I am a huge fan of Charlie Brown and the whole Peanuts gang from A Charlie Brown Christmas to the comic strip and the Broadway musical. One part of the Peanuts canon that has disappointed me of late, however, has been their new animated specials for TV. I have not found them nearly as good as the original A Charlie Brown Christmas, so when I saw that there was a new Peanuts Double Feature coming out, I didn't have high hopes. Well, as it turns out, Snoopy, Come Home and A Boy Named Charlie Brown were made by the team behind A Charlie Brown Christmas, and somehow, I never knew about either of them, despite knowing one of Snoopy, Come Home's most famous songs “No Dogs Allowed.” If you grew up with these specials or if you are a long-time Peanuts fan who missed these gems, I guarantee that this Peanuts Double Feature is worth the money.
In Snoopy, Come Home, Snoopy can't seem to do anything right. All the Peanuts gang are annoyed with him, and everywhere he goes, he sees signs reading, “No Dogs Allowed.” He can't go to the beach, walk on the grass, or ride the bus. He can't even go to the library and enjoy a good book without getting into trouble. When he gets a letter from a young girl named Lila, he packs up his doghouse and takes off to visit her in the hospital with his trusty friend Woodstock at his side. (Fun fact: Snoopy, Come Home was Woodstock's first appearance in the television specials.) Poor Charlie Brown is left without his best friend, wondering who this mysterious girl in the hospital could possibly be. As it turns out, Snoopy had an owner before Charlie Brown, and now Snoopy might have to choose whether to stay with Charlie Brown or go live with Lila.
A Boy Named Charlie Brown focuses its attention on Charlie Brown as he tries to break out of his sad-sack existence by entering the school spelling bee. As it turns out, Charlie Brown is a pretty good speller, and he makes it from the classroom round to the school-wide round and all the way up to a national spelling bee competition in New York City. Along the way, the pressure starts to get to Charlie Brown, and he wonders whether he preferred being a hero or having his classmates have no expectations for him.
Starting first with Snoopy, Come Home, this is a surprisingly melancholy tale, even for the Peanuts gang. Sure, there is a run-in with a crazy singing pet-napper who dresses up her pets and hosts pretty princess tea parties, but ultimately, he has to make the difficult choice to stay with Charlie Brown or live with his first owner Lila. Lila is always presented as a sweet girl and a viable alternative to the often melodramatic Charlie Brown, and at one point, he decides on Lila over Charlie Brown. The big going-away party for Snoopy is actually heartbreaking as all the Peanuts gang stand up and say their goodbyes. In the end, Snoopy does come home, but the audience feels sad for Lila who also cares for Snoopy.
I must point out that in Snoopy's grand adventure to visit a sick girl in the hospital, he runs into segregation and rejection because he's a dog. There are signs on every corner, in the library, on the bus, and at the hospital reading, “No Dogs Allowed,” and in one case, “No Dogs Allowed...or Birds.” In the comic strip and in the movies, Snoopy was basically treated like a funny looking kid with a big nose. He has dates with Peppermint Patty, wins Christmas decorating contests, and gets into a Halloween party by pretending he is a kid in a really convincing dog costume. Snoopy, Come Home is the first time he has ever been limited by being a dog, giving his character depth that is not often seen in animated TV specials.
Where Snoopy, Come Home was Snoopy's story, A Boy Named Charlie Brown takes the time to examine why Charlie Brown is such a pessimistic kid. In the story, he finds out that he is a really great speller, and with a lot of studying, he could be the best in his class, then the whole school, and then the entire country. Suddenly, he is famous, and his classmates are literally carrying him through town on their shoulders cheering for Charlie Brown.
All this success doesn't make him happy, though. Charlie Brown is a very self-conscious guy, and fame doesn't suit him. He is stressed out constantly, short on sleep, and most of his “friends” are just waiting for him to mess up. Instead of enjoying the ride however long it lasts, Charlie Brown spends most of his time worrying about what he is going to do to mess it up.
Snoopy, Come Home and A Boy Named Charlie Brown might have focused their attention on different Peanuts characters and their struggles, but both films in the Peanuts Double Feature have a similar overarching message. From Snoopy, we learn to embrace life fully and appreciate our friends old (Lila) and new (Charlie Brown). From Charlie Brown, we learn to be grateful for our successes, and even if we fail, we can be comforted that life will still go on. Lucy will still be there holding out that football, and that small streak of optimism that still lives in Charlie Browns everywhere will push us to try to kick it one more time.
DVD Bonus Features
There were no special features on the DVD release.
"Peanuts Double Feature: Snoopy, Come Home and A Boy Named Charlie Brown" is on sale March 15, 2011 and is rated G. Animation, Comedy, Comic Book, Musical, Television. Directed by Bill Melendez. Written by Charles M. Schulz. Starring Chad Webber, Christopher Defaria, Glenn Gilger, Pamelyn Ferdin, Peter Robbins, Robin Kohn, Stephen Shea.