Warner Bros. // 1973 // 25 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Brendan Babish (Retired) // September 29th, 2010
Spend Thanksgiving with good ol' Charlie Brown.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was the tenth Peanuts special made for television, out of an eventual total of fifty-three. It's the third holiday-themed special, following Christmas and Halloween. It originally aired in November 1973, and was awarded an Emmy the following year. The special is traditionally rebroadcast every Thanksgiving on network television, and was released on DVD in 2008. However, this Blu-ray release presents Charlie Brown celebrating Thanksgiving for the first time in a high-definition picture.
Like A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a didactic tale dismissing the superficiality of a holiday and celebrating its true meaning. Peppermint Patty (who's more abrasive than I remember) invites herself and several friends to Charlie Brown's house for Thanksgiving dinner. The problem is, Charlie had planned on spending the holiday at his grandmother's condo, and there is little food available to feed a group of hungry children. Snoopy and Woodstock come to the rescue when they whip up a meal from snacks in the kitchen and serve it to the guests with great fanfare. Patty is not amused, and loudly complains about the poor quality of food. These complaints lead to an open discussion about what is more important on Thanksgiving, the meal or the company? (The answer may surprise you.) (No, actually, it probably won't.)
After nine previous specials, the Peanuts template was pretty well established by A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. (It's not like you expected anything cutting edge from Charles Schultz, anyway.) While the story may seem uninspired, what is most unique about the Thanksgiving special (and the Christmas special even more so) is the blunt moralizing at the climax, where a character directly spells out the true meaning of the holiday in an earnest, almost patronizing, manner. Thankfully, the lecture is delivered by the adorable Linus, which greatly mitigates the annoyance.
In fact, though my cynicism with holidays and holiday specials has expanded with age, for some reason the Peanuts characters largely get a pass. Owing both to Peanuts' cultural impact and to the previously mentioned adorability, you would have to be a scrooge not to be affected by their pleas for holiday cheer. In an age when there are countless numbers of Thanksgiving specials to choose from, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is far from the most insightful or entertaining, but it has a charm that is unique and undeniable. I do wonder if these characters will have the same effect on anyone born post-1990, but for anyone else, they should provide a pleasant reminder of their childhood and (seemingly) simpler times.
Though A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving was produced well over thirty-five years ago, and the animation is rudimentary, the picture still looks clearer, sharper, and brighter than on the accompanying DVD. Oddly enough, the bonus Peanuts feature on this set, Mayflower Voyages, looks even better than A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. That said, the animation on both of these Peanuts cartoons is so low-tech that I am not sure the Blu-ray upgrade is worth it.
As for the audio, this Blu-ray features to DTS-HD Master Audio, but there was almost no point. The soundtrack is all in the center channel and there is nothing dynamic there at all.
The most substantial bonuses in this set are the DVD copy and the previously mentioned Mayflower Voyages, a 25-minute Peanuts reenactment of the early pilgrims voyage from England to the America, where they settled in Plymouth. The special concludes with the first Thanksgiving dinner, which make it an appropriate companion to A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving; however, this special is not as charming. There is a good deal of novelty seeing Peanuts characters playing out historical events, but the novelty wears thin, especially since the history is almost whitewashed to the point of absurdity. If a child is into Peanuts, Mayflower Voyages might be right up their alley, but I don't think many adults will get much pleasure out of it.
An additional bonus is the 12-minute featurette, "Popcorns & Jellybeans: Making a Thanksgiving Classic," which features the cast and filmmakers of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving discussing their experiences making the special.
Not guilty. Now pass me that drum stick.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 25 Minutes
Release Year: 1973
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Bonus Episode
* DVD Copy