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A Charlie Brown Christmas (Warner Brothers) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (Warner Brothers) Blu-ray Review



    Released by: Warner Brothers
    Released on: October 1st, 2013.
    Director: Bill Melendez
    Cast: Peter Robbins, Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Sally Dryer, Karen Mendelson
    Year: 1965
    Purchase From Amazon

    A Charlie Brown Christmas - Movie Review:

    One of the most enduringly popular Holiday specials of all time, A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first of many Peanuts holiday specials, originally aired on CBS over forty-years ago back in December of 1965. The fact that it's just as well known now as it was back then is testament to the incredible popularity of Charles Schulz's comic strip and the various spin-off cartoons that have been created over the years.

    The charming and timeless tale begins with Charlie Brown confessing to his friend Linus that despite Christmas' impending arrival, he's feeling pretty down in the dumps. He knows he's going to get presents and that he's going to get to partake in all of the holiday fun, but he doesn't feel quite right about it all. Charlie Brown decides to pay a visit to Lucy's 'psychiatric help' booth where she encourages him to get involved with the school Christmas pageant, which he does, while Snoopy busies himself decorating his dog house with Christmas lights in hopes of winning the neighborhood Christmas lights contest.

    Charlie Brown throws himself into the play, where he winds up directing. Hoping to set the right mood, he decides that they need a Christmas tree. Lucy takes over directing and Charlie and Linus head out to find the perfect tree but they've waited too late and the lots are all empty save for one, spare, lonely little tree - the one they have no choice but to come back with. Eventually the kids warm up to the tree as they realize the true meaning of the holiday spirit, culminating in a touching and humorous sing along to end the show on an uplifting and genuinely 'feel good' note.

    From the comical opening where Snoopy shows Charlie Brown and Linus how to really skate, to the touching and sincerely sweet ending, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a whole lot of good clean fun. Underneath the gags and funny characters is a nice message that really hammers home the spirit of the season, playing up the concepts of peace on Earth and good will towards men with true sincerity. Surprisingly enough, the cartoon also makes a pretty bold statement against the crass commercialization and 'buy buy buy' mentality that has come to surround the holiday, where business and corporations encourage us to show our family and friends how much we care by spending more than anyone else and giving the biggest gift - fairly heavy topics for a cartoon that was aimed at a children's audience, but really, the Peanuts specials really can be enjoyed by young and old alike.

    Supposedly when this special first aired, half of the television sets in the country tuned in to watch - remarkable, when you think about it. It wound up winning an Emmy Award and has gone on to be considered a true classic despite a fairly basic animation style and a very simple sound mix. Its low-fi origins may seem primitive by today's standards but there's no denying that Schulz's characters seem more alive to many of us than any three dimensionally rendered computerized creation because they have what many cartoons lack, and that's heart.

    A Charlie Brown Christmas - Blu-ray Review:

    Warner Brothers brings A Charlie Brown Christmas to region free Blu-ray in an older VC-1 encoded 1080p high definition transfer taking up 4.5GBS of space on the 25GB disc and frame at 1.33.1, the TV special's original aspect ratio. Picture quality here handily bests the old DVD edition, even if it isn't going to melt your eyeballs. The charming hand-drawn animation show as okay detail, while colors look quite nice. It's clear that this could have benefited from a new scan, but it still looks decent enough.

    Audio options are provided in English and Japanese language Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound tracks with optional subtitles provided in both languages. The 5.1 mix spreads the music out into the rears a bit but otherwise keeps things up front. The range is limited here but there are no problems with any hiss or distortion, it sounds fine.

    The primary extra on this disc is a bonus episode, It's Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown, which runs twenty-three minutes. Created in 1992, this one doesn't have quite the same charm as the original but it's still a fun watch. Charlie Brown and company are getting excited about Christmas coming soon and each one of them has their own way of preparing for the big day. Charlie Brown needs to get some money to buy a girl a present while Peppermint Patty and Sally both have trouble preparing for the Christmas pageant even though their lines are amazingly simple. Snoopy is running around doing his thing and everyone does their best to keep in the spirit of the season. This follow up is played more for laughs, really, and the story seems to be in place mainly to string along joke after joke which stands in contrast to the first special which actually had a fairly good message to it. That said, it's an entertaining, if minor, entry in the Peanuts holiday special cannon.

    Once you're finished with that, be sure to check out the sixteen munte A Christmas Miracle: The Making Of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Interviewed here are producer Lee Mendelson, director/animator Bill Melendez, Peanuts historian Scott Maguire, animation historian/writer Mark Evanier, the late Charles Schulz's wife, Jeannie Schulz and former CBS programming executive Fred Silverman. Topics covered include where the inspiration for the special came from, who did what on the project, the various voice actors who were employed on the show, and even some of the fan mail that came in after the special debuted. There are a lot of great archival photos and illustrations used in here to add some visual flair and this winds up a touching and informative tribute to the show and to Schulz.

    The disc also includes a trailer for the Classic Christmas Favorites DVD Collection, menus and chapter selection. Note that all of the extras on this disc have been ported over from the older DVD edition, there's nothing new included here, but the featurette and bonus episode are both worthwhile.

    A Charlie Brown Christmas - The Final Word:

    Christmas viewing doesn't get much better than A Charlie Brown Christmas and Warner Brothers have done a nice job with the presentation on this Blu-ray edition. The presentation is solid, if not amazing, and the extra features are good. Fans of classic animation or holiday specials can definitely consider this one highly recommended.

    Click on the images below for full sized The A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray screen caps!





























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