Since 1950, Charles Schulz' Peanuts has remained a popular and enduring franchise celebrating the life and times of Charlie Brown and company. This lovable loser, always clad in his trademark yellow and black shirt, has been the centerpiece of a long-running comic strip and appeared in countless animated full-length films and shorter TV specials. The very first Peanuts animated feature, A Charlie Brown Christmas, aired in 1965 to enormous success---and like nearly all successes, sequels were inevitable. For the most part, these animated specials were based on original Peanuts comic strips, which were fleshed out to create fully-realized 25-minute adventures. Featuring simple yet charming animation, a cast of child voice actors and music by Vince Guaraldi (until his death in 1976, though his music was often used posthumously), Peanuts animated specials have become a staple of American television for decades.
You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown (1972), the eighth Peanuts animated special, arrives again on DVD just in time for this year's presidential showdown...and not a moment too soon. This classic Peanuts special made its DVD debut as a bonus feature on Paramount's 2000 release of It's The Great Pumpkin, but this new Warner Bros. re-release bumps it up to main event status. Though it's one of today's lesser-known Peanuts specials (read: not one of "The Big Three"), You're Not Elected remains a solid little tale of politics, polls and popularity. Like It's The Great Pumpkin and plenty of other Peanuts specials, the melancholy main man is generally pushed to the background, but ol' Chuck's humble spirit can still be felt at every turn.
Here's how our story goes: the election for Student Body President is fast approaching, and Linus convinces Charlie Brown that he'd make a good candidate---that is, until Lucy shoots down his hopes after conducting a quick opinion poll. It's soon decided that Linus will run instead, thanks to his sister's bully tactics and his passionate speeches about change for the better. His opponent, Russell Anderson, seems like a decent enough guy...but Linus' surging popularity all but secures a win as they prepare for their big speeches in the auditorium. Unfortunately, Linus' "religious beliefs" almost doom his chances after he abruptly mentions a certain Peanuts holiday figure, which evens out the opinion polls as election day draws near. Will Russell score an surprise victory...or will Linus manage to keep the lead and, more importantly, make the changes he's been promising?
First things first: You're Not Elected is not among the very best in terms of overall Peanuts specials, but that's not to say it isn't an entertaining little adventure. The first half of this 25-minute special tends to wander around way too much, from Sally's locker problems to Snoopy's exploits as "Joe Cool". We're introduced to the main story soon enough, but the actual election process almost seems rushed in comparison. Had the creative team gone into more detail about Linus' true intentions (or better yet, focused more on his opponent), You're Not Elected would feel more like a complete story. In any case, this special is based on a series of Peanuts strips from October 1964 that featured a much more abrupt ending---so if nothing else, the strong third act of You're Not Elected is a feather in its cap.
While certain stretches of this film don't quite hit their mark, there's no doubt that that Warner Bros. has treated it with plenty of respect. This new Deluxe Edition isn't exactly on par with Looney Tunes collections in terms of extras, but a notably improved visual presentation makes You're Not Elected worth the wait; for proof of this, see the direct screen comparisons linked below. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, You're Not Elected looks greatly improved in direct comparison to Paramount's 2000 offering [samples linked below]. The film's color palette is more natural and vivid overall, while black levels and overall details are much crisper than before. Additionally, interlacing is no longer an issue, which was undoubtedly the Paramount DVD's biggest problem. From top to bottom, Warner's remastered visual presentation is fantastic...but since a picture is worth a thousand words, here's three thousand words to prove it.
Screen Comparisons: "Birchwood School" | "Packing Lunches" | "Linus Gives A Speech"
Though not quite as noticeable as the visual improvements, this Deluxe Edition's audio treatment is satisfying in its own right. Presented in its original Dolby Digital Mono (also available in Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese), the dialogue and music cues are generally crisp and clear. Very slight amounts of hiss and crackling can be heard along the way, but this is undoubtedly due to the source material. Optional English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Thai subtitles are included during the main feature(s) only.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen above, the animated menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 25-minute main feature has been divided into 5 chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in a standard black keepcase with a metallic embossed slipcover; also tucked inside are a few promotional inserts.
Although not technically listed as an extra, also included here is He's A Bully, Charlie Brown (21:33, below left), a 2006 animated short that's new to Region 1 DVD. Our story revolves around a trip to summer camp, where Linus' kid brother Rerun gets served in marbles by a bully named Joe Agate. Having lost all of his prize marbles, including his grandpa's beloved shooter, Rerun turns to Charlie Brown for help. Not accustomed to winning, Chuck is mentored by the returning Joe Cool until he's fit to challenge the reigning champ. It's actually a pretty entertaining little adventure that fans will enjoy, though it shares very little in common with You're Not Elected (save for the "Joe Cool" factor, of course). As expected, the technical presentation is clear and crisp from start to finish.
Next up is "The Polls Don't Lie: The Making of You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown" (12:10, below left), a new retrospective featurette with comments from late director/animator Bill Melendez, producer Lee Mendelson, Peanuts historian Scott McGuire, Schulz' wife Jean, animator Phil Roman, a pair of the original voice actors and more. This short session helps to put You're Not Elected into the proper perspective: developed right around the time of the Nixon/McGovern election, it arrived when politics were beginning to fall under public and media scrutiny on a deeper level. Interestingly enough, it also briefly compares You're Not Elected with the original Peanuts strips upon which it was based, reminding us that the animated version offers a more detailed and complete ending. Overall, "The Polls Don't Lie" is every bit as satisfying as those found on other Peanuts Deluxe Editions, so here's hoping Warner keeps the retrospective featurettes coming.
Both extras are presented in 1.33:1 format, but only He's A Bully includes optional captions. This proves to be mildly disappointing: when a studio bothers with 7 sets of subtitles during both featured shorts, why not go the whole way?
Though it's not the strongest Peanuts special in existence, there's no doubt that You're Not Elected is an entertaining and heartfelt effort that fans should enjoy. Charles Schulz' ability to combine laughter and a melancholy atmosphere is what makes the adventures of Charlie Brown and company so effective and enduring---and despite a few slow spots along the way, there's plenty here to appreciate. Warner Bros.' DVD package improves greatly on the original Paramount version, offering a rock solid technical presentation and a pair of interesting bonus features. These "Remastered Deluxe Editions" are still a bit too expensive for their own good---and more casual fans will probably be happy with a rental, of course---but die-hard Peanuts disciples should have no problem shelling out for this thoughtful and well-timed release. Recommended.
DVD Talk Review Link: Other great Peanuts releases
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey based in Harrisburg, PA. He also does freelance graphic design projects and works in a local gallery. When he's not doing that, he enjoys slacking off, second-guessing himself and writing things in third person.