Warner Bros. // 2011 // 46 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Ike Oden (Retired) // April 10th, 2011
"Do you want me to be unhappy? Do you want me to be like Charlie Brown?"
Linus (Austin Lux, The Beacon) and his blue blanket face a sea of criticism when his Grandma decides to hit the town. At the behest of his sister Lucy (Grace Rolek, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs), he agrees to take the first step and give up his blanket. With best friend Charlie Brown (Trenton Rogers, The Starter Wife), he is determined to kick his symbol of security once and for all...even if it costs him his sanity. After all, Happiness is a Warm Blanket, right?
Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown may be the best Peanuts feature since the original holiday specials. In many ways, it may even be more faithful, compiling its script directly from Charles Schulz's original comic, harkening all the way back to the very first strip published.
The cast is comprised of the original gang. Most of the action revolves around Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, Chuck, Sally, Snoopy, and Pig Pen. There's no Peppermint Patty or Marcie here, and Woodstock is featured minimally, making the feature feel tonally closer to Schulz's strips from the 1950s. Thankfully, the voice acting (by child actors) and overall art style fits in nicely with the continuity set down by previous Charlie Brown animated endeavors, though the pace of the story is possibly more lethargic. That's okay -- Schulz's style was always leisurely and understated, making Happiness Is a Warm Blanket transpose his four panel set-ups and straight faced dialogue to hilarious effect. I don't want to overhype anything, but you will never see a funnier exploding kite gag than the one contained here. Ever.
What really sets Happiness is a Warm Blanket apart from the dearth of Charlie Brown animation is the sheer attention to detail. Backgrounds are still water colored, but the colors are more robust than ever before. The animation is amazingly fluid and given rough aesthetic common to the source material. I hate to use the cliché, but the filmmakers have truly brought Schulz's strip to life cinematically. It all feels like Peanuts, not in the sense of a special, movie, or cartoon series, but Peanuts the unadulterated comic brought to vivid life.
If I have any substantial complaint with the special, it's Mark Mothersbaugh's score. Listen, I love Mothersbaugh. The two of us go way back in our mutual admiration (he sends me fan mail constantly). That said, the guy is no Vince Guaraldi. His score tries to ape Guaraldi while still being Mothersbaugh, but this is Charlie Brown we're dealing with, not Max Fischer, and the whole thing never quite gels.
The DVD looks immaculate, with vibrant colors, sharp animation, and minimal grain. The 5.1 track sounds equally superb, putting a lot of nice detail and closely capturing the way you read Peanuts in your head (I read in surround sound, I don't know about you guys).
The extras aren't massive in quantity, but are very good nonetheless. The featurette Deconstructing Schulz: From Comic Strips to Screenplay is an indispensible short documentary for aspiring screenwriters, showing with great detail how the filmmakers assembled the story directly from Schulz's decades of comic scripts. Next, Happiness is...Finding the Right Voice might be of interest to youngsters interested in the acting game, as it interviews each child voice actor and gives us a behind the scenes look at their sessions. The kids seem to be having tons of fun, interacting with the writer, voice director, and Schulz family, making for a featurette that's equally cute and informative. 24 Frames Per Second tells how Happiness is a Warm Blanket came to fruition, rising from the ashes of several proposed Charlie Brown specials to be spearheaded by a former Pixar animation staffer. If you're a fan of these cartoons or animation, this makes for some substantial viewing. A deleted scene with an introduction by the director caps off the extras.
Not guilty, you blockhead!
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 46 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scene