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Peanuts Holiday Collection (Deluxe Edition) - animated DVD / children's and family DVD review
Not rated by the Motion Picture Association of America rating: 4 stars
Actors: Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Sally Dryer, Kathy Steinberg, Lisa DeFaria
Director: Bill Melendez   Distributor: Warner Home Video
DVD release: 23 September 2008   Feature runtime: 75 minutes
(3 discs)
Format: Animated, Box set, Color, DVD-Video, NTSC
DVD Features: Audio tracks (English), "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," "It's Magic, Charlie Brown," All-new featurette ("We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown!"), "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," "The Mayflower Voyagers," All-new featurette ("Popcorn & Jellybeans: Making a Thanksgiving Classic"), "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown," All-new featurette ("A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas")

To me, watching Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection Collection was like putting a favorite sweater back on or hearing a favorite song again. All three evoked happy memories of my childhood, when I anxiously awaited each special as a signpost that the holidays were indeed approaching. This deluxe box set, which features digitally re-mastered editions of "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown," "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" and "A Charlie Brown Christmas," is a joy to watch. I would recommend it as a gift for kids of all ages.

An excellent review of "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" has already been written by Eric Renshaw on this site, so I won't go into detail here. However, though I enjoy it immensely, I have to say it is my least favorite of the three specials. I've always thought there was a rather bitter pill in the center of the candy here (Lucy's flat-out meanness; Charlie Brown getting nothing but rocks; Linus' unwavering faith in the Great Pumpkin, which never comes).

Conversely, I've always found "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" rather underrated. When Peppermint Patty invites herself, Marcie and Franklin over to Charlie Brown's house for Thanksgiving on short notice, what else should she expect but popcorn, jelly beans and toast? Highlights of this episode include Snoopy's fight with a lawn chair, the smooth jazz song "Little Birdie," Patty being set straight on the true meaning of Thanksgiving by Marcie, and Charlie Brown's funny closing line: "My grandmother lives in a condominium."

However, the clear gem in this box set is "A Charlie Brown Christmas," which I will gladly argue is the best TV holiday special ever made. Charlie Brown, feeling the "Christmas blues," takes Lucy's advice and decides to direct the school Christmas play. What play would be complete without a Christmas tree? Everyone makes fun of Charlie Brown's sad little real tree, famously revealed among a sea of multi-colored metal trees, until Linus reminds Charlie Brown and everyone else of the true meaning of the holiday.

The simplicity of the story, the animation and the music add an undeniable charm not found in other specials. There are so many memorable moments: the opening skating scene, the kids dancing to the theme song, and the decoration of the tree at the end. Linus' heartwarming telling of the Christmas story makes this one truly a classic that can easily be watched again and again.

These three features would not be as special as they are without the music of Vince Guaraldi. The famous Charlie Brown theme song (ironically, known as Linus and Lucy) is heard in all three and simply fits the animation perfectly. The music is wonderful in all, but especially so in the Christmas special, which also includes the lovely "Christmas Time is Here" and his jazzy update of "O Christmas Tree." A nice bonus to the Christmas DVD is a 6-song CD of music from the special (but unfortunately, "Christmas Time is Here" is not included).

Needless to say, I highly recommend this box set. It's an excellent stocking stuffer for kids, while adults such as me will always find these specials charming and fun to watch again and again.

Included on each DVD are "making of" specials with director Bill Melendez, producer Lee Mendelson, Peanuts Historian Scott McGuire, Charles M. Schulz's wife, and other special guests. All are quite interesting and informative, but my personal favorite is the one for the Christmas special. Mendelson recounts how Guaraldi first played him the famous theme over the phone "quickly, before he forgot it (!)" as well as how Coca-Cola gave the creative team an almost impossible 6-month deadline to create the special (a deleted scene apparently has Linus sliding on the ice into a Coca-Cola billboard), how the creative team was adamant that children's voices be used for the characters (and some of the children could only be fed snippets of a line at a time-which explains the "sing song" rhythm of the voices at times), how Schulz insisted that Linus' speech be included, and how CBS executives thought that, after the initial screening, they had a "bomb" on their hands.

Also included on each DVD is a bonus special. As expected, none of these are even close to the quality of the originals. "It's Christmas Time Again, Charlie Brown" is simply a series of filmed skits with no connecting plot, while "It's Magic, Charlie Brown," from the Halloween DVD, is a rather weak entry about Snoopy putting on a magic show (though it does feature a unique way of having Charlie Brown finally kick that football). Easily the best of the filler episodes is "The Mayflower Voyagers," from the This is America, Charlie Brown series of the late 1980s. In this episode, the Peanuts gang become Pilgrims sailing to the new world on the Mayflower. The episode is not only entertaining but quite educational about the hard winter the Pilgrims endured, leading to the first Thanksgiving.
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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