Peanuts On The Big Screen

Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang make the jump to the big screen in A Boy Named Charlie Brown. Charming and thoughtfully made, creator Charles Schulz and director Bill Melendez cherry pick some of the comic strip’s best and most loved bits for the Peanuts characters’ animated movie debut. Released in 1969 on the heels of several classic television specials, Charlie Brown attends a national spelling bee in New York City.

The theatrical movie follows Charlie Brown’s struggles as an ordinary kid and his misadventures. A Boy Named Charlie Brown gets inside his doubts and misgivings with gentle laughs and wry observational humor. The morose boy’s issues include flying a kite, playing baseball, and frustrations dealing with Lucy, which ultimately lead Charlie Brown to his school’s spelling bee. Surprisingly, Charlie Brown wins the contest and then faces the challenge of a national spelling bee in the big city.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown captures everything good and wholesome about Peanuts from Charles Schulz

Entertaining but with a genuinely sincere message, A Boy Named Charlie Brown captures everything good and wholesome about Peanuts from Charles Schulz. There are classic gags like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown and Snoopy turning Rockefeller Center’s ice rink into a hockey venue. A few musical sequences go wild with the animated possibilities.

Schulz and director Bill Melendez use the longer theatrical running time for more adventurous storytelling than the cherished television specials. The movie’s more relaxed pacing almost fits the characters and themes better. Rod McKuen contributes a few cheesy pop songs to the soundtrack that aren’t a great choice for Peanuts, though thankfully composer Vince Guaraldi handles the smooth musical score.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown remains incredibly likable despite the dated animation and occasionally awkward musical interludes. Even more than the television specials, this movie may be the purest adaptation of material from the comic strips. Its timeless message of coping with failure is a classic Peanuts tale.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown Blu-ray screen shot

Video

For decades, the 1969 animated feature was only available in a cropped widescreen presentation. This Blu-ray corrects that mistake with its uncropped 1.33:1 transfer. The low-budget cel animation has seen better days, obvious wear and dirt are evident in the unrestored film elements. Paramount’s dated transfer does nothing particularly wrong but the pedestrian video quality reflects poor source elements and little money thrown at the restoration.

Despite the jump to the big screen, the traditional hand-drawn animation was crude and underwhelming for its era. This is a serviceable film transfer at best of low-quality animation. There isn’t undue video processing, film grain is appreciable and a high-bitrate AVC encode is completely transparent. Primary colors are largely muted and flat, though clarity and contrast are definitely acceptable.

The Blu-ray’s picture quality looks a little better than DVD but the primary reason to get it is for the uncropped 1.33:1 transfer.

Audio

A Boy Named Charlie Brown is given a probably unnecessary 5.1 DTS-HD MA soundtrack for what is a simple and limited theatrical mix. Almost all sound is located upfront and center with light surround support. Dialogue has a slightly tinny echo with thin upper frequencies. This is not an impressive recording outside of the excellent musical score from Guaraldi and songs from Rod McKuen.

Optional English SDH subtitles play in a white font. 2.0 Dolby Digital mono is a secondary audio track.

Extras

A Boy Named Charlie Brown is reissued on Blu-ray as part of the four-disc Snoopy Collection from Paramount. The included BD for A Boy Named Charlie Brown is identical to the barebones disc first released in 2016.

The Snoopy Collection gathers the four original theatrical movies for the Peanuts gang in one set, which also includes Snoopy, Come Home; Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown; and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come 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 gives each movie its own BD. Technically no special features are included on the disc for A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

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.

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.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
5

Movie

Charlie Brown hits the big screen in this charming Peanuts movie which adapts some of the best bits from Charles Schulz’s comic strip.

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