A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The show provided an inconsistent but usually satisfactory picture.
Sharpness seemed fine. The program presented good definition and clarity at all times, as I noticed very little softness. Nothing here seemed razor sharp, but the image showed nice delineation.
I detected no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, and edge haloes remained absent. The show suffered from weak clean-up animation, so it looked “dirty” even though the “flaws” stemmed from stray marks and spots that no one fixed in the first place. The show also tended to be fairly grainy.
Colors came across well, as the tones usually presented nice vivacity. Black levels remained deep and shadow detail - already not much of a concern in a brightly-lit cartoon - was fine. Probably the least attractive of the three classic Peanuts holiday shows, this one looked good but not great.
Instead of the show’s original monaural audio, the disc provided a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix – not good. Earlier DVDs went with the old mono track and it worked just fine. Why reinvent that particular wheel?
I guess the folks behind the release figured that 5.1 tracks sell discs. Unfortunately, the results weren’t positive, and the soundfield was a mess.
The track went with broad mono, so it simply spread the audio across the various speakers without any localization or clarity. Dialogue remained centered, and every once in a while, I thought it almost sounded like panning occurred.
But it didn’t. Music lacked any stereo presence, and effects didn’t emanate from any logical places. The material simply mushed together into a big blob without definition.
The poor soundfield harmed the quality of the audio. Dialogue still worked fine, as the lines were concise and crisp – usually. A few vocal effects tried to come from the sides, and those sounded unnatural and strange.
Music lacked any form of vivacity. The score seemed blobby and bland, as the way it spread to the various speakers robbed it of life.
Effects fell into the same trap, as they failed to deliver much punch. Granted, the material was never going to sound great, as the source was recorded decades ago. Nonetheless, the show would’ve been better served if it simply stayed with the original mono mix – or at least offered it as an option on the disc.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Blu-ray from 2010? Audio was identical, as the 4K reproduced the same flawed 5.1 track.
Visuals showed an upgrade, though not an immense one. Though brighter and more vivid, the 4K remained held back by the restrictions of the source. It’s the best the show has looked, but it’s not exactly demo material.
Note that the 4K provides Thanksgiving - 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.
Two extras appear on the 4K UHD disc itself, and we get a Peanuts special called The Mayflower Voyagers. This 1988 show retells the story of the original Pilgrims and their harsh journey. Although it tries to stick to some historical material, it also tosses the Peanuts gang into the mix and shows their reactions to the experience.
I find this 24-minute, 22-second program to provide a very unsatisfying mix of historical drama and cartoon comedy. The show can't quite decide what it wants to be and the tone changes dramatically throughout the program.
Actually, it sticks more strongly to the serious side of the story, which makes the levity seem all the more unpalatable. One minute we see corpses being buried, while the next shows more Charlie Brown wackiness.
Possibly the oddest aspect of the show stems from the fact it presents adults. Since I haven't seen all of the Peanuts specials, I don't know if Voyagers is alone in this distinction, but it feels vaguely jarring. Admittedly, it would have been exceedingly difficult to tell this tale without showing grown-ups, but the way the show violates the Peanuts universe seems strange and unsettling.
Since I originally discussed the special, some helpful readers have provided additional information on this show. It turns out that Voyagers was part of an eight-show "miniseries" during the 1988-89 TV season. Called This Is America, Charlie Brown, this project covered a variety of historical topics such as the Wright brothers' invention of the place and the 1787 Constitutional Convention.
These shows also displayed adults, as did 2000's It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown. For more information on the "Peanuts" shows, visit Scott McGuire's excellent website.
Ultimately, The Mayflower Voyagers is a dud. The program is dull and talky, with tone changes that feel forced and gratuitous. I like Peanuts a lot but this show did absolutely nothing for me.
From 1971, Play It Again, Charlie Brown goes for 25 minutes, 17 seconds. Lucy becomes more frustrated by Schroeder’s lack in romantic interest in her, so she connives to find a way to make him love her.
Even by the loose standards of Peanuts specials, that’s a pretty thin plot, and Play doesn’t do much with it. Much of the show focuses on interactions at Schroeder’s piano, many of which come straight from the original comics.
Of course, that’s true of many Peanuts specials, but Play less dynamic than usual, largely because it focuses on music so much. This removes many comedic opportunities and makes Play a mediocre show.
The package includes a Blu-ray copy of Thanksgiving, and that’s where we find a 12-minute, 27-second featurette entitled Popcorn & Jellybeans: Making a Thanksgiving Classic. It provides remarks from Peanuts historian Scott McGuire, producer Lee Mendelson, Charles Schulz’s wife Jeannie and son Monte, director/animator Bill Melendez, animator Phil Roman, animation writer/historian Mark Evanier and actors Todd Barbee, Chris DeFaria, and Hilary Momberger.
“Popcorn” looks at aspects of the story, cast and performances, character design and animation, and some other thoughts about the special. While “Popcorn” doesn’t present the most concise recap of Thanksgiving, it throws out plenty of nice observations.
We learn a lot about the special and get good background. It’s great to hear from the former child actors, and as mentioned by Mendelson, I’m glad to hear someone else felt disturbed by the sight of a turkey-eating Woodstock. This is a brisk and enjoyable featurette.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a good but not great Peanuts special. It provides some fun but doesn't quite live up to the heights of better shows. The 4K UHD offers generally good picture with a mix of bonus materials, but the remixed 5.1 soundtrack disappoints. The special looks better than ever but the lack of original audio makes this product a tough sell.
Note that Thanksgiving 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 Deluxe Edition review of A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING