Victoria Vargas

What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? (1983, Bill Melendez)

What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? is exceedingly intense. It doesn’t start intense, though it does start a little different. There’s this gradual shot–with Judy Munsen’s lovely score accompanying–moving through all the toys in Charlie Brown’s house before it gets to his bookshelf. The books with visible spines are heady classic novels; but Charlie Brown (Brad Kesten) is getting down his picture album. He’s got to put in some snapshots from his trip to France–Learned is direct sequel, time-wise not tone-wise, to the theatrical Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown–and Sally comes over to ask what he’s doing. So he tells her about the events of his trip after the movie.

His recounting starts as comedy. It’s Charlie Brown, Linus (Jeremy Schoenberg), Peppermint Patty (Victoria Vargas), Marcie (Michael Dockery), and Snoopy and Woodstock. Snoopy is driving because when it’s a bunch of eight year-olds without adult supervision, it’s best to let the beagle drive. Even if he does get into multiple accidents throughout the special. After Snoopy wrecks the car and gets into a fight with a flock of ducks, the kids have to rent another one. Good thing Marcie speaks French (she’s the only one who does).

Up to this point, Learned is well-produced–great animation, excellent direction from Melendez, that Munsen music, and a strong script from Charles M. Schulz–but nothing particularly special. Then the kids camp out for the night and Linus realizes they’re on the cliffs overlooking Omaha Beach. He goes down to the beach and, through rotoscoping, “sees” the D-Day invasion. The rotoscoping colorizes the black and white footage with bold, bright colors, creating a wonderful tonal contrast between the Peanuts kids’ adventure and the history they’re encountering.

Once the other kids wake up, Linus tells them where they are and all about D-Day. They explore the area, culminating in a walk through the American cemetery, with an Eisenhower speech accompanying them. Learned got intense starting with Linus’s beach visions. The cemetery tour, which is visually magnificent, just ratchets it up even further.

There’s some more humor–really good physical gags–to calm things down. Then they get to Ypres, a World War I site, and Linus tells the other kids about it. The WWI sequence is much shorter–no rotoscoped footage–and initially seems like it won’t be as affecting as the D-Day sequences. Then Linus starts reciting John McCrae’s poem, *In Flanders Field*, with accompanying visuals, and it devastates. Munsen’s music plays a big part, effectiveness-wise.

Schulz wraps it up–before a gently comedic bookend–with some succinct profundity. It’s all very intense.

Great script, animation, direction, and music. Schoenberg is excellent with the lengthy expository monologues. The rest of the cast is good, they just don’t have the heavy lifting Schoenberg gets.

What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? is spectacular.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

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

Starring Jeremy Schoenberg (Linus van Pelt), Brad Kesten (Charlie Brown), Victoria Vargas (Peppermint Patty), Michael Dockery (Marcie), and Stacy Heather Tolkin (Sally Brown).


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).


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