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Paramount Studios presents
It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown (2000)

"That does it! I don't want to hear about rats. Mice are all right. I can take mice. But not rats!"
- Sally

Review By: Dale Dobson   
Published: September 17, 2000

Stars: Charlie Brown, Snoopy
Other Stars: Sally
Director: Bill Melendez

Manufacturer: PDSC
MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (no objectionable content)
Run Time: 00h:25m:12s
Release Date: September 12, 2000
UPC: 097368394445
Genre: family

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer
B- D+C-B+ C

DVD Review

It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown is the most recent addition to the long line of Peanuts animated TV specials produced by the Lee Mendelson-Bill Melendez studio in association with the comic strip's creator, the late Charles M. Schulz. Inspired by the classic fairy tale (as told by Charlie Brown to his younger sister Sally), the 25-minute special casts Snoopy as the Pied Piper, hired to rid a town of "Sports Mice," actively athletic vermin infesting its streets, by playing his concertina. The town fathers refuse to pay Snoopy his contracted year's worth of dog food after the work is done, and the beagle exacts his revenge, leading to a simple lesson about keeping one's promises.

If the story weren't credited to Mr. Schulz and directed by Bill Melendez, I would swear someone unworthy had stolen the reins on this one. The production violates several core precepts of the Peanuts universe and plays more like a generic animated special than a true member of the family. The biggest misstep is the inclusion of adult characters in the story, fully-voiced (no more "wah-wah-wah") and rendered in a style that brings Schoolhouse Rock to mind more readily than Schulz's distinctively freehand artwork. Worse, the adults refer to Charlie Brown as a "little kid," which, while true, undermines the Everyman nature of the philosophical comic strip; the adult perspective backfires badly, pinning a concrete age on Charlie Brown and treating Snoopy as an ordinary dog. The very nature of our favorite characters is also modified—Charlie Brown actually gets aggressive when he tries to force the Mayor to honor his promise, Snoopy stands meekly by his side, and the other Peanuts characters are only featured briefly as part of the framing device. The story plays well enough in its way, but the material seems better suited to The Smurfs or My Little Pony than Peanuts.

Also disappointing is the technical quality of the animated production. While the rhythmic "bopping" walk cycles and simple backgrounds of the classic Peanuts specials are retained, there are a few perspective shots that look downright ugly—Schulz's characters really aren't designed to be seen from an angle, and attempts to animate them this way look awkward and clumsy. There's also some terrible lip-synch during a song at the end of the special, so far off that one suspects "Pigpen" smudged the dopesheets beyond recognition.

Peanuts enjoyed a long and successful life in all its incarnations, and so many specials were produced that a few clunkers were bound to turn up. But It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown clunks and rattles from beginning to end; as the last special produced under Schulz's supervision before his passing, it's a letdown to say the least.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: D+


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown is presented in its original 1.33:1 full-frame made-for-television aspect ratio. Unfortunately, the special runs at television's 30 frames per second, interlaced, rather than the apparent 24 fps speed of the underlying animation. The interlacing seems to cause compression problems in several scenes, with significant edge "ringing" artifacts and other digital noise that shouldn't be present in a 25-minute special on a 36-minute disc. Color is solid, and the digitally-composed content is completely speck-free, but the image isn't up to current standards for DVD animation; one wishes a frame-steady, non-interlaced digital transfer had been made.

Image Transfer Grade: C-


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishno

Audio Transfer Review: Paramount presents It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown with a Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround soundtrack, transferred from the broadcast audio track. Vince Guaraldi's classic Peanuts jazz themes are sadly missing from this release, which opts instead for David Benoit's folk-music inspired fiddle pieces. Dialogue, music and sound are clear and well-presented, and there are no major flaws in the digital transfer, but there's nothing special or out-of-the-ordinary either. Competent but uninspired.

Audio Transfer Grade: B+


Disc Extras

Static menu
Scene Access with 5 cues
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Featurette(s)
Packaging: Amaray
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: single

Extra Extras:
  1. Retrospective Interview with Charles M. Schulz
Extras Review: Aside from 5 picture-menu chapter stops and English subtitles, the only extra Paramount provides is an 11-minute "Retrospective Interview with Charles M. Schulz." The interview is quite interesting, covering Peanuts' history as a newspaper strip and in animated form, with lots of interesting memories from the late Mr. Schulz that bring this grade up significantly. But the documentary isn't specific to Pied Piper, leading me to believe it's readily available on other, better Peanuts DVD releases.

Extras Grade: C


Final Comments

It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown is a very weak entry in the long-running series of Peanuts specials, violating some of the series' long-standing conventions to detrimental effect. Die-hard fans may need to own this disc; it's rental or complete avoidance for everyone else.


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