Monday, September 27, 2010

Dear Santa Claus...

Two-disc set loaded with bonus features!

 Disc One:
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS the full classic 1965 animated television special
• Audio commentary by animator Bill Melendez, producer Lee Mendelson and actors Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus), Tracy Stratford (Lucy) and Sally Dryer (Violet).
• Music-only track highlighting Vince Guaraldi’s score
• Branching “Seventies CBS special” version with spinning “CBS Special Presentation” intro and vintage Dolly Madison commercials
• CBS promos for the special throughout the years
• Creator / Cast bios
• Meet the Peanuts gang
• English, Spanish, French subtitles
• Digitally remastered picture and sound
• Scene selection and animated menus

Disc Two:
IT’S CHRISTMAS TIME AGAIN, CHARLIE BROWN 1992 sequel animated special
• Brand new documentary, “But He Did Get a Nice Tree” featuring interviews with creators and cast, rare footage from the studio, and recollections and reflections from celebrities, artists and musicians who grew up loving “A Charlie Brown Christmas”
• “Sparky’s Legacy” A tribute to Charles M. Schulz by friends, cartoonists, artists and fans.
• the previously unaired 1963 documentary, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” that led to the Christmas special
• 1962 Ford Falcon commercials featuring the first time the Peanuts characters were animated.
• Audio outtakes of Melendez directing the child actors
• 1966 Emmy® clip of Schulz, Mendelson and Melendez accepting the award for Best Network Animated Special
• Storyboards and storyboard to finished cartoon comparison
• Comic strip gallery: selection of original PEANUTS strips that were adapted into the Christmas special
• Photo gallery of advertisements, magazine covers, book jackets and more relating to the special.
• “A Charlie Brown Christmas” trivia game

This DVD is priceless, and I’m not saying that because it’s worth countless millions.... I’m saying that because it doesn’t exist. I lied at the top of the page. Oh, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS SPECIAL EDITION SHOULD exist. The current DVD of ACBC is typically lacking, with the 1992 sequel being the only “bonus” feature. But sadly, this two disc version only exists in my geeky little brain.

The fact is, most production studios show marked shortsightedness when it comes to their animated properties. With few exceptions, studios treat animated features as nothing but disposable kid stuff, ignoring the ever-growing market of us nostalgic grown-ups who still care about the movies and TV shows that we loved as a child.

Paramount and Warner Bros. are particularly guilty of this. Warner even goes so far as to misrepresent some of their cartoons to sell videos to kids, using balloony airbrushed kid-friendly cover art that doesn’t match the animation inside. The sad fact is, they know that kids are not discriminating consumers, so the studios don’t have to put any effort into these releases. They just slap an hour’s worth of content on a DVD, that’s enough to sate the kiddies’ short-attention spans and give Mom and Dad some time for a quickie in the laundry room.

Warner is starting to get the message, as the LOONEY TUNES GOLDEN COLLECTION (which was a looooong time coming) was a nice start and they’ve recently begun releasing season box sets of television cartoons like BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES and THE FLINTSTONES. But it remains to be seen whether they’ll make animated series and features a priority. Sales will tell, of course.

Much as I hate to admit it, The Walt Disney, Company is the only animation studio that does a consistently nice job with their video releases, packing them with special features. Of course, they also toss in about a thousand cross-promotional ads disguised as content and then they do that stupid “limited release” thing and, OH, don’t get me started on how much I hate Disney. That’s a whole other column (which I wrote in 1995 and may post here someday).

Anyway. A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS will be forty years old in 2005. Maybe if Paramount gets on the stick, they can have this puppy together in time for that anniversary. A Christmas Eve baby can dream, anyway.

POSTSCRIPT, February 2008:
Last year, Warner Home Video (which has gotten much better with their video releases) bought the rights to the Peanuts specials and ACBC is currently out-of-print, with a reissue certainly in the works. Here's hoping they get it right.

POSTSCRIPT II, September 2010:

Nope, they didn't. The Warner "Deluxe Edition" merely adds a rather tepid "making of" feature, leaving tons and tons of untapped potential.


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