Monday, November 12, 2007

5 up, 5 down: Animated Charlie Brown

The idea of this is simple: list 5 pros and cons of a particular topic. Figured I'd start with something I've seen a lot of, lately - Charlie Brown TV specials (Liam is obsessed at the moment).


The Pros:

1. Let's get the big one out of the way first: A Charlie Brown Christmas is the single greatest piece of holiday-related television programming ever. This is not opinion, but a flat-out fact.

2. Most of the best of the specials adapt well-loved storylines from the strip, and adapt them very faithfully at that, right down to dialog and recreations of individual panels.

3. They used actual children for the voices, and even left in some of the minor line flubs. It makes everything sound that much more authentic, and proves that there's little in life funnier than listening to little kids say big words.

4. The This is America, Charlie Brown series and Veterans Day-themed What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? are a clever way to make kids learn a little history as they're entertained. Bonus points to WHWL,CB? for taking place directly after Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don't Come Back!) continuity-wise, since Chuck, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Marcy, and Snoopy are depicted on their way back from their French exchange student experience. I thought that was a fun nod to one of my favorite non-holiday outings of the Peanuts gang.

5. The sadly-short-lived Saturday morning show, The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, featured several segments with Rerun on the back of the Van Pelt family bicycle, and I always enjoyed the strips those were based on. Rerun was always a lot more awesome than he ever got credit for, especially as he got older and wanted to be an underground cartoonist.

I could go on (and on and on and on), but I have to move onto...

The Cons:

1. Eventually, they ran out of good holidays. It's pretty hard to work up excitement for an Arbor Day special (even if the show itself is surprisingly not-that-bad).

2. They tended to run out of good ideas in the 80s. Like that one where Snoopy turns Charlie Brown invisible. And Flashbeagle. Nobody needed to see Snoopy in legwarmers. Nobody.

3. They actually showed the Little Red Haired Girl. And, IIRC, they gave her a name, too (I think it was Heather). This just seems so wrong, and there was no way any depiction of her could do justice to the 30-40 years she'd been built up in everyone's heads at that point. And not to be mean, but what we got for the LRHG really wasn't the sort of girl whose looks would set Charlie Brown's heart permanently aflutter and drive Peppermint Patty to tears, I'm sorry. Those huge red circles for cheeks always creeped me out.

A Special TV Presentation: You Can Pull Better, Charlie Brown!

4. I don't remember which one it was off the top of my head, but one of the later entries actually used a real human voice for the teacher, Miss Othmar, and not a muted trumpet. Like seeing the adults' legs in the infamous golf tournament sequence in the strip, it was just very jarring and contrary to the world we had long since been presented.

5. In It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown (which marked the LRHG's onscreen debut), everyone blames placekicker Charlie Brown for losing the big football game, even though it's clearly Lucy's fault since she is apparently incapable of not snatching the football away from Charlie Brown. Even as a little kid, that pissed me off... like Charlie Brown didn't have enough problems in his life without everyone treating him like shit for stuff he didn't even do.
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