I Watched Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown

In Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown, the entire Peanuts gang (including Snoopy and Woodstock) go to camp for the summer and run afoul three bullies and a really mean cat.  Along with all the other camp activities, there’s also a rafting race.  With no adult supervision, the boys (led by Charlie Brown) end up one raft, the girls (led by Peppermint Patty) end up on another raft, Snoopy and Woodstock build their own raft, and the bullies try to sabotage the three other teams.  While Charlie Brown tries to find his voice as a leader and Peppermint Patty runs her raft by having every decision determined by secret ballot, Snoopy and Woodstock explore the wilderness.

Though Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown was released theatrically in 1977, it was made by the same team responsible for the Charlie Brown TV specials and it feels more like an extended TV show than an actual movie.  It’s still a cute production, though, especially if you’re already a fan of Peanuts.  The animation is primitive by today’s standards but it has a retro appeal and Charlie Brown is as likable as he is wishy-washy.  Not surprisingly, Snoopy and Woodstock are the film’s MVPs.  From the minute that they drive up on their motorcycle, Snoopy and his friend steal the movie.  Because it lacks both the spiritual and the philosophical themes that we usually associate with Peanuts, the movie’s not as memorable or poignant as the holiday specials and some of my favorite characters, like Linus and Lucy, don’t have much to do.  I was especially disappointed that Lucy stayed in the background and let Peppermint Patty run the girl’s team.  Whatever happened to the Lucy who could always convince Charlie Brown to kick the football?

In the end, the important thing is that the movie has a good message.  Bullies are losers, nothing’s more important than friendship, and the best team wins.

Why We Need It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown

It has now been over five years since ABC last aired It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown.  

While It’s The Easter Beagle might not be as well-known as either It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas, it still doesn’t seem right not to air it.  It’s the perfect conclusion to all of Peanuts holiday specials, tying up all the loose ends and building on the lessons of the previous specials.  After giving Charlie Brown a hard time about serving popcorn and toast for Thanksgiving, Peppermint Patty discovers that it’s not so easy to prepare for a holiday at the last minute.  After getting laughed at about the Great Pumpkin, Linus is proven to be correct about the Easter Beagle.  After seeing his nest destroyed a countless number of times, Woodstock finally gets his own birdhouse.  Even Lucy is proven right about Easter being the “gift-giving season,” even if the Easter Beagle is just returning to her the same eggs that she previously painted and hid.  After not getting any cards on Valentine’s Day, Charlie Brown still doesn’t get any eggs on Easter.  Some things will never change.

Whether ABC realizes it or not, we all need the Easter Beagle in our lives.  He rewards our hope and reminds us to never surrender our faith in whatever it is that we believe in.  He brings happiness to all of the people of the world, or at least he tries to.  There’s only so many eggs that can be put in one basket.  He’s the Easter Beagle and things just aren’t the same without him.

Happy Easter!

The Lesson Of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown

Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown may not be as acclaimed or well-known as It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown or A Charlie Brown Christmas but it’s one of my favorite of the Peanuts holiday specials.  It has a very important lesson to teach us all.

It’s all about faith.

Hardly anyone in Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown has a good Valentine’s Day.  None of them should have been surprised.  All of the Charlie Brown holiday specials are about how days like Halloween, Christmas, and Thanksgiving rarely live up to our expectations.  Why should Valentine’s Day be any different?

Charlie Brown shouldn’t have been surprised when he went home empty-handed.  Sure, he thought he’d get a lot of valentines.  He even brought a briefcase to school with him because he was expecting to get so many.  After Schroeder handed out all of the valentines, Charlie Brown even went to big red box and turned it upside down.  There was nothing for Charlie Brown.  There’s never anything for Charlie Brown.

And Linus shouldn’t have been surprised when his teacher left school before he could give her that big heart-shaped box of candy.  After spending all of those Halloweens in a sincere pumpkin patch and waiting for the Great Pumpkin, Linus should have been used to the disappointment.

And Lucy should know that she’ll never be able to compete with Scroeder’s love of msic, no matter how many times she destroys his piano or tells him that Beethoven was overrated.

In the world of Charlie Brown, only Snoopy gets what he wants but he’s a dog so he doesn’t want much.  All he has to worry about is keeping Woodstock happy, finishing his new book, and shooting down the Red Baron.

But they never give up.  None of them.  No matter how wishy-washy or crabby they may be, all of them keep the faith.  None of them surrender their hope.  That’s the lesson of every Peanuts holiday special but it’s especially the lesson of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.  Someday, the teacher will accept Linus’s gift.  Someday, Schroeder will learn to appreciate Lucy’s finer qualities.  Someday, Sally will be able to make a Valentine just as impressive as Snoopy’s

And someday, maybe today, Charlie Brown will finally get that Valentine!

Never lose hope.  Never give up.  That’s a good lesson for Valentine’s Day.  That’s a good lesson for any day.

Why I Will Always Love A Charlie Brown Christmas

For me, it’s all about the tree.

A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired 53 years ago, on December 9th, 1965.  It’s aired every year since then, often twice a year.  For me, watching A Charlie Brown Christmas is as much of a holiday tradition as wrapping presents, decorating the house, and checking the weather forecast for snow.  I’ve watched every year since I was eight years old and I bet I’m not the only one.

A Charlie Brown Christmas begins with Charlie Brown telling Linus that he just doesn’t understand Christmas.  Even though he enjoys the presents and the tree and all the traditions, he still always ends up feeling depressed.  Charlie says that he just doesn’t feel the way that he’s supposed to.  (Was this the first Christmas special to acknowledge that the holidays can be a difficult time for some people?)  Linus says that Charlie Brown is the only person who can turn a wonderful holiday like Christmas into a problem.  From someone who spends every Halloween in a pumpkin patch, that’s a bold statement.

No one seems to have the Christmas spirit.  Lucy is upset because she never gets real estate.  Sally asks Santa Claus for tens and twenties.  Snoopy is so busy decorating his doghouse that he doesn’t even go after the Red Baron.  Even when Charlie agrees to direct the Christmas pageant, everyone’s more interested in dancing than getting into the holiday spirit.

Look at Pigpen go!  Snoopy and Schroeder get all the attention but Pigpen’s keeping up with them on the double bass.

Charlie Brown and Linus leave rehearsals to go find a Christmas tree.  Charlie’s supposed to pick the best tree they have, a big, pink, aluminum one.   Instead, Charlie picks the only authentic, real tree on the lot.  It’s a tiny sapling that looks half-dead and which leaves needles on the ground.  When Linus says that everyone’s expecting something bigger, Charlie says that the tree just needs some decorations.

That’s why I love A Charlie Brown Christmas.  It’s all about the tree.  It’s all about faith.

It’s not just the faith that Linus talks about when he later explains the true meaning of Christmas, though that’s certainly a huge part of it.  (Charles Schulz had to fight to be allowed to include Linus’s famous telling of the Christmas story, as there were fears that the religious content would turn off viewers.  Cleverly, Schulz made the story a key part of the special’s climax, so there was no way that the network could cut it.)  It’s also Charlie Brown’s faith that, even if he doesn’t full understand Christmas, he can still make that tree into something special.

At first, when Charlie Brown attempts to put on decoration on the tree, it tips over and he says that he’s killed it.

But then Linus comes along and he sees what Charlie Brown saw in that tree and, with a little help from his friends and his blanket, they bring the tree back to life.

Life may never be easy but with “a little love,” even the least impressive of things can become something glorious.  A Charlie Brown Christmas isn’t just about Schulz’s religious faith.  It’s also about the faith that the world can be made a better place, for trees, beagles, and round-headed kids.  Lucy might even finally get her real estate.

For the second time this year, A Charlie Brown Christmas will be airing on ABC tonight.  I’ll be watching.

Why We Love It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

It’s all about faith.

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown first aired in 1966 and it has aired every year since.  For 52 years, audiences have watched as Charlie Brown gets a rock, Snoopy flies his doghouse, and Linus and Sally spend the night in the pumpkin patch, waiting for the Great Pumpkin to show up.  I watched it every year.  Usually, I watch it twice.

Why has It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown withstood the test of time?

Some of it is the animation.  Snoopy flying that doghouse makes me smile every time.  So does Lucy and Linus searching for the perfect pumpkin and Charlie Brown’s messed up ghost costume.  (How clumsy is Charlie Brown with a pair of scissors?)  I love that, if you pay attention, you can actually see the rock getting tossed in Charlie Brown’s trick or treat bag.

Some of it is because we can relate to the characters.  Who hasn’t done a happy dance when, like Charlie Brown getting an invitation to Violet’s party, they feel like they’ve finally been accepted?

But for me, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is all about faith.

It’s about Charlie Brown’s faith that Violet meant to invite him to her party.  Even after Lucy tells him it had to have been a mistake, Charlie Brown still goes to the party.  It’s about Charlie Brown’s faith that he’ll get candy.  Even after he gets a rock at every house, he still keeps trying.  He doesn’t give up.

It’s about Snoopy’s faith that he’ll defeat the Red Baron, even though World War I has long since ended and doghouses can’t actually fly.  No matter how many times his doghouse is shot down, Snoopy keeps chasing his enemy.

And finally, it’s about Linus’s faith that some night, the Great Pumpkin will emerge from a sincere pumpkin patch and will bring toys to all the good children on Halloween night.  It doesn’t matter that people laugh at him.  It doesn’t matter that he might miss out on the chance to get candy.  What matters is that Linus believes and nothing can shake that belief.  Even when Sally abandons him, Linus stays in that pumpkin patch and waits.

And when the night passes without the Great Pumpkin showing up, Linus doesn’t give up.  Instead, he says that he’ll find a new pumpkin patch next year and a new one after that.  Linus will wait every year the Great Pumpkin because he has something more important than candy.  He has faith.

And, every year, we’ll be right there waiting with him.  Because even if we don’t believe in The Great Pumpkin, we do believe in Linus.

It’s all about faith.

It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown gets an encore airing tonight on CBS.

Easter Scenes That I Love: It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!

Dear ABC,

What happened?

When I was growing up, you used to show It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown every year.  Why have you stopped?  Why has it been four years since you last aired one of the best Charlie Brown holiday specials?  You still show It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and I watch every October but It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is just as important.  Easter Beagle concludes the story that starts in The Great Pumpkin.  In Easter Beagle, Linus is finally proven right.  Even if he missed the Great Pumpkin, he still gets to meet the Easter Beagle and he even gets an egg.  The Easter Beagle has eggs for almost everyone.

Next year will be the 40th anniversary of the first airing of It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown.  Please don’t let that year pass without giving everyone a chance to laugh at Peppermint Patty trying to teach Marcy how to paint eggs or a chance to watch scenes like this one that I love:

Next year, ABC, I hope you will air It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown and allow audiences new and old to enjoy it.  As Lucy put it, “It’s the gift getting season,” and this would be a perfect gift to us.

Sincerely yours,

Erin Nicole Bowman, a lifelong believer in both the Great Pumpkin and the Eater Beagle

The Lesson of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

Every year, I watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and every year, I ask myself the same thing.  Why didn’t Charlie Brown just say no?

At the start of the special, when Lucy again challenges Charlie Brown to kick the football that she’s holding, why doesn’t he say no?  Why does he think that a national holiday would actually make Lucy hold the football long enough for him to kick it?

When Peppermint Patty decides to invite herself over for Thanksgiving dinner, why doesn’t he say just say no?  Peppermint Patty (aka Priscilla) may not take no for an answer but why not at least try?

When Peppermint Patty tells him that she’s invited Franklin and Marcy over for dinner, why doesn’t Charlie just admit that he only knows how to make “cold cereal and maybe toast?”

When Linus suggests that he could have two dinners and then Snoopy and Woodstock volunteer to cater the whole affair, why doesn’t Charlie Brown say no?  Doesn’t he know that anything he does is destined to go wrong?  Couldn’t he see Snoopy wrestling with the folding chair and just said, “No, this isn’t going to work?”

When Peppermint Patty yells about only getting toast, popcorn, pretzels, and jelly beans for Thanksgiving, why doesn’t Charlie just kick her off of his property?  No one would have blamed him.

And, when Peppermint Patty invites herself to go to Grandma Brown’s condo for Thanksgiving, why doesn’t he say no?  Why, after all she’s done to him, does he still want to give her a good Thanksgiving?

It’s all about faith.  All of the Charlie Brown holiday specials deal with faith.  Not just spiritual faith (though that was always present) but also faith in the goodness of humanity (even if it is sometimes hard to find) and optimism for the future (even if Charlie sometimes didn’t share it).

Just as Linus believed in the Great Pumpkin, Charlie believed in Thanksgiving, a holiday where we give thanks for and appreciate our friends and family, even if they are sometimes crabby or if they don’t realize that pretzels and jelly beans are a great meal.  Just as Snoopy believed that he could be a World War I flying ace and a published writer, Charlie Brown believed that a dog and a tiny bird could cater an entire holiday affair.  And, just like how he’ll never stop believing that the little red-haired girl will someday notice him, Charlie Brown will never stop believing that he’s going to kick that ball.  Charlie Brown never stops believing that things could go well even though they never do.  He never stops believing that the next day could be better than the last and even if his friends and his dog aren’t perfect, he never stops being thankful for them.

That’s the lesson of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.  Never stop believing.  Never lose track of what you have to be thankful for.  Never let a dog and a bird cater your Thanksgiving dinner.

Happy Thanksgiving!