A Boy Named Charlie Brown
For an animated film these days to gain any mainstream acceptance or
respect in America, it typically must be either a cartoony, kid-centric
romp, or an adults-only comedy dependent on crude humor or shock value.
I’ve watched and enjoyed films of both descriptions in the
last decade, but a recent viewing of 1969’s A Boy
Named Charlie Brown
made me wonder just why the heck
animated theatrical releases of this caliber are so hard to come by.
Kid friendly animated movies are often made to be palatable to adults
by forcing pop culture references into the script which do little to
the movie other than confuse kids and perhaps evoke a slight mental
chuckle from the older viewers.
A Boy Named Charlie Brown
is an all too uncommon
example of an animated movie that is genuinely mature without being
adults-only, bright and colorful without being insufferably childish,
and serious and meaningful without being preachy or boring.
I’ve watched A
Boy Named Charlie Brown
hundreds of times over my presently 22 year long lifespan, 99.9% of
those viewings were done on a VHS copy of the movie recored from WPIX
11 on Thanksgiving Day in the early 1990’s.
Watching the movie this way is uniquely nostalgic for me because not
only does the film itself bring back memories, but the products, TV
shows, theatrical trailers and evening news promos featured in the
commercial breaks capture what my world was like back when I first
, and remind me of what life
was like when I was the age of Charlie Brown and his friends.
only seen the movie on television, only recently did it truly
occur to me that A
Boy Named Charlie Brown
actually a major theatrical release. With its flat, comparatively cheap
looking and simplistic animation essentially unchanged from the
television specials that came before it, Charlie
must have been quite a bold statement when compared
visually to contemporary Disney releases like The Jungle
with its extensive use of “blank” solid color
Musicals usually annoyed me when I was a child. It was only in the last
year or two that I realized that A Boy Named Charlie
was in fact a musical. Only three of the songs are
actually sung by the characters themselves, and all three are quick,
fun, and visually stimulating.
The titular opening theme written and sung by Rod McKuen sets the mood
and tone for the movie while serving mainly as a background piece that
doesn't distract from or prolong the introductory sequence.
Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata, played by Schroeder in a scene
about midway through the film (performed by Ingold Dahl) resembles a
sequence from Disney’s Fantasia
while keeping with the mood and spirit of the rest of the movie is so
starkly un-Peanuts-like that one could be shown the sequence out of
context and never guess that they were watching a Charlie Brown movie.
The Pathetique Sonata sequence could probably stand on its own as a
short artistic film, and it seeded me with an (admittedly picky and
limited) appreciation for classical music that’s still with
me nearly 20 years later.
Shchroeder’s sequence, in addition to other instrumental
musical scenes dispersed throughout the movie do little to advance the
plot, but add depth and life to the characters they focus on.
A favorite of mine is the National Anthem scene preceding the baseball game, which is jarring,
colorful, and Mod inspired, as is the game itself, which makes
extensive use of split-screen and multi-screen effects and colorful
transitions with an unmistakably 60’s flavor.
A Boy Named Charlie
is a unique, beautiful film, and
I’d recommend it to anyone of any age.
Part of me wants to think that today’s younger
children, with the sort of kid’s shows on TV today, might be
under-prepared to understand a cartoon with this level of maturity and
substance (and lacking in wide eyed, blue haired anime heroes), but to
do so would be patently unfair and prejudiced on my behalf.
Having watched A Boy
Named Charlie Brown
on a deteriorating VHS tape
recorded from broadcast television my entire life, my recent viewing on
DVD was quite an incredible experience.
The visual quality alone was jaw dropping, let alone watching it in
wide screen without commercials and seeing all the scenes that had been
cut for time when it aired on WPIX 11 seventeen years ago.
Having memorized every moment and line of my home recorded copy, it was
quite jarring and fascinating to see what I’ve been missing
all these years. Here is a list of what I remember being cut from my
broadcast TV tape,
along with some other oddities and trivial observations.
- The intro sequence with Charlie Brown trying to
fly his kite is
- Various bits of dialog, many under ten seconds long, are
Almost unnoticeable unless you memorized the edited version like I did
as a child. These small cuts likely added up to a minute or more of
- In the scene where Charlie Brown goes to
Lucy’s booth for
“psychiatric help”, Lucy first takes Charlie Brown
into her house to show him slides of his faults, and then tricks him
trying to place kick a football so she can replay him falling in
instant replay. In the TV version, the sequence concerning the football
omitted, and it cuts to Charlie Brown and Lucy returning to the booth
to talk some more before the scene ends. It appears as though the
sequence was planned so that either the slide viewing scene, or the
football scene could be omitted without the point being lost.
- Peppermint Patty can be briefly seen in the crowd of
carrying Charlie Brown after winning the All-School Spelling Bee. This
is the only appearance of Peppermint Patty in the entire movie.
She’s not even referenced in the opening sequence featuring
all the children, or in the cast credits at the end of the film. This
is an especially odd cameo, as Peppermint Patty is known to attend a
different school than Charlie Brown. Peppermint Patty is formally
introduced in the opening sequence of
Come Home which explicitly points out that she is
a new character.
- Some of the children’s discussion in Charlie
Brown’s house after he wins the All-School Spelling Bee is
- In the hotel room in Manhattan, a there is a part where
calls room service and orders cereal and milk. This moment is omitted
but a line seconds later in which a sleep-deprived Charlie Brown
mutters “I before e after milk?” is left intact,
leaving viewers with no context as to what he’s referring to.
- Charlie Brown tells Linus to look for his blanket at the
Public Library, which he says is “three blocks
away” from the hotel. On the way to the Library, Linus comes
across Rockafeller Center where Snoopy stops to play on the skating
rink. The New York Public Library and the Rockafella Center skating
rink are actually about nine blocks apart from each other, not three,
let alone however far away the hotel is supposed to be.
- Why would there be a special chartered bus to bring all the
winners from around the country to the National Finals, but leave them
to find their own bus home after the contest?
- Why would the spelling bee bus bring the kids all the way
Manhattan, but force them to take taxi cabs to the hotel rather than
just taking them to the hotel? These are eight year olds after all.
- What’s with the art on the DVD cover? Snoopy
director’s hat and sunglasses? When did that happen? And why
is Lucy hugging Charlie Brown? Lucy tormented Charlie Brown to the
point of clinical depression throughout the movie, she most certainly
never hugged him! I think this DVD cover was designed to appeal to
kids. It doesn't
reflect the mode and attitude of the actual film at all. It doesn't
even resemble the original promotional material from the 60’s.
One other comment I’ll make about the DVD is that when I
first started playing it, the playback quality was so bad it made my
seventeen year old home recorded VHS look like high definition.
The picture skipped, scrolled, lost and regained its color, and faded
in and out of total darkness at random intervals. I actually thought my
TV was broken at first.
After some troubleshooting and online research, I discovered that I had
fallen victim to a creative and highly disruptive form of copy
Being a frequent watcher of VHS tapes as well as DVDs, I have my DVD
player output running through my VCR. This is the most simple and
setup for my entertainment system, as I also have numerous video game
systems vying for limited space on my AV switch box.
Turns out that the DVD of A
Boy Named Charlie
has some kind of special signal encoded into its
data that deliberately ruins its playback quality when fed
through a VCR to discourage people from making unauthorized copies of
Out of all the major release DVD movies I’ve watched on my
system recently, it strikes me as hilarious that such copy protection
measures would be found in a Charlie Brown DVD of all titles. Anyone
looking to pirate DVD movies would certainly not in this day and age be
doing so using a VCR and VHS tapes, and would surely have sophisticated
software and hardware which would rip and reproduce digitally perfect
copies of the DVD without needing to actually play through the entire
length of the movie.
If you encounter this problem, simply plug your DVD player directly
into the input jacks on your TV and it should play crystal clear.
closing, I’d like to share a memory I had regarding this
movie from when I was in second grade, the same grade Charlie Brown was
in. I tried to organize an unofficial class play of A Boy
Named Charlie Brown
and got several kids to spend their
snack times “rehearsing” with me.
The experience was a fun one, but ultimately my effort to organize the
play was quite similar to Charlie Brown trying to put on the school
Christmas play in A
Charlie Brown Christmas
without the religious subtext. Needless to say, the play
didn’t make it far, and we soon forgot all about it.
About a year later however, the girl who I cast as Lucy for my
stillborn attempt at adapting A Boy Named Charlie
actually appeared as Lucy in the local stage
production of You’re
Good Man Charlie
which was seen by most of the town!
I feel proud to have, at the same age of Charlie Brown himself, been
able to properly cast a classmate in the role of Lucy and perhaps had a
hand in her eventual appearance in an officially sanctioned Charlie
As a reward for my effort in attempting the class play, my teacher gave
me a illustrated book adaptation of A Boy Named Charlie Brown
which I'm glad to have in my possession fifteen years later.
Strange how I managed to write this entire feature without once
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