Animation Cel-ebration
October 3, 2022 posted by Michael Lyons

A “Camp”-y Film: The 45th Anniversary of “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown”

“It’s my new wilderness adventure! The entire ‘Peanuts’ gang faces everything from bullies, to rampaging rapids, ‘Good Grief,’ will you have fun!”

This is what the movie poster for Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown declared; words splashed across the top of the one-sheet shouted by Charlie Brown in the form of a comic strip voice balloon. While paying its respects to Peanuts’s comic panel roots, the poster announced that Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown would be a big adventure for ol’ “Chuck” and the gang.

In the film, they wouldn’t be getting rocks for Halloween or decorating a doghouse for Christmas. They would be getting out of the neighborhood!

Celebrating its 45th anniversary this year, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, follows Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Peppermint Patty, Sally, Marcie, Schroeder, and Snoopy as they all head off to summer camp – “Camp Remote” to be exact,

When they arrive, they all must deal with a trio of bullies and their cat, Brutus. It’s these villainous bullies that Charlie Brown and the gang face off against in a raft race.

They are broken into teams: Charlie Brown, Linus, Schroeder, and Franklin, with Peppermint Patty, Marcie, Sally, and Lucy in another, and Snoopy and Woodstock in the third team.

Of course, the bullies attempt to cheat to win the raft race that comprises the third act of Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown. Does one of the Peanuts’ teams win? No spoilers here.

This very adventurous aspect separates Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, from other Peanuts outings. We not only get scenes with the gang challenging river rapids but Snoopy on a motorcycle (in an Easy Rider parody) and a scene where Charlie Brown and friends camp out overnight, where it snows (it’s never stated what time of year there in) and there’s talk of procuring a Christmas tree (it seems to always come back to holidays with the Peanuts gang!).

The screenplay for Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, was written by the creator of Peanuts, Charles Schulz – who wrote every Charlie Brown TV special and feature film in his lifetime. According to IMDb, Schulz went river rafting on the Rogue River in Oregon to do research for the film. But even though there is this bigger screen feeling, there’s still the Peanuts spirit at heart.

Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown opened on August 24th, 1977, at the tail-end of “Star Wars Summer” and was a moderate box-office success, with some critics giving the film less-than-glowing reviews. In The New York Times, Janet Maslin called the film “…a series of droll blackout sketches, many of them ending with the obligatory ‘Good Grief!’…

However, it was home video and the early days of home video that allowed Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown to benefit from repeat viewings and become embraced by a generation. The film came out on VHS and Betamax (!) in 1979. It was also the first movie released on RCA’s now-defunct electronic disc (CED) format.

It’s that generation, and others who had discovered since, that look back fondly on Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown, when the Peanuts gang left the neighborhood to face everything from “bullies to rampaging rapids.”

“Good Grief!” It was fun.

 

19 Comments

  • “Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown!” also had a long afterlife as a Saturday afternoon TV movie, which is how I became acquainted with it. Brutus the cat reminded me of having read somewhere that in the comic strip, Snoopy’s nemesis the cat next door was never seen because Schulz couldn’t draw cats. Maybe Bill Melendez helped him out with designing Brutus; the cat certainly fit the style of the cartoon.

    It was nice to see Charlie Brown finally feeling good about himself in the end — just before the camp bus drove off without him. But then life’s always snatching the poor guy’s football away, isn’t it?

  • Would rather have had a retrospective for the five-oh of Snoopy, Come Home! myself.

    Back when they were regularly issuing original “Peanuts” comic books, Boom! Publishing put out a rather odd graphic novel version of this film, where they not only made changes to the plot and switched characters out for others, but actually had Chuck stand up to the bully trio throughout the book (!)

  • The Polish release of this film had one of the most hilariously, disturbingly off-model posters ever:

    https://www.etsy.com/listing/1017294191/race-for-your-life-charlie-brown

    • Wow, no kidding! That’s really ugly, they couldn’t use the comics for reference right.

  • I vividly remember seeing this in the theater. That summer, my family had gone camping and I had taken along cassettes to entertain myself, as I was an only child and not that outdoorsy at all. Before the vacation, I had recorded the audio of various things from TV, including the CBS presentation of A Boy Named Charlie Brown. This was before portable tape decks were popular, and I listened to it with a single ear plug connected to a desktop cassette player. I had seen trailers and commercials for Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown and concocted so many various scenarios of what the story would entail that summer, while sitting by a lake, listening to his previous adventure out of town at the spelling bee. I think memories like these are a testament to the quality of the material.
    BTW-No Spoilers, Michael? Maybe not in the text…😁

  • While I enjoyed this movie, it is surprising, yet saddening, that a movie called STAR WARS outshined this movie at the box office! History repeated itself in 1980 when THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (as well as the original FAME [yes it got remade in 2009] and SUPERMAN 2) outshined BON VOYAGE CHARLIE BROWN (AND DON’T COME BACK!) at the box-office. Let’s not forget that in 2015, when THE PEANUTS MOVIE came out, STAR WARS EPISODE 7: THE FORCE AWAKENS outshined the movie. This comes to show, that Peanuts movies are no match for Star Wars movies.

    • Star Wars and TESB are the greatest movies ever. TFA is not, so The Peanuts should’ve outshone it (I saw both in theaters).

  • I’ve had mixed feelings about this film. I saw it on the Disney Channel once upon a time, and our family rented it on video, but I’ve never sought it out for rewatching the same way as the previous two Peanuts features. The first is almost a perfect encapsulation of the strip and its philosophy while the second has the music of the Sherman Brothers to enliven what becomes a meandering road movie.

    This film, however, starts off with a solid premise that had already been introduced in the strip in several good storylines (the kids going to summer camp) and then takes them far out of their element with that river race. The amount of peril the characters face reaches a point where I as a viewer start to be taken out of the film and wonder ‘where the hell are the adults?’

    Of course, the next feature would take it two steps further, and again have mixed results.

    • All Peanuts are “Where the hell are the adults?”. Not supposed to be taken seriously.

      • Perhaps, but for me it was one thing to have no adults visible when it’s just kids making their own fun and activities in the neighborhood, it was another when you have them going down a dangerous river with rapids, waterfalls, etc.

        I felt the same way when I first saw the motocross-themed special ‘You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown’ during the part where Charlie Brown and Snoopy (disguised as the Masked Marvel) both wipe out and Snoopy gets taken to the Hospital while Charlie Brown gets dumped at the Veterinarian.

        YMMV, of course.

  • Nicely quotable.
    “I think… I think… I’ve got it! I’ve got it! Let’s go! Let’s go!
    “Don’t you know anything? They’re talking about mountain climbing! Mountain climbers chain each other, so if one falls, they all fall!”
    “Where are the huevos rancheros?”
    Thanks for drawing detailed attention to a little-acknowledged yet fondly recalled gem of a film.

  • A big part of my childhood. Excellent addition to the Peanuts repertoire!

  • I’ll always this remember this film as the first time I ever heard the Moonlight Sonata.

  • At this point, the Peanuts specials were starting to have Saturday Morning cartoon plots (Charlie Brown racing in the motocross, Snoopy has a nightmare about being a sled dog, Snoopy runs away and joins the circus, the kids compete in the Junior Olympics), and Race For Your Life, Charlie Brown and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown are probably the two biggest departures from what made Peanuts work. Even when Schulz tried to get his shows back on track by doing two specials and a Saturday Morning cartoon directly drawn from the strip, I think the damage had been done, and the specials’ reputation never recovered from this period’s outings. They’re entertaining, mostly well-animated, but they lack that certain something, the pessimism bordering on nihilism and introspection that defined the first two decades of Peanuts.

    • I wouldn’t call some of those storylines “saturday morning plots” espeically “What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown” which was a bit more tense than what was going on Saturday shows( it was reportingly based on a dream Schulz had). I still thought there were some interesting highlights such as the two animation adaptions of the off-Broadway shows, the New Years special, and probably one of the most serious specials, “Why, Charlie Brown, Why?”.

  • GALEN FOTT, you were not lying. Thanks for that.

    I saw this in the theater when I was quite young. I remember the colors seemed especially vivid, and the outdoors racing and action was very exciting. I saw it for the first time again maybe 13 years ago and was not nearly as impressed. I’m going to try it again now however, as I think my appreciation for classic animation is more nuanced, even though this isn’t a golden age example. Thanks for the writeup!

  • Fascinatingly, there is still a ride themed around this cartoon at an amusement park in Cincinnati, OH. I don’t know why. I remember RFYLCB fondly but didn’t think it had become a classic…

    https://youtu.be/IH0Q3aMa74I

  • One of the movies that frequently aired on Cartoon Network.

    https://youtu.be/eo6tMzkrGjk

  • Perhaps I should remind everyone that a lot of the music from the later Peanuts TV specials was released on 2 volumes in 2007 and 2008. A 3rd volume was “coming soon”.

    And then nothing.

    Today only a few (think less than 10) copies are to be found at any time, with each for 100 dollars and above. Far above. No one reissued 1 and 2. No one released 3. It is Current Year now. No reissues. No volume 3.

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