Though the Peanuts special likely on everyone’s mind in the month of October is that cartoon mainstay It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Warner Bros Home Video has chosen to favor us with another release this autumn. On September 21st, He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown was re-released as a remastered deluxe edition DVD and bundled with a number of fun extras.
He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown, the fifth prime-time Peanuts special, was the first to shift the focus from Charlie to his lovable, headstrong dog Snoopy. The plot centers on the beagle’s bad behavior and Charlie Brown’s eventual decision to send Snoopy back to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm for obedience training. Of course since this is Snoopy we’re talking about things don’t exactly go as planned. After an extended and incredibly entertaining stay not at Daisy Hill but at the home of Peppermint Patty (the duration of which Snoopy spends in the fantasy world of his alter ego the WWI Flying Ace), the pup eventually sees the error of his ways. Except where Linus and Lucy are concerned.
He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown isn’t without its problems. The classic sensibility of the Schulz original may fall a tad flat with modern audiences. While it’s nice to have another Peanuts DVD release featuring the delightfully dry delivery of the original voice cast, the fact that most of the dialog involves the kids whining about Snoopy’s behavior seems like a bit of a waste. Speaking of, Snoopy’s not the only ill-behaved character in this outing. Sure, he pulls a lot of pranks and gets into more than a couple of scuffles, but Charlie Brown and company likewise engage in some distasteful behavior, including a bit of animal abuse. Adult viewers will easy see that the kids are only concerned about Snoopy’s well-being because of his skills as a shortstop, but thankfully children enthralled by the antics of these classic characters will likely miss these surly details.
The same can be said for the second-half of this veritable Snoopy double feature – 1980′s Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown. This one sees Snoopy once again abandoning his master, this time to join the circus. The animations style in noticeably more complex than the older features, and it boasts a number of locales, animals and primary players not typically seen in other Peanuts specials. The tale is again tempered with tragedy as Snoopy falls in love with a fellow circus dog, briefly changes his name to “Hugo the Great” as his fame grows and eventually, inevitably gets his poor little puppy heart broken. Alas, we’re treated to some more dog-on-human violence, but more importantly this piece works well with He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown to paint a proper picture of the complex but still absorbing absurdity of the Peanuts universe in general and the Charlie-Snoopy dynamic specifically.
This deluxe edition does a good job of brightening up the video and polishing the audio of both installments with only a few minor shortfalls. The colors are warm and bright throughout, but, while the titular piece easily overcomes the crude recording practices of yesteryear, Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown seems to have intermittent problems with volume leveling. Though still presented in the original aspect ratio, this collection ably cleans up the then-broadcast-standard material for the now more discerning audience.
Sadly, while both Snoopy-centric films still prove quite enjoyable, the selected bonus materials are scant and uninspired. Trailers for You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown and the LEGO Harry Potter game fail to qualify as “special” by any stretch of the imagination, and the inclusion of multi-language support for both spoken dialog and subtitles is all but expected. The singular standout is the mini documentary Snoopy’s Home on Ice: The Story of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena.
This widescreen presentation tells the story of Charles Schulz’s “second home,” the popular California indoor ice rink that his family opened in 1969. It combines archival footage and photographs with recent interviews with the Schulz family and employees of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, and, though only 20 minutes in length, it reflects Charles’s great love of sports and his dedication to the community of Santa Rosa, California. It certainly proves a fascinating diversion for Peanuts fans and documentary aficionados alike.
The He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown remastered deluxe edition DVD is a bit of a mixed bag. Though a bit rough-and -tumble by today’s standards, the original TV specials presented herein still proved quite enjoyable both to me, an old fan, and to my children, who are only now beginning to grasp the importance of Snoopy and Charlie Brown as characters. Despite some disappointments with regard to the overall supplementary material, Snoopy’s Home on Ice also helps to provide added value to the purchase.
If you’re a diehard Peanuts fan looking to pad your DVD collection or are just hoping to expose your own geeklings to the classic Americana of Schulz (and you don’t mind the occasional pet-punching), He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown is a fairly safe bet. Although, if you fall into the latter category, you might also want to pair it with feature-length film Snoopy Come Home, which includes thematic bleed-over with both the presented specials and also shares a single, if pivotal, scene with Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown.
WIRED: all the classics Peanuts goodness you’d expect, features newly remastered versions of two great primetime specials, bonus mini-doc Snoopy’s Home on Ice: The Story of the Redwood Empire Ice Arena
TIRED: occasional audio issues, showcases a fair measure of violence and an abundance of selfishness on the part of the major Peanuts players
Review materials provided by: Warner Bros Home Video Inc.
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