"Happiness Is ... Peanuts: Friends Forever": A Very Sad Sack of Episodes
Hey, look! It’s another Peanuts collection!
Ahhhh, Peanuts, for those times when you really need a dip into the nostalgia pool. Unfortunately it’s more of a nostalgia kiddie pool than anything else. Friends Forever brings together one 30-minute TV special from 1968, You’re In Love Charlie Brown, and an episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show. I honestly have no idea why it’s called Friends Forever, since the featured special is about Charlie Brown being in love and the sole episode of the TV show included is just a mishmash of various Peanuts vignettes, so I’ll just chalk it up to creative marketing. I’m going to assume that most everyone here knows who the Peanuts characters are, though it should be noted this is sad sack Charlie Brown, not mean Charlie Brown from the early years of Peanuts, nor is it Stephan Lynch’s “Peanuts.” (Please, don’t look that song up if you’re under 13.)
You’re In Love Charlie Brown covers the last two days of a school year, with poor Charlie Brown trying to muster up the courage to talk to the semi-mythical Little Red Haired Girl. I know looking for internal logic in a Peanuts TV special is probably a fool’s effort, and even Charlie Brown pretty much blurts everything out right at the beginning of the special how the problem should solve itself. Nevertheless, over the next two days Charlie concocts increasingly complex ideas for trying to tell the Little Red Haired Girl how he feels, but finding mostly failure and humiliation. In fact, the special seems to go out of its way to make Charlie’s life especially miserable for no other reason than torturing him. Yes, I know I’m over examining a very simple, borderline simplistic, TV special based off a 4-panel comic, but it is a beloved cultural classic, so the degree of cruelty exhibited here strikes me as a bit over the top.
The other feature on the disc is a random episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, and I do mean random: five vignettes that seem to have been plucked from random places across the Peanuts comic continuum and given the animated treatment. We get a bit of the Kite Eating Tree, Sally and Snoopy fighting, Snoopy being a scaredy dog and a cheapskate, Lucy stalking Schroeder, and Charlie Brown getting kicked out of summer camp after getting unwillingly ensnared in a fight at the girl’s camp across the way. Yeah, totally random. They’re funny in intermittent bits, but don’t really amount to more than a few chuckles.
Animation-wise, this collection is pretty simple. It’s Peanuts, what else would you expect? The resolution that DVD brings into play makes the limitations very, very clear. There are also a lot of instances in the Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show where the animation gets very choppy and jumpy, often cutting between two shots of the same character drawn very differently. The joys of a limited budget I suppose. Same story for the sound, but I doubt Peanuts would benefit much from a 5.1 surround sound mix. There are no extras on the disc unless you count trailers for other Peanuts collections and a trailer for the most recent Peanuts television special, Happiness Is a Warm Blanket. I’m detecting a theme here. All in all, this is a very average collection of Peanuts video material. For the MSRP a little bit more would have been nice, but if you’re into Peanuts, go nuts.