It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown appears in an aspect ratio of 1.37:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. This wasn’t a killer presentation, but it was almost certainly the best the inexpensive cartoon has ever looked.
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, it often became difficult to separate actual print flaws from sloppy clean-up animation. It became clear that most of the “defects” resulted from stray marks that didn’t get erased. However, I still noticed occasional specks, marks and dust. These were minor, at least. I did think grain was a bit heavy at times, however, especially during the closing chat between Linus and Charlie Brown.
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. Black levels also looked deep and rich, and shadow detail was just fine. The occasional softness and mild dirtiness of the print kept it from offering a really great image, but overall I was quite pleased by the appearance of this show.
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.
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 44 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 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 offers the same extras as the 2008 DVD. We find a 1981 special called It’s Magic, Charlie Brown. In this 24-minute and 19-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.
Next we locate 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.
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.
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 Blu-ray provides good picture and some decent supplements, but the remixed audio is a mess.
Which means that I can’t recommend the Blu-ray – at least not as a replacement for the DVD, which offers the superior presentation of the program. Yes, the Blu-ray’s visuals top the DVD’s, but the extras are the same, and the DVD’s audio is significant better than the Blu-ray’s. If you don’t own Pumpkin at all, this Blu-ray is an acceptable purchase; you might like the DTS-HD remix more than I did, and if not, you still have the DVD that I prefer. But if you already possess that old DVD, I doubt you’ll want to take that chance with your money. The picture quality upgrade simply isn’t substantial enough to overcome the decline in audio.
To rate this film visit the Deluxe Edition review of IT'S THE GREAT PUMPKIN, CHARLIE BROWN