Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving is Better with Peanuts

Ah the age old days of holiday specials for families...we've seen Halloween and Christmas represented on this page, but what about Thanksgiving?  Thankfully, unlike films based around Thanksgiving, there are plenty of television shows and specials which have dabbled in Turkey Day.  It comes as no surprise then that Charles Schulz's iconic cartoon characters from his "Peanuts" comic strip would get in on the act.  It is a light and un-cynical little short that talks up the virtuous side of Thanksgiving without lingering any on the revisionist history that came about later on (namely, the real story of how "nicely" the Pilgrims treated the Native Americans and how well that group has been treated by white Americans since).  It might gloss over aspects that are unpleasent, but it is still an great example of wholesome and cute programing that doesn't feel dumbed down.  Come with me now and gather round the table with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving.

Charlie Brown is not having a very good Thanksgiving.  First, he is tricked AGAIN by Lucy into trying to kick a football and then falling down AGAIN when she pulls it away.  (Lucy coyly says that some traditions are worth keeping at the holidays.)  And then he is horrified to discover that Peppermint Patty has invited herself over to his home for Thanksgiving Dinner since her own father is out of town.  Charlie Brown isn't sure what he's supposed to do, because he and Sally are planning to go to their grandmother's home for dinner.  Linus suggests that rather than calling Patty back and disappointing her (especially since she has also invited Marcie and Franklin to dinner as well) that Charlie Brown simply have two dinners.  Paniced about not knowing how to make Thanksgiving dinner, Linus wisely suggests that he simply make what he knows.  So Charlie Brown, Linus, and Snoopy set to work making a Thanksgiving feast of popcorn, buttered toast, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans.  When Patty, Marcie, and Franklin arrive, Patty is shocked and then outraged at the spread and demands to know where's the turkey, the mashed potatoes, and the cranberry sauce?  Charlie Brown leaves, mortified, and Marcie chastises her for her rude behavior, reminding her that Charlie Brown did his best considering he did not actually invite any of them to dinner.  Patty realizes her mistake and begs Marcie to apologize to Charlie Brown.  Marcie does so, allowing Patty to apologize herself.  She realizes now that it is meant to be a holiday for gathering with loved ones and giving thanks...not about kind or quantity of food.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is a delightful little show full of classic "Peanuts" wit and humor.  The characters interact and collide in holiday appropriate ways and they all learn something by the end, which is the best way to do an animated holiday special.  Sure, we already know going in that someone is going to learn something about "the meaning of Thanksgiving" and how we have to "be thankful for what we have" but it's more about figuring out how the show is going to give us that lesson.  It was wise of the writers to not have Charlie Brown have this realization (otherwise it would just be a repeat of the Christmas episode) but rather Peppermint Patty, who is traditionally more ignorent of her surroundings and unaware of how her actions affect other people.  Marcie also has an excellent role as the person who makes the message clear to Patty, a reversal of her usual subserviant behavior regarding Patty.  The interaction of Snoopy and Woodstock is also up to the high "Peanuts" standards, with slapstick and friendship equally on display (a particularly touching moment is when Snoopy and Woodstock share a turkey and break the wishbone, with Woodstock taking the biggest part of the bone).  It is an excellent short and you should definately watch it this season if you can find a station playing it.  Watch it for the first time, or share it with those uninitiated.  It's old fashioned holiday fun for the whole family.

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