Phil Roman

It’s an Adventure, Charlie Brown (1983, Sam Jaimes, Phil Roman, and Bill Melendez)

Despite being an anthology of eight different stories, It’s an Adventure, Charlie Brown does not have many adventures. Well, not in the adventurous sense. They’re still good, they’re just not… adventures. The special runs forty-seven minutes, with the eight stories having differing lengths.

The first three stories are the most substantial. There are two Charlie Brown (Michael Catalano) stories and then a Peppermint Patty (Brent Hauer) and Marcie (Michael Dockery) one.

The stories all have titles, which nicely delineates them. The first is “Sack,” in which Charlie Brown becomes so obsessed with baseball he develops a rash on his head. The rash looks like baseball stitches. His solution is to wear a paper shopping bag over his head; his doctor’s solution is for him to get away from it all and go to camp. There he becomes incredibly popular… because he’s got a bag over his head.

It’s a good start to Adventure, with a nice performance from Catalano, and some great moments. Charles M. Schulz adapted all of the stories from the Peanuts comic strip, so the proverbial tires are in good shape throughout, regardless of story length. There’s also a wonderfully absurdist punchline to the whole thing.

The next story is “Caddies,” which has Peppermint Patty and Marcie working as caddies for a couple bickering golfers. Hauer and Dockery are both good, there are some strong jokes, and some rather nice animation. Again, not really an adventure, but a good bit. It too has a strong punchline, while the rest of the stories have far more unassuming ones.

Like “Kite,” the last of the three longer stories. Charlie Brown finally cracks and attacks the Kite Eating Tree, resulting in a threatening letter from the EPA. Like any sensible eight year-old, upon receipt of the letter, he runs away. He doesn’t get too far before he finds himself coaching a bunch of younger kids’ baseball team. It’s a really sweet story, as Charlie Brown bonds with the kids, particularly little Milo (Jason Mendelson) who’s so young he can’t hold a bat.

Then there are two much shorter stories, one with Schroeder (Brad Schacter) and Lucy (Angela Lee Sloan) fighting as he tries to play his piano, the other with Sally (Cindi Reilly) having school problems. Both are visually simple, but the one with Schroeder and Lucy is so spared down the focus is all on the characters’ interaction. It’s rather effective thanks to Schacter and Lee Sloan’s performances.

The next two stories–”Butterfly” and “Blanket” are longer, but not as long as the opening three. And “Butterfly” is almost stellar, it just ends too soon. A butterfly lands on Peppermint Patty’s nose. After she falls asleep, Marcie takes the butterfly off and coaxes it to fly away. Only then Marcie tells Peppermint Patty the butterfly turned into an angel before flying away, convincing Patty she’s a practical prophet. She goes from telling the various Peanuts kids about the miracle before deciding to take her message to houses of worship. It’s good and funny and all, but for a moment it seems like Schulz is getting downright ambitious with Peppermint Patty’s (still very Peppermint Patty-like) evangelicalism.

“Blanket” has Lucy getting fed up with Linus’s blanket–to be fair, the blanket does attack her multiple times–and trying to dispose of it in various ways. Obviously these attempts cause Linus (Rocky Reilly) considerable consternation–and panic–as he tries to save the blanket. It’s a good story, with a lot of excellent animation (Adventure goes all out animation-wise); Reilly’s decent and Lee Sloan is good, even if she’s exceeding unlikable. Lucy gets cruel.

Then the Adventure ends with a short “Woodstock” and Snoopy bit. It’s adorable and, like most of the special, reserved and subtle.

While It’s an Adventure, Charlie Brown lacks in frenzied imagination, the good performances, good direction, good animation, and strong writing more than compensate. It’s never particularly exciting, it’s always assured and well-executed. The longer, ten or twelve minute stories are a rather good length for the segments. The anthology format works out well. It’s too bad the directors don’t get credit for their individual segments; it’d be interesting to know who did what.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Sam Jaimes, Phil Roman, and Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Ed Bogas and Desirée Goyette; produced by Melendez and Lee Mendelson; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Michael Catalano (Charlie Brown), Angela Lee Sloan (Lucy van Pelt), Rocky Reilly (Linus van Pelt), Brent Hauer (Peppermint Patty), Michael Dockery (Marcie), Cindi Reilly (Sally Brown), Brad Schacter (Schroeder), Jenny Lewis (Ruby), Johnny Graves (Austin), and Jason Mendelson (Milo).


Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown? (1983, Phil Roman)

Is This Goodbye, Charlie Brown? opens with this gag of Linus and Snoopy fighting over Linus’s blanket. It doesn’t relate to the special’s story and has a completely different tone–and an almost cruel Linus (Jeremy Schoenberg)–but it does echo later on a little. Goodbye is about Linus and Lucy (Angela Lee Sloan) moving away; Linus gives his blanket to Snoopy in an unexpected and tender scene. So the opening works. Even if Linus is a little too intense during it.

The first half of the special is the moving away story. Linus telling Charlie Brown (Brad Kesten), Lucy telling Schroeder (Kevin Brando). Sally, played by Stacy Heather Tolkin, spends the van Pelt siblings last few days in town in utter denial. Not just about them moving, but about Linus making a date to take her to the movies. While Charlie Brown is all over the place trying to cope with losing his best friend–including a trip to Lucy’s psychiatry booth (she’s sold the practice)–Sally’s sitting on the steps waiting for her date.

There’s a nice scene where Lucy and Linus have a farewell luncheon and make the mistake of hiring Joe Cool Catering. No belly laughs, but some rather nice smiles. Goodbye is all about the emotions resulting from the move, with Peppermint Patty (Victoria Vargas) deciding she’s got to help Charlie Brown recover. But it then becomes all about whether or not she’s actually got a crush on him, which is most of the second half of Goodbye.

Really good performances from Kesten and Lee Sloan, but everyone’s solid. Charles M. Schulz handles the moving seriously, giving Tolkin and Brando some strong material as well. Vargas is probably the most uneven performance but she’s still good. Michael Dockery is fine as Marcie, who doesn’t get much to do but give Vargas a sounding board.

A rather nice score from Judy Munsen, good direction from Roman… Goodbye is a fine half hour. Schulz’s script is earnest and sincere and nicely realized by Roman and the animators.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Judy Munsen; produced by Bill Melendez and Lee Mendelson; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Brad Kesten (Charlie Brown), Stacy Heather Tolkin (Sally Brown), Victoria Vargas (Peppermint Patty), Jeremy Schoenberg (Linus van Pelt), Angela Lee Sloan (Lucy van Pelt), Michael Dockery (Marcie), and Kevin Brando (Schroeder / Franklin).


It’s Magic, Charlie Brown (1981, Phil Roman)

It’s Magic, Charlie Brown is the dramatically inert tale of Charlie Brown (Michael Mandy) turning invisible. It takes a while for him to turn invisible, with the first half or so of the special spent on a magic show. Magic opens with Charlie Brown demanding Snoopy go to the library to better himself. Because Charlie Brown is a bit of a jerk?

Snoopy gets a magic book and, mere moments later, is putting on his first show. He goes through a series of tricks, culminating in turning Charlie Brown invisible. The tricks are… eh. Charles M. Schulz’s script doesn’t have any decent laughs in it, but Snoopy dealing with a heckling kid is all right and the Peppermint Patty-related scene could be a lot worse. Everything in Magic is drawn out. Director Roman will just let a moment hang, with nothing going except the annoying Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen music. Even when things aren’t dragging, they’re not engaging. Snoopy’s got to learn how to make Charlie Brown visible again, leading to a scene in his doghouse lair where he’s learning alchemy. It could be a funny scene. Probably. It’s not though. No one’s invested enough in Magic to make it play well.

Maybe if the gags weren’t so tepid. Snoopy and Woodstock giggling together before the opening titles is the most charming the special ever gets and there’s not even a gag to it. They’re just giggling. They appear to be having a good time; no one else in Magic ever does.

The second half–after Charlie Brown scares sister Sally (Cindi Reilly)–is mostly Lucy motivating Snoopy to make Charlie Brown visible again. Sydney Penny plays Lucy. She’s got a lot of dialogue in the last third. She’s not good.

Magic is way too long and way too light. There are some neat animation ideas–Charlie Brown, invisible, in the rain–but also some rather wanting animation sequences. During the period where Charlie Brown’s invisible and the shots are just panning over backgrounds, it feels like they just didn’t want to be troubled with animating a full special.

Plus that exceptionally grating music just gets worse as Magic goes along.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Michael Mandy (Charlie Brown), Sydney Penny (Lucy van Pelt), Cindi Reilly (Sally Brown), Casey Carlson & Shannon Cohn (Marcie), Rocky Reilly (Linus van Pelt), and Brent Hauer (Peppermint Patty).


Someday You’ll Find Her, Charlie Brown (1981, Phil Roman)

Someday You’ll Find Her, Charlie Brown is the cringe-inducing tale of Charlie Brown (Grant Wehr) and Linus (Rocky Reilly) stalking a girl Charlie Brown saw at a football game on TV. She was in a “honey shot,” which is already makes things cringe-y because these are eight year-old kids. Regardless of whether or not Charlie Brown ought to be scoping out strange girls on television, why is the cameraman doing it?

With Snoopy and Woodstock in tow, Linus and Charlie Brown go to the football stadium to look for clues. Charlie Brown’s too scared to talk to the ticket sellers, so he sends in Linus. Meanwhile–in one of the special’s few amusing moments–Snoopy and Woodstock get into trouble in the weight-lifting room. The ticket sellers don’t have the information so they send the boys to the downtown ticket office, where season ticket holder information is kept.

And because it’s a cartoon for kids, the downtown ticket office is more than happy to provide Linus (because Charlie Brown is too scared to talk to them) with the girl’s address. So then they go see the girl–ditching Snoopy and Woodstock–and it’s the wrong girl. She’s “comically” grotesque, not beautiful; why would Charlie Brown like her. He’s a pig at eight, after all.

So then they call their next suspect, who has a grating phone voice so Linus tells Charlie Brown he doesn’t want to meet her. But then they go anyway.

The quest continues, with the boys ending out at a farm–where Snoopy and Woodstock are also coincidentally headed (they’re not there to assist, just roaming). Snoopy gets into it with a cat, which is… almost amusing, but Someday has gotten so icky at this point it’d be hard for anything in it to amuse.

The finale skips the valuable life lesson Charlie Brown could’ve learned–not having Linus talk to everyone for him–and instead concentrates on his sad situation. It’s a really downbeat, perfunctory ending. If there were a morale, Someday might not be so bad. But there’s not. It’s just over. Thankfully.

Wehr’s exceptionally unlikable as Charlie Brown. He’s not active enough to be a creep, but he’s a little turd. Reilly’s performance is probably worse. He’s just nowhere near as unlikable. Bad writing from Charles M. Schulz throughout (so bad I was surprised to see he’d written Someday; the opening titles only credit him with creating “Peanuts,” not writing the special as well–which is his usual credit).

Unbearable music from Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen. Exceptionally lazy animation.

Someday is a weird waste of time, probably of interest only to people considering how popular children’s entertainment of the eighties contributed to male entitlement and toxic masculinity.

Nice backgrounds maybe? And, even poorly animated, Snoopy and Woodstock are funny. Or would be if their gags weren’t in this icky cartoon.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Grant Wehr (Charlie Brown), Rocky Reilly (Linus van Pelt), Nicole Eggert (Loretta), Melissa Strawmyer (Teenager), and Jennifer Gaffin (Mary Jo).


Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown (1980, Phil Roman)

Life is a Circus, Charlie Brown is about Snoopy joining the circus. Somewhat unintentionally. The circus comes to town, Snoopy investigates the racket, and eyes a fetching poodle. She’s in an act; her trainer grabs Snoopy and drafts him into it. After Snoopy proves funny (versus capable), the trainer decides to keep him. Meanwhile, Charlie Brown (Michael Mandy) goes from confused–at Snoopy’s participation–to worried–after the circus leaves town, with Snoopy.

Once the trainer (voiced by Casey Carlson) discovers Snoopy’s motivation–impressing the poodle–it turns out he’s a more than capable circus performer. But as the act gets more and more successful, the trainer requires more and more from Snoopy. Will there be a breaking point?

Back at home, Charlie Brown sits and stands around talking to Linus (Rocky Reilly) about how Snoopy will or won’t come home. Including a rather tedious monologue–mostly because of Mandy’s performance–about how he got the dog in the first place.

The animation’s good, the backgrounds are precious, but Circus is exceptionally flat. Mandy and Reilly’s dialogue interludes are strained. Not just because of the voice acting either. They’re filler, with lengthy pauses in conversation to kill runtime. At one point it seems like Lucy (Kristen Fullerton) is going to have a decent gag, but then she just doesn’t. Writer Charles M. Schulz doesn’t have any gags for Circus. Plus, Fullerton’s performance is just as unimpressive as everyone else’s so the not gag plays even worse.

The circus-y music from Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen doesn’t help. It’s loud and grating.

Circus isn’t really a missed opportunity–Schulz’s script is disinterested from the start–but it’s still rather lacking. The production values (save the voice acting) get it some goodwill, which it burns through. The finale is particularly unimpressive.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Michael Mandy (Charlie Brown), Rocky Reilly (Linus van Pelt), Casey Carlson (Polly), and Kristen Fullerton (Lucy van Pelt).


She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown (1980, Phil Roman)

She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown is all about Peppermint Patty (Patricia Patts). Charlie Brown (Arrin Skelley) has a couple appearances, but it’s just for the brand. Skate is all Peppermint Patty, Snoopy, Marcie (Casey Carlson), and Woodstock. Patty’s training for an ice skating competition. Snoopy’s her coach–and an accomplished skater himself–while Marcie and Woodstock offer various kinds of support. Sometimes rather consequentially.

What’s so striking about Skate, right off, is the ice skating. The attention to the animation, the way Roman directs the sequences, it’s a showcase for Peppermint Patty’s ice skating. And her eventual competitors. Roman and his animators excel at showing the accomplishments in the skating. Patty’s got a bunch of great, fast expressions as she goes through her routines. It’s lovely.

The story is fairly sparse. Patty has to wake Snoopy up to get him to coach, they get into a fight with some boy hockey players (it’s a weird, but rather successful scene), not much else. Not until Patty gets Marcie to make her the skating outfit, but she doesn’t give her any warning. They do it the day of the competition (or at least immediately preceding it in the present action) so it’s build-up to the finale, not a subplot.

Carlson’s hilarious as Marcie in Skate. She gets the best jokes. Snoopy gets a few visual gags–the first one is subtle and hilarious so it’d be hard to beat–while writer Charles M. Schulz gets the heftier material to Carlson in the dialogue. Though Marcie doesn’t get to have anything at the end. Snoopy’s gets a really good bit during the finale, as does Woodstock. And Patty’s skating. Marcie’s just with the mostly non-speaking Peanuts kids cheering Patty on. Skelley (and Charlie Brown) actually get the lines there, which are at best mediocre expository remarks. It’s kind of weird. More of that Charlie Brown branding.

But it’s just before Patty’s final skate so as long as it comes off, it’ll all work. And it does come off. Everything works just right–Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen’s music (and the Puccini aria), Roger Donley and Chuck McCann’s editing–the animating, Roman’s direction, Schulz’s plotting. She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown is outstanding; it’s meticulous and assured. Even when a moment shouldn’t work, it does thanks to the animation coming through or Carlson or Patts or just how fast Schulz moves things along.

And then there’s this perfect little end tag too.

Skate’s great.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Patricia Patts (Peppermint Patty), Casey Carlson (Marcie), and Arrin Skelley (Charlie Brown).


You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown (1979, Phil Roman)

You’re the Greatest, Charlie Brown is the unlikely tale of Charlie Brown (Arrin Skelley) participating in the school’s track meet–doing the decathlon–and doing well. It opens with Peppermint Patty (Patricia Patts) trying to sucker one of her classmates into doing the decathlon; Charlie Brown shows up just in time to go for it. It certainly seems like he’s going to mess it all up, writer Charles M. Schulz forecasts him messing it all up, but then he doesn’t. Instead, Greatest is usually surprising in the developments.

The first third is Charlie Brown training with Peppermint Patty coaching. Snoopy’s helping. Though Snoopy does better than Charlie Brown. And Marcie (Casey Carlson) is hanging around and encouraging Charlie Brown because she’s got a crush on him.

Only then Marcie becomes Charlie Brown’s back-up because Peppermint Patty realizes he can’t do it alone. It’s never explained why Peppermint Patty can’t do it, as she trains him by example. She does the decathlon events successfully, he fails. And she spends the whole meet just coaching him.

Anyway, the whole meet. The second two-thirds of Greatest are basically just the decathlon events. It’s Charlie Brown, Marcie, Snoopy in his Masked Marvel disguise (and Charlie Brown not just not recognizing Snoopy but not remembering where Snoopy went to obedience school), and some mean older, taller kid (Tim Hall). It’s the ten events, with Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty in between talking about the school’s chances. It’s dramatic, it’s funny, it’s perfectly solid stuff.

There are no standout bits because the whole thing just works. Some lovely animation, fine direction from Roman, and strong acting from the cast. Particularly Carlson and Patts. Marcie gets her own story arc, although it’s background; Carlson excels. And Schulz gets to mix that arc with some good sportspersonship messaging.

Then there’s the final “Charlie Brown” moment and it’s painfully perfect. Unlike Patts and Carlson, the animation defines Charlie Brown more than anything Skelley can do. It’s just a physical part for Charlie Brown. He’s pumping iron… Anything could happen.

Greatest isn’t the greatest but it’s inventive and sublimely executed. Nice music from Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen too.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Arrin Skelley (Charlie Brown), Patricia Patts (Peppermint Patty), Casey Carlson (Marcie), Tim Hall (Fred Fabulous), Daniel Anderson (Linus van Pelt), and Michelle Muller (Lucy van Pelt).


What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! (1978, Bill Melendez and Phil Roman)

What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! is not about Charlie Brown (Liam Martin) having a nightmare. He does get told, eventually, about a nightmare, but he’s only in the special at the beginning and the end. He gets the bright idea to play “sled dog” with Snoopy and have Snoopy lead him around like they’re in the Arctic.

Things don’t work out for Charlie Brown, leading to him leading Snoopy around and Snoopy cracking the whip. It’s hilarious. And justified, given Charlie Brown is basically telling Snoopy he wants to treat him cruelly.

After all the exertion, Snoopy’s tuckered out and makes himself a large pizza dinner in a sublimely animated sequence. Whether or not the accompanying song–sung by Larry Finlayson, written by composer Ed Bogas–is cringey or perfect changes moment to moment. It’s painfully obvious and way too on the nose, but the sequence is so good–Snoopy so funny–the mood just right, maybe it’s perfect.

Anyway, Snoopy apparently added some rarebit to his pizza–or maybe his raw egg creams did it–and, after going to sleep on the dog house, he starts having a nightmare. What if he woke up in the Arctic and had to pull a sled in a pack of wild dogs.

There’s the sled driver, but he’s an adult so he talks in Wah Wah; so there’s no dialogue in Snoopy’s nightmare. He doesn’t communicate with the other dogs in any civilized manner because they’re wild and savage. They won’t let him eat, they won’t let him drink water, they won’t even snuggle with him when it gets cold. How is Snoopy going to survive….

The Charlie Brown chastising Snoopy for not being rugged enough at the beginning is fine–Martin’s performance isn’t great–but Charles M. Schulz’s dialogue isn’t particularly inspired either. The sight gags are good, but they’re amid the exposition and setup. When Nightmare gets to the Arctic, however, Schulz’s pacing excels. Snoopy’s arc is awesome. Funny, scary, sad, thrilling.

And the Nightmare goes on for a while. Multiple sled dog days. Snoopy keeps getting more sympathetic as it goes, even though he’s presumably safe throughout.

Then the finish is funny and sweet and has the same possibly bad, possibly great song accompaniment.

Roman and Melendez’s direction is good, nice editing from Roger Donley and Chuck McCann, fine animation. Bogas’s score isn’t amazing, but it has its moments; it also has that song, which is endearing but maybe not in the right way. But maybe in the right way.

Nightmare is inventive and spontaneous. Good stuff.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Bill Melendez and Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; music by Ed Bogas; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; produced by Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Liam Martin (Charlie Brown).


It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown (1977, Phil Roman)

It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown is a little weird. Not only because the opening establishing shot has adults (albeit in extreme long shot) but also because Snoopy’s helicoptering around on his ears and Woodstock is his cameraperson. And it’s about the homecoming game, where Charlie Brown is the star kicker. And Snoopy’s both ref and mascot and the kids in the stands put on dances in his honor. First Kiss is painfully trying to be hip but it’s also kind of ambitious. It’s going where no “Peanuts” special has gone before.

All of the jokes fall a little flat. The Snoopy stuff is too overdone. The football game gets a lot of attention, but every time Charlie Brown (Arrin Skelley) goes to kick, Lucy (Michelle Muller)–who is on his team–pulls the ball. And everyone blames Charlie Brown for it because, well, apparently no one ever sees Lucy pull the ball. First Kiss has Peppermint Patty (Laura Planting) getting mad at Charlie Brown. It’s kind of intense.

But the First Kiss stuff is about how Charlie Brown is going to escort the Little Red-Haired Girl at the Homecoming dance. She’s the queen and he’s up. Somehow he’s forgotten he agreed to this activity, which is actually kind of fine given the final punchline in First Kiss but only if writer Charles M. Schulz is trying to imply Charlie Brown has blackouts.

He’s not. Unfortunately. Schulz is just really lazy with the script. He goes big with First Kiss–there are a lot of constant elements to contend with. The football game has the other team, it has the kids cheering, it has the cheerleaders, it has Snoopy, it has Linus sitting around giving Charlie Brown bad advice. The dance is different–and where director Roman gets a tad more enthusiastic.

Roman’s direction is good throughout. More than enough to make up for the animation inconsistencies. Though the repeated frames on the Little Red-Haired Girl get annoying fast. Roger Donley and Chuck McCann edit the actual football game in the football game quite well. The rest is fine. Except on the Little Red-Haired Girl. All the shots of her go on way too long. It’s yet another weird thing about the special.

Not to mention Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen’s funk-lite score. It’s… a lot.

First Kiss is never particularly strong, so it’s never disappointing. It even impresses a bit with Charlie Brown at the dance. It’s just too late. The whole script feels distracted and detached.

Good performance from Muller. Mixed performance from Skelley.

It ought to be better. But it’s not terrible, it’s just kind of blah.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen; production designers, Evert Brown, Bernard Gruver, and Dean Spille; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Arrin Skelley (Charlie Brown), Laura Planting (Peppermint Patty), Daniel Anderson (Linus van Pelt), and Michelle Muller (Lucy van Pelt).


It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown (1976, Phil Roman)

It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown opens with Charlie Brown (Dylan Beach) and Linus (Liam Martin) making vaguely sexist cracks about Linus’s mother’s ability to ride her bicycle. Just as you’re thinking writer Charles M. Schulz is taking it a little far, he cuts to baby Rerun (Vinny Dow) on the back of the bike who gives his take on he and Mom’s day and it’s a perfect pivot. It changes the tone and trajectory of the scene, while also introducing the idea of visual constraints.

Arbor Day has a lot of great visuals–there’s a trip to the library, the whole ball field thing (I’ll explain in a minute)–but director Roman keeps them background to some degree. He and the animators concentrate on the foreground movement and action. It’s strong direction from Roman, even while sometimes the animation is a little too static on figures or expressions. Overall, the animation’s quite good, just sometimes a tad too functional; if the detail is a little off, the pragmatic animation only aggravates it.

But these weaker moments are few and only annoying because they screw up otherwise excellent scenes. There’s quite a bit of Sally (Gail Davis) flirting with Linus and one time the animation on Sally’s eyes throws the scene askew. Davis is excellent, Martin is good, so the scene should be one of the stronger dialogue-based ones in Arbor, but it hangs. Because of the animation detail.

Arbor Day has good dialogue-based bits and good physical comedy bits. Snoopy and Woodstock get the majority of the physical comedy ones. While the special is about Arbor Day–with Sally doing a report on it, so built-in exposition–it’s more about the first ball game of the season and how the Peanuts kids’ take on Arbor Day affect it.

And the ball game is great. The pragmatic animation plays well with the sports action, which is awesome. Arbor Day just gets better as it goes along. I mean, sure, the Arbor Day stuff is just affixed to a baseball game story but whatever.

The game’s against Peppermint Patty (Stuart Brotman, who’s great). Schulz likes his pairs in Arbor Day. Sally and Linus, Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown, Woodstock and Snoopy. Lucy (Sarah Beach) feels like a special guest star more than a regular cast member. And the gentle affections between Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown really play well. Arbor Day has a good arc for Charlie Brown and Dylan Beach does a fine job on the performance.

Arbor Day doesn’t have an inspired or ambitious narrative, it’s instead this expert execution of a twenty-five minute “Peanuts” special. Schulz and Roman have it down here. The characterizations are great, the performances are good, the Snoopy stuff is good, the game is good, the finale is great. Nice score from Vince Guaraldi. It’s just an ideal Charlie Brown special.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Directed by Phil Roman; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Roger Donley and Chuck McCann; music by Vince Guaraldi; produced by Bill Melendez; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Dylan Beach (Charlie Brown), Stuart Brotman (Peppermint Patty), Gail Davis (Sally Brown), Liam Martin (Linus van Pelt), Vinny Dow (Rerun van Pelt), and Sarah Beach (Lucy van Pelt).


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