A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving 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 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-“.
The monaural audio of Thanksgiving also seemed relatively good. Dialogue appeared clear and acceptably crisp, without edginess or other issues. Music showed decent range, with a bit of bass along the way. Though the score and songs lacked great dimensionality, they offered acceptable dynamics. Effects weren’t a major factor here, but they seemed fine; those elements demonstrated acceptable clarity. This was a positive track for an old TV program.
How did the picture and audio of this 2008 “Deluxe Edition” compare to those of the original 2000 release? I thought both offered improvements. The picture looked brighter and tighter, while the audio seemed a little cleaner and smoother. Neither area blew away the old disc, but both showed growth.
In terms of extras, we open with the only repeated element from the old disc: 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 new 15-minute and 58-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 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.
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, positive sound, and a few decent supplements. This is a fairly nice release for a fairly amusing special.
Note that this DVD also can be purchased in a boxed set called “The
Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection. That package also includes A
Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown 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.