A Charlie Brown Christmas appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; due to those dimensions, the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. 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 enhancement. Source flaws were moderate. I witnessed some specks and marks, but I thought most of those could be attributed to weak clean-up animation from the source. The transfer still had some messy aspects, but it wasn’t too bad in that regard.
Colors fared well. The show’s primary hues looked lively and full throughout the program. At times, the tones really popped, as the transfer reproduced the basic colors nicely. Black levels also look deep and rich, and shadow detail was just fine. Overall, this was a fine presentation given its age and origins.
Brown provided relatively satisfying monaural audio. Dialogue sounded clear and crisp, with no edginess or dull qualities. Effects were sporadic and cartoonish but seemed acceptably clean and accurate. Vince Guaraldi's music was fairly lively and even offered some mild bass at times. The overall production showed some thinness commonly found in recordings of the era, but I found it to provide pretty nice sound as a whole.
How did the picture and audio of this 2008 “Deluxe Edition” compare to those of the original 2000 release? I thought both offered virtually identical audio, but the 2008 transfer demonstrated improvements. The new image looked cleaner, tighter, brighter and more stable. Actually, the 2000 presentation was perfectly acceptable, but the 2008 version gave us a more satisfying rendition of the show.
In terms of extras, we open with the only repeated element from the old disc: 1992's It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, a 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; 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 fun. 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 the 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 fun 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.
Next we find a new 15-minute and 58-second featurette entitled A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas. It 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 few ads open the DVD. We get promos for the Rankin-Bass special Jack Frost, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, A Charlie Brown Christmas and the Scooby-Doo interactive DVD Game. Yes, it seems very odd that the DVD includes an ad for itself. The disc also includes trailers for Fred Claus, Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 6, Popeye, Smurfs and Scooby-Doo And the Goblin King.
The set also includes a Bonus CD. This provides a six song “sampler” of Vince Guaraldi’s music. We find “My Little Drum”, “Linus and Lucy”, “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing”, “Christmas Is Coming”, “Fur Elise” and “Greensleeves”. More dedicated fans of Guaraldi’s work will want a broader compilation of his Peanuts music, but this acts as a nice add-on for the rest of us.
While I also liked the It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown disc, this package probably offers the best of the Peanuts shows. A Charlie Brown Christmas remains a classic after more than 40 years. Picture and audio are perfectly acceptable, and we get some nice extras. This is a memorable special and a pretty good DVD.
Note that this DVD also can be purchased in a boxed set called “The
Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection”. That package also includes It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and it lists for $44.76. That almost makes it a “two for the price of one” package. Since all three specials are good, the “Collection” offers a nice bargain.
To rate this film, visit the original review of A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS