Monday, March 4, 2019

An Original Print of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Has Surfaced!

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" first aired in December of 1965 on CBS and has gone on to become the definition of a holiday classic. Many of us know the history of this special almost as well as the contents of the cartoon itself but others might be surprised to learn that while "A Charlie Brown Christmas" touts a very anti-commercialism message, the special was originally commissioned by The Coca-Cola Company! That's right, the same Coke that often gets incorrectly credited with the creation of the modern day image of Santa Claus, played a large role in helping bring "A Charlie Brown Christmas" to life!

When the special originally aired on network television it contained two promotional spots thanking the cartoons sponsor, Coke; an opening gag involving Linus crashing into a large Coca Cola sign during the beginning ice skating sequence and an extra slide during the end credits wishing everyone at home a Merry Christmas from the people who bottle Coca-Cola.

Deleted Scene from the opening of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
The connection between "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and the Coca-Cola Company has always been an interesting footnote in the specials history and for devoted fans these extra clips have long been viewed as the holy grail of deleted scenes. Due to changes in FCC laws pertaining to sponsorship plugs in children's programming, all references to Coca-Cola have been removed from future versions of the holiday special. So unless you caught "A Charlie Brown Christmas" on television during the late 1960's you've probably never seen the unedited version of the cartoon.

Deleted Scene from the ending of "A Charlie Brown Christmas"
While these scenes have never quite been entirely lost o the sands of time, the publicly available versions have been low quality. Fans have had to settle for poor quality black and white stills, left to imagine what the real scenes must have been like.

Strangely, a few collectors have always claimed to have a higher quality version of the unedited cut to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" but for whatever reason have chosen to keep it private. Recently a 16mm print of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has surfaced and as luck would have it, it's the original unedited version complete with Coca-Cola bumpers!

The folks over at The Internet Animation Database have done an excellent job dissecting this version of the cartoon and it turns out "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has gone through a number of changes over the years!

The video I've linked to above is an 18-minute side-by-side comparison posted by the user "Max Goes Fourth" which shows not only the deleted scenes mentioned above but a number of other alterations that have been made to "A Charlie Brown Christmas". These range from changes to the musical score, edits to the sound, different framing of characters in shots, and more! They even added a few extra gags here and there. Remember when Linus kicks the aluminum tree when he and Charlie Brown are out shopping for a tree to decorate? That's not in this version of the cartoon!

I think this is a pretty significant find in terms of preserving the full history of "A Charlie Brown Christmas". You'll run into two schools of thought with the Coca-Cola clips, many despise them because of how they seemingly run contrary to the overall message of the cartoon... on the other hand if it wasn't for Coke, this cartoon wouldn't exist in the first place.  I tend to fall a little into both camps. It is odd seeing Coca-Cola thanked during the end credits however for historical purposes I'm glad they have somehow managed to survive all these years.

If anyone is looking to watch the unedited version of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" you can do so using this download link. It took about three hours to download so I'd suggest leaving it open while you are at work or otherwise away from the computer. As with anything online, I can make no guarantees how long it will stay online. So if you are wanting a copy I'd download it as soon as possible. That's also why I chose to write about it now instead of saving it for the 2019 Christmas Coutndown, even though this would have been excellent content for early December. Who knows if it will still be around by then.

If you do check it out be sure to let me know what you think of the special in the comments below. How many of the changes did you notice from the remastered version? And would you like to see the original opening and ending of the cartoon remastered as well?

Stay Strange Everyone!

Monday, February 25, 2019

The 7 Best Christmas Websites (For When It's Totally Not December!)

Admission Time: This past holiday season wasn't exactly the greatest. I tried not to let the fact that I was going to be out of work at the end of December ruin my festivities but it mostly felt like I was going through the motions of the holidays and not actually enjoying the nuances of friends, family, and Santa.

Which stinks.

I love the holidays. That span from Halloween through New Years is magnificent and my favorite time of year. We go from fake cobwebs and vampire bats to reindeer without batting an eye. And I really look forward to celebrating every year. I'm one of those weirdos who sits here in July writing about how the first signs of the season are right around the corner. Even as I sit here writing this post the calendar says we are about as far away from Christmas as you can get, yet realistically I know we are only about five months away from Hobby Lobby looking like Clark Griswold's living room.

Thankfully, I'm in a much better place now than I was during the holidays. I'll be starting a new job soon and I could not be more thankful. But.... blah, I wish it was December 15th and I could squeeze in a bunch of holiday activities. Luckily for us, the internet is a vast place that does not adhere to the same set of rules which bind traditional retail establishments. If you want Christmas then by golly you can find Christmas.

The following article is mostly for me. But maybe it'll be for some of you too. If you suffer from depression, anxiety, stress. You owe it to yourself to find whatever makes you happy and then engage in it. Without having to justify your happiness to anyone else.

... unless it's murder. Then probably don't pursue that.

For the rest of us, be like Uncle Lewis from Christmas Vacation. Wear that toupee and wear it proudly. Even though everyone else knows it's fake that's not what's important.

Here are The 7 Best Christmas Websites (For When It's Totally Not December!) but you still need a little holiday cheer!

You'll be able to find a number of themed countdown clocks online but The Christmas Countdown is my personal favorite. It's been online without fail for a number of years and the code automatically resets itself as soon as Christmas is over. Always giving you an accurate look at how long you've got until Santa comes back to town.

Plus you can bookmark the website and make it your homepage, it's quick to visit and you'll be surprised how calming that snow effect is when it's way-to-hot outside in the middle of July.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Windows 3.1 Hot Dog Stand Theme!

Looking around at the technological landscape of today, I feel like we have a pretty solid grasp of how things should be done. A rulebook has been established and we all sort of abide by it. Innovation will continue, of course. But an iPhone is an iPhone... Windows is Windows and so on. Whenever a tech company tries to venture to far off the beaten path (Windows 8 for example) they are usually meet with resistance and a certain amount of backlash.

It wasn't always this way, however. I remember a time back in the early 1990's when no such rulebook existed, it was truly the Wild West. Look no further than the INSANE color scheme "Hotdog Stand" available on Windows 3.1 as proof that nobody had any idea what was going on back then!

Quick point of reference for my younger readers, Windows 3.1 debuted back in April of 1992. Making it one of the earliest versions of the Windows operating system, pre Windows 95! I think part of what makes the Hotdog Stand theme so special is that Windows 3.1 was such a straight forward no thrills OS. All the other color combinations are very traditional, what you would expect for an office environment.

In comparison Hotdog Stand is batshit insanity, serving absolutely no purpose other than to simply exist. And that is what makes it so great. It wasn't just a silly color combination... it was probably the first silly color combination. And that is important!

Intentional or not Hotdog Stand showed us that PC's do not have to be all about spreadsheets and documents...they can be fun! Next time you use your tablet to stream your favorite movie or television show, in a weird way you owe it all to this stupid color scheme. And for that I thank you Hotdog Stand, may none of us ever have to look at you again.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

It's The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown!

Easter Beagle

Charlie Brown has stared in forty five television specials over the years and none of them are really bad... it's just that forty three of them have the misfortune of not being "A Charlie Brown Christmas." or "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown". Talk about lofty expectations! Those two specials set the bar extremely high for everything that came afterward.

"It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown" is a great cartoon but is not quite the same life alterting experience as that time Charlie Brown went Christmas Tree shopping and came home with nothing more than a sad little twig tree branch. But the special is filled with plenty of memorable moments and should e a staple of every Easter Season, even if it wins that race simply by default.

If you've never seen the cartoon before here are some of the specials highlights. Be sure to track a copy down for yourself, it's never to late to start your own Easter tradition!

Easter Beagle

Our story begins with Schroeder quietly playing his piano while Lucy tells him how we "have another one of those great holidays coming up!" and is quick to remind him that this is a perfect opportunity to give pretty girls presents. Having none of that business, Schroeder points out that Easter is a "time for renewal" and the beginning of spring, not gift giving. I love the way Easter Beagle takes a few subtle jabs at how commercialized Christmas was becoming... and this was all the way back in 1974!

One of my favorite jokes in any of the Peanuts specials is actually in Easter Beagle and it comes at the expense of "Christmas Creep" ... the idea that every year the Holidays start sooner and sooner. But more on that later!

Easter Beagle

I've always loved how these Peanut Specials have this loose quality to their narrative, very much like a comic strip you'd find in a Sunday newspaper. You'll get a scene with some setup, quick dialog, and it will end with a sight gag or pun of sorts. Then its onto the next scene. After the opening segment with Schroeder and Lucy, Easter Beagle transitions into a side adventure with Woodstock and Snoopy.

Woodstock is unhappy with his birds nest, due to the fact that he is constantly getting rained on, and decides to complain to Snoopy about it. Snoopy then rings him out like a dishrag in order to dry him off! Most of the Charlie Brown specials feature secondary stories to complement the main narrative and I already like the setup for this one. Anything has to be better than the Red Barron segments in Great Pumpkin!

Easter Beagle

Back to the main story we find Charlie Brown and his sister Sally talking about the coming Easter holiday. It is here that you'll notice the voice acting in this cartoon, particularly with Sally, is not quite as sharp as some of the prior specials. There was a certain charm to the sing-song way characters spoke in "A Charlie Brown Christmas" that was very iconic and magical. In comparison sometimes the dialog in Easter Beagle feels slightly off.

During this scene Sally complains about how she has nothing to wear for Easter and not once does Charlie Brown attempt to tell her that is now what Easter is about. He just sort of goes along with everything she says until Linus and Lucy show up.

Lucy is complaining about how they need to go to the store to purchase eggs and candy, it is here that Linus gives us the full setup for the cartoon. Linus tells everyone they don't need to do any of that because the Easter Beagle will be coming to town and will deliver candy and colored eggs to all the good children.

It's a very similar setup to The Great Pumpkin, and as much as I love it I wish they would have went the extra step and had all the other kids call Linus out on that line of BS but instead nobody really questions the validity of the Easter Beagle. Instead it ends with Charlie Brown telling his sister Sally to "come on, I thought you wanted to get some new shoes" and all the children exist stage left to make a trip to the shopping mall.

Easter Beagle

Yes! I love this scene at the shopping mall so much. "It's Easter and they already have their Christmas decorations up!" is proof that retail has always been pushing the boundaries for how early they can start the holiday season. The musical score in this scene, which is once again top notch, even changes to vaguely resemble sleigh bells. I cannot help but to smile at that huge "Only 246 Days Until XMAS" banner of the flashing "Buy Early" signs. It really is my favorite joke from any of the Charlie Brown cartoons

Though it's interesting how the kids act in this cartoon, it's slightly off kilter from previous portrayals. Even though they are presented with this fantastic setup, they basically ride the mall escalator and try on hats or shoes. I'd have loved to see Charlie Brown go on a full rant about this scenery. Instead, it leads to one of my least favorite scenes in Easter Beagle...

Easter Beagle

Snoopy finds his way to a mysterious looking display of eggs. He picks one up and looks inside and... obligatory Snoopy dancing scene! It's sort of a requirement for every Peanuts Holiday Special and I get it, it's for the kids at home. On the special features of the disc they mention this was Charles Schultz favorite piece in the entire cartoon. If I had to guess it's the animation that he enjoyed the most and not the fact that this particular bit lasts way longer than is necessary and brings the story to a screeching halt.

Charles Schultz was said to really enjoy these additional side adventures with characters and that makes sense given how they talk about balancing a narrative story for adults while keeping it interesting for the children at home. Snoopy Dancing is a good visual moment to keep the kiddos entertained while the rest of us chuckle about the shopping mall having Christmas decorations up in April.

Whatever. I still don't like it.

Easter Beagle

With the dancing scene out of the way we continue on with the shows subplot of Woodstock not being happy with his leaky old nest. While at the mall snoopy decides to purchase Woodstock his very own birdhouse! It then cuts forward to Snoopy hanging it on a tree in the backyard and when Snoopy shows Woodstock his new home, Woodstock appears none to pleased about it, afraid that he won' be able to fit inside.

Ever the quick thinker, Snoopy drills a larger hole and then just sort of shoves Woodstock inside. Realizing he is trapped, Snoopy asks Woodstock if he would "like to play a game?" and answer for all his past sins or face the consequences. Apparently, Snoopy had drugged Woodstock and hidden a key inside his chest... wait, no that's the Saw franchise. Nevermind that last paragraph.

Easter Beagle

Back inside the main house Linus is once again going on about how the Easter Beagle will deliver colored eggs and candy to all the good children of the world. Sally finally breaks down the proverbial 4th wall and goes on a little rant about how all of this sounds exactly like that time she sat out overnight in a pumpkin patch waiting for The Great Pumpkin to arrive. How it was the worst night of her life and how she will never trust "guys with blankets" ever again.

Easter Beagle

There is also kind of a third sub-plot that I have not mentioned up until now. The very opening of the cartoon (before the Schroeder and Lucy piano scene but after the 'Easter Beagle' opening credits) had a very quick exchange between Marcie and Peppermint Patty, in which Patty attempts to show her friend how to color Easter Eggs. Only Marcie keeps ruining the eggs before they get a chance to color them. Throughout the course of the cartoon she will fry them on a stove, stick them into a waffle iron, try to fit one into a toaster, stick an entire carton inside an oven, and eventually boils a pot of water and cracks all the eggs inside... thus creating "egg soup". How Marcie has not burnt down her parents kitchen yet, I have no idea.

In terms of actual Easter related content, the best exchanges are clearly between Peppermint Patty and Marcie. Especially watching Marcie struggle to grasp onto the concept of coloring eggs. According to the included documentary, this was Charles Schultz primary idea for this Easter Special.

You might notice that there has been a distinct lack of Charlie Brown in this cartoon. Turns out he really only bookends the Easter Beagle story. Showing up at the very beginning and once again at the tail end... just sort of existing as a background character throughout most of the show. Personally I would have liked to see some of Charlie Browns struggles with coloring eggs. Imagine a scene in which all his Easter Eggs turn brown! Or Marcie scalds one side of his face with burning hot water because she's a terrible cook?

Easter Beagle

Easter Beagle seems intent on giving Snoopy and Woodstock as much screen time together as it possibly can. Like this next scene in which Snoopy hears strange carpentry noises coming from Woodstock's birdhouse and upon closer inspection finds That Yellow Bastard has decorated the inside of his birdhouse, complete with a little sofa. This angers Snoopy for some reason, which causes him to stick his nose into the birdhouse and eventually break the thing.

What a dick move!

Easter Beagle

The broken birdhouse eventually leads Snoopy and Woodstock going back to the shopping mall where they meet up with Marcy and Peppermint Patty, who have just arrived to get another batch of eggs to color. Here the three (Woodstock wasn't able to make it through the sliding glass doors of the mall) share yet another obligatory Snoopy dancing scene.

Do you gets also have the feeling that Charles Schultz kind of ran out of ideas for this Easter special?

I am willing to give the first Snoopy dance number a bit of a pass but this one here seems to serve no purpose other than to eat up a couple minutes of screen time. It seems particularly out of place when you factor in all the Christmas decorations and the fact that they are dancing to the music of those wind up Christmas music boxes... smack dab in the middle of an Easter special.

Easter Beagle

Eventually though we do reach actual Easter content and get to see Lucy's big Easter Egg Hunt! After she colors a batch of eggs, she explains to Linus "how simple the holiday is." adding that "You paint the eggs. You hide the eggs. You find the eggs." Of course Lucy being the one who is hidding the eggs is confident that she will be the one to locate them all. The bitch. Unbeknownst to her, however, is after every egg she places Snoopy is quick to snatch up as soon as her back is turned.

Easter Beagle

Snoopy, as the Easter Beagle, then delivers the colored eggs to all of the children much to there delight. Everyone except for Charlie Brown. His big moment in the cartoon happens here within the final moments, as Snoopy runs out of eggs right as he reaches him and has nothing to give to him. Talk about bad luck!

From here we only have one very brief encounter between Lucy and Snoopy, who has came to confront the Easter Beagle over him stealing all her eggs and ruining the Easter Egg Hunt. But after a quick kiss from Snoopy, all is better and the end credits promptly follow.

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is an enjoyable if not somewhat flawed cartoon. The ultimate question as it pertains to any of the later Peanuts holiday specials is just how many times can Charles Schultz replicate the formula created with the Christmas, Halloween, and Thanksgiving specials. He was asked to do it for every conceivable holiday, including an Arbor Day cartoon. Arbor Day, folks! Eventually everything came back around full circle with 1992's It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown. At some point, the magic starts to lose it's luster

Which isn't to say that its not worth your while to watch cartoons such as the Easter Beagle. You'll find that even some of the lesser specials are better than 90% of the cartoons on the market today. I may have sounded a little harsh on this cartoon but that is only because the bar is so high compared to the Halloween and Christmas specials.


Easter Beagle is a solid special that is worth checking out. Some of the voice acting is a little rough and the special trods along on occasion with filler material but overall it's a fun trip into the universe of the Peanuts Gang.

I loved the references to the shows that came before it and the shopping mall gag is among the best in any of the Charlie Brown specials!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Beverage Review: Mountain Dew ICE!

Beverage Review: Mountain Dew ICE is a Lemon Lime twist on the traditional Mountain Dew flavor. But how does the newest beverage of 2018 hold up?

Mountain Dew 2018
Mountain Dew ICE!
Mountain Dew ICE, I kinda love that name. It's cool. Pun intended. Puns are always intended.

We are on the cusp of weird new flavors of soda season, a thing that I just made up but sounds accurate enough to actually exist. Usually you get these offshoot flavors in Spring / Summer months, the time of year when I won't bat an eye at drinking Tobasco Flavored Pepsi.

Since January feels like it was roughly 87 days long, I'll gladly take a new offshoot flavor of Mountain Dew to help pass the time. And I'm impressed that this isn't some heavily gimmicked monstrosity, Mountain Dew ICE feels like a flavor that could stick around for a long time.

Back in December we got a Christmas themed beverage from Mountain Dew, Holiday Brew. It was a welcome edition to the Christmas Season but not really a thing that I would drink on a regular basis. Mountain Dew ICE on the other hand, is actually good.

Very much in line with Sprite or 7 Up, ICE is a lemon lime flavored beverage that sheds the traditional neon glow of Mountain Dew and replaces it with an all clear liquid. I respect this change. It makes ICE feel slightly more adult and less like a Doritos-Covered-Game-Fuel-Guzzling-Call-Of-Duty-Extreme-Snowboarding soda that Mountain Dew typically markets itself as.

Plus it feels like ICE was specifically made to be mixed with alcohol. Perfect for what's left of the winter season. So how does Mountain Dew ICE hold up? Turns out I like it a lot! I'm not sure if it's going to light up Twitter the way a Christmas or Halloween themed soda would, but that doesn't mean it's not a good soft drink. If you get a chance, try one... it sure beats anything else related to the Neon Nightmare known as Valentines Day currently out on shelves.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

2017 Christmas Countdown: Mountain Dew Holiday Brew!

New for the 2017 Christmas Season, Mountain Dew HOLIDAY BREW aims to be the go-to drink this holiday season. Will it ruin your Christmas Vacation OR make your heart grow three times it's size?

Christmas 2017!
 Click for Larger Image!
I've not even finished packing away all of my Halloween decorations yet, but the inevitable spill-over into Christmas has already began. It usually takes me about a week to decompress from Halloween and morph into Christmastime festivities, but this year there seems to be no stopping the holiday rush.

I've already found some of the seasons biggest and best offerings! 🎅🎄🎅

And you know what... I think I'm perfectly alright with that. My Halloween season started off great before fizzling out midway through October, I plan on making ground by having the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fucking Kaye.

And we are starting this Christmas Season Shit with Mountain Dew.

Christmas 2017!
Click for Larger Image!
I've always loved the mad rush at the beginning of the holiday season to track down these new seasonal items. "Hunting for the Holidays" is what I like to call it and the best part of it is randomly finding some crazy new promotional doohickey that you had no idea existed the day before... and then hoarding it for the next two months in case it never comes back.

I was at Hy-Vee this morning, that would be a local grocery store chain for those of you not in the Midwest, when I stumbled across this tiered Mountain Dew display. Initially I only gave it a passing glace, like most folks I feel like gotten accustomed to seeing Dews Game Fuel product line.

Game Fuel comes out every November right before the release of the latest "Call of Duty" title and looks like cancer in a bottle.

Beyond simply knowing of its existence, Game Fuel is not a product line that's ever interested me. I don't play "Call of Duty" and while oddball flavors of soda are always intriguing, I've cut back on soft drinks in general. To the point that it take something really unique to get me to crack one open.

That's my long winded way of saying "I almost walked right by this shit". Millage will no doubt vary from store to store, but HOLIDAY  BREW was kinda unfairly tucked away in the middle of a larger Game Fuel display I spotted it. When you go hunting, make sure you look carefully if you want one for yourself.

ULTIMATE HOLIDAY BLEND! DEW + CODE RED is the name of the game, but does it pass the taste test? Yeah... actually I enjoyed Holiday Brew quite a bit. I'm not sure how much different it tastes than normal Code Red, it's been a spell since I've last drank one of those, but if memory serves me correctly the two are strikingly similar. 

Holiday Brew is definitely lighter in color and has perhaps has a bit more "punchy" of a flavor when you take that first sip. The beverage works well, even if it doesn't stray to far off the beaten path. A decision that I am frankly OK with. 

Side Story: Not every seasonal flavor works for me. I tried a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice chilled coffee drink right before Halloween and ended up dumping the entire thing down the drain... it was gross. Sometimes a fun package design and a festive name is all that's necessary. 

Holiday Brew seems to fall into that category and that's probably for the best. We aren't breaking any new grounds in the flavor department, no weird mix of cranberries and holiday spices here, just a slight variation on Code Red dressed up for the holidays.  

Christmas 2017!
Click for Larger Image!
Speaking of package designs, I think this is the area that Holiday Brew really excels. As I mentioned earlier, it's a brighter shade of red than Code Red, making Holiday Brew really feel at home this time of year. Mountain Dew has gone to a more neon shade of green during it's most recent redesign, so it's nice to see Holiday Brew returning to a more traditional flat / forest green color scheme for most of the artwork.

Am I wrong in saying it aims to look like wrapping paper? Because to me it looks like a wrapped Christmas gift! It's refreshing... pun not intended... to Holiday Brew full embracing the season, compared to Sierra Mist: Cranberry Splash... which seems to have gotten further and further away from it's holiday roots (I think they have even taken cranberry out of the name and just call it Mist Twist these days)... which as far as I can tell, isn't even available yet.

It's nice to have at least one brand of soda that fully embraces the Christmas Season. 

Overall Mountain Dew Holiday Brew is an exciting and fun new edition to the 2017 Christmas Season. The flavor may be a bit of a letdown to hardcore Dew drinkers due to it's close nature to Code Red, but for those of us who only crack open a soda on special occasions, I was impressed by the overall package.

Remember the fun is in the hunt... so you owe it to yourself to track one down out in the wild and give it a taste this Holiday Season!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween Countdown 2017: HAPPY HALLOWEEN!


There are some years that I get absolutely burnt out by the end of October, 2017 was one such season. Even with that in mind, I still had a blast handing out candy... even if my costume consisted only of a Minnesota Wild hockey jersey.

I should have gone for it and wore a "Friday the 13th" hockey mask with my jersey. Doh! I'm going to spend the rest of my evening watching the last half of Stranger Things and squeezing the maximum amount of fun from Octobers Rotting Corpse.

Tomorrow we make the switch to Santa. Let's enjoy the last breath of Halloween as best we can! Thanks for sticking around through the slow times, enjoy the rest of the evening and have a Happy Halloween!