Melendez/Mendelson Productions (1974), Warner Home Video (February 19, 2008), 1 disc, 25 mins plus supplements, 1.33:1 original full frame ratio, Dolby Digital 1.0 Mono, Not Rated, Retail: $19.98
Despite the loss of his credibility following The Great Pumpkin debacle, Linus tries his best to get the gang excited about the coming of the Easter Beagle.
The Sweatbox Review:
The twelfth Peanuts cartoon special came out in 1974. Borrowing from comic strips that had appeared over the past few years, it tells the story of the coming of the Easter Beagle, who everyone strongly suspects is simply another concoction from the imagination of Linus. After all, his promises concerning the Great Pumpkin didn’t turn out so well back in the famous 1966 TV special. If Linus is to regain some of his credibility, it will take the help of a very special beagle. Fortunately, Charlie Brown’s dog fits that description pretty well.
Linus spends a great deal of the show telling his friends that they needn’t bother with their Easter preparations, particularly the making of Easter eggs, because it will all be taken care of by the Easter Beagle. Having been burned before, his friends largely ignore him, and Sally in particular is distrustful. All of that, though, is set-up for the special’s conclusion. What makes this special really tick are some of the other scenes, especially those concerning Peppermint Patty’s attempts to teach Marcy how to make Easter Eggs. Marcy’s innocent butchering of dozens of eggs is cause for much hilarity, as are the reactions of Peppermint Patty. Schroeder and Lucy also have some moments together at the piano, where they disagree about the meaning of Easter. Lucy, naturally, believes that Easter is all about receiving gifts, leading to a typically frustrated response from Schroeder.
Most of the Peanuts gang ends up at the mall, for various reasons. Snoopy needs to buy a new home for Woodstock, Patty needs more eggs for Marcy, etc. All threads of the story come together in the end, as a certain Beagle gleefully prances around, making Linus’ promises come true. (This surely isn’t a spoiler, as you can see it right on the cover of the DVD!) This is one of the more joyous of the Peanuts specials, as it has relatively little of Charlie Brown and therefore it racks up a lot less of the pathos often seen in the specials. Instead, the other kids (and Snoopy) get the spotlight, with mostly everything turning out all right in the end. Don’t worry, though— Charlie Brown does see some disappointment. It wouldn’t be Peanuts without seeing Charlie Brown at least a little unhappy. Writer Charles Schulz, producers Lee Mendelson & Bill Melendez, and Director Phil Roman made a tidy little special here, and it’s easy to see how it became a classic.
Is This Thing Loaded?
The first thing to be seen when the disc starts, other than the Warner and FBI screens, are trailers for the new Peanuts DVDs, plus one for The Wiggles— which of course made me scream, “Ack!! The Wiggles are on my TV screen! Nooooooooo!!!” A Trailers menu elsewhere on the disc also lists ones for Smurfs, Horton, A Pup Named Scooby-Doo, and Tom And Jerry Tales.
Having only one measly special on this disc would be pretty chintzy, so we also get a “bonus” one, It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. (As per the remastered Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown release, Warner has chosen to mirror what Paramount did in its original DVD release. ) This 1976 special may depict a somewhat dubious holiday (compared to the big religious ones), but it is in fact one of my favorites. It is less episodic than many of the others, and has some pretty good laughs in it. Linus helps out both Sally and the viewer by taking a trip to the library to learn more about Arbor Day, which fires up Sally so much that she wishes to start planting trees immediately. Meanwhile, Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown discuss love, and somehow the topic turns to baseball. The two stories intersect when Lucy convinces Sally (and a reluctant Linus) to plant trees on Charlie Brown’s ball field. The sincere (and rare) attempt to do something nice for ol’ Chuck naturally turns out to be a disaster, though Charlie Brown does come ever-so-close to winning his next game anyways. The emotional ups and downs of the last few minutes make this quintessential Peanuts.
Aside from the Arbor Day special, the only true Peanuts-centric extra is the featurette In Full Bloom: Peanuts At Easter (15:33). Aside from examining the Easter Beagle special, the featurette discusses Schulz’s viewpoint on religion and how it manifested itself in the strip. Contributors to the discussion include wife Jean Schulz, son Craig Schulz, producer Lee Mendelson, and a few other cartoonists. This featurette would be the main reason to possibly upgrade over the previous Paramount Easter Beagle disc. It’s hard to say that it is worth it just for that, but anyone who does pick up this new disc should appreciate it.
Standard keepcase, no insert. What makes this release stand out is the shiny, dark purple embossed slip-sleeve. Warner has gone the opposite way of Paramount’s soft, pastel Peanuts covers, and the result is certainly eye-popping.
Ink And Paint:
The video here is as good as one could hope. Easter Beagle looks much younger than its years, though obviously from a different era due to its cel smudges. The colors are crisp and bright, and there are few compression problems. The most notable deficiency is video noise in some of the textured backgrounds, which is only noticeable if you take your eyes off the characters to focus on the backgrounds. Arbor Day is perhaps just a tad less sharp, with some occasional funky skin tones, but looks pretty good nonetheless. In briefly comparing the video on this disc to the previous Paramount release, I noticed no obvious differences.
The single-channel mono sound seemed a little muffled at the beginning of Easter Beagle, which had me worried, but very soon after that the audio cleared up just fine. Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi was still handling the original music at this point, and as usual his scoring is delightful. Spanish and Portuguese dubs are also available, as well as several subtitle options— English, Spanish, Portuguese, Korean, Chinese, and Thai.
Owners of the prior Paramount version get only a quarter-hour featurette to entice them to upgrade, though that might be enough for the biggest fans. Those who don’t have the other disc will find that the two specials here are among the best that the Peanuts cartoons had to offer. This disc is heartily recommended for anyone who has ever enjoyed watching the antics of Snoopy and Good Old Charlie Brown.
Animated Classic or Back To The Drawing Board?