When our pals over at ol’ Warner Bros. Home Entertainment sent over a copy of their newest release in the Peanuts catalog, This is America, Charlie Brown, I was intrigued. Here was an 8 part series combining the seemingly disparate elements of Chuck and the gang with key moments in American history. I wondered how would these mesh? I mean, sure Snoopy has always had one foot (paw?) entrenched in the high-flying combat of WW1 (I can’t believe I didn’t take the easy road to a dog-fight joke…), but this was a bit more in-depth, and the fear that the series would be more dry educational film than entertainment (always a danger in productions such as this) loomed large. So were those fears justified?
Let’s get the biggest thing out-of-the-way, this is indeed a production geared more towards education than anything else, but it is anything but dry. With the typical mature yet fun and spirited writing that has forever been a Peanuts signature quality, this feature manages to teach a broad range of history, everything from the first flight to space exploration to the history of jazz (fitting given the series long-standing association with jazz infused soundtracks), while giving plenty of opportunities for each member of the Peanuts cast to shine in entertaining ways.
Honestly, this production is of such high quality in every department; from animation, to writing to score, that I simply cannot believe it has been nearly completely forgotten (save for the episode Mayflower Voyagers which has appeared from time to time paired with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, the series has not been re-run ).
I do feel that a very large, and at first jarring, issue should be mentioned; namely that in an ultra-rare (though absolutely necessary) occurrence in the Peanuts franchise, adults are actually shown full body (displaying a similar design aesthetic to Bill Melendez’s previous work for the series)! As I watched, I had a sense that something was just “off” about the feature, and then it hit me; “Holy cats! You can actually see the adults…all of them!!!” I can recall only one other time when this has happened; 1980’s Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back!!).
Instead of fading into obscurity, this should instead be included in every elementary schools video library, as I believe that the Peanuts gang mixed with these vibrant periods in American history would completely engage students and provide a great supplement to often stuffy history books!
You can pick up your own copy of This is America, Charlie Brown here!