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.


REVIEW SCORE: B

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!

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