Peanuts fans can now enjoy their favorite animated holiday classics in 4K Ultra HD resolution with High Dynamic Range (HDR), for the ultimate home entertainment viewing experience. This compilation is comprised of nine Peanuts TV specials, including classics It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and A Charlie Brown Christmas, which will be offered together in a 4K Blu-ray Combo Pack. The Combo-Pack includes a 4K Blu-ray disc with the episodes in 4K with HDR, a Blu-ray disc and digital version of all nine specials.
Peanuts Holiday Collection 4K Blu-ray Featured Specials:
There probably aren't many of us under the age of 50 whose childhood wasn't impacted in some way by Peanuts television (the address was CBS way back then) specials. Given the influx of home video into our lives, it's sometimes hard to remember how "special" these holiday shows really were. They only came around once a year and, in the days before VCRs, people would plan their whole week around not missing the airing. I wonder if I'm the only kid that would tape record these so I could play them back again and again?
I'm a (relatively) old man now, but I still love Chuck and the gang. They were my favorite animated characters growing up, and they still are today. So it's really nice to see the folks at Warner Bros. jump on the 4K bandwagon and provide what is certainly the best version of these holiday segments ever to appear in any format. Heck, they probably look even better than how they looked to the animators once they had made their first 35mm prints.
Let's take these in order of their appearance on the calendar (rather than the year they were made), which means the best holiday special of the lot is up first: It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Yes, the original Christmas special is what made everything that followed possible, but is there really any question that the Halloween special is far and away the cream of the crop?
Perhaps it's because the whole "Great Pumpkin" idea comes from creator Charles Schultz's own mind, or perhaps it's those great scenes of Snoopy fighting the Red Baron, or perhaps it's due to being the one special that really puts the spotlight on Linus (my favorite character), but this thing is still amazingly entertaining after all these years. In fact, it's so good it's a little surprising that the Great Pumpkin didn't become a "real" holiday legend, much in the way Rudolph did for Christmas after the popular song and its own animated special. Or maybe parents just didn't want their kids sitting out in pumpkin patches all night long instead of knocking on strangers' doors demanding candy.
The least of the holiday specials on this set (not counting the six "lesser" bonus specials that are also included – two per Ultra HD disc) is easily A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. It's obvious that the creators/animators had a lot of fun with the idea of Snoopy and Woodstock trying to come up with a Thanksgiving dinner for all of Charlie Brown's friends (after Peppermint Patty more or less invites herself over), but there's not a whole lot of story here, and certainly nothing as "deep" as the tales covered in the Christmas and Halloween specials.
And, of course, the Thanksgiving episode has led many (including myself) to wonder over the years what the heck is up with Woodstock. Snoopy's little, feathered friend has no problem scarfing down some turkey at the end of this show. You're eating your own kind! Ironically, this is probably the scene that sticks with everyone once it's pointed out to them. And it's probably the reason Woodstock has always been my least-favorite character. That animal!
Finally, there's the special that started it all: A Charlie Brown Christmas. I love the fact that this still gets a run every year on network TV (the address is now ABC, by the way). Why? Because there's no way a major network airs a special like this at Christmas time unless it's something this beloved. Whether you're a religious person or not (and Charles Schultz certainly was), you have to admire the non-commercialism shown here. Even in its day, it was rare for a Christmas special to address the religious aspect at all. Schultz did it in a reverent way, but not a preachy one. That may very well be one of the reasons many of us consider this show as the "gold standard" of all Christmas specials.
And here they all are, together for the first time in 4K (they've also been released individually, but the set is really the way to go). I've probably seen each of these 20 or 30 times over the span of my life, but watching them in this format made each one feel brand-new. Hopefully, Warners plans to release many more of these (could a New Year's/Valentine's Day/Easter collection be next?) on the format in the years to come.
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays
The Peanuts Holiday Collection arrives on 4K in a slightly thicker-than-normal black Elite keepcase, which houses six discs (three Ultra 4K discs and three Blu-rays), with four of the six discs held on a pair of plastic hubs (and the other two on each inside cover). There is a lone insert, which contains a code for a digital copy of the collection. None of the 4K discs or Blu-rays are front-loaded with any trailers, and the menus are the standard Warners' design, with a still image and menu selections across the bottom of the screen.
All of the various specials presented here in 4K were originally rendered on 35 mm film. The 4K discs give viewers the option of watching each one of these specials in their original 1:33.1 format or in a zoomed-in 1.78:1 ratio that the kids might like, but is no better than pan and scan on an old 4:3 TV set, as information is lost in the presentation. As you might imagine, these shows look pretty impressive on Ultra HD, particularly when you factor in the HDR color boost, which really adds to the image.
However, the question has to be asked: Is the 4K upgrade really worth it? After all, these specials already look fantastic on their Blu-ray counterparts. The answer depends on how big of a Charlie Brown fanatic you happen to be. While I really liked the color contrast that HDR provides and the boost to black levels (It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown especially looks good with the inky blacks), I'm not sure the difference is so spectacular that those who already own the Blu-ray versions need to bother with an upgrade, unless of course, you're anxious to have the three additional specials that don't appear on the Blu-ray versions (those would be Charlie Brown All-Stars, Play it Again, Charlie Brown, and It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown).
Another distraction with the 4K image is that any error or glitch in the animation is that much more enhanced. I noticed the backgrounds sometimes have a jittery motion to them (which is also noticeable on the Blu-rays) that really stand out on Ultra HD. The animation of the characters also isn't as smooth as modern-day animation or as perfect, so those problems are obvious as well.
Grain is evident in most shots, but it's not obtrusive. Dirt and debris on the other hand often is, as sometimes white Snoopy (and other lighter colors) frequently show an annoying smudge or defect in the print. Other scenes, like when Snoopy is fighting the Red Baron, are littered with black specks. Still, considering the age of a few of these specials, they all look decent enough and – obviously – look better here than they have on any other format to date.
As you may have already guessed, there are no fancy Atmos mixes for this 4K release, although the English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio tracks for the nine different specials are certainly more than enough for these types of presentations (and the same exact tracks that appear on the Blu-ray discs, with the exception of the A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray, where only a lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital track was provided).
It's almost immediately obvious from the aural rendering that these soundtracks (most (all?) of which originally were rendered in mono) were never meant for a 5.1 rendering. As a result, these are pretty front-loaded tracks, with only the slightest of enhancement from the surrounds. There's occasionally some ambient noises from the back and even a hint of directionality from time to time, but nothing to get excited about. In fact, I really wish Warners would have given us lossless mono as an option, so I could just hear these specials as they originally sounded. There's no problematic glitches with the audio, but there's nothing here that's going to "wow" one, either.
There are no other audio options for these specials; however, each of them comes with optional subtitles in English SDH.
Note: Unless one counts the additional two Peanuts specials on each disc, there are no bonus features on any of the 4K discs. However, the Blu-rays do contain the following bonus materials.
It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown Blu-ray
We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown! (SD 13:58) – This featurette from takes a look at how the creators of A Charlie Brown Christmas came up with the idea for this Halloween special. Included here are comments from Lee Mendelson, Bill Melendez, and Scott McGuire.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Blu-ray
Popcorn & Jellybeans: Making a Thanksgiving Classic (SD 12:27) – Mendelson, Melendez, and McGuire return (along with a handful of others) to discuss how this Thanksgiving special was developed, including how it was one of the first Charlie Brown specials not to be based on material from the comic strips. But more importantly, I was tickled pink to see that Lee Mendelson was as offended as I that Woodstock eats his own kind!
A Charlie Brown Christmas Blu-ray
A Christmas Miracle: The Making of A Charlie Brown Christmas (SD 16:01) – A look at the animated special that started it all, as Mendelson, Melendez, McGuire, and company relate how A Charlie Brown Christmas was brought to television.
The Peanuts Holliday Collection gives fans a 4K look at some of the most popular animated specials of all time. Picking up this set for one's collection is going to depend a lot on whether you already own these on Blu-ray, as the 4K HDR image is impressive, but not leaps and bounds better than the already solid-looking 1080p versions. However, even if you do own the Blu-ray release(s), this set is Worth a Look.