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The Twelve Days of Bits-Mas!
DVD review by Adam Jahnke of The Digital Bits

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Remastered Deluxe Edition

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Remastered Deluxe Edition
1965 (2008) - Warner Bros.
Released on DVD on October 7th, 2008.

Program Rating: A
Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): B+/B/B-


Buy this DVD now at Amazon!

For generations of kids, Christmas just isn't Christmas without the holy trinity of animated holiday specials: Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas, the Rankin/Bass classic Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer and the one-and-only A Charlie Brown Christmas.

It may come as no surprise that this life-long comics fan has always been fondest of the very first Peanuts special. A Charlie Brown Christmas is an elegant, simple and affecting piece of work that cuts through all hype to uncover the true meaning of the holiday.

All these years later, it's surprising to see how the Peanuts formula was instantly cemented in just 30 minutes. Everything we know about the animated versions of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang is on display in this first half-hour, from the use of real kids to provide the voices to Vince Guaraldi's instant-classic piano jazz score. Perhaps even more surprising in this day and age is that this is one of the very few animated specials outside of Davey and Goliath that's not afraid to put the Christ back in Christmas. Remarkably, Charles Schulz manages this trick without being heavy-handed about it. I wouldn't exactly go so far as to call Linus reciting from the Book of Luke subtle. But when he steps off stage and quietly and simply says, "That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown," it's a touching moment that only the most profoundly anti-Christian individual could take offense at. Then again, if you're profoundly anti-Christian, you probably wouldn't be watching a Christmas special in the first place.

A Charlie Brown Christmas proved so successful that Schulz and his comrade-in-cartoons, the late Bill Melendez proceeded to tackle every holiday on the calendar from Arbor Day to Valentine's Day. But it was over 25 years before they produced another Christmas special, cleverly titled It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. The follow-up is presented as a bonus special on Warner's new reissue. It's more gag-oriented than its predecessor, adapted directly from installments of Schulz's daily strip. Fortunately, most of the gags are pretty good. It's Christmastime Again is nowhere near as good as A Charlie Brown Christmas but it's still preferable to many other holiday specials.

Warner's Remastered Deluxe Edition also offers up a brief but interesting documentary, A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The featurette packs a lot of good trivia into 16 minutes, including interviews with Melendez, producer Lee Mendelson, Schulz's widow Jeannie and more. Yuletide lovers can pick up A Charlie Brown Christmas on its own but true Peanuts fans will likely want to spring for the Peanuts Holiday Collection that collects this, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in one box. Either way, Warner has done a very nice job keeping this holiday tradition alive. A Charlie Brown Christmas never fails to fill me with holiday spirit, reminding us all that there's more to Christmas than Santa Claus, ho-ho-ho, mistletoe and presents to pretty girls.

Adam Jahnke
ajahnke@thedigitalbits.com
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