"He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown" and It's Your Money, Peanuts Fans
When I reviewed the Peanuts 1960’s Collection, I guessed that several of the episodes on the set were not popular enough (or, frankly, good enough) to warrant a full-fledged standalone DVD release, and that the collection would be the only way to get these specials. Well, Warner Home Video has proven me wrong on at least one level, since He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown is now out on its own deluxe edition DVD.
As I mentioned in the earlier review, He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown is not the best effort from the Peanuts TV crew. The best Peanuts material is about something more than just the surface story, but He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown isn’t about anything more than just 20 minutes of Snoopy schtick. It’s fine Snoopy schtick, but it’s not the kind of thing that can really sustain its own special, especially when he’s being especially obnoxious throughout the entire show.
Paired with He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown is the much better Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown from 1980. Honestly, I think it probably would have been a better headliner special for this DVD. When a poodle from a circus show catches Snoopy’s eye, a chain of misunderstandings lead to him leaving home to join the circus. Given the stage name of “Hugo the Great,” Snoopy has to adapt to his new life in show business while Charlie Brown is left wondering if he’ll ever see his dog again. The real driving theme of the show is how love can make you a fool, which plays out in some surprising ways by the end, when Snoopy and some other characters have to make some inevitable choices. Some of the “suffering Snoopy” scenes are also evocative of the What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown special, and Charlie Brown’s angst over his missing pet and puzzlement over why he left still have the sting of the rejected. I’m pretty sure that the story he recounts about how he got Snoopy in the first place was lifted from a series of comic strips, but it sounds like something Charles Schulz lived through himself either as a child or as a parent. While it’s not A Charlie Brown Christmas or It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Life Is a Circus does end up feeling a lot more substantial than a lot of other Peanuts specials in the end.
He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown is exactly the same remastered edition as on the earlier 1960’s Peanuts collection. Many of the earlier deluxe edition DVDs didn’t remaster their bonus TV specials, but it seems that Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown was remastered for this DVD. Colors look as bright and lines look as sharp as the remastered He’s Your Dog, although the relatively recent vintage of the show might just mean that it’s in better shape than the earlier specials. A bonus featurette is also included on the Redwood Empire Ice Arena, an ice skating rink that Schulz bought and skated at regularly during his lifetime and which now sits next to the Charles Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, CA. The good news is that the documentary is about what it claims to be, as opposed to several other films that have come with these Peanuts DVDs. It’s something that only the hardest of the hardcore Schulz fans will care about, and mostly provides a bit of color and texture to Schulz as an individual rather than Schulz as an artist.
In the end, those hardest of the hardcore fans are the ones who will be really satisfied by He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown. There isn’t enough new material on the disc to really make it worthwhile for the more casual fan, and one expects Life Is a Circus, Charlie Brown will be appearing on the first expected Peanuts 1980’s Collection. It’s not even being offered at a much better price point than the other deluxe edition DVDs, which often included a second bonus episode as well. Dive in if you must, but I suspect the patient will be more rewarded.