Peanuts Holiday Collection (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Oct 11, 2017
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Peanuts Holiday Collection (4K UHD Review)

Director

Bill Melendez, Various, Created by: Charles M. Schulz

Release Date(s)

1965-1992 (October 10, 2017)

Studio(s)

Lee Mendelson Films/Bill Melendez Productions/Peanuts Worldwide (Warner Bros.)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A-
  • Audio Grade: B
  • Extras Grade: B-

Peanuts Holiday Collection (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)

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Review

Growing up as a charter member of Generation X, I know from experience that Charles M. Schultz’s animated Peanuts TV specials were a highlight of every holiday season starting with the first one, A Charlie Brown Christmas, in 1965. Written by Schultz himself, directed by Bill Melendez (who had previously animated such shorts as 1950’s Gerald McBoing-Boing), and featuring music by the great jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, this special brought the classic newspaper strip to live and set the tone for many more such specials to come. Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s new 4K Ultra HD release of several of the best of these comes as a something of a surprise, but a welcome one indeed.

Breaking the contents of this Ultra HD package down is a little complicated, so bear with me. This 6-disc set contains 3 4K Ultra HD Blu-rays and 3 regular Blu-rays. The trick is that the contents aren’t exactly the same across the two formats. The Ultra HD discs include:

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Deluxe Edition (UHD)

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1
  • It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1
  • It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving: Deluxe Edition (UHD)

  • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1
  • The Mayflower Voyagers (1988 – from This Is America, Charlie Brown) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1
  • Play It Again, Charlie Brown (1971) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown: Deluxe Edition (UHD)

  • It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1
  • It’s Magic, Charlie Brown (1981) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1
  • Charlie Brown’s All-Stars! (1966) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1

Let me start by saying that the 1.78:1 widescreen presentations on these discs are simply not worth watching. Seriously, don’t even bother – just skip them. In order to create the widescreen framing, the original 4K image has been cropped tightly at a significant loss of resolution which defeats the whole point of the UHD format.

The great news, however, is that all 9 of these shorts are also available here as originally produced in their 1.33:1 TV broadcast aspect ratio… and these are indeed native 4K scans of the original film negatives that were completed in 2014 by Ron Smith and his team at Technicolor. The result is truly beautiful, warm looking and organically textured. All of these specials were traditionally hand-animated and shot on 35 mm film, so there isn’t the usual fine detail you’d find in live action footage. But there’s little doubt that you’re seeing all of the detail and texture that there is in the original animation. Grain texture is subtle, there’s only an occasional bit of dust or dirt visible, and you can actually see the subtle shadow caused by tiny gaps between the cel layers and backgrounds on the animation stand. In terms of High Dynamic Range, the HDR10 grade is a little different here. There aren’t the usual deep shadows and gleaming highlights you’d see in live action material. Instead, the HDR makes the darker colors and blacks a bit darker, and the bright colors and white a bit brighter. In between, all the colors are a bit more luminous and nuanced. The team actually compared their grading work to the original physical animation cels to make sure the colors were accurate. In terms of audio, all of these shorts feature English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mixes, with optional English subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. They’re exactly the same mixes you’ve gotten on Blu-ray – clarity is good, but surround use is very subtle. These specials were originally broadcast in Mono, though, so that’s certainly to be expected.

In terms of extras, this set is a little different. There are no extras on the actual 4K discs. As is usually the case with 4K releases, however, you also get the previous Blu-ray edition of the title in question. It’s worth noting that these discs don’t include the exact same shorts as the 4K discs do. Two of the BDs include only two shorts, but each BD does have a short bonus featurette carried over from previous DVD releases. Here’s the breakdown:

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Deluxe Edition (BD)

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1
  • It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown (1992) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1
  • It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown (1984) – 1.78:1 & original 1.33:1
  • A Christmas Miracle: The Making of a Charlie Brown Christmas (SD – 16:01)

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (BD)

  • A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973) – 1.33 only
  • The Mayflower Voyagers (1988 – from This Is America, Charlie Brown) – 1.33 only
  • Popcorn & Jellybeans: Making a Thanksgiving Classic (SD – 12:27)

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (BD)

  • It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (1966) – 1.33.1 only
  • It’s Magic, Charlie Brown (1981) – 1.33:1 only
  • We Need a Blockbuster, Charlie Brown! (SD – 13:58)

Of course, you also get paper insert with a Digital Copy code, though it doesn’t indicate which of the specials you get digitally or which versions (1.33 or 1.78). As far as these extras, I simply consider the BDs the bonus content in this set. It’s not a lot of material, obviously, but then that’s not why you’re buying these 4K discs anyway.

Fans of Peanuts should be delighted with this Ultra HD release. While 4K enthusiasts will never consider this reference level material, this is easily the best these classic animated shorts can likely ever look and it’s a presentation that far exceeds the original analog SD TV broadcasts we all grew up with. If this is an example of what classic animation can look like on this format, I would dearly love to see Warner Bros. Home Entertainment release the vintage Fleischer Studios Superman serials on Ultra HD. One thing is for damn sure: I’ll never watch A Charlie Brown Christmas in any other way than 4K again. Recommended for fans.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media at these links: Twitter and Facebook)

 

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