|It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown|
|Written by Mel Odom|
|Tuesday, 04 March 2003|
Charles M. Schultz created “Peanuts” back October 2, 1950. Schultz wrote and drew the strip officially retired in December of 1999, after 49 years of drawing and writing about the same characters. Today, since the creator has passed away, it’s amazing to see that everyone still know who Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy, Sally, Linus and the rest of the gang are, but no one really remembers Schultz. The “Peanuts” crew has become iconic to generations of kids and adults, speaking to them all on differing levels and with emotional complexity.
Probably one of the coolest things to ever happen to Charlie Brown and company was the advent of the animated cartoons that sprang up from the daily black and white and color Sunday Comic strips. “It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown” was made in 1973 and “It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown” was made in 1976. Several of the “Charlie Brown” cartoons have been released on DVD, as well as on VHS, but grown-ups pick them up to remember cartoons they watched as kids while telling themselves that the purchase is actually for the new toddler in the house. It’s a good enough excuse.
“It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown” is delivered on the DVD in Dolby Digital English mono, which knocks out all possibility of a surround sound review, although the reproduced music and dialogue is rendered well. Chapter 1 opens up with Marcie showing up at Peppermint Patty’s house with eggs, hoping to learn how to prepare Easter eggs since the holiday is quickly coming up. Picking up Lucy’s take on Easter, the viewer learns that Lucy simply views Easter as another day to receive presents, which drives Schroeder crazy and has him launch into an explanation that Easter brings back Spring. Also in Chapter 1, another plot line is added as Woodstock complains to Snoopy about the need for a house other than his nest, which is left open to torrential rain.
One of the key aspects of the Charlie Brown cartoons is the use of jazz music in all the shows’ scores. The music is always best around Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s pet beagle. Charlie himself is dealing with his younger sister, Sally, who can’t find a single thing to wear for Easter. Lucy and Linus arrive, with Linus’ security blanket in tow, and announce that they are going shopping for eggs and candies. Linus also trots out his explanation that no one needs to color eggs because the Easter Beagle will arrive and pass them out Easter morning.
Chapter 2 contains a barbed observation as Charlie and company enter the store. Christmas advertising surrounds them, announcing that there are only 246 days left till Christmas. Sally and Snoopy have a cute interlude with a collection of hats, which doesn’t amuse the always-serious minded Charlie Brown. In Chapter 3, Snoopy and Woodstock share real hijinks over the birdhouse Snoopy has purchased for his friend. Sally and Linus argue about the Easter Beagle, especially since the fiasco about the Great Pumpkin, as shown in “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. Marcie proceeds to destroy yet another dozen eggs through her misinterpretation of how to properly prepare them.
There couldn’t possibly be a great Charlie Brown video made without a dance number by Snoopy. One comes in Chapter 4 when Snoopy goes to buy Woodstock another birdhouse. He encounters Marcie and Peppermint Patty, who are there to buy more eggs, which are again later destroyed in this chapter and drives Peppermint Patty insane. Later, Peppermint Patty explains to Charlie Brown that she and Marcie will have no eggs because they have run out and don’t have money for any more. Linus is on hand and explains that the Easter Beagle will take care of everything.
Chapter 5 rings a close to the episode in an amusing and delightful way, where the characters seem to fail and succeed at the same time, which is a Schultz trademark and one of the things that endeared him, his work, and his characters to audiences around the world.
“It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown” begins with a humorous and insightful look at a child’s life. Linus’ little brother offers barbed commentary from the back of a bicycle as the mother, who is obviously quite involved in community events, goes about her errands. Chapter 1 also spotlights Sally, who wasn’t prepared for her school lesson concerning Arbor Day, which she thought was the day the ships all sailed into the “arbor.” Linus offers to help Sally figure out what Arbor Day is really about.
Snoopy accompanies Sally and Linus to the library. He, and the audience, gets a great laugh from his performance with a few books on dog obedience training. Linus reveals to Sally that Arbor Day concerns conservation and tree planting. Sally gets fired up about sitting under trees holding hands with Linus.
In Chapter 2, Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty talk about the vagaries of love, another rite of spring, in childlike terms that offer plenty of worth for adults as well. Peppermint Patty goes on to mention that the baseball season starts in a couple of weeks. Sally enlists Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock to begin her campaign of planting orchards, flower gardens and other conservation projects. Lucy joins in. Unfortunately, Sally selects Charlie Brown’s baseball field, and in no time at all there are plenty of obstructions to the projected baseball game between Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty’s teams.
The music plays cool and soothing in Chapter 3 as Snoopy and Woodstock plant seeds. Lucy and Linus plant a tree on the pitcher’s mound. Lucy also gets into the dictatorial mood she is often noted for. Meanwhile, Charlie Brown tries to figure out his batting lineup. When the rest of the team shows up to play ball, they tell Charlie Brown they have decided to name the field after him.
Of course, when Charlie Brown sees the baseball field in Chapter 4, he is totally unprepared for the bounteous nature that Sally and the others have arranged. One of the strangest baseball games ever played commences, but the atmosphere is bright and cheerful. Peppermint Patty gets irate when she arrives, but the play starts up with Snoopy at bat.
In Chapter 5, Charlie Brown faces down Peppermint Patty’s murderer’s row. Miraculously, the outs ensue, although Peppermint Patty does slam a blistering line drive by him that knocks him out of his clothes. Unfortunately, Charlie Brown being Charlie Brown, he just can’t win.
The DVD packaging provides almost nothing in the way of extras. Even the Charlotte’s Web 2 Interactive Game is a glaring exercise in commercialism. Despite the lack of DVD extras, the Charlie Brown cartoons are well worth picking up in this format. Whether it’s a trip down memory lane for adults who want to remember being kids, or whether the disc is an introduction for a new generation of fans, “It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown” is a great place to begin.