STORY: One year after Why, Charlie Brown, Why?--the most intentionally depressing special in Peanuts history--the holy triumvirate of Schulz/Mendelson/Melendez graced viewers with another bittersweet story.
It's springtime at the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, where a beagle named Missy has recently birthed eight pups: wispy and whiskery Spike; shaggy Andy; rotund Olaf; spotty Marbles; future superstar Snoopy; doe-eyed Belle; and the relatively non-descript Molly and Rover. We're treated to a montage of the doggies at play in the barn, slowly but enthusiastically developing both their bodies and personalities. A luxurious buffet certainly helps their progress, and soon enough the octuplets are strong enough to break out some instruments and rustle up a down-home jam-bo-ree that reeks of cornbread and collard greens. Just as each of them instinctively knew to belly up to mama's milk bar for nourishment, so too do they show no struggles with their respective instruments.
Eventually, the dogs are put up for sale. Snoopy is sold first, to a sweet blonde girl named Lila. In short order the rest of the pups are snatched up, headed for presumably happy homes, to be cared for by people who seems nonplussed at the sight and sound of animals playing bluegrass music.
Through another sweet and effective montage, we see Lila and Snoopy bond. Seeing the beloved beagle as a baby, sans collar and urge to get down to the Mitty gritty, is not only novel but adorable. It's unclear how long Snoopy has been with the family when the bad news comes crashing down--effective immediately, dogs are no longer permitted in the lavish apartment building.
My heart...how it shatters.
Lila is forced to return Snoopy to the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm, where his only company is Olaf's abandoned jug.
As one young girl's world is being torn into tenths, a round-headed young boy decides he needs some canine company. Upon spotting a newspaper ad, Charlie Brown hails Linus, and the two hop a bus for the Puppy Farm (I'm sure Mr. and Mrs. Brown would've been thrilled to drive their son there, had they not been too busy not existing.) After dumping five bucks out of his piggy bank onto the cluttered desk of the grandfatherly farmer, Chuck goes to retrieve his new four-legged best friend. Meanwhile, his old two-legged best friend snoops around and finds a ledger showing that the baby beagle had been previously owned. Or, as he indelicately tells his pal when they arrive back home, "You got a used dog, Charlie Brown."
Does it look like he cares, Linus?! A used Snoopy is so obviously better than a brand new anything else!
Fast-forward four years, and Snoopy is so homesick that Sally suggests a family reunion to reinvigorate his spirit. Together, dog and boy pen and send invitations to Snoopy's siblings. They arrive, simultaneously, and with instruments in paws. Things are fantastic wonderful terrific until they arrive back at the site of what used to be the Daisy Hill Puppy Farm. Expecting to see the old barn, the old house, the fences, the dirt paths, they instead gaze upon a parking garage. Acres of farmland, paved over in the name of progress. Despite this disheartening development, the band tunes up and jams out a new(ish) song, with sections for the individual players to shine without soaking up all the sun.
The ache in his heart now a distant memory, Snoopy flies his fam to their respective homesteads in record time--in mint condition, at that. (That screen capture is pure, unadulterated Snoopy, wouldn't you agree?)
Snoopy's Reunion is an enormously touching watch. I laughed, I cried, I wondered how Lila didn't grow up to be a one-armed stripper with a fierce coke addiction after the trauma of losing the world's greatest pet. And I have to thank the idiotas at CBS for thumbing down Charles Schulz's idea of a series based around Snoopy and his siblings, which led to the creation of this special. Meanwhile they couldn't greenlight Garfield Gets a Life fast enough.
This gets a 10. Without reservation. If it was the last Peanuts special I ever saw, I would die happy.
MUSIC: More Judy Munsen musical coleslaw. What would have been a score of 6 goes up two whole points, however, thanks to the presence of the Puppy Band and their upbeat country stylings.
ANIMATION: The techniques have changed with the new decade, to be sure, but elements of the past decade remain. The colors don't pop out at the eye, and the lines aren't delineated with an expert crispness, but both the characters and the world they inhabit refuse to blend together. 8.5
VOICES: I give Josh Keaton and Kaitlyn Walker each a score of 7.5 for their performances as Linus and Sally, respectively; Phil Shafran does a good job (8) as Charlie Brown, coming off well-worn without being quite ready for dishrag status just yet. The real vocal star is Megan Parlen as Lila, who earns a 9. As a relative "intruder" in the Peanuts universe, it's no mean feat to make her lovable. Listen as she says goodbye to Snoopy, both at her apartment and for the final time at the Puppy Farm. I just want to hug the TV, or the computer, or whatever it is. Snoopy most likely would not have turned out to be such a fantastical beagle under Lila's care, but he most certainly would have been very content.
(While I don't start twitching at the presence of adults in the Peanuts specials--some people do, you know--I rarely find the actors voicing them special enough to grade.)
THOSE WERE THE DAYS, CHARLIE BROWN
--It was a dark and stormy night, y'all.
--The only Peanuts TV special to date that does not feature the name "Charlie Brown" in the title.
--Spike does have more than one type of hat; there's a red ball cap hanging up on a wall at his hollowed-out cacti. I wonder if it's lucky.
--Fire The Canon, Pt. 1: In Snoopy's Reunion, a newspaper ad inspires Charlie Brown to get a dog. In the Peanuts strips, specifically the one dated 1/30/1972, Charlie Brown tells Linus that his parents took him to get a dog after some ornery bastard of a kid poured a bucket of granular goodness over Charlie's globular gourd while they were playing together in a sandbox. Those who have seen the 1972 feature film Snoopy Come Home might recall that conversation.
Once a jug-dog, always a jug-dog.
Snoopy has always appreciated sweet kisses from even sweeter ladies.
--Charlie Brown goes rummaging in the dirt around the parking garage--one of my favorite girlhood activities--and locates the time-beaten PUPPIES FOR SALE sign. "They're parking on your memories!" he bleats. Nice adaption.
NO ONE NEEDS THAT MANY KIDS
--Oh no, there are adults in this show, you can see their faces, you can hear their voices, it's artistic abomination, it's a brazen theft of integrity, PFFFFTTT.
So...the reunion will be taking place somewhere in Alaska? It's a trap!
--The Daisy Hill Puppy Farm provided a buffet so Olaf wouldn't eat his siblings.
--Note that Olaf and Spike both live on their own. Victims of relocation...or something more unfortunate?
--While Snoopy was more than happy fitting into the traditional role of a pet for Lila--playing fetch and what not--the very second he walks into the Brown residence he shows signs of independence. (Why do they have a chair that small?) I've always thought Snoopy's refusal to be the faithful, serene companion that his owner wanted was less a rebellion against Charlie Brown himself, and more a defense mechanism against any future abandonment. This is Snoopy's second home in a very short period of time, remember, and he probably is scared of growing close to another owner. His overly-civilized mannerisms, therefore, keep a nice tidy distance between him and the round-headed kid. The adaptation of various personas, over time, assure that while Charlie Brown will always love his pet, he will never quite understand him...and that's fine with Snoopy.
--Fire the Canon, Pt. 2: While the Peanuts strips mentioned seven siblings for Snoopy, only five were named. It could therefore be argued that Molly and Rover were mere placeholder names, but given that Charles Schulz wanted to write a TV series about these characters, it's more likely that this was a case of canon that never made it into the official universe. Who knows, if the aforementioned series had indeed been produced, it may have spurred Schulz to feature all the siblings in forthcoming strips, where we may have seen Molly and Rover so named in print.
--Several years ago, the city demolished the hospital where I was born and where my father died. The hotel where I was conceived (hey, my dad had relocated for his job, and he hadn't seen my mom in a couple weeks, okay?) was torn down some time ago as well. The house I grew up in is slowly falling apart thanks to owner delinquency. My siblings and I will never go jam in front of any of these places, I promise you.
Snoopy's Reunion gives me a warm feeling all over. Despite many years apart, and the destruction of their old home, the dogs come together and make beautiful music. With no words, Snoopy is jolted out of his melancholy. All he needed was the knowledge that his family was still there for him. This emotional currency is exchanged, of course, as no doubt Belle, Andy, and the rest have also yearned throughout the years. (Although honestly I'm not sure Olaf gets that down in the dumps about anything. And even if he did how could you tell?)
The lesson of Snoopy's Reunion? Just remember...it's a big world. It can be frightening. But love is always there.