Friday, April 26, 2013

It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown

Premiered March 16, 1976.

"What is Arbor Day? Oh, that's simple. That's the day when all the ships come sailing into the arbor!"
-Sally Brown, incorrectly answering Miss Othmar's question.

Sally () has been assigned by her teacher to write about the history and meaning of Arbor Day.  Linus () offers to help her and suggests the library will provide them with the needed information.

They learn Arbor Day was created by J. Sterling Morton, an early conservationist.  Linus reads aloud from a book that "Arbor Day points out to both children and adults the need to protect certain areas of our natural forests and woodlands."  Arbor means tree, and trees are planted in celebration of Arbor Day.

Sally asks Linus if spring really does turn a young man's fancy to thoughts of love
Meanwhile, Charlie Brown () and Peppermint Patty () are sitting under a tree discussing love and baseball.  They're getting ready for the upcoming baseball season.  Peppermint Patty is confident that her team will soundly beat Chuck's team  several timesBut she still wishes him and good luck in the upcoming season.

Peppermint Patty is very confident her team will win against Chuck's team:
"Our team plays your team twelve times. We slaughter you twice in April, smash you three times in May, ruin you twice in June, murder you three times in July, annihilate you four times in August, and destroy you altogether in September." (Peppermint Patty's math appears to be off, she's actually just listed off fifteen games, not twelve!)

Sally enlists Linus' help to plant some in honor of Arbor Day.  The run into Lucy (), who thinks that's a good idea and joins them.  Sally and Lucy decide that Charlie Brown's baseball field is the perfect place to do some planting.  Linus isn't so sure, he thinks they should ask Charlie Brown first.  Lucy dismisses Linus' worries as "nonsense."  She says Chuck will be glad that they are improving his field.

Lucy tells Charlie Brown that they're fixing up the field, without explaining how they are fixing it.  Charlie Brown informs Peppermint Patty that the field will be in good shape for their opening day game.

The rest of the Peanuts gang (except for Chuck) get to work planting trees and other vegetation, including a new sapling right in the middle of Charlie Brown's pitcher's mound.

Linus is concerned about  the tree on the mound, but Lucy says it will provide shade.  She adds that they could use "a little class on the pitcher's mound", a (not so subtle) dig at Chuck.

The Peanuts gang hard at work planting ... on the baseball field!
Lucy decides that they need more plants.  They plant rose bushes daisies, geraniums, a creeping vine behind home plate and a vegetable garden in right field.

Snoopy runs afoul of a newly planted creeping vine behind home plate

In the meantime, Charlie Brown is working on baseball strategies, blissfully unaware of the havoc that is being wreaked upon his beloved baseball diamond.

What will Chuck's reaction be when he sees his new and "improved" baseball field?  Moreover, what will Peppermint Patty think of the condition of the field's condition when arrives with her team?  Will the new field help lead Chuck's team to their first ever victory?   

J.A. Morris says:

I'm pretty sure I caught this special when it was brand new in 1976.  It's a good introduction to conservation for children and it's a solid Peanuts special.

Lucy celebrates her first-ever homerun:"Another victory for Women's Lib!"
There are several moments that still make me laugh:Woodstock's encounter with a sprinkler, Snoopy's wrestling match with a creeping vine and Charlie Brown screaming "quitters" during the rain-out are highlights.

The baseball game is another high point.  Baseball is often referenced in Charlie Brown specials, but we rarely see them play a game.  Watching Chuck and Peppermint Patty's teams square off surrounded by cornfields and tomato plants provides us with some very entertaining action.

There are some minor subplots in It's Arbor Day.  The special opens up with a scene with Linus' brother Rerun () riding on the back of his mother's bicycle.  Rerun was a recent addition to the Peanuts comic strip and this was his animated debut.

We also get some funny scenes involving Snoopy and Woodstock (both voiced by Bill Melendez) at the library.  Snoopy finds some books about dog obedience that make him laugh loudly in the library, drawing the ire of the librarian.  Woodstock also has an unfortunate encounter with a photocopier.

The only problem I have with this special is Charlie Brown's voice.  Dylan Beach isn't terrible, but there's something not quite right about him.  According to imdb, this is Beach's only screen credit, so perhaps the producers shared my assessment.

On a sad note, this was the last special that featured new music from regular Peanuts contributor Vince Guaraldi.  He died shortly before this special aired and Charlie Brown specials were never quite the same.  But Guaraldi did some nice work here.  During the baseball game, we get some nice organ-based music that will make you feel like you're watching the game in a stadium.  

A chagrined Charlie Brown tries to explain the "improved" field to Peppermint Patty
 It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown has a nice story with action and humor.  It's provides a bit of education about Arbor Day and it also celebrates another uniquely American "holiday": opening day of baseball season!
For more information about Arbor Day (and conservation in general), check out the official site of the Arbor Day foundation:

J.A. Morris' rating:


3 and a half kite eating trees.

RigbyMel says: 
This special was seldom aired on tv, so I didn't get around to seeing it until it was released on DVD.   It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown is a very cute and fun special.   I like the educational aspects about Arbor Day and also the fact that Linus and Sally (as well as Snoopy and Woodstock) visit their local public library to do research.

The gang's impulse to plant and beautify is laudable, but one really does feel for Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty's distress at the transformation of the baseball field.

The transformed baseball diamond
There are some wonderful funny details included in this special,  like the use of baseball bats as tomato stakes.

Creative baseball bat useage
And also Snoopy's mirth over the dog obedience training book at the library and inadvertent photocopying of Woodstock are amusing.

Who knew dog obedience training books could be so funny?

I do detect a hint of (perhaps inadvertent) irony in a sequence involving Snoopy and Woodstock using a photocopier (and wasting paper) in a show about trees and conservation.

Age old photocopier silliness
Lucy's "victory for Women's Lib" is pretty funny as well.

My only real complaint would be a desire to see a compromise of some sort allowing the Peanuts gang to keep both the baseball field AND the lovely community garden they plant for Arbor Day!

This is a fun special that has been overlooked.  It's worth checking out on DVD or via Netflix if you've the time or inclination.

RigbyMel's rating:

3 (kite eating?)  trees


bga said...

I was totally unaware of this Charlie Brown special until seeing your blog. I wish I had known of it when I was teaching.

criminologists said...

arbor day is a day for planting tree, philippine arbor day is April 25...