Tag Archives: Christopher Shea

He's Your Dog, Charlie Brown (1968, Bill Melendez)

He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown opens with Snoopy terrorizing the kids. He’s indiscriminately vicious, leading to the kids complaining to Charlie Brown about it. Charlie Brown’s solution is to send Snoopy off to the puppy farm for reeducation.

Snoopy is Dog’s draw. His worst moments are the initial terrorizing and even those are perfectly good. They’re beautifully animated. The transitions from cute Snoopy to terrorizing Snoopy are phenomenal. Melendez’s direction is strong throughout, particularly during the travel montages, but the opening terrorizing is more than solid stuff. Charles M. Schulz’s script works fast, getting Snoopy in trouble–after a quick, well-directed Red Baron (ish) sequence–and getting him off for retraining.

Unfortunately, Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) decides to give Snoopy a layover on his trip. Snoopy’s going to spend the night at Peppermint Patty’s. Peppermint Patty (Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter) who just thinks Snoopy is a funny-looking kid.

Once Snoopy gets to Peppermint Patty’s and she treats him so well, he decides he’s not going to leave and instead goes on furlough. I mean, she’s got an in-ground swimming pool and waits on him hand and foot. While Snoopy’s various antics–and his eventual emotional breakdown–are Dog’s essentials, DeFaria Ritter is the one who makes it all work. Snoopy (despite director Melendez contributing growls and such) is nonverbal. DeFaria Ritter gets a lot of dialogue–all of the verbal jokes and gags–for most of the cartoon.

Even after Charlie Brown comes back in–he finds out Snoopy is skipping retraining and heads over to Peppermint Patty’s leash in hand, causing a further rift between he and Snoopy–DeFaria Ritter still gets the best material. When Snoopy comes back to her house after his dust-up with Charlie Brown, Peppermint Patty has had enough with the waiting on him and instead puts him to work cleaning the house, which ends up being as hilarious as when she’s waiting on him.

Charlie Brown once again comes back, this time because he and the kids miss Snoopy, only for the reunion to again go south, leaving Snoopy more trapped than ever.

Schulz’s plotting is outstanding, Melendez’s direction is spry, the animation is exquisite–Vince Guaraldi’s score is a little wanting but still fine. He’s Your Dog is a fine cartoon, a great showcase for DeFaria Ritter, as well as Snoopy as a lead character. Schulz gives Snoopy multi-layered adventures. There are his daydreams, his main plot, then the incidentals. There’s always something different, even when they repeat the same animation (just once, but noticeably). Schulz and Melendez do a great job keeping Snoopy’s adventure fresh.

And when Dog needs to be sentimental or emotional, Melendez and Schulz always make it happen without getting too saccharine.

The cartoon’s pragmatically exquisite.

2/3Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Sally Dryer (Lucy), Christopher Shea (Linus), and Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter (Peppermint Patty).


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Charlie Brown's All Stars! (1966, Bill Melendez)

Despite being all about baseball–specifically baseball games–“Charlie Brown’s All Stars!” barely has any logic to how its baseball works. It’s summertime and Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) loses the kids’ first game of baseball for them. Although, really, no one else on the team is any good, but he’s the only one who wants to play so it’s all his fault.

He’s able to convince them to come back and play again because the hardware shop owner is willing to get them uniforms and back the team in the Little League. Only it turns out Little League teams can’t have dogs or girls on them, in that order, so Charlie Brown decides to lie about the uniforms and just inspire everyone to play well.

And they do. Probably. There’s not just no adults in “All Stars,” none of the other team appears either. Even during the baseball games. Even during the baseball game where it’d be real important for them to show up so there was some logic about how the kids are playing (and losing) the games. But they get enough hits to stay competitive in the game, though the other team only has two runs at the bottom of the ninth.

For as much as “All Stars” goes on about baseball, it never seems like writer Charles M. Schulz particularly cares about it, which is fine for comic strips, but not really for a narrative. Especially not one about baseball.

The baseball story line–which has Charlie Brown making a tough, but moral decision (though it’s not really a tough decision and the cartoon barely pretends it to be)–kind of finishes before the end, when Schulz goes for a different laugh and fumbles it. Lots of fumbles in the script. You can see the scene as a four panel comic strip and it just does not translate.

There are a handful of decent jokes–always involving Christopher Shea (as Linus) though he’s in the last one and it bombs–and there’s some cute animation. All the kids nonsensically have skateboards, if only so they can skateboard away from Charlie Brown and his promise of baseball. The Pigpen jokes all fall particularly flat and Sally’s one scene trying to tempt Linus in her bikini is… really awkward and sort of concerning. It’s a short scene though (even if the failing joke gets drug out), which is probably for the best.

Most of the performances are uneven. Shea’s best. Robbins’s rocky. Sally Dryer has more bad line readings than good as Lucy. Glenn Mendelson’s flat as Schroeder, who’s not in it enough for it to matter. But Karen Mendelson (as Violet) and Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter (as Shermy) are probably the most consistently good. All of Ann Altieri’s Freida moments–usually about her curly hair–flop except one.

“All Stars” just don’t have any narrative flow. It’s not rushed, but it’s kind of aimless. Melendez’s direction doesn’t have any personality–except avoiding the particulars of the baseball game. Sadly Vince Guaraldi’s score is minimal. More music might’ve helped.

Nothing really works right in “All Stars.” It’s too bad, but nothing really works from the start so it’s not particularly surprising.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; aired by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Sally Dryer (Lucy), Christopher Shea (Linus), Karen Mendelson (Violet), Glenn Mendelson (Schroeder), Cathy Steinberg (Sally), Geoffrey Ornstein (Pigpen), Gabrielle DeFaria Ritter (Shermy), Ann Altieri (Freida), and Lynn Vanderlip (Patty).


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It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966, Bill Melendez)

“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is near perfect. Director Melendez and writer Charles M. Schulz create this beautiful little experience. The special’s excellence is in its structure. “Pumpkin” has the main plot–Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin, which actually starts as Linus writing the Great Pumpkin–and then the two subplots. First, the other Peanuts gang having Halloween and, second, Snoopy’s adventures as a World War I ace.

The three threads mix a lot–Snoopy shows up memorably in Linus’s story and Lucy is always giving Linus crap when she passes through his pumpkin patch–and the special creates its own cohesive universe. There’s no concern for anything outside it; Melendez and Schulz conceive it beautifully.

They even have time for capsule scenes, like Snoopy’s reactions to Schroeder’s piano playing.

And the end is absolutely perfect. It’s never schmaltzy and it’s always sincere without being saccharine. It’s magnificent.

3/3Highly Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; animated by Bob Bachman; edited by Robert T. Gillis; music by Vince Guaraldi; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Sally Dryer (Lucy Van Pelt), Kathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Ann Altieri (Frieda / Violet), Gail DeFaria (Pigpen), Lisa DeFaria (Patty) and Glenn Mendelson (Schroeder / Shermy).


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You’re in Love, Charlie Brown (1967, Bill Melendez)

As hard as director Melendez tries, there’s not much he can do with “You’re in Love, Charlie Brown.” The special’s two salient problems are the animation and the writing. Melendez comes up with some truly stunning shots in the special; for example, he closes with a beautiful zoom out with a lot of activity. But the actual animation–the movement, the illustration of the characters and settings–is bad.

But he could probably overcome that one, especially since the music from Vince Guaraldi is particularly excellent.

Charles M. Schulz’s writing, however, is insurmountable. Over the first half is spent on Charlie Brown whining about no one liking him and how much he likes the Little Red-Haired Girl. It makes Peter Robbins’s Charlie Brown unlikable.

The final ten minutes pick up a little, thanks to Melendez’s ambitions. The special doesn’t succeed, but Melendez is able to keep it from failing.

1/3Not Recommended

CREDITS

Produced and directed by Bill Melendez; written by Charles M. Schulz; music by Vince Guaraldi; released by the Columbia Broadcasting System.

Starring Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown), Christopher Shea (Linus Van Pelt), Sally Dryer (Lucy van Pelt), Kathy Steinberg (Sally Brown), Gail DeFaria (Patricia ‘Peppermint Patty’ Reichardt) and Ann Altieri (Violet).


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