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While the vast majority of our readers are more likely to have grown up with Bart Simpson and Eric Cartman than the likes of Garfield, Andy Capp and Charlie Brown, there is a definite sense of nostalgia when you look back on some of the animations from the early days of print and TV entertainment. Walt Disney and his pals may have taken up a fair chunk of those memories, but there were various other outlets churning out some great work all those years ago. Those born in the 1950s might well have looked straight past Mickey Mouse and through to Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang, who occupied their daily paper as well as their televisions.

Peanuts: Box Set One
Peanuts was actually one of the first comic strips to introduce more than one or two characters, challenging readers’ intellect by giving them a host of personalities to remember as well as fall in love with. The likes Charlie Brown and Snoopy may be household names, but without Peppermint Patty, Linus, Pigpen and Schroeder the comic strip would easily become quite tired. And there’s plenty more where that came from, giving Peanuts a real eclectic mix with which to conjure an endless number of comic strips and TV specials. What we get here is a first look at the often overlooked set of television creations from the 60s and 70s featuring all of Charles M Schulz’s animated friends.

The Series
The box set is divided up into three discs, each devoted to a particular Peanuts character. In this first release we get the best of the bossy and selfish Lucy, Beethoven devotee Schroeder and our old favourite, Charlie Brown. It’s an interesting mix, combining the lead character with a couple of lesser-knowns who add some much needed spite to proceedings. You see, Lucy is an extremely forthright young girl who is used to getting what she wants. And most of the time it’s Schroeder, who is more interested in studying classical music on his piano than succumbing to any of Lucy’s advances.

The Charlie Brown disc is naturally the first one you should throw in your player. We are treated to three holiday specials which centre on the series’ main character. The first piece is A Charlie Brown Christmas, which naturally surrounds the festive season. Charlie Brown seems to have lost the Christmas spirit, so Lucy asks him whether he would like to direct their school Christmas pageant. Pigpen mans the double bass, Snoopy tackles the guitar and Schroeder naturally hits the piano, but when Charlie Brown is announced as director, the participants aren’t exactly optimistic.

The second piece is entitled Charlie Brown’s All Stars. This time the whole baseball team quits after another demoralizing loss, leaving Charlie Brown as a manager and head pitcher without any players. The baseball theme was a constant throughout the comic strip and translates well into the simple entertainment of these TV specials. Finally, It Was A Very Short Summer, Charlie Brown surrounds Charlie’s dilemma when he returns to school and must write an essay about what he go up to during the break. We then flash back to summer camp, where the boys and the girls compete in a variety of events for bragging rights.

The other two discs are equally as entertaining. The Lucy disc starts off with It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, where Charlie must impress a girl by giving a good show at the football game. The only problem is, he can’t seem to kick the football that Lucy is holding. There is also It’s Magic, Charlie Brown, which involves Snoopy turning poor Charlie Brown invisible and not being able to change him back. The Lucy link still involves her and the football, although with Charlie being such a prominent character you can forgive them for being a little tenuous with the episode choice. Lastly, Snoopy’s Reunion tells the tale of a depressed Snoopy and his family reunion, which is meant to snap Charlie’s poor little dog out of his sad state.

Peanuts: Box Set One
The Schroeder disc begins with Play It Again, Charlie Brown. The devious Lucy talks poor Schroeder into playing at the next PTA meeting at school but neglects to mention rock music is the genre of choice. It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is the popular Easter-themed special from way back, where Marcie and Peppermint Patty try to make Easter Eggs and Snoopy shops for a new home for Woodstock. Finally, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown again sees Lucy hunting poor old Schroeder, while Snoopy and Woodstock get a little silly with the Valentines theme.

As has been mentioned before, the creativity of the writing and the characters isn’t a patch on the biting social commentary and rapier-like wit of The Simpsons or South Park, which may well turn modern audiences off. But still, you can’t deny the Peanuts series is an important marker on the road of animation development over the years. Those who grew up with the comics and television specials will undoubtedly enjoy the first effort to bring the much-loved series to DVD. The simplistic nature of the stories may not appeal to modern audiences, but to see the shows for what they were at the time is to open up the door to some great little pieces of entertainment. It may not be anything ground-breaking yet there is no doubt this is a welcome release for fans (like me).

Video
For a set of specials which first aired in 1965, the transfer for this release comes up quite well. The 4:3, full frame visuals will probably look no better than they do on these discs, and even though there are many imperfections and grain aplenty it seems to fit in well with the nostalgic feel of the episodes. And besides, the whole strip uses its scrappy look and feel as part of its stick, so the slightly damaged visuals do nothing to harm its charm.

Audio
The set contains a Dolby 2.0 mix which does sound a little sketchy, but that is more likely to be as a result of the source material than anything else. It sounds as though the original mono mix from the series has been split into both channels, but one can’t be entirely sure. Nevertheless there is little to complain about overall considering the age of the series once again, so if you don’t expect too much then you can’t be disappointed.

Extras
Save for some little factoids about the series on each of the three discs, we receive nothing in the way of extras on this release. Naturally a piece on series creator Charles M Schulz would have gone down well with fans of the shows, but in order to keep costs down and deliver the series to fans one can understand the lack of supplements.

Peanuts: Box Set One
Overall
While there is nothing remarkable about this release at all, fans of the Peanuts franchise will most definitely get a kick out of this box set, the first of two to be released this year. Join Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang as they get up to their usual mischief of playing baseball, going to school and calling poor Charlie a blockhead. Modern viewers might miss the innocence and charm of the show because they’ve been spoilt by present day animation, but it is recommended to pick this one up to see how far this kind of entertainment has come, as well as be entertained yourself in the process. For such an affordable price it is hard to go past this little gem, even if there are no extras and the age of the source material shows is quite noticeable.


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