Well, friends, another holiday is upon us, and you know what that means: another Peanuts DVD review. This time I’ll be taking a look at the Deluxe Edition DVD for one of the lesser-remembered holiday specials, It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown. On the eve of Easter, things are crazy for the gang. Sally is upset because she doesn’t have new shoes to wear, while Lucy is making her usual ploy for Schroeder to shower her with presents. Peppermint Patty has the toughest time of it — she’s trying to dye eggs with Marcie, but Marcie keeps botching the job by trying to fry the eggs, putting them in the toaster, and so forth. But Linus has good news for them — there’s no reason to worry! The Easter Beagle will supply them with all the eggs they need!
I swear, as smart as the kid is, he seems to suffer from some sort of Holiday Dyslexia.
This is a cute special, but the characterization bugs me. Marcie is usually a pretty smart kid, so the way she so consistently screws up the eggs seems a bit out of character. I mean… who puts eggs in a waffle iron? It seems there are other characters in the Peanuts universe that would have been a more natural fit — Sally, perhaps. As for Linus, as Sally points out at one point, this whole “Easter Beagle” spiel sounds an awful lot like the line he fed her that ruined her Halloween. Then again, I don’t think the cartoon at any point actually refers to the Easter Bunny. Maybe the Peanuts live ina world where ol’ Pete Cottontail never showed up, making Snoopy a necessary substitute.
The saving graces for this 1974 special, oddly, really don’t have anything to do with Easter. There’s a funny subplot about Snoopy building Woodstock a new birdhouse, and a running gag about the department store already having their Christmas decorations up 248 days early. Out of the more classic Peanuts holiday specials, this is on a lower tier than the Christmas, Halloween, and Thanksgiving specials, but it’s about on-par with the original Valentine’s Day show… and much better than some of the more recent cartoons.
Like all the Peanuts DVDs, this one comes with a “bonus” special, in this case, It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. From 1976, this is significant in that it’s the first time (I think) that Linus and Lucy’s little brother Rerun appears in animation… which means that Rerun is actually older than I am. Which makes me feel good. Anyway, after Sally misconstrues the meaning of Arbor Day in a way that makes a lot more sense than Marcie’s Easter Egg misunderstanding, Linus takes her to the library to study up on the holiday. Once she figures out what it means, Sally decides to do some gardening to celebrate… and as is so often the case, her efforts totally screw things up for her big brother.
As with the Easter special, some of the funniest bits are totally unrelated to the topic — Peppermint Patty getting far too offended when Charlie Brown tries to define love, Snoopy getting a belly laugh out of dog-training manuals, and so forth. It’s also interesting to note that you don’t really hear a lot about Arbor Day anymore. It seems to have been eclipsed by the “Earth Day” (or, for those in a rush, “Earth Hour”) crowd. Arbor Day is apparently what they used to do before conservation got taken over by environmentalism and became obnoxious. The punchline, what happens to Charlie Brown’s baseball diamond, is actually really funny, as is the climactic baseball game, which uses a lot of great bits from the comic strip. This is actually a case where the back-up cartoon on the Peanuts DVD is better than the main feature.
As with all the Deluxe Edition Peanuts DVDs, this one comes with a short behind-the-scenes featurette. In Full Bloom: The Peanuts at Easter digs into the religious faith of Charles Schulz. Peanuts, of course, frequently made references to Bible passages, but the Easter cartoon almost ignores the religious aspect of the holiday entirely. The parallel is one of faith — the cartoon is about the characters hoping for something, believingin something, and that’s the message Sparky was trying to convey. There really wasn’t an effort to put forth something religious in the Easter special. This is probably one of the better featurettes in the DVD series, it gets deeper into the man than any of the others, except perhaps for the Valentine’s Day feature.