October 31, 2012

Reminder: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs tonight October 31

Just a reminder that the classic TV special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown airs tonight, Wednesday, October 31, 2012 on ABC from 8:00 - 8:30 PM (Eastern/Pacific time).

October 30, 2012

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving scheduled to air November 21 & 22 on ABC

ABC has announced that A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will air twice in 2012: Wednesday, November 21 (the day before Thanksgiving) and Thursday, November 22 (Thanksgiving day itself).  The special will air from 8:00 - 9:00 PM (Eastern/Pacific time) both nights.

The hour-long time slot means A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving will be shown uncut, together with an abbreviated version of This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers.

October 29, 2012

Schulz Museum update: new "Art of Peanuts Animation" exhibit & concert celebrating Vince Guaraldi on Nov. 3

Two items of particular interest at the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, California this week:

First, the new exhibit The Art of Peanuts Animation: Production Cels from the Museum’s Collection opened this week.
Peanuts © 1966 Peanuts Worldwide LLC
This exhibit features 16 original, never-before-displayed Peanuts animation drawings and cels - including rare cels from A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown - and will be at the Museum through February 3, 2013. If you're a fan of the Peanuts TV specials (and who isn't?), it's definitely worth a visit. For more information about the Schulz Museum and its exhibits, visit the Museum's website.

David Benoit
Second, this weekend on Saturday, November 3 at 4 PM (Pacific time), the Museum will host a concert by jazz pianist David Benoit celebrating the music of Vince Guaraldi. (Benoit has released a couple of CDs covering Guaraldi tunes, and also composed and performed music based on Guaraldi's themes for most of the Peanuts TV specials in the 1990's and 2000's). Benoit will be joined by Derrick Bang (author of the book Vince Guaraldi at the Piano), who will talk about Guaraldi's life and work. The concert is included with the price of admission to the Museum (and free to Museum members), but seating will be limited. For more information, see the Schulz Museum's Calendar of Events (and click on November).

October 21, 2012

Charlotte Braun gets the ax

This isn't a new story, but we don't often find it recounted in a mainstream magazine.

During the early 1950s, as Charles M. Schulz was fine-tuning the cast list for his fledgling newspaper comic strip, new characters slowly joined the original quartet of Charlie Brown, Shermy, Patty and Snoopy. Some would go on to become stars, such as Violet, Lucy and Linus; others ... not so much.

The most infamous example of the latter is Charlotte Braun, a character whose appearance was so brief that she remains unknown even to some avid Peanuts fans. She appeared fewer than a dozen times, and not one of these strips was reprinted before Fantagraphics' Complete Peanuts collections came along. (Charlotte fell victim to an inexplicable publishing quirk that initially left almost an entire year's worth of strips -- from early 1954 through early 1955 -- unseen since their one and only newspaper appearance, when the original Holt, Rinehart and Winston Peanuts reprint books were produced.) 

Charlotte arrived with a booming voice that Charlie Brown claimed was powered by a "built-in hi-fidelity speaker," and this tendency to SPEAK LIKE THIS AT ALL TIMES wore thin rather quickly. "Good ol' Charlotte Braun," as she once dubbed herself, insisted that she merely had a "driving personality (and) definite opinions." These characteristics quickly became embraced by Lucy, as she grew older, leaving Charlotte to the fading mists of antiquity and stump-the-expert quizzes among Peanuts devotees. Her final visit to the neighborhood was on February 1, 1955, a mere two months after she debuted on November 30, 1954.

But Charlotte hadn't gone quietly into that good night; indeed, she had been pushed. Although Schulz probably would have eliminated the obnoxious little girl anyway, the catalyst came with a letter from Elizabeth Swaim, a fan who strongly disliked this new character. Schulz answered much of his mail in those early days, and his reply promised to remove Charlotte ... while warning that Ms. Swaim would have "the death of an innocent child on [her] conscience." As an added bonus, Schulz included what probably was the last sketch ever done of poor Charlotte ... with an ax buried in her head!

This saga has been repeated a few times over the years, usually in comic fan publications or at the Charles M. Schulz Museum. We were surprised to find it, however, in the current (October) issue of Mental Floss magazine, in a feature titled "Five Letters That Changed History." (Click here for a larger version of the page shown above.)

Since the other letters are from Annie Oakley, Ian Fleming, Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Emily Dickinson's publisher), Schulz — and Charlotte — are among rarefied company!

October 17, 2012

Peanuts Vol. 2 No. 3 out Wednesday October 17

Charlie Brown and Frieda face off in an election for class president in the latest issue of Boom! Studio's Peanuts comic book.  Peanuts Volume 2, Number 3 is out Wednesday October 19, and also includes the stories "Plane & Simple" and "News from Needles," campaign posters, and a handful of classic Peanuts strips.

You can see a preview at Comic Book Resources, and buy the issue at your local comic book shop or order it directly from Boom! Studios' website.

October 11, 2012

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown app from Loud Crow Interactive arrives

Loud Crow Interactive is bringing a new interactive storybook app version of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown to all sincere smartphones and tablets this October.

The app features artwork, animations, music, and dialog from the classic television special as well as narration by Peter Robbins, who performed the voice of Charlie Brown in the 1966 TV show.

You can interact with each scene, tapping and dragging objects to make them do new things; create your own costume for a new Peanuts character; bob for apples with Lucy and Snoopy; carve a pumpkin that will then appear in the story; play three old wartime songs on Schroeder's piano; and more.

Loud Crow's A Charlie Brown Christmas app was lots of fun, so this one should be too!  The app is available now from the App Store for iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, iPod touches); the cost is $4.99.  It will be coming soon for Android devices.

Visit Loud Crow's website and Facebook page for more details and preview screens.

October 10, 2012

New Peanuts feature film in development for 2015

This week Peanuts Worldwide, Twentieth Century Fox Animation, and Blue Sky Studios announced they are developing a new Peanuts theatrical film for release on November 6, 2015, timed to celebrate the 65th anniversary of the Peanuts comic strip. (Yes, that's three years from now.)

The currently untitled film's script will be written by Craig Schulz (Charles Schulz's son), Bryan Schulz (Craig Schulz's son), and Cornelius Uliano (writer of several short films). No plot details have been announced yet.

Directing the film will be Steve Martino, who has directed two other films for Blue Sky Studios: the 2008 feature film version of Dr. Seuss's Horton Hears a Who! and the 2012 film Ice Age: Continental Drift.

While the press release doesn't explicitly state how the movie will be animated, reading between the lines suggests it will be computer animation of some form (especially since all of Blue Sky Studio's films so far have been CGI).

Keep in mind that the film has just been announced and isn't due for another three years; the details are probably still being worked out and films often undergo a variety of changes as they are produced.  For example, the film's planned release date changed only six weeks after the initial announcement - initially they said it would be released November 25, 2015.  It's likely there will be more changes to the release date over time; so if the date listed in this article doesn't match other dates you see, it probably changed again.

This isn't the first Peanuts theatrical film; as fans will know, there were four earlier theatrically released films - A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969), Snoopy Come Home (1972), Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1976), and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (1980).

Stay tuned for more details in the months ahead! But in the meantime remember there are lots of other great Peanuts animation shows and films to enjoy, from the classic holiday specials, to the four earlier theatrical films, to the most recent release, 2011's Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown.

October 9, 2012

Newly Remastered Version of A Charlie Brown Christmas Soundtrack Album Released October 9, 2012

Getting a very early jump on the holiday season, Concord Music has released a newly remastered edition of the A Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack album by Vince Guaraldi.

You may be thinking, "didn't they remaster the soundtrack already?" Yes, they did. Concord issued a remastered and expanded version of the album in 2006, but some listeners found fault with that release's remastering for changing the sound of the album too much and using different edits and takes of some of the tracks.  This new, 2012 remastered edition is a much more low-key remaster, resulting in modest sonic improvement and clarity over the original 1988 CD, but no radical changes.

This re-release of the album includes two "bonus" tracks: "It's the Great Pumpkin Waltz" and "Thanksgiving Theme" (from It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, respectively). However, both have been previously released - they can be found on the Charlie Brown's Holiday Hits album, and seem somewhat out of place accompanying the Christmas soundtrack. Unfortunately, the four bonus alternate takes from the 2006 release do not reappear on the 2012 edition. (Concord also calls "Greensleeves" a bonus track, and while it's true it wasn't on the original soundtrack LP, it's been part of every CD release so far, so it's a very familiar track at this point.)

The 2012 remastered edition does feature a very nice 20-page booklet with generous new liner notes written by Guaraldi expert and historian Derrick Bang. You can check out Derrick's writeup about the new remastered album on his Impressions of Vince blog.

It appears that all three versions of the A Charlie Brown Christmas CD (the original 1988 release, the 2006 remaster, and the 2012 remaster) remain in print simultaneously, at least for the moment - presenting listeners with an embarrassment of choices (or possibly with the feeling that they'll need all three).  The 2012 remaster is available as a digital download as well as on CD, and there's even a special green vinyl LP version of it!

(The album has also been repackaged in various ways over the year. If you're curious about the many different releases of the A Charlie Brown Christmas album, see Derrick's detailed A Charlie Brown Christmas Redux ... and redux and redux article.)

Happiness is... Peanuts: Go Snoopy Go DVD and Happiness Is... Peanuts: 3-Pack Fun DVD set now available

Warner Home Video's latest Peanuts DVD release, titled Happiness is... Peanuts: Go Snoopy Go, is available today, October 9, 2012.  The DVD (like its predecessors) features two half-hour shows: the 1992 show It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown and "It's that Team Spirit, Charlie Brown," episode #12 of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show from 1983.

It's Spring Training, Charlie Brown has a story similar to the classic 1966 special Charlie Brown's All-Stars: a local business will sponsor Charlie Brown's team and give them uniforms if the team can win the first game of the season. But will an early round of spring training in the snow and new team member, the tiny Leland, be enough help to get the win? It's Spring Training was previously released on DVD by Paramount, but that DVD has been out of print for several years.

This will be the first U.S. DVD release of "It's That Team Spirit, Charlie Brown." The episode consists of five skits: "Vulture," "Blanket," "Peppermint Patty," "Rerun," and "Rainy Day."

There are no special features on the DVD. Happiness is... Peanuts: Go Snoopy Go has a suggested retail price of $14.97.

Also out today, Warner has collected three of their previous Peanuts DVD releases together into a "gift pack." Titled Happiness Is... Peanuts: 3-Pack Fun, this set contains the Happiness is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown DVD; the Happiness is.. Peanuts: Team Snoopy DVD (featuring The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show Ep. 15: Snoopy's Brother Spike and Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown); and Happiness is Peanuts... Snoopy's Adventures DVD (featuring The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show Ep. 14: Snoopy and the Giant and Snoopy's Getting Married, Charlie Brown).

There is absolutely nothing new in the Happiness Is... Peanuts: 3-Pack Fun set except for a new slip cover.  All the DVDs and shows in it have been released previously on separate DVDs.  The set has a retail price of $19.98, which makes it cheaper than buying all three DVDs separately. So, if you don't have any of these DVDs and were thinking of picking them up, you can save a few bucks with this set. (Note that some sites, such as Amazon.com, are listing this set's title as just Happiness is Peanuts.)

October 7, 2012

It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown scheduled to air Wednesday, October 31, 2012 on ABC

ABC has announced that this year's broadcast of the classic Peanuts TV special It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown will be on Wednesday, October 31, from 8:00 - 8:30 PM (Eastern/Pacific).

Unfortunately, the half-hour time slot means It's the Great Pumpkin will almost certainly be edited to make room for commercials (when the special first aired, there were only 5 minutes of commercials per half-hour; now there are 9 minutes of commercials per half-hour). ABC has confirmed via press release that the half-hour timeslot is correct. With the network is already having to carve out time in this year's schedule for the presidential debates and election coverage, it appears they're only willing to allot half an hour to the Great Pumpkin.

October 2, 2012

Two articles celebrate the 62nd anniversary of Peanuts with archival photos

The Peanuts comic strip debuted on October 2, 1950 - 62 years ago today - rating, as it does every year, a brief mention in many "This Day in History" articles.

This anniversary, two websites have gone above and beyond and marked the occasion with articles featuring some rarely seen Peanuts and Charles Schulz-related photographs.  (At least, they were new to me, and I've seen a lot of such photographs.)

First there's Biography.com's photo of the week, titled Snoopy and the Apollo 10 Gang Go to Space.

And then Time-Life has a feature of 21 photos titled Good Ol' Charles Schulz: The 'Peanuts' Creator at Home.

Take a few moments to check them out while you nibble on your pizza and root beer and consider which volume of "The Complete Peanuts" you're going to read as part of your anniversary celebrations.

(And if you're interested in more photographs, the Charles M. Schulz Museum's new website has a nice selection covering Charles Schulz, his art, and the Museum's collection.)