Monday, August 11, 2014

Play It Again, Charlie Brown

AIRDATE:  3/28/1971

STORY:  The seventh Peanuts special is the first to not center around Charlie Brown.  It is perhaps because of this that very few people seem to remember it, even vaguely.  (Even It's Arbor Day has a reputation as "the one with the trees.")  The story itself is hefty as a leaf:  Lucy, at her wit's end from being thwarted time and again in her strange pursuit of Schroeder, invites the towheaded genius to perform at an upcoming PTA program.  He initially agrees, only to renege upon discovering that the audience will be expecting some up-tempo rock music.  Schroeder refuses to compromise his artistic integrity, leaving Lucy in the lurch.  She suggests he sit in with the guitar/bass/drums trio of Charlie Brown, Snoopy and Pig Pen, adding a classical touch to their "modern" sound.  Try though he does, each note sounded feels like an icepick to the back of Beethoven.  In a fairly anticlimactic conclusion, Schroeder backs out backstage.  One might then hope that Lucy would learn her lesson about unrequited love, but it's just as Shakespeare said:  Love is not love which alters when it self-absorbed musician finds.  5

ANIMATION:  Monochrome mania!  I love going crazy.  (Beats being crazy.)  The big ol' mouths get a bit silly, but that's a small nit to pick.

I'm intrigued by the scene wherein Lucy asks if Schroeder realizes he has "pretty eyes."  His face briefly darkens, although he continues playing the piano.  Soon enough his skin returns to its normal color, but was this meant to express his embarrassment over such a girly compliment, or was it an animation error?  8.5

MUSIC:  Vince Guaraldi and Beethoven are officially credited with providing the sound, additional mention to John Scott Trotter as conductor and Lillian Steuber as the player of those sonatas Schroeder caresses out of his little piano.  Considering the special revolves around music, anything less than a 10 would qualify as a disappointment.  We get black-and-white tinkles, funky brat jazz, and best of all we get the aforementioned power trio sounding like an especially good song by the Knickerbockers.

The end credits music is a party and a half.  Hands slap, booties wiggle, and Dr. Funk runs the 40 in 4.  Yep, sounds like a shindig that Danny Hutton's mama would not approve of.

VOICES:  The first special to not focus on the adventures of Charlie Brown is also the first without Peter Robbins voicing the poor fella.  His replacement, Chris Ingles, does decent enough (7), but every other character here outshines him.  (So was producing a special with minimal Charlie Brown involvement right after Robbins had to move on a coincidence or...?)

Stephen Shea is still a great Linus (8.5); likewise Hilary Momberger in the role of Sally (9).  Christopher DeFaria does a fantastic Peppermint Patty for the second straight special (9.5), ceaselessly chilled and creaky as a basement floor.

While Danny Hjelm's Schroeder is the best the character has ever been (9)--and Charlie Brown-esque, like he studied the prior shows--it's Pamelyn Ferdin who takes top prize (10) as Lucy.  Less abrasive than most other Lucy's, and just a tad cutesy.  It's challenging to make her sound fun, and Ferdin pulls it off.

All these kids just sound kids.  The struggle is real, and it's adorable.


--Animated characters speak coherently, at length, despite the absence of a nape.

--Schroeder calls Peppermint Patty "Patricia."  I tried hard to recall another time--either in the strips or a TV special/film--where those two ever interact.  What exactly would you do with those two together?

--OG Orange amp.

--Lucy has a very profound personal crisis when she realizes "women's lib" would kick her out of the movement if they ever discovered what a fatuous ninny she makes of herself just to get a nanosecond's attention from an indifferent boy who hero worships a composer whose lifelong bachelorhood is a key part of his mammoth legend.

--Schroeder's reaction when Lucy kisses him is nearly identical to her reaction upon receiving a Snoopy smooch in A Charlie Brown Christmas, right down to the cries for iodine and hot water.

--Entire show validated by animating the "Art! Art! Art!" strip.


--Dog you look good, won't'cha dance ya ears off.

--Spray can...that plays music.  You press down, glorious melodies fill the air.  Absolutely one of the most outta left field things to ever appear in Peanuts, and it shoulda stayed in the dugout.

--Snoopy's about as subtle as Bill Melendez was when it comes to dispensing romantic advice.

Gigantic fan I am, I didn't see Play It Again, Charlie Brown until the 1990s, when I rented it from Wonder Book and Video.  It's hardly a lost treasure, but I dig the style those specials of the 1970s had.  Might have been more eye-grabbing than bone-tickling, but must occasionally be the guitar solo to substance's barre chords.

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