What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown! is not about Charlie Brown (Liam Martin) having a nightmare. He does get told, eventually, about a nightmare, but he’s only in the special at the beginning and the end. He gets the bright idea to play “sled dog” with Snoopy and have Snoopy lead him around like they’re in the Arctic.
Things don’t work out for Charlie Brown, leading to him leading Snoopy around and Snoopy cracking the whip. It’s hilarious. And justified, given Charlie Brown is basically telling Snoopy he wants to treat him cruelly.
After all the exertion, Snoopy’s tuckered out and makes himself a large pizza dinner in a sublimely animated sequence. Whether or not the accompanying song–sung by Larry Finlayson, written by composer Ed Bogas–is cringey or perfect changes moment to moment. It’s painfully obvious and way too on the nose, but the sequence is so good–Snoopy so funny–the mood just right, maybe it’s perfect.
Anyway, Snoopy apparently added some rarebit to his pizza–or maybe his raw egg creams did it–and, after going to sleep on the dog house, he starts having a nightmare. What if he woke up in the Arctic and had to pull a sled in a pack of wild dogs.
There’s the sled driver, but he’s an adult so he talks in Wah Wah; so there’s no dialogue in Snoopy’s nightmare. He doesn’t communicate with the other dogs in any civilized manner because they’re wild and savage. They won’t let him eat, they won’t let him drink water, they won’t even snuggle with him when it gets cold. How is Snoopy going to survive….
The Charlie Brown chastising Snoopy for not being rugged enough at the beginning is fine–Martin’s performance isn’t great–but Charles M. Schulz’s dialogue isn’t particularly inspired either. The sight gags are good, but they’re amid the exposition and setup. When Nightmare gets to the Arctic, however, Schulz’s pacing excels. Snoopy’s arc is awesome. Funny, scary, sad, thrilling.
And the Nightmare goes on for a while. Multiple sled dog days. Snoopy keeps getting more sympathetic as it goes, even though he’s presumably safe throughout.
Then the finish is funny and sweet and has the same possibly bad, possibly great song accompaniment.
Roman and Melendez’s direction is good, nice editing from Roger Donley and Chuck McCann, fine animation. Bogas’s score isn’t amazing, but it has its moments; it also has that song, which is endearing but maybe not in the right way. But maybe in the right way.
Nightmare is inventive and spontaneous. Good stuff.