A Charlie Brown Christmas appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. The show looked very good throughout this nice transfer.
Sharpness was solid. The show always offered good definition and delineation, without any notable signs of softness. Moiré effects and jagged edges did not present concerns, and I noticed no edge haloes.
Source flaws were not a factor. I witnessed some marks, but those could be attributed to weak clean-up animation from the source.
The transfer still had some messy aspects, but it was usually clean. A fair amount of grain crept in at times, with spikes in some of the “interior” scenes, but that wasn’t an issue.
Colors fared well, as the show’s primary hues looked lively and full throughout the program. Black levels also look deep and rich, and shadow detail was just fine. Overall, this was a solid presentation given its age and origins.
Instead of the reasonably pleasing monaural track from the old DVD, the 4K UHD presents a flawed DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. While a little superior to what I heard on the Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Blu-rays, the soundscape’s broadness created distractions.
Music didn’t provide stereo presence. Instead, the score and songs simply spread to the sides and rear without clarity.
The same went for effects. Any localization was inconsistent and not placed well. The surrounds added bland support of the elements but nothing more, as they failed to deliver real depth to the package.
Audio quality was acceptable. Speech appeared fairly concise and easily intelligible, while effects seemed decent. Those elements had little to do and could sound a bit canned, but they weren’t bad.
Though I didn’t like the way music spread around the various channels, the score and songs offered reasonable clarity. Those components came across as mostly warm and full. Again, this mix topped its peers but I still would prefer the original monaural.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the 2009 Blu-ray? The 4K replaced the BD’s lossy Dolby 5.1 mix with its lossless DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, and it seemed better integrated. Visuals also got a boost, with stronger definition and vivacity in the 4K. Given the limits of the source, this wasn’t a big upgrade, but the 4K offered the best-looking version.
Note that the 4K provides Christmas - and the disc’s two bonus specials - in both the original 1.37:1 aspect ratio as well as a “widescreen” 1.78:1 rendition. I only watched the 1.37:1 version but I wanted to note the presence of the other one as well.
A few extras flesh out the disc, and we open with 1992's It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, a 23-minute long-delayed sequel to the 1965 original. Wisely, it doesn't attempt to emulate that classic. Instead, it takes a looser and more glib look at the holiday through a series of minor vignettes.
In essence, Again feels sort of like a bunch of comic strips cobbled together into one piece. There's no coherent plot. We find various brief stories that are stuck together in a fairly smooth manner but which don't attempt any kind of overall message or tale, so one minute we see Charlie Brown as he tries to sell wreaths, the next finds Snoopy as a street corner Santa.
It's all loose and semi-random but fairly entertaining. Clearly the show's lack of coherence makes it less memorable than the original special, but that doesn't mean it's not a lot of fun.
Actually, Again may be one of the more amusing of the Peanuts specials, which surprises me given its recent vintage. Peanuts wasn’t very funny for its last decade or two, and I didn't expect much from a 1992 offering.
Despite that possibility, It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown functions as a nice complement to the earlier classic. It offers a lively experience that seems rewatchable and clever. The show probably would function best as a "warm-up" to A Charlie Brown Christmas, so you may want to view it first if you decide to take in both during one sitting.
1984’s It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown goes for 24 minutes, 22 seconds. Obviously influenced by 1983’s Flashdance, this one comes with no real plot. It shows the kids at school and at parties; the story elements really exist as an excuse for some dance numbers.
Unlike some other 1980s or later specials, Flashbeagle actually sort of feels like it comes from the Peanuts universe, and it also provides a few laughs. That automatically makes it better than the many other programs.
That doesn’t mean it’s good, however. The absence of a true story ensures an awkward nature to the show, and the musical numbers are uniformly bad.
The sight of Snoopy in Jennifer Beals mode is awfully embarrassing, though his big disco number feels more like Saturday Night Fever than Flashdance. This isn’t an awful show, but it’s mediocre at best.
The package includes a Blu-ray copy of Charlie Brown Christmas. It provides the two bonus specials and a 16-minute, one-second featurette entitled A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas.
This show provides remarks from producer Lee Mendelson, Peanuts historian Scott McGuire, director/animator Bill Melendez, Charles Schulz’s wife Jeannie, former network executive Fred Silverman, and animation writer/historian Mark Evanier.
“Miracle” looks at how Peanuts made the leap from the newspaper page to the TV screen, aspects of the special’s development, music, cast and performances, animation and character design, missing scenes and controversies, the network’s initial opinion of the show, and its reception and legacy.
Expect a good overview of Christmas here. The featurette’s brevity is an issue, as it flies through the production too quickly. I’d like to hear a lot more, and it’s too bad none of the original child actors pop up here. Nonetheless, we learn a lot about the special in this informative and engaging piece.
A holiday staple, A Charlie Brown Christmas remains a classic after more than 50 years. It continues to charm and delight. The 4K UHD offers very good visuals with mediocre audio and a few nice bonus materials. Without the original mono soundtrack, I can’t wholeheartedly endorse this release, but it’s still pretty positive.
Note that Christmas can be purchased on its own or as part of a three-show package called the “Peanuts Holiday Collection”. This includes It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas. It retails for $44.98, which makes it a deal, as that’s half the cost of the three specials on their own.
To rate this film, visit the original review of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS