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. I detected no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges, and edge enhancement seemed to be absent, though the transfer could be a bit noisy. Print flaws were a somewhat frequent concern. The program generally seemed slightly dirty and gritty, and a few blotches appeared as well. Some of these flaws stemmed from poor clean-up animation, but I got the impression some of them could be blamed on a messy source.
Colors came across well. The mild noisiness made some of the hues look less dynamic than I’d like, but the tones usually presented nice vivacity. Black levels remained acceptable and shadow detail - already not much of a concern in a brightly-lit cartoon - was fine. The transfer never became stellar, but it did enough right for a “B-“.
Instead of the show’s original monaural audio, the Blu-ray provided a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. Not good. The prior DVDs went with the old mono track and it worked just fine. Why reinvent that particular wheel?
I guess the folks behind the Blu-ray figured that 5.1 tracks sell discs. Unfortunately, the results weren’t positive. The soundfield was a mess. The track went with broad mono; 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, and sometimes elements meant to be on the right came from the left.
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 Blu-ray.
How did the picture and audio of this Blu-ray compare to those of the Deluxe Edition from 2008? The visuals looked a bit better here, but not amazingly so. I suspect that the image came from the same transfer created in 2008. That meant it got a boost in terms of sharpness and color vivacity, but neither blew away the DVD. The 2008 disc looked pretty good, and so did the Blu-ray.
On the other hand, the DVD offered the superior audio simply because it stayed with the original monaural mix. As I just detailed, I didn’t care for the Blu-ray’s multichannel remix at all, so the old mono track is the way to go. You can get it on the DVD, which makes that release the preferred one.
The Blu-ray provides the same extras as the 2008 DE. 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 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 wrote this article, some helpful readers have provided additional information on this special. 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.
Next we find a 12-minute and 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.
Finally, the Blu-ray tosses in a bonus DVD. This is the same disc released on its own in 2008 – which means it’s the one I prefer.
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. Thanksgiving features erratic but usually good picture and a few decent supplements, bur the remixed audio disappoints. The lack of the more satisfying original monaural soundtrack makes the Blu-ray a misfire – and means that the 2008 DVD remains the best version of the program on the market.
To rate this film visit the Deluxe Edition review of A CHARLIE BROWN THANKSGIVING