Reviews: Happiness Is A Warm Blanket Charlie Brown
Not a classic, but not a failure
Being the first Peanuts animated special not to involve either Charles M. Schulz or Bill Melendez, this cartoon had a lot to live up to, and in many ways it feels like it's a little afraid to spread its wings and fly just in case it'll crash like Charlie Brown's kite — instead it hops apologetically along the ground, smiling nervously in a "please don't hate me, look how respectful to the old material I am!" kind of way. It goes to great lengths trying to recreate the feel from The Sixties, especially in the visual and audio design — the characters have gone back to their pre-Snoopy Come Home designs (especially noticeable in Snoopy) and the piano-heavy soundtrack owes more than a bit to Vince Guaraldi. And in many ways it works. Though this special isn't going to go down in animation history as a great classic, it's by no means a failure. Looks- and sound-wise it's a treat, with it's smooth, crisp animation, beautiful hand-painted backgrounds and a laid-back, slightly melancholy, but very pleasant soundtrack. There are several funny moments, and few animated Peanuts specials ever captured the underlying insecurity, loneliness and silent frustrations with life's unfairnesses from the strip quite so well as this does. However, it does perhaps stick too firmly to the old. The best Bill Melendez productions tried to add to and experiment a little with the format and material, but this one doesn't dare to tread any new ground at all, because it's too afraid it'll step wrong. Which is a hindrance for a cartoon that's based on material that's not only forty years old, but has been adapted into animated form before. The biggest problem, though, is that it drags. The pacing is sluggish and there's a lot of padding and unnecessary pauses that go on for too long. This is essentially a 30-minute cartoon stretched out to 45 minutes, and it shows. Granted, this isn't a new problem; A Boy Named Charlie Brown is also much too padded and too long for it's own good... but at least that tried to do something interesting with the padded-out material. Not so much here. The good points mostly outweighs the bad, though, and if you like Peanuts I do recommend that you check it out. If you don't, well, this won't be the special that changes your mind.