On Video, Charlie Brown!

Charles Schulz’s Charlie Brown characters are some of the most visible pop-culture icons in the world today. The comic strip ran for fifty years and is being reprinted in a comprehensive edition by Fantagraphics. A series of forty-some animated specials have won multiple awards over the past forty years. Snoopy advertises MetLife. These characters are familiar to millions. These animated specials — like A Charlie Brown Christmas — are part and parcel of the social fabric.

In some ways, Paramount Home Video has been a lot like Lucy, pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. Their releases have been nice, but they’ve also been sporadic, focusing solely on the major holidays. Outside of the biggies — A Charlie Brown Christmas, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, a couple of others — Paramount has never put any emphasis on releasing the animated specials on the DVD format. The vast back catalog? Things like It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown? Or What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? Not a chance.

That’s about to change. Warner Home Video has picked up the home video rights to the Peanuts library.

Under the terms of the agreement, WHV will exclusively distribute multiple Peanuts DVD titles, which include over 50 classic television specials and television series episodes. The first of these releases includes a deluxe edition of Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, scheduled for release on January 15, 2008, followed by a deluxe edition of It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, scheduled for release February 26, 2008. The titles will be offered to consumers completely re-mastered, in all-new deluxe editions, with newly created bonus features. Each title will feature a new updated look while maintaining the integrity and feel of classic Peanuts.

I think that Warner Home Video can work magic with the Peanuts specials. Some specials will be a tougher sell than others — does anyone really care about Arbor Day? — but with the obvious cultural appeal of the Charlie Brown characters, a healthy marketing push, and an entry-level pricing structure these specials can be enjoyed for years to come by a whole new generation of viewers.

The one I can’t wait for? What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?, the special in which Charlie Brown and Linus visit Flanders, and Linus recites “In Flanders Fields.” I also can’t wait to see Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don’t Come Back), the movie that preceeds What Have We Learned.

Warners, don’t yank the football away. :)

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