schroeder’s piano playing.

And the end is absolutely perfect. It’s never schmaltzy and it’s always sincere without being saccharine. It’s magnificent.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; animated by Bob Bachman; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Sally Dryer (Lucy Van Pelt), Kathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Ann Altieri (Frieda / Violet), Gail DeFaria (Pigpen), Lisa DeFaria (Patty) and Glenn Mendelson (Schroeder / Shermy).


You’re in Love, Charlie Brown (1967, Bill Melendez)

As hard as director Melendez tries, there’s not much he can do with “You’re in Love, Charlie Brown.” The special’s two salient problems are the animation and the writing. Melendez comes up with some truly stunning shots in the special; for example, he closes with a beautiful zoom out with a lot of activity. But the actual animation–the movement, the illustration of the characters and settings–is bad.

But he could probably overcome that one, especially since the music from Vince Guaraldi is particularly excellent.

Charles M. Schulz’s writing, however, is insurmountable. Over the first half is spent on Charlie Brown whining about no one liking him and how much he likes the Little Red-Haired Girl. It makes Peter Robbins’s Charlie Brown unlikable.

The final ten minutes pick up a little, thanks to Melendez’s ambitions. The special doesn’t succeed, but Melendez is able to keep it from failing.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; music by Vince Guaraldi; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Sally Dryer (Lucy van Pelt), Kathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Gail DeFaria (Patricia ‘Peppermint Patty’ Reichardt) and Ann Altieri (Violet).


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.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

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).


A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965, Bill Melendez)

Two things stick out in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”. First, Charlie Brown is a bit of a drag. Charles M. Schulz, writing the script, initially sets up Charlie Brown as the Scrooge of “Christmas”. While that condition changes a little–eventually, Charlie Brown is the victim of the rest of the Peanuts gang–it’s a disconcerting opening.

Schulz is trying to make a statement about commercialism and Christmas, but it never connects.

The other thing about “Christmas” is Melendez’s direction. It’s often terrible, which is surprising. The beginning is reasonably sublime, set to Vince Guaraldi’s lovely score, but then the action moves inside and Melendez loses touch. He has these terrible close-ups.

There are some nice touches–Linus on the run from Sally, Lucy and Schroeder contending with Snoopy–but “Christmas” is undercooked.

Schulz works towards a point, but doesn’t find one, and Melendez similarly flounders.

It’s rather disappointing.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Tracy Stratford (Lucy Van Pelt), Kathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Chris Doran (Schroeder / Shermy), Geoffrey Ornstein (Pig-Pen), Sally Dryer (Violet), Ann Altieri (Freida), Karen Mendelson (Patty) and Bill Melendez (Snoopy).


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