"Happiness Is ... Peanuts Snow Days": It's Not a Bad DVD, Charlie Brown!
A few years ago, Happiness Is … Peanuts Snow Days would have been released as a deluxe edition DVD titled She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown, with an episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show as the bonus feature. However, I am convinced that Warner Home Video’s Peanuts DVD release strategy has been specifically designed to confuse and confound me, with the Happiness Is … Peanuts DVDs seemingly replacing the older Deluxe Editions and the Decade Collections (and with the exceptionally oddball Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales DVD thrown in just to be even more inconsistent). I’m not sure that the change in titling is for the better, but at least the contents show the same remastering and attention to detail as before, with a passable TV episode and a surprisingly good TV special.
Happiness Is … Peanuts Snow Days begins with episode 18 of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, which brought Charles M. Schulz’s newspaper comic strip to Saturday morning TV in the early 1980′s, often quite literally. The episodes were straight translations of Schulz’s story arcs in the strip, and often suffered from comedic timing that was more suitable for the original four-panel comic strips than for animation. “The Play” follows the Peanuts gang as Lucy directs the school’s Christmas play, with Linus stuck singing “Jingle Bells” even though he can’t sing, Sally having deep fears that she’ll forget her one line as an angel, and Marcie landing the role of the Virgin Mary over Peppermint Patty, who has to play a sheep instead. It’s not a bad story and there’s even a pretty good laugh involving the dance steps Peppermint Patty has to do as the sheep, but most of it is only moderately amusing and definitely isn’t good enough to justify the way that a good chunk of this material was recycled wholesale for the even less impressive It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown from 1992 (included with the Deluxe Editions of A Charlie Brown Christmas). “Sweet Babboo!” centers on Valentine’s Day, and Sally’s failed attempts to woo Linus specifically. Even though both of these segments are reasonably entertaining, they both beg comparison to A Charlie Brown Christmas and Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, respectively, and come out looking pretty lacking as a result. “Sweet Babboo!” also has a strange goof where snowy backgrounds vanish entirely overnight: evidence that the segment was originally two separate stories in the strip that were grafted together. The final segment, “Snoopy’s Story,” is probably the best of the lot, as Peppermint Patty writes an essay for school about the vivid imagined life of Snoopy. Even if it’s just a highlight reel of Snoopy’s best animated moments (including a quick bit from my oddball favorite What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown), it’s quick and the clip-show format fits animation better than most of the show’s other simple four-panel strip adaptations.
The Emmy-nominated She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown is centered almost entirely on Peppermint Patty as she prepares for a skating competition under the gruff eye of her skating coach, Snoopy. The humor is gentle and entertaining, and there’s a surprisingly memorable and poignant moment when Woodstock saves Peppermint Patty’s routine from a massive mechanical mishap, largely driven by a virtuoso whistling performance by Jason Serinus. The best part of the special is easily its animation, which showcases several extended skating sequences by members of the Peanuts gang. It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown was the first Peanuts special to get credit for rotoscoping animation, but if the skating sequences in this special weren’t rotoscoped, they clearly made heavy use of lots of reference footage. The sequences are smooth and surprisingly detailed, especially the way they caught the small fumbles and slips in Peppermint Patty’s early skating, which makes the graceful routine she skates at the end even more impressive. Schulz was renowned for his affection for skating sports, and his love manages to infuse this special with much more staying power than something like the motocross-inspired You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown. It’s definitely one of the better specials that this crew produced, even if it seems almost entirely forgotten today.
Warner Home Video has done an excellent job overall in the remastering of the Peanuts animated programming, and Happiness Is … Peanuts Snow Days continues this trend quite nicely. The specials are all in full-frame with mono soundtracks, just as they were broadcast, but the specials have been visibly cleaned up and polished. The The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show segments can vary pretty widely in quality, with some sequences looking vastly better than others even within the same story, and there are moments where characters are visibly off-model. I suspect a combination the limited weekly TV series budget and timeline, and masters that deteriorated at different rates. She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown fares much better, although there are a few oddly discolored segments during the big finale. There is also some trivial visible film grain across both episodes, which I view more as historical artifact than real distractions. There are a nice selection of chapter stops throughout both specials, but the disc contains no bonus features other than trailers.