STORY: Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright had spent three years designing and testing gliders in the hopes of proving that man was indeed capable of sustained controlled flight. Failure after failure left them disheartened and pessimistic. Desperate, they decided to relocate from Ohio to Kitty Hawk, NC, a small beach town whose shores appealed to men who needed unobstructed land and strong winds.
On December 17, 1903, the first-ever pilot-controlled flight of significant time and distance was taken in a 700-pound aircraft called "The Flyer," as flown by Orville Wright. The world was literally never the same after that day.
The narration that kicks off the program, detailing mankind's multitudinous attempts to gain meaningful access to the skies, is more interesting on its own than a couple This Is America segments I could name. Soon enough, we join Charlie Brown and Linus on a rip-roarin' horse-and-carriage ride to see Linus' cousin Dolly in Kitty Hawk. The timing of their visit is quite fortuitous--December 16, 1903!
Dolly has been keeping abreast of all the news regarding the recent arrivals and their experiments, and has no trouble convincing Charlie Brown and Linus to bike with her down to the beach. Once there, they run into not the brothers, but a slightly less innovative duo: their assistants, Peppermint Patty and Marcie. After some shenanigans with a kite, Orville and Wilbur materialize and decide the conditions are as good as they'll get--time to try and fly.
Air travel revolutionized the world. But millions worldwide remain fearful of getting onto an airplane. Some of us can't get through a flight of at least four hours duration without suffering panic attacks. You know what method of transportation rocks harder than a plane? A train. Fuck yeah, trains. Slower and lower, and I've never once thought I was going to die while seated on one. So I give this segment a 9.
MUSIC: For modern jazz that sounds most at home played at a respectable volume in a coffeehouse, call on Wynton Marsalis. 8
ANIMATION: The usual well-done job, despite some infrequent weirdness with mouths. I get a kick out of the kids wearing jackets that correspond color-wise with the outfits we most associate with them.
The crayon drawings that are shown on screen as Dolly relates the pre-Kitty Hawk adventures of the Wright Brothers are pretty awesome. As in, if a kid did those and showed them to me, I'd muss their hair and give 'em a cupcake. 9
VOICES: Erin Chase (Charlie Brown) and Brandon Stewart (Linus) prove themselves yet again to be reliable reciters of dialogue typed on paper. 8. In fact, I'm handing out that number out like crazy--here you go, Jason Mendelson, you do a fine Patty; Gregg Berger and Frank Welker, who could do the adults better?; finally, Brandon Home, very nice job as Dolly.
Sadly, Tani Powers underwhelms as Marcie (5), sounding as though she was overdubbed. She says her lines in the same maddeningly laconic manner as that "not-Flick" kid waiting in line to see Santa in A Christmas Story.
FLY BOYS AND FLY GIRLS ALL OVER THE WORLD
You done goofed, son.
--Can we just, each and every one of us, appreciate how dashing Snoopy looks in a top hat?
By 1950s standards, Linus and Charlie Brown are a married couple.
WELCOME ABOARD UNITED AIRLINES
I wasn't entirely sold on his plan before, but now that Snoopy has accessorized, I'm confident we will see a dog in the air on this day!
The story of the Wright Brothers is one of perseverance, ingenuity, and obsolete first names. Definitely give this segment a watch. (Or a rewatch.)