Peanuts Visit France

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!!) and I have a long, complicated history. As a big fan since childhood, the fourth theatrical movie featuring Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang has always left me cold. Something about the project feels off which doesn’t capture the whimsical, mundane pleasures so commonly found in Peanuts.

First released in 1980, the movie sees Charlie Brown and Linus in France as exchange students alongside Peppermint Patty and Marcie. It’s a weird, middling tale about Charlie and his friends ending up in France as clueless tourists.

Inspired by a trip he took overseas to revisit places he had experienced during World War II as a soldier, Charles Schulz goes in a dark and off-beat direction with the children’s adventures. For the first time, we hear actual adult voices in Peanuts. There’s also some French dialogue, which often has to be translated by Marcie who is fluent in the language. The first half makes hay of the cultural differences in Europe, while the second half sees Charlie and Linus encounter a suspicious chateau owner who mistrusts outsiders.

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown has one great gag about Snoopy visiting Wimbledon and pitching a fit

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown has one great gag about Snoopy visiting Wimbledon and pitching a fit when things don’t go his way. Clearly inspired by the antics of John McEnroe, Snoopy is hilarious imitating the tennis great. For me it’s the singular highlight of a Peanuts movie that isn’t particularly loaded with laughs.

The crux of Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown revolves around the mystery of a letter Charlie receives from France. About to embark on the exchange trip to France, a girl he doesn’t know invites Charlie to stay at her mysterious chateau. It’s a flimsy premise stretched beyond its breaking point, even for a simple Peanuts tale. We soon learn it’s all a misunderstanding before a weird turn in the final act sees Charlie and Linus escape a fire.

One of the big problems with Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!!) is that many Peanuts characters are entirely sidelined for Snoopy, Charlie, Linus, Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Characters like Lucy and Sally quickly disappear, never to be heard from again. The second half comes off as an intensely personal remembrance of Charles Schulz’s European vacation, like Snoopy drinking and playing foosball in a French cafe. The setting just doesn’t work out that well for the characters with the exception of Snoopy.

Video

The main feature runs nearly 76 minutes on a BD-50, getting its own disc with a high bitrate AVC encode showcasing flawless transparency from Technicolor of California. The 1.78:1 presentation is a faithful, unfiltered representation of the movie’s traditional cel animation without undue processing. There is far less cel dust and visible debris in Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown than the preceding theatrical Peanuts films. It’s an authentic, organic film transfer by Paramount, which is nicely replicated on Blu-ray.

The simple 2-D animation from 1980 isn’t a showstopper but offers more vivid and vibrant colors than expected at 1080P resolution. There is lightly visible grain and satisfying saturation. The primary colors occasionally pop thanks to the steady contrast and strong black levels.

This is not an amazing restoration from Paramount but a straightforward transfer that doesn’t get it wrong. Dazzling eye candy has never been a part of Charlie Brown’s appeal but fans should be pleased by this clear upgrade over DVD.

Audio

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown arrives on Blu-ray with its original monaural audio in 2.0 Dolby TrueHD. By 1980 the animators had noticeably improved sonic fidelity for the Peanuts gang over prior specials and movies. Dialogue reproduction is perfectly clean and clear without the subtle recording hiss found before.

The score is heard with increased depth and presence, providing modest but more spacious dynamics. It’s a clean studio recording that captures each character’s familiar voice in fine fashion.

Important Peanuts music contributor Vince Guaraldi once again is MIA, whose memorable scores for the original Christmas and Halloween specials are indelibly linked to the Peanuts characters. Instead we get a fairly generic instrumental score.

Optional English, English SDH and French subtitles play in a white font. A French dub is included in mono Dolby Digital. Those looking for Spanish options will have to stick with the 2015 DVD.

Extras

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!!) makes its Blu-ray debut as part of the four-disc Snoopy Collection from Paramount. The movie is not available as of yet on its own. The Snoopy Collection gathers the four original theatrical movies for the Peanuts gang, which includes A Boy Named Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Come Home, and Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown. It’s a bit disappointing that fans have to re-buy the first two movies over again, which were already released on Blu-ray a few years back.

The set is light on special features, bringing over a 2015 featurette from the Bon Voyage DVD and a couple trailers for the movies making their Blu-ray debuts. The four-disc set at least gives each movie its own BD.

The best bonus is the inclusion of separate digital copies for all four movies, redeeming in HDX quality on VUDU, FandangoNow, or iTunes.

Travels With Charlie: The Making of Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (20:22 in HD) – A fine look back at the movie from a variety of perspectives. An animation historian, Charles Schulz’s widow Jean, and others intimately involved in the movie’s creation discuss its inspiration and gags. The featurette goes into detail how a trip back to France inspired Schulz’s plotting.

Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown Theatrical Trailer (02:41 in HD)

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown Theatrical Trailer (02:22 in HD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided to us for review. This has not affected the editorial process. For information on how we handle review material, please visit our about us page to learn more.

Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown
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The fourth theatrical Peanuts adventure is a strange, off-beat trip to France that sidelines several important characters for little gain.

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