Todd Barbee

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown! (1974, Phil Roman)

Easter Beagle has a really strong script from Charles M. Schulz. Everything is balanced just right. It’s not balanced equally. The proportions are just right. Besides the lovely musical sequences–where Beagle goes for being lovely and graceful (lots of dancing Snoopy, set Vince Guaraldi, some Bach, and some Beethoven)–most of the special is spent with Peppermint Patty (Linda Ercoli) and Marcie (Jimmy Ahrens). Patty is trying to teach Marcie how to make Easter eggs. Things go wrong in very amusing ways as Marcie apparently has no understanding of how eggs work.

That subplot keeps up the whole special–but is actually completely independent of the “twist”–and just gets funnier. By the final few screw-ups, Peppermint Patty’s frustrations are possibly less than the viewer’s. It’s perfectly plotted by Schulz and director Roman. Really funny, really good plotting.

Other subplots include Sally (Lynn Mortensen) needing new shoes, Linus (Stephen Shea) trying to convince Sally and the other kids the Easter Beagle will give them all Easter eggs so why make them, and Woodstock needing a new bird house. Charlie Brown (Todd Barbee) and Lucy (Melanie Kohn) are around, but mostly just to be exasperated by their younger siblings.

There’s a great department store sequence–where everything is all Christmas (Easter Beagle has a couple moments of big commercialism commentary from Schulz; the department store works a lot better than the stuff in dialogue)–and only Snoopy is able to find the Easter section, on his way to picking out a bird house for Woodstock. Because even though Snoopy is a bit of a jerk to Woodstock–there’s a lot of almost mean slapstick violence–he does want to get him a new bird house.

Great music, some fantastic sequences (like, lots of them–Easter Beagle is mostly fantastic sequences), and strong performances from the cast. Kohn is maybe the weakest, but she comes around–though Barbee does have the worst part in the special–and Ercoli and Ahrens do some great work. Oh, and Mortensen and Shea. The Easter Beagle stuff is excellent.

And it’s got a great finish.

It’s the Easter Beagle, which has almost zilch to do with Easter, is a constant, consistent success.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

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

Starring Linda Ercoli (Peppermint Patty), Jimmy Ahrens (Marcie), Lynn Mortensen (Sally), Melanie Kohn (Lucy), and Todd Barbee (Charlie Brown).


You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972, Bill Melendez)

A lot goes on in You’re Not Elected, Charlie Brown, with the actual class president election stuff coming in at the end of the first act. Instead, Elected starts with Sally (Hilary Momberger-Powers) having school troubles. There’s a long conversation about all the possible school problems with Charlie Brown (Chad Webber), only for it to be Sally can’t get into her locker. Then there’s a lengthy breakfast sequence where Snoopy gets the kids ready for school.

The locker problem returns–with Charlie Brown trying to help Sally–only for it to be the locker height. She can’t reach. Though none of the kids could reach, even though all the doors are the right height. It’s a weird gag. The immediate subsequent scene visually invalidates it.

But then it turns out Sally just wants to get Charlie Brown to be her show and tell item, which gives him a panic attack. At the end of the panic attack, he sees a sign about class president elections. So here’s the class president story line? No.

Because there’s still a fun little Snoopy in school sequence with the “Joe Cool” song in the background. And a lot of physical violence.

Lucy (Robin Kohn) does some voter interest research and discovers Charlie Brown doesn’t have a chance at winning. But Linus (Stephen Shea) does.

So Charlie Brown isn’t elected in You’re Not Elected because he’s not even running.

The Linus campaign stuff is fantastic. Kohn and Shea are both really good, even if Lucy’s best sequence–getting more and more frustrated during an “ask the candidate” call-in–doesn’t have much dialogue. Shea’s got the big campaign speech, which is hilarious as Linus gets more and more authoritarian as the school body cheers.

Unfortunately, Linus has some peculiar tendencies and they eventually complicate the campaign. Rather amusingly.

Elected takes a little while to get going–the diversion with Sally is okay (Momberger-Powers is fine), but dramatically inert–once Lucy starts running campaigns though, the cartoon gets a nice, steady pace. Good direction from Melendez, some lovely visuals (particularly the backgrounds), and a fine score from Vince Guaraldi. Guaraldi also does the “Joe Cool” song.

Between the title and the clunky (if competent) first act, Elected is a bit of a surprise, both in narrative and quality.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

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; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Chad Webber (Charlie Brown), Robin Kohn (Lucy van Pelt), Stephen Shea (Linus van Pelt), Hilary Momberger-Powers (Sally Brown), and Todd Barbee (Russell).


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