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. For the most part, these animated specials were based on original Peanuts comic strips, which were fleshed out to create 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. Peanuts: The 1970s Collection, Volume 2 continues the trend set by The 1960s Collection and The 1970s Collection, Volume 1, pairing six vintage specials with remastered technical presentations.
Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975, bottom left) starts dark and gets even darker: it falls on one of ol' Chuck's least successful holidays, and this year doesn't look to be any different. His class' annual Valentine's Party turns sour when no one comes through with a card (most importantly, The Little Red-Haired Girl), even though he brought a briefcase to cart everything home. A few members of the gang take pity on Charlie Brown the next day, but Schroeder comes to his defense...whether he's looking for help or not. I'll be honest, though: as much as I admire the traditional Peanuts pathos, Be My Valentine lays it on a bit too thick at times. There aren't any happy endings in sight, so don't expect a last-minute miracle and you won't be too disappointed.
You're A Good Sport, Charlie Brown (1975, below left) originally aired soon after motocross was introduced to American sports fanatics; as expected, it serves up plenty of thrills, chills and spills. After Peppermint Patty shows off her new dirt bike to Charlie Brown and company, she informs them of an upcoming race: the winner scores two Pro Bowl tickets, so it's a no-brainer. All good ol' Chuck has to do is buy a bike---but since he's short on cash, he's stuck with one that resembles his Christmas tree ten years earlier. Nonetheless, he's determined to enter the race, even with the stiff competition of Peppermint Patty, some kid named "The Masked Marvel" and a gaggle of assorted no-names. As Charlie Brown's pit crew (read: Linus) and the rest of the gang watch from the sidelines, it looks as if slow and steady might actually win the race. Though it's not quite at the top of Schulz's back catalogue, You're A Good Sport is easily one of his more entertaining and enduring non-holiday specials.
It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown* (1976) is an underrated little gem; it's also noteworthy for being the last Peanuts special scored by Vince Guaraldi, who died a few hours after finishing it up. Though it concerns itself with an admittedly minor holiday (in most circles, at least), this winning adventure pairs environmentalism with the start of baseball season: the Peanuts gang decides to cheer up Charlie Brown by sprucing up the baseball diamond with an orchard full of plants, but they end up ruining his field before the season opener against Peppermint Patty's team of rough riders. It's a solid outing that features much better athletic action than the earlier Charlie Brown's All-Stars, most likely due to a slightly larger production budget.
It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown* (1977, at top), like Be My Valentine, is a romantically-minded Peanuts adventure; in fact, they were originally paired together on one of Warner Bros.' first Deluxe Editions. Unlike its slightly older brother, however, this one has a much better payoff and features a blistering football game to boot. Charlie Brown is asked to escort The Little Red-Haired Girl to center stage at the post-game dance...and what's more, tradition calls for a kiss on the cheek, too. Unfortunately, he's got to impress her on the field as well...and with Lucy holding the football before every kickoff, it won't be an easy task. Like It's Arbor Day, this adventure features dynamic on-field animation that really helps to keep things moving. It's also the first Peanuts special to feature music by Ed Bogas and Judy Munsen; in fact, the former would contribute music for the next 12 years.
What A Nightmare, Charlie Brown! (1978, below right) is new to Region 1 DVD and exclusive to this collection for now; like the earlier It's A Mystery, this one focuses solely on Snoopy's wandering imagination. After a big meal, Snoopy dreams about the Iditarod sled dog race, where he's surrounded by fierce canine teammates, cold weather and a rather intimidating musher. After a surreal trip to a pub (which involves a player piano session, a high-stakes poker game and a stage performance), Snoopy finally cowboys up and defends himself against his fearsome rivals. After he wakes up and pantomimes the entire dream to Charlie Brown, Snoopy doubles his chances for a second nightmare by helping himself to a man-sized sundae. Overall, this is a wonderful little diversion and a welcome change of pace, much like Snoopy's surreal WWI adventure during It's The Great Pumpkin.
You're The Greatest, Charlie Brown (1979, below left) continues the athletic theme started by You're A Good Sport four years earlier. This time, ol' Chuck volunteers to represent his school in a decathlon, but soon discovers that he's not very good at any of the 10 events. Peppermint Patty---who probably should've just entered herself---serves as Charlie Brown's trainer, while the bespectacled Marcie develops a surprising crush on him. Among other highlights, this one features plenty of athletic blunders, a questionable scoring system, a small vocal contribution by Mel Blanc and the return of The Masked Marvel. It's not quite as rewatchable as others in this collection, but there's no doubt that You're The Greatest is classic Peanuts entertainment.
* - It's Your First Kiss differs from the original broadcast presentation, as two lines spoken by Peppermint Patty during the game have been altered for DVD release. Both revolve around her blaming Chuck for blown kicks that were obviously Lucy's fault; after the original broadcast, viewers complained and the lines were changed to shift the blame. Oddly enough, they've just been digitally garbled and seem more confusing than anything else. It's Arbor Day also features one garbled line during the baseball game, but no explanation was made available.
Those who already own several of Warner Bros. Deluxe Peanuts releases will notice that five of these six shorts have already been accounted for (the lone exception is What A Nightmare, which makes its Region 1 DVD debut here). That certainly makes The 1970s Collection, Volume 2 slightly less desirable than past volumes, if only from a practical standpoint. As many of the Deluxe Edition bonus features haven't been carried over, your desire to own this two-disc set may only hinge on your particular level of Peanuts fandom. With that said, let's take a closer look at this release, shall we?
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in their original 1.33:1 aspect ratios, most of these six animated specials are on par with Warners' recent Deluxe Editions; in fact, many Peanuts fans have already seen how great Be My Valentine and You're A Good Sport look in comparison to Paramount's previous releases. The other four look good as well, boasting vivid color palettes, solid black levels and strong image detail. Fortunately, all six specials are progressively sourced and don't seem to suffer from combing (unlike a pair of specials from The 1970s Collection, Volume 1). This is an excellent presentation by Warner Bros., so let's hope these Peanuts specials are finally back on track now.
Though not quite as noticeable as the visual improvements, the audio treatments are also satisfying in their own right. Presented in the original Dolby Digital Mono (also available in Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese dubs), 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, French, Japanese, Portuguese and Thai subtitles are included during the main features only.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, these static menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. The 25-minute shorts have been divided into 5 chapters each, while no obvious layer changes were detected during playback. This two-disc set is housed in a clear double-hinged keepcase, with double-sided artwork and a content list printed on the inside. A handsome embossed slipcover is also included.
As expected, the lone extra is a new featurette entitled "You're Groovy, Charlie Brown: A Look at Peanuts in the 1970s" (18:24), featuring retrospective comments by Schulz' widow Jean, his son Craig, producer Lee Mendelson, cartoonist Alexis Farjado and others. It's similar in tone and execution to past installments, detailing more of a general history than specific, chronological details; in fact, only occasionally does it focus on the decade in question. With that said, it's definitely an entertaining and colorful piece that fans of all ages will enjoy. "You're Groovy" is presented in anamorphic widescreen and, unfortunately, includes none of the subtitles offered during the main features. It's disappointing that Warner Bros. continues to overlook this aspect of the presentation.
Of course, the individual bonus features from past Peanuts Deluxe Editions have not been included here---so if you're a die-hard completeist, you'll most likely want to hang on to those as well.
It took a little longer this time around, but Warner Bros. has continued their Peanuts tribute with another two-disc collection of classic Charlie Brown adventures. For the first time, however, none of these six specials falls on a major holiday, so they're certainly not as well known as those from past installments. Some fans will also be disappointed that five of these six have already been included in Warner Bros. Deluxe Editions...so unless you're a rabid Peanuts Collector (or a die-hard Snoopy fan), this volume might not be as tempting. Still, it's hard to find fault with the material here: most of these specials are on par with past Peanuts adventures, and Warner Bros. has done a fantastic job on the technical presentation. Overall, The 1970s Collection, Volume 2 is another low-priced catalog release that Charlie Brown fans should enjoy from top to bottom. Firmly Recommended...and bring on the 1980s!
DVD Talk Review Link: Other 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.