It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Though the source held back the picture’s capabilities, the show largely looked good.
Sharpness usually appeared clear and crisp, though some mild softness interfered with the image from time to time. Those issues were rare and not a significant concern.
In truth, I suspect all instances of softness came from the source material; as I alluded, this wasn’t a big-budget production, so it appeared that any instances of fuzziness stemmed from sloppy animation. Moiré effects and jagged edges did not present problems, and the image lacked edge enhancement.
In terms of source defects, the show seemed clean – or cleanish. The source suffered from a vaguely “grimy” feel that it couldn’t avoid. The image did seem tidy otherwise, though some sloppy animation continued to create the impression of print flaws.
Actually, only one scene caused notable problems in that regard: the segment in which Snoopy “goes into battle”. Due to its action orientation, it caused more of a challenge for animators, and it suffered from a mix of marks from the source animation. That was an exception to the rule, though.
Colors were quite strong and pleasing, with nicely replicated hues throughout the show. All of the oranges and other tones were reproduced
cleanly and accurately. Whites popped off the screen and the colors boasted pleasing vivacity.
Black levels also looked deep and rich, and shadow detail was just fine. This became a strong presentation of the source.
Instead of the show’s original monaural audio, the 4K provided a DTS-HD MA 5.1 remix. Not good. The DVD releases went with the old mono track and it worked just fine. Why reinvent that particular wheel?
I guess the folks behind the 4K figured that 5.1 tracks sell discs. Unfortunately, the results weren’t positive, so 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.
This affected the quality of the audio. Dialogue still worked fine, as the lines were concise and crisp – usually. A few vocal effects like crying 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 51 years 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 this 4K UHD release compare to the Blu-ray from 2010? Audio remained identical, as we got the same iffy 5.1 track on both.
Visuals differed, though, as the 4K looked cleaner and tighter along with more dynamic colors and blacks. A cheaply-made TV cartoon will never be a 4K showpiece, but the 4K became the most pleasing representation of the program.
Note that the 4K provides Great Pumpkin in both its 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 find a 1981 special called It’s Magic, Charlie Brown. In this 24-minute, 24-second show, Snoopy reads a book about magic and turns into a magician called “The Great Houndini”. Yes, that’s a pretty bizarre concept, especially after the generally more grounded Pumpkin.
It’s also a pretty flimsy framework for a show, though it’s not like Pumpkin exists as more than an excuse for some Halloween-related gags. Nonetheless, there’s something more substantial to Pumpkin that doesn’t exist here. An invisible Charlie Brown prompts some laughs, but it doesn’t remotely compare with the better Peanuts specials.
The second Peanuts special ever created, 1965’s Charlie Brown’s All-Stars (25:08) also appears here. Once again, Charlie Brown’s (Peter Robbins) baseball team suffers one loss after another. Tired of the failure, the players decide to skip the summer’s season.
In the midst of this, Charlie Brown receives an offer for formal league sponsorship, with real uniforms and all! However, this comes with a caveat: Charlie Brown needs to fire all the girls and animals from the team. This places Charlie Brown in a dilemma.
As the follow-up to the classic Charlie Brown Christmas, All-Stars has big shoes to fill. I’m happy to report that it does pretty well for itself. Of course, it lacks the warm emotionality of its predecessor, but it offers a fun experience.
All Stars also includes a bit of a progressive agenda via the league’s refusal to accept anybody other than boys. The show doesn’t pursue this theme to a large degree, but it adds an interesting thematic bent to the proceedings.
Like many Peanuts shows, fans will recognize some of the gags from the daily strips. Not too many of these examples occur, though, as the program provides mostly new material. Even the redundant jokes still entertain. Though not quite as good as its predecessor, All-Stars is a funny winner.
Note that like Great Pumpkin, Magic and All-Stars also come with both 1.37:1 and 1.78:1 ratio options.
The package also includes the 2010 Blu-ray Disc, and that’s where we find a 13-minute and 58-second featurette entitled We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown. It provides remarks from former CBS programming executive Fred Silverman, producer Lee Mendelson, Peanuts historian Scott McGuire, director/animator Bill Melendez, Charles Schulz’s wife Jeannie and son Monte, and animation writer/historian Mark Evanier.
“Blockbuster” looks at the first two Peanuts specials and how they led to Pumpkin. From there we hear about the story’s development, cast and performances, the music, art and animation, and some other show specifics.
My main complaint about “Blockbuster” stems from its brevity. It rips through the show’s creation in such rapid order that it doesn’t offer the depth we’d prefer, and it’s too bad the producers couldn’t offer some notes from the voice actors. Still, we find some nice details here along with more than a few good stories. It’s a short but enjoyable piece.
The third Peanuts special, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown remains one of the best. It demonstrates many funny moments and entertains well through its short running time. The 4K UHD offers impressive visuals and a few useful supplements but the 5.1 audio disappoints. The 4K version looks better than ever but I really wish we got the original monaural audio.
Note that Great Pumpkin can be purchased on its own or as part of a three-show package called the “Peanuts Holiday Collection”. This includes Great Pumpkin, 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 IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN