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. Warner Bros. has unleashed a steady stream of Shulz specials since acquiring the rights several years ago; in addition to chronological compilations and a holiday boxed set, they've also released select titles as standalone DVDs. Either way, Peanuts fans can't lose.
He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown (1968) was only the fifth Peanuts special ever made...but it takes a decidedly different approach than others of the era, as it was the first to feature Snoopy as the central character. After a stretch of bad behavior, Charlie Brown sends Snoopy back to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm for a much-needed refresher course in discipline. During his long journey, the rambunctious pup crashes at Peppermint Patty's for the evening---but Snoopy stays there for the long haul instead, living selfishly without pulling his own weight. After Patty puts the kibosh on Snoopy's antics, he's got to make a life-changing decision: should ol' Snoop tough it out in his new environment, or return home to his master? Featuring less Charlie Brown than usual (and thus, less self-pity and depression), He's Your Dog offers a welcome change of pace that Snoopy fans should really enjoy.
As with other Peanuts Deluxe Editions, He's Your Dog is paired with another like-minded special; in this case, it's Life's A Circus, discussed in more detail below. Both 25-minute adventures offer a modest amount of classic Peanuts humor, imagination and pathos, and we're also treated to a vintage Shulz-related documentary for good measure. It may not offer nearly as much bang for the buck as Warner Bros.' "Decade" collections, but He's Your Dog is still too good of a release to pass over entirely. Let's take a closer look, shall we?
Video & Audio Quality
Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown looks good with one mild reservation. The color palette and overall image are comparable to Warner Bros. previous Deluxe Editions, boasting crisp, vivid colors and solid image detail. Black levels are consistent from start to finish. Unfortunately, much like a handful of specials from the 1960s and 1970s Collections, this transfer has not been flagged properly for progressive playback, resulting in modest amounts of digital combing from start to finish [NOTE: The version of He's Your Dog from The 1960s Collection is also improperly flagged]. This mars what would otherwise be a near-flawless presentation (at least for standard-definition DVD, but it's not a deal-breaker. Let's hope the studio pays more attention in the future, though.
Though not quite as immediately noticeable, this Deluxe Edition's audio is also satisfying. Presented in its original Dolby Digital Mono (also available in Spanish, Portuguese and Japanese), the dialogue and music cues are generally crisp and clear. Optional English, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Portuguese and Thai subtitles are included during the main feature.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging
Seen below, the plain-wrap menu designs are basic and easy to navigate. This 25-minute special has been divided into 5 chapters, while no obvious layer change was detected during playback. This one-disc release is housed in an eco-friendly black keepcase and includes no printed inserts of any kind (or a slipcover, come to think of it).
As expected, we're treated to a few entertaining and appropriate extras. The first isn't exactly advertised as one: Life's A Circus, Charlie Brown (below left), a charming 1980 special that also stars the lovable pup. This adventure sees Snoopy run off to join the circus (or is he dognapped?), where he enjoys a modest amount of success and catches the eye of a cute poodle. Like He's Your Dog, there's plenty of imagination on display here: Snoopy's definitely in his own world at times, but he also manages to strike back against his captors and safely escape. It's a little bittersweet and a lot of fun, and this 25-minute special pairs quite well with the main feature. Presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio and Dolby Digital Mono mix, Life's a Circus actually looks better than He's Your Dog: though it's not quite as vivid, at least it's been flagged properly for progressive playback.
Also here is "Snoopy's Home Ice: The Story of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena" (22:15, below right). This episode-length documentary takes a look at the famed ice rink purchased by Charles Shulz in the 1960s; what's more, it's still operational and appears to be in good hands. Featuring interviews with staff members and a few representatives of the Shulz family, this thoughtful featurette showcases the beautiful landmark and also provides us with a brief history of its purchase, renovation and cozy design. Presented in 16x9 widescreen, the only drawback here is a lack of optional subtitles and Closed Captions.
Also here is a short Trailer for You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown: Remastered Deluxe Edition and an unrelated LEGO game. Overall, a nice little batch of bonus features here---but considering He's Your Dog is already available on The 1960s Collection (and Life's A Circus should be included on the forthcoming 1980s Collection), the window for a recommendation narrows considerably.
The continued release of Peanuts Deluxe Editions has been a welcome tradition during the past several years...but with the advent of Warner Bros. two-disc "Decade" collections (three and counting!), it's hard to continue recommending these stand-alone discs. Even so, He's Your Dog offers a nice change of pace---and paired with the like-minded Life's A Circus (not to mention another great Shulz-related documentary), this proves to be a small but mighty selection of content. It's still only recommended for die-hard Peanuts fanatics, though: the much more efficient and economical two-disc collections are undoubtedly a better buy. Let's split the difference and say that all interested parties should Rent It and decide for themselves.
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.