The latest entry in the Happiness Is Peanuts... series of DVD releases from Warner Brothers, Go, Snoopy, Go! repackages the 1996 straight to video special It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown as its main feature (it was originally available on the Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown! DVD). Directed by Sam Jaimes and written by Charles M. Schulz, the story takes place in spring time as the Peanuts gang starts turning their thoughts to baseball. Despite Charlie Brown's past track record with his team, he's nevertheless determined to give things another shot this season and so he once again gathers together his rag-tag group of players to head out to the diamond for some good old fashioned spring training.
Moral, however, is low and the team doesn't even have proper uniforms, something that they desperately want. To make this happen, Charlie Brown hits the streets and eventually finds a sponsor in the form of Mr. Hennessy, who is generous enough to fund the uniforms but only if the team can win their season opener. Given that the team has never been particularly good at baseball in the first place, Charlie Brown knows that this is going to take every ounce of strength he has as a team manager, but complicating matters is the addition of a new team member, a little kid named Leland who can't even manage to tie his own shoes.
At twenty-five minutes long, It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown (the thirty-fifth animated Peanuts special) cruises by pretty quickly even if it's not the best that the series has to offer. The show was originally finished in 1992 and intended for television broadcast but was then shelved until it was released straight to video in 1996. A big part of the reason this entry doesn't really catch on the way some of the more legitimately classic entries do is that the creators seem to have tried to update the Charlie Brown universe, to blatantly ill effect. At roughly the half way point, the kids break into a rap and start dancing to bad funk/hip-hop sounds... which doesn't really seem to fit in with the established feel and tone of Peanuts as most of us know it. Maybe the hope here was to reach out to a larger demographic and diversify things a little bit - certainly a noble ambition - but it winds up coming across as desperate and clichéd.
The story itself, however, isn't half bad. It has moments where, yeah, this feels like the Peanuts we all know and love. Charlie Brown, voiced here by Justin Skenkarow has his typical conflict with Lucy, played by Marnette Patterson. Linus, performed by John Christian Gaas, shows up with blanket in tow and of course, Snoopy, voiced by Bill Melendez, is on hand to bring his talents as a 'problem solver' to the field. The addition of Leland, played by Gregory Grudt, seems unnecessary when you consider the wide cast of characters already established in the series, but it's harmless enough and there are moments where you can't help but feel for the little guy.
In the end, It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown is a minor, lesser entry in the Peanuts pantheon but it's watchable enough with its heart obviously in the right place. If it can't and doesn't hold a candle to the classics, it makes for a half an hour's worth of harmless, if forgettable, fun for kids of all ages.
Everything in this set shows up in 1.33.1 fullframe, just as it should be. The quality is very good and there's really very little to complain about. Colors look nice and bright without appearing overcooked and there are only minor instances of any noticeable serious print damage (just specks here and there). Some mild grain is visible in some spots but that's completely forgivable, it just looks more film like. There aren't any problems with compression artifacts or edge enhancement to complain about and overall the material looks pretty impressive, though the fact that the transfers are interlaced is irritating.
The English language Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack is clean and clear and as simple as it should be. Dialogue is always nice and easy to understand and there aren't any problems with hiss or distortion. Levels are properly balanced and everything sounds fine. Optional 2.0 Mono dubs are available Dolby in Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai while optional subtitles are supplied in English, French, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and Thai.
The extras on the disc include five shorts in the form of an episode of The Charlie Brown & Snoopy Show originally broadcast on December 3, 1983 under the It's That Team Spirit, Charlie Brown. The first story, Vulture sees Snoopy take on the persona of a bird of prey, swooping in on the Peanuts gang and doing his best to freak them out as he jumps from one tree to another in the neighborhood. In Blanket Linus gets annoyed when Snoopy steals his security blanket and retaliates but stealing the dog's food bowl. The third story follows Peppermint Patty on a day when she decides no way no how is she going to school. The Rerun story finds the little kid of the same name enjoying the sites from the back of his mother's bicycle and in the final story, Rainy Day, Charlie Brown tries to keep his friends entertained on when the weather outside gets bad. These are fun to see but again aren't on the same level as the more hallowed Peanuts specials. Aside from that, we get menus and chapter selection.
Happiness Is Peanuts... Go, Snoopy Go isn't an essential purchase if you already have Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown but judged on its own merits, it's okay. Not classic Peanuts material but still decent light family entertainment. The presentation here is pretty solid and while there aren't a lot of extras the inclusion of an episode of The Charlie Brown And Snoopy Show will make this appealing to collectors. If you don't fall into that boat, rent it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.