Peanuts Specials

Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown – One Classic and Two That You’ll Enjoy

This DVD consists of three Peanuts specials celebrating Charlie Brown’s continual love of baseball. If you’re from the same era I am, you probably had at least a few soft-cover books with collections of Peanuts cartoons in them. Baseball seemed to appear in the strip more than any other sport, even with Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown on a regular basis.

The special from the title of the DVD collection was created after the death of the creator of the Peanuts strip, Charles M. Schulz. It definitely had the feeling that it was missing something, especially when compared to the other two specials. These two short subjects had very similar themes to them and I had to wonder why the need was felt to build on such an excellent special from the mid-1960s. If they were updating it for the social changes that have taken place since then, that’s a shame. It would provide a good opportunity for today’s youth to learn just how far we’ve come especially when it comes to girls being able to play organized sports.

Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown – 2003

Charlie Brown must deal with the fact that Lucy is the worst player on the team. They have lost 900 games in a row and to him, the manager, it all boils down to Lucy. Never mind that before now we’ve seen Charlie Brown himself blamed by the team repeatedly. Forget all that. Now the blame lies squarely on Lucy’s shoulders.

There are little vignettes surrounding the season, such as the wind, a call from a baseball magazine, and Charlie Brown getting drilled with a pitch back to the mound and losing his clothes as usual. These are sweet but don’t make up a coherent plot.

The main theme is Charlie Brown trying to build up the team and coach Lucy. Everyone is anxious as opening day approaches, and Charlie Brown wonders if he should just forget it and stay in bed. That is, until Lucy shows up.

Peppermint Patty displays her usual aggressiveness and competitiveness during the first game of the season.

Throughout the season, the team racks up loss after loss. Charlie Brown almost trades Snoopy for five players, but can’t go through with it. Finally, he trades Lucy to Peppermint Patty for Marcie. Both are right fielders and both are awful. The question is if this will be the improvement Charlie Brown is looking for, or will he live to regret it?

It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown! – 1992

Charlie Brown is digging through the snow, but his thoughts are on spring and baseball. He’s pelted with snowballs when he tries to hold practice on a snow-covered field in a snowstorm.

Leland is a new kid and wants to try out for Charlie Brown’s team, but he’s much smaller than the rest of them. He idolizes Charlie brown, though, and thinks his team is in the big league. Charlie Brown’s soft spot lets him on the team.

Lucy bemoans that they don’t have uniforms. The owner of their local hardware store might sponsor them if the team can win the first game of the season. They start the game and it looks like they are their usual inept selves. The game starts turning on some terrific hitting by Schroeder. However, it can’t be all victorious for the gang and you know somehow it will get screwed up in the end. Still, it’s nice to be able to root for them.

Charlie Brown’s All-Stars! – 1966

After missing a catch, Charlie Brown is really down. His team is being awfully hard on him as well, blaming him for the team losing all the time.

When they get news that Mr. Hennessey, who owns the local hardware store, wants to sponsor them and give them uniforms and equipment so they can play in a “real” league, Charlie Brown is excited. Unfortunately, the rest of the team has given up. They don’t want to play anymore. To get them to play again, he tantalizes them with the uniforms. You know this will unravel somehow, and this was made before Title IX…

The animation is good, even if it has been refined through the years. Still, the charm of the strip is not lost because of the updates in technology which is nice. The older strips look really good.

I had the feeling that It’s Spring Training, Charlie Brown! was just an update of Charlie Brown’s All-Stars! and it’s really a shame that the need was felt to do this. So much can be learned about what the world was like in 1966, where girls wanted to be on an even playing field and weren’t allowed. The two plots are almost exactly the same except for this change, right down to the name of the potential sponsor. Putting the two on the same disc really brings that to the forefront.

It also seemed like they were trying to make the characters hipper by having Franklin, the sole African-American among the Peanuts gang, break into a rap song in the middle of the special. It just came off… odd.

While the entire DVD is not bad, especially for fans of baseball and the Peanuts gang, I could have just seen the original 1966 Peanuts special and been just as pleased. Charlie Brown’s All-Stars! is definitely the strongest of the bunch. My kids and I watched it together and it holds up fine through the years. They, too, noticed a similar theme and asked if we had watched it already.

For Peanuts buffs there’s a treasure here in that early special. The other two are just icing on the cake and it’s worth purchasing just for Charlie Brown’s All-Stars!. When you look at it that way, it’s not so bad.