The first few, non-musical sequences of You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, available to own on DVD January 26, is done in a sort of mockumentary-style, with a fair minimum of actual story content before each musical number; I’m unclear as to whether or not some or all of the non-musical footage was either reused in other specials, or imported from them and reused here.
The basic premise of this musical Peanuts DVD, based on a Broadway musical by the same name, is that the gang from the popular comic strips perform sketches and musical numbers, with Chuck, Schrooeder, Lucy, Linus and Snoopy each getting a song spotlight after an the aforementioned introduction, which establishes the characters, giving anyone who isn’t familiar with the material (although, who that would be, I’m not sure) a primer on the characters and concepts that make Peanuts work. Some of them, like Charlie Brown’s horribly mean-spirited kite, get musical moments of their own.
One of the questions that I had going into an animated special based on a popular Broadway special—whether they would use the original musical cast or the voice actors that were so recognizable from two-plus decades of animated Peanuts specials—is answered quickly; they use the traditional voice actors, and to good effect, I think; I can’t quite place how a more typical Broadway-musical style would work with these characters onscreen. The notable exception, of course, is Snoopy’s song, since the dog doesn’t talk in most of the other cartoons. That said, the vocalist who sings that song is probably the most technically-proficient of all the singers on the special, but it still feels the most awkward and out-of-place.
The disc is fun enough, but doesn’t have the energy of some of the better specials; it really made me think that “Snoopy, Come Home” or “Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown” may not have had as many, or as sophisticated, musical numbers but having them intercut into the plot instead of standing alone like an episode of some juvenile variety show moves them along a lot better.