Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown
After a five year cooling off period following Snoopy Come Home, the third of the four classic Peanuts films, Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown
, came to theaters in 1977, the same year the world was introduced to Star Wars.
Perhaps in a deliberate effort to "up the ante" and retain audience attention, Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown
is the first Peanuts film to find its action taking place beyond the
ordinary Peanuts setting of Charlie Brown's suburban American
It’s true that the first film featured Charlie Brown visiting Manhattan
in the later part of the movie, and the second featured Snoopy and
Woodstock venturing what seems to be a day’s journey away through
several towns and a forest, but in Race For Your Life
Charlie Brown's hometown doesn't appear in the story at all, and the
action is set entirely within the summer camp and surrounding
While summer camp is a recurring backdrop for Peanuts, both in the
comic strip and in the animated versions, this movie uses summer camp
as a device to place Charlie Brown and his friends in an adventure
beyond the scope of earlier works, as they participate in a
river-rafting race taking place over multiple days through the
forest, and of course, completely without adult supervision.
Like the first two Peanuts films, my personal history with this film
began on a VHS recorded in the very early 90's. However, the recording
didn't start until about two thirds of the way though the movie, so
between the ages of four and six I knew Race For Your Life only by
about the last third of the film.
may not seem like a long time, but being a child of that age, the
period between ages four and six was a massive length of time, and when
I eventually saw a complete VHS copy and was finally able to understand
a lot of what had been going on, it was an eye opening experience I
remember as a huge treat.
Race For Your Life
the Peanuts crew on a bus going through the desert to the summer camp.
There's a sequence involving the bus getting a flat tire and Sally
getting off the bus to beat up a girl who stuck her tongue out at her
as the bus was passing, but when face-to-face with the girl, Sally
chickens out and returns to the bus.
Later on, the bus stops at a roadside convenience store advertising
itself as the "last chance" before a long stretch of desert. The
store's side is piled with used tires and busted up machinery. Details
like these give a very "lived in" and authentic feel to the movie in
spite of its simplistic animation, which as usual, is essentially
identical to that of the Peanuts TV specials from the period.
After the shopping trip, Charlie Brown gets left behind, and Snoopy rides him to Camp Remote on his motorcycle.
This is the first Peanuts movie to have anything resembling proper villains.
In A Boy Named Charlie Brown,
the closest thing to an antagonistic force are the girls at school who
demote Charlie Brown’s self esteem by singing mean songs about him. In Snoopy Come Home,
Lila somewhat fulfills the role of an antagonistic force, though she is
ultimately a benign character who the viewers are intended to
In Race For Your Life
, Charlie Brown and his friends have to deal with a gang of bullies.
This gang is oddly unnamed, even though they all wear blue shirts with
the letter "R" on them, as though they might call themselves the
Rockets or something like that, their shirts go unexplained and in the
movie they are known only as "the bullies", seemingly without even the
distinction of being referred to as a proper noun.
The Peanuts gang has trouble adjusting to camp life, such as the
scheduled activities, unheated cabins, and use of twenty-four hour
Though I'm pretty sure most of the characters had been depicted in
comics and TV specials predating 1977 in which they attended other
summer camps, Peanuts is not a franchise in which you can take
continuity seriously, and the facts presented in each movie or special
are there to serve the purpose of the particular story being told
rather than build a congruent fictional universe.
The bullies repeatedly cheat at camp activities when pitted against the Peanuts gang.
In one case they cheat in a potato sack race by hopping out of their sacks and running normally for a great deal of the course.
Not only should this have been extremely obvious to anyone observing
the race, but the way its animated is as though their feet magically
came out the bottom of the sack and then vanished back inside the sack.
This isn't something I'm saying as an overly-analytical adult, but something that's bugged me since I was a child.
These events culminate in a river rafting race. Even though there are
evidently many different cabins at the camp, for some reason only the
only participants in this grand main event are the Peanuts cast, with
both the boys and girls from Charlie Brown's neighborhood each getting
their own raft, and the bullies, who brag that they win the river
rafting contest every year.
Charlie Brown and his friends see the bully's raft and comment that its
no wonder they win the race every year, because their raft is fitted
with an outboard motor, and electronic equipment including sonar,
radar, and what the film describes as "direction finders", which modern
viewers would take to mean GPS, though at the time this film was made
the actual notion of GPS was likely something the creators weren't even
implied that the use of this navigational equipment is against the
rules, but Charlie Brown and his friends do nothing to bring this to
the attention of the adults who one would imagine were running the
Whether using navigational devices is "cheating" in this race or not,
the fact that the bullies would be allowed to use a boat with an
outboard motor while the other kids in the race are using rafts they
have to paddle by hand aught to raise some eyebrows about the
legitimacy of this race.
Once the race starts, the movie "really" begins, and basically it just
follows the exploits of Charlie Brown leading the boy's raft and
Peppermint Patty leading the girl's raft, and them getting lost in the
woods, sabotaged by the bullies, getting snowed in (even though its
supposed to be summertime) and the adventures and situations you'd come
to expect these character to get into given a glance at the movie's
One joke that's carried on throughout the movie is the girls team's
obsession with holding votes by secret ballot on even the simplest and
most trivial of affairs. This begins with Peppermint Patty nominating
herself as leader, and then holding an "election" with Peppermint Patty
as the only candidate, with non-stop bickering amongst the girls over
every detail of the process.
In some ways this seems like some some sort of unflattering commentary
on feminism, especially when the girls, out of nowhere, decide to hold
a vote to kick the boys out of a cabin and force them to sleep in the
snow, particularly enraging when not only is that cabin more than large
enough for all of the children, but the boys found the cabin first, and
aren't even allowed to participate in the vote.
scene is especially bizarre since the boys and girls were laughing and
singing as they shared the cabin together, only for Peppermint Patty to
suddenly call up a vote to throw the boys out of the cabin, and when
the boys protest, accuse them of being anti-democracy even though they
weren't allowed to vote.
While tge summer camp setting is a traditional staple of Peanuts and an
obvious chance to breathe new life into the film series, a high
adventure story featuring a river rafting race with Charlie Brown and
his friends facing off against the elements of nature and a gang of
vicious bullies isn't really what the heart of Peanuts is all about,
especially since even without the bullies, most of the action depicted
in the movie could have taken place largely unchanged.
Most of the situations the Peanuts gang find themselves both before and
after the race begins don't directly involve the bullies, and most of
those that do involve the bullies could have been rewritten to have
been strokes of bad luck having nothing to do with deliberate acts of
sabotage carried out by mean spirited rival children.
This is where I feel like the bullies fail to serve the general spirit of Peanuts.
Charlie Brown is a good person who struggles to find happiness and self
esteem in the face of mishaps and misfortune that are usually the
circumstance of random bad luck.
At the outset of this film, Charlie Brown says he wants to use the
camping experience as a chance to reverse his bad luck and develop
qualities that make him feel more in control of his life.
Charlie Brown confronts during the rafting race, like choosing the
wrong path down the river, or his raft being washed away from the beach
where he parked it, could have been coincidences of chance Charlie
Brown would have had to overcome, like the challenges he faces in the
comic strip and in many of the animated versions.
In this film however, many of these acts are carried out by the
antagonistic bullies, who once they sabotage Charlie Brown and his
friends, vanish until the next time the writers call upon them to
repeat the act. This makes Race For Your Life a movie about Charlie
Brown having to overcome "bad guys" who are actually out to get him,
rather than him overcoming his own self esteem issues.
Additionally, one would have to wonder how anyone could possibly take
these bullies seriously when their main mothod of intimidation is
threatening to sick their cat on the other children. A cat they keep on
Nitpicks aside, Charlie Brown and his friends deliver just the sort of
action you'd hope for them to have the chance to exhibit given this
setting and situation.
The music, main songs, and even the simplest of cues, stay with me, and
while at least one of the songs does have lyrics, Race For Your Life
does not have the feel of a musical present in the two earlier Peanuts
There isn't a great deal more to say about Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown
I fully enjoyed it when I was a child, and I enjoy it today, through
out of the four classic Peanuts movies, I'd say that this may be
perhaps the least successful, but being the least of a tetralogy of
well loved animated films is nothing to be ashamed of.
To submit feedback, please use the site guestbook
or email the webmaster at,
This work is the intellectual property of Super Train Station H and is
registered and protected under US Copyright.
Use of it by third parties is bound by Copyright law and the
terms defined in this site's Terms
of Use Agreement.
It is the believed
that the use of a limited number of low resolution stills from
copywritten motion pictures for
the purpose of discussion and critique of said work constitutes fair
use under US Coyright law.
Back to STSH - TALE