April 12, 2019

A bird by any other name...

Many American newspapers currently have been re-running the lengthy 1972 storyline that begins when Snoopy starts to read Tolstoy’s War and Peace — one word at a time — and climaxes when, after a silly spat with Woodstock, Snoopy bravely hops the fence in order to save his little bird buddy from the vicious cat next door … only to wind up “rescuing” an old yellow glove.

Fellow Peanuts fan Derek Tague just called our attention to an existential hiccup that pops up midway through this sequence, in the strip originally published April 7. (And boy, we love to get mail like this!)

The “cat and dog fight” has drawn the attention of the entire gang, at which point Linus hastily explains that “Snoopy is rescuing Woodstock!”

So … how does Linus know Woodstock’s name?

We take for granted that Snoopy and Woodstock communicate with each other, via thought balloons and chirps, but they certainly don’t talk to people. And it’s not as if Woodstock’s nest is equipped with a mailing label.

We’d be inclined to dismiss this as a single slip on Charles Schulz’s part, except that — as we discovered via some quick research — it happens several more times, with Charlie Brown: in a weeklong January 1973 sequence, when Snoopy gets annoyed after receiving a bill for items he broke during Woodstock’s New Year’s Eve party; when Charlie Brown encourages Snoopy to put an orange in Woodstock’s Christmas stocking (12/23/75); when Charlie Brown chastises Snoopy for getting out of control at another of Woodstock’s New Year’s Eve parties (1/1-3/76); and when Snoopy, traveling to Kansas City, sends Charlie Brown a letter and asks him to say hello to Woodstock (6/22/76).

Although the latter offers an explanation for how Charlie Brown would know Woodstock’s name — rather late in the game — it does beg another question; one is forced to wonder how Snoopy penned this missive.

No doubt there are other examples of Charlie Brown and his friends somehow knowing Woodstock’s identity; we leave their discovery to our readers. Logically, we can assume that word spread after Linus’ initial announcement, but that still doesn’t explain how he found out.

Mention also should be made of 1977’s big-screen film, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown. Recall that when Woodstock wins the race, he’s honored with a trophy that’s presented to him, by name. Granted, we’ve long insisted that the TV specials and movies are “non-canonical,” but still … it remains part of the same droll mystery.

Was Schulz aware of this delightful anomaly? Did he do it intentionally, or did he not realize the whimsical muddle he made of his own continuity?

We’ll never know…

February 25, 2019

Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime DVD - Very little is "all new"

As mentioned in the previous blog post, on February 26, 2019, Warner Home Video released another "Peanuts by Schulz" DVD containing a selection of 6-7 minute-long shorts based directly on the Peanuts comics strips. These shorts originally aired on the Boomerang Channel here in the United States.

After the previous four releases, 14 of those shorts remain unreleased on DVD. The last DVD release, Peanuts by Schulz: It's Only Love, claimed "18 all-new shorts," but really only had 10 new shorts.

This new DVD, Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime, says "15 all-new shorts" on its cover... which is an even more egregious falsehood, since in reality only 3 of the 15 shorts are new to DVD. The other 12 are repeats from previous DVD volumes. That's an abysmal value for the price of $9.99.

When the It's Only Love DVD was released with only half of the shorts being new, I was willing to consider that it perhaps it was just sloppiness. But with the release of the Springtime DVD, having only 3 new shorts while claiming they are all new, it's difficult to accept sloppiness on Warner Home Video's part as an excuse, and instead one has to consider if there are less charitable explanations as to why the cover misleads potential purchasers.

If Warner Home Video's goal is to provide themed collections of these shorts, that would be fine, if they didn't say "all new" on the cover. While we would be disappointed that they didn't include the last of the unreleased shorts, at least the cover would be honest. But instead the repeated use of "all new" when neither DVD has been all new is... suspect.

My recommendation is to avoid buying the Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime DVD, or cancel or return your order if you've already placed one. And refuse to buy any future releases in this series unless it can be proved they truly include all-new shorts.

For reference, the 3 new-to-DVD shorts on Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime are:
Being Nice
Birds of a Feather
Philosophy

January 24, 2019

Two new Peanuts by Schulz DVDs with some (but not all) new-to-DVD Boomerang shorts

Readers will recall that back in 2016, the Boomerang channel aired 104 shorts based directly on Peanuts comic strips, each about 6-7 minutes long.

In 2017, Warner Home Video released three Peanuts by Schulz DVDs that compiled those shorts. Between them, the DVDs contained 80 of the 104 shorts. The last DVD went on sale in October 2017... and for 15 months, there have been no further releases, leaving 24 shorts unreleased on DVD.

The good news: Warner has released a fourth Peanuts by Schulz DVD, and a fifth is on the horizon.

The bad news: We may still not get the shorts on DVD, even so.

The first new DVD, Peanuts by Schulz: It's Only Love, came out on January 8, 2019, and proclaims "18 all-new shorts" on its cover. (Unlike previous volumes, this one is a single disc.)

The problem is... that's false. Only 10 of the shorts on the disc are new. Eight are repeats, already released on the previous DVDs.

That makes Peanuts by Schulz: It's Only Love a pretty poor value, even at the normal sale price of $9.99, and it leaves 14 Boomerang shorts unreleased.

(Note that Amazon lists this DVD's title incorrectly... they call it Peanuts by Schulz: The Complete Series, which is most certainly isn't.)

The 10 new shorts on Peanuts by Schulz: It's Only Love are:
The Little Red Haired Girl
The Mysteries of Love
Nobody Likes Me
Not Your Day
Love is in the Air
It's Only Love
Go for It, Charlie Brown
A Fascinating Friend
Misunderstanding
Just for Love
(For a complete list of all 104 broadcast episodes, and a few additional details about the shorts and other DVDs, visit the Peanuts Animation & Video Page.)


The next DVD, Peanuts by Schulz: Springtime, is due out on February 26, 2019. Its cover claims "15 all-new shorts"... which can't actually be true, since there are only 14 new ones left to release. Will all 14 of those really be on this DVD? We don't know, since a list of the shorts that will be on the disc hasn't been announced yet. But given that It's Only Love didn't really contain 18 new shorts, and we already know that a claim of "15 new" for the February disc can't be correct, it would be wise to be skeptical.  [And indeed, it turns out this DVD is even worse: only 3 of the 15 are new.  See this blog post for more details and commentary.]

Memo to Warner Brothers: it's not that hard to keep track of which shorts you've already released, and you shouldn't be making fans buy repeats just to get some new ones.


Meanwhile, all 104 of the Boomerang shorts are available from iTunes and Amazon as digital streams/downloads, in four separate Peanuts by Schulz collections (or one big complete one). However, the shorts not released on DVD yet are spread out across each of the four digital collections, so you'd have to re-buy everything to get the rest of the shorts; and of course, you can't put the digital downloads on DVD. (For what it's worth, the digital downloads are available in high definition as well as standard definition.)

In fact, in another apparent attempt to confuse or mislead consumers, Warner has now added a fifth digital collection, matching the It's Only Love DVD, even though it just repeats shorts that are already in the other digital collections. Sheesh!

January 23, 2019

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown & A Charlie Brown Valentine to air Friday, February 8, 2019 on ABC

Have a big, heart-shaped box of chocolates on hand on Friday, February 8, 2019 for ABC's annual Peanuts Valentine's Day double-feature of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975) and A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002) from 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific).

December 18, 2018

New Peanuts video content coming to Apple's streaming service

According to reports from the Hollywood Reporter and Variety, DHX Media - the current owners of the Peanuts franchise - have struck a deal with Apple to produce "new series, specials and shorts" based on the Peanuts characters for Apple's yet-to-launch streaming service.

Details are scarce so far, but one component will be videos that focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) content featuring Snoopy as an astronaut.

(Peanuts Worldwide and NASA announced plans earlier this year to collaborate on creating educational content with Astronaut Snoopy.)

Apple's streaming service - a planned competitor for Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Hulu - won't launch until sometime in 2019 (some reports say "first half," and some reports say "last half" of 2019). So no information about how it will be available or how much it will cost have been revealed yet, or whether the Peanuts videos will be ready and part of the service when it launches or added later on.

Stay tuned!

(And don't forget that the very first Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, will air again on Thursday, Dec 20, 2018 from 8 - 9 PM Eastern/Pacific on ABC.)

November 24, 2018

A classic Peanuts Christmas countdown on FiveCentsPlease.org for 2018

Christmas is coming, and so is FiveCentsPlease.org's tradition of counting down to the Big Day with the Peanuts gang. Starting Friday, November 23 and continuing every day through December 25, our home page will feature a different, seasonally themed single panel.

(Sorry for the one-day delay in the announcement.... the early arrival of Thanksgiving this year caught us off guard!  The first panel appears in this blog post, in case you missed it.)

As in the past several years, we've chosen a classic countdown from the archives, since new ones are no longer being made. This holiday season we'll be featuring the panels from 2007 for your enjoyment.

We hope you'll visit our home page each day and enjoy revisiting these panels with us as the holiday approaches!

November 23, 2018

A Charlie Brown Christmas airs December 6 & 20, 2018 on ABC

Get your aluminum Christmas trees ready!

The full version of A Charlie Brown Christmas, together with Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales, will be broadcast twice on ABC in December 2018.

The first outing will be on Thursday, December 6, from 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific), and then you can catch them again on Thursday, December 20, also from 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific).

And as usual, ABC will air two additional Peanuts holiday specials in December 2018:

I Want A Dog For Christmas, Charlie Brown airs Friday, December 21, 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific)

Happy New Year, Charlie Brown + She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown airs Thursday, December 27, 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific)

November 2, 2018

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving airs Nov 21, 2018 + Charlie Brown in Macy's Parade

ABC will show A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, together with This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, from 8-9 PM (Eastern/Pacific) on the evening before Thanksgiving - Wednesday, November 21, 2018.

And then on Thanksgiving Day itself (Thursday, November 22), the Macys' Thanksgiving Day Parade will feature the "Charlie Brown and his kite" balloon, returning for the third year in a row. The parade airs from 9 AM - noon (all time zones) on NBC.

October 31, 2018

Four-color Peanuts ... back in the day!

You've a treat in store, with the arrival of KaBOOM! Studios' Peanuts Dell Archive. It lands today at your favorite comic book store, and will be available next Tuesday (November 6) via brick-and-mortar bookstores, Amazon and other online retailers.


The 352-page anthology gathers Peanuts comic book stories published by Dell Comics -- and, briefly, Gold Key -- back in the 1950s and early '60s. And here's the detail that'll lift eyebrows: Only a small percentage of this material was handled by Charles Schulz.

Say what? I hear you cry.

To explain:

Whenever asked, Schulz repeated the statement that fans knew as a mantra: Unlike the case with other "assembly-line" newspaper comic strips, he remained the only person whose hands touched the adventures of Charlie Brown and the gang. Schulz wrote, drew, inked and lettered his strip from its debut on October 2, 1950, until it concluded on February 13, 2000. Similarly, Schulz always promised that the strip would cease production when he finally called it quits. Unlike other classic strips that have been revived, often by lesser talents, Peanuts will forevermore remain solely a Schulz legacy.

But that's true only for Peanuts as a newspaper strip.

Followers of this blog know that KaBOOM! studios has been publishing new Peanuts comic books and graphic novels for quite some time now, with scripts and art by talented individuals who've delivered entertaining new stories while honoring the tone and spirit of Schulz's work.

The same was true back in the day. For the full story, check out this web article.

Meanwhile, a brief summation:

Starting in the spring of 1952, Schulz's Peanuts newspaper strips began being reprinted in United Feature Syndicate comic books such as Tip Top Comics, Tip Topper, Sparkler Comics and United Comics (the latter eventually retitled Fritzi Ritz). UFS got out of the comic book publishing business at the end of 1954, and some of its titles were picked up by St. John in 1955, including Fritzi Ritz and Tip Top. Reprinted Peanuts newspaper strips continued in both.

Big changes came in late 1957, when Dell Comics (Western Publishing) took over from St. John. Peanuts continued in Fritzi Ritz and Tip Top, and also became a regular feature in Nancy (later retitled Nancy and Sluggo). The covers promised "All brand-new stories" ... and Dell meant it. No more newspaper strip reprints, and that included the Peanuts supporting features. But these four- and even eight-page comic book stories involved a lot of work, at a time when Schulz was incredibly busy; Peanuts was becoming a phenomenon, and he also was poised to debut his other newspaper strip, It's Only a Game. He therefore turned the bulk of the Dell Comics work over to Jim Sasseville and (later) Dale Hale, associates and good friends of his from the Art Instruction School in Minneapolis. They "ghosted" Schulz for several years, although -- here's the best part -- Schulz did handle some of the stories and art himself, as you can see from the four-page story we've included here.



During that time, Dell also granted Peanuts its own title: at first only occasionally, but eventually on a regular basis, as with the other books.

Starting in mid-1960, however, it became obvious that different hands had taken over the script and art chores. The stories became less faithful to the Peanuts that we know and love, and the artwork became ... well ... not such a much. Gold Key Comics took over the line in late 1962, and the Peanuts material limped along for slightly more than a year, before being canceled completely. (No doubt Schulz finally put his foot down, dismayed by the dismal turn his beloved characters had taken.)

This KaBOOM anthology gathers all the "new" Peanuts content from Nancy/Nancy and Sluggo, Tip Top, and Fritzi Ritz. It's a wealth of material, with each story dated (by source title), and the artist credited (when known). It's fascinating to chart the evolution of story and art over this seven-year span: from its origins as carefully ghosted material pretty much indistinguishable from Schulz's work, to the lesser quality of the final few years. 

This is roughly half of the Dell content: everything except all the stories that appeared in Peanuts' own comic book. If this initial anthology sells well, we can hope that KaBOOM is encouraged to present the rest in a second volume. So buy two copies, and give one to a friend!

Purists probably need to place all this work into the same category as the later television specials: interesting to see, but "not canonical" (which, I suspect, is the way Schulz himself viewed it). So, just as The Little Red-Haired Girl never appeared in the newspaper strip (silhouette notwithstanding) but did turn up in a TV special; and just as television granted Snoopy two additional siblings (Molly and Rover) never mentioned in the newspaper strip; Charlie Brown and his friends had lots of adventures -- some of them quite preposterous! -- in this "alternate universe" of Dell comic books.

October 8, 2018

We got a rock: Craft Recordings releases inferior It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown soundtrack album (Review)

This week, Craft Recordings (a division of Concord Records) is releasing what they are calling a soundtrack album of Vince Guaraldi's music to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

The album will be released on CD on Friday, October 12; it's already available as a digital download from iTunes, Amazon, and other digital music stores, and also available on streaming services such as Spotify. A vinyl (LP) release has also been announced, but currently doesn't have a release date.

This might sound like exciting news to many Peanuts fans, given the great music Vince Guaraldi (and John Scott Trotter) composed for the classic television special. Unfortunately, it turns out the album is more trick than treat - it disappoints in content, quality, and length, and in my opinion, is best avoided and not worth adding to your collection.

The problems are due to the source used for the album. Unlike the music that appears on other Vince Guaraldi albums - such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Boy Named Charlie Brown - the tapes of the original musical recordings for the It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown special are lost and may well no longer exist.

So instead, Craft Recordings has used the "music and effects" track from the special to create this album. Basically, this the exact audio from the television show, just without the dialog.

That means while it does have the background music as it appears in the special, the tracks also have all the sound effects - for example, the thuds and bumps of Linus and Lucy rolling the pumpkin and cutting it up in the opening scene, Snoopy blowing on the leaf and the sound of Charlie Brown charging into and landing in the leaf pile in the next scene, and so on. While most of the tracks are affected to some degree, the worst is "Breathless," the music when Snoopy the WWI Flying Ace imagines he's crossing no man's land. This is one of the soundtrack pieces most requested by fans - but on this release, the subtle music is buried under various gunshots, sirens, and other sounds to give the ambiance of World War I.

(If you want to hear it for yourself, you can play all the actual tracks from this album on YouTube; in particularly, try Breathless.)

The music and effects track is also at least one, if not several, generations removed from the original music recordings, resulting in a noticeable loss of sound quality. While Craft Recordings' engineers have made some effort to remaster and restore the sound, one cannot create a miracle from a weak source, and the limitations show - there is distinct hiss in some tracks, some harshness, and volume fluctuations. The tracks are also all in mono (not stereo).

The final issue is that this new album presents the music exactly as it appears in the special.

Typically, when music is recorded for a television special or a movie, the musicians record longer, full pieces that are then edited down to fit the special as needed. On the Charlie Brown Christmas album, we hear the full music pieces, instead of the shortened versions that play in the background of the show. Unfortunately this isn't the case with the Great Pumpkin album, since the original recording session tapes (apparently) no longer exist.

Using the music as it was edited for the special results in numerous very short cues (many are just 20-30 seconds long), abrupt fades and transitions, and a general choppy feel to the whole thing; it's not a satisfying listening experience just based on this alone. The intrusive sound effects and overall poor audio quality make it even worse.

In fact, the entire album is extremely short: it's only a little over 20 minutes long (as the special itself only runs around 24 minutes). Having to pay full album price for only 20 minutes of music is very poor value. At the very least, Craft Recordings should have combined the album with the release of music from another special.

Nowhere in their press release - or on the album cover, front or back - do Craft Recordings make it clear that customers are getting a music and effects track instead of the original recordings. The Great Pumpkin would not be impressed with their sincerity.

Given that we all love the music from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, I wish I could give a better report. But this album in no way does that music justice, or provides an enjoyable listen. Releasing it in this form is inexcusable, and Craft Recordings should be ashamed to have done so; it feels like a cash grab on unsuspecting fans. You'd be better off saving your money, and just listening to the audio track of the special itself again.

October 4, 2018

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs twice in October 2018 on ABC

ABC will show It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown twice in October 2018: first in an edited version on Thursday, October 18 from 8:00 - 8:30 PM, and then the full, unedited special together with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown on Friday, October 26 from 8:00 - 9:00 PM (all times Eastern/Pacific).

February 5, 2018

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown & A Charlie Brown Valentine to air Friday, February 9, 2018 on ABC

Get together with your sweet babboo to watch the annual Peanuts Valentine's Day pairing on Friday, February 9, 2018:  ABC will be showing Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown (1975) together with A Charlie Brown Valentine (2002) from 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific) that evening.

December 1, 2017

A Charlie Brown Christmas airs again Dec 21, 2017 on ABC

The holiday season truly begins when A Charlie Brown Christmas airs for the first time on Thursday, November 30, 2017, from 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific) on ABC.

The classic special will air again on Thursday, December 21, 2017, also from 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific) on ABC.

The show will be uncut and accompanied by Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales both nights.

Also coming in December 2017 on ABC:

I Want A Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown - Saturday, December 16, 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific)

Happy New Year, Charlie Brown + She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown - Tuesday, December 26, 8 - 9 PM (Eastern/Pacific)

November 30, 2017

Dark Hall Mansion's 2017 A Charlie Brown Christmas limited edition print

The good folks at Dark Hall Mansion know how to brighten up the season: they've announced another release in their long line of fine art prints celebrating the classic TV special A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The prints feature a sweeping take on the special by artist Jeremy Pailler, who also created a matching It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown prints for DHM a couple of months ago (which is still available from the Dark Hall Mansion webstore, along with some other recent Peanuts prints).

The prints are available in two versions - a standard and a "Christmas Moonlight" variant - and you can get both together in a smaller-sized pair as well.  See below for details and prices.

These limited edition prints go on sale Friday, December 1st, at 12:30 PM (Pacific time) at Dark Hall Mansion's webstore.

And be sure to keep an eye on on Dark Hall Mansion's social media sites in case they have more Christmas prints up their sleeve later in the month...

Standard edition
Variant edition


Edition runs, sizes, and prices
Standard Edition of 280 - 18" x  24" - $55
Variant "Christmastime Moonlight" Edition of 50 - 18" x 24" - $75
Gift Set of BOTH prints-Standard + Variant - in 9" x 12" format - $55

All editions are officially licensed by Peanuts Worldwide, strictly limited, giclee printed and hand numbered.

Visit Dark Hall Mansion's Facebook page, their Instagram feed, or their blog for more information, larger pictures of the artwork, and behind-the-scenes photos.

November 23, 2017

A classic Peanuts Christmas countdown on FiveCentsPlease.org for 2017

It's time again to join the Peanuts gang in counting down the days until Christmas. Starting Friday, November 24 and continuing every day through December 25, the FiveCentsPlease.org home page will feature a different, seasonally themed single panel.

Like previous years, we've visited the archives and selected a countdown from the past in order to continue this tradition. This time around we'll be featuring the panels from 2000 for your entertainment.

Please join us on our home page each day. We hope the Christmas countdown panels prompt a little smile every 24 hours, as they do for us.