Weren’t we just watching the Grinch steal Christmas, Frosty the Snowman say, “Happy Birthday!” and Charlie Brown try to decorate a sad, little Christmas tree?
How is it Valentine’s Day already? Regardless, here we are in the second month of the year. While Valentine’s Day does not bring with it the stellar list of animated TV specials that we associate with Christmas, several of them do provide entertaining, seasonal enjoyment.
As I did for Halloween and Christmas, I wrote an article last year on animated Valentine’s Day TV specials. And, much as they did for the other seasons, Cartoon Research readers offered up some fun, additional choices for Valentine’s Day viewing.
So, thanks to them, here are three other “Love”-ly animated TV special choices, for you and yours to enjoy this Valentine’s Day:
You’re In Love Charlie Brown (1967) – Suggested by DBenson
This Peanuts special isn’t set on Valentine’s Day (it takes place at the end of the school year), but it might as well be, as it centers so much on “first crushes,” along with the pain of heartbreak.
As the school year comes to an end, Charlie Brown desperately wants to get the attention of his classmate, the Little-Red-Haired-Girl, whom he pines for. He accidentally embarrasses himself in front of his entire class when he reads a note that he was writing to her out loud to the whole class instead of his book report.
He plans on talking to her during lunch but can’t muster the courage and plans to speak to her on the school bus the next day, but he oversleeps, misses the bus, and winds up in the principal’s office.
However, just as summer vacation is about to start, and all looks lost, Charlie Brown receives a note that reads: “I like you, Charlie Brown,” and it’s signed “Little-Red-Haired-Girl.”
Airing on June 12, 1967, on the heels of the blockbusters A Charlie Brown Christmas in ’65 and Great Pumpkin in ‘66, You’re in Love Charlie Brown has the same feel as those early classics, probably because the same team was involved with this special.
Many familiar voices are back, including Peter Robbins as Charlie Brown, Sally Dryer as Lucy and Christopher Shea as Linus, as well as the soothing music of Vince Guaraldi.
Director Bill Melendez and producer Lee Mendelson once again capture the look and tone of Charles Schulz’ iconic comic strip. This is seen in character design and backgrounds and in stylistic choices and humor: when the class laughs at Charlie Brown, giant “HA HA HAs” appear on screen, just as they would in the comic panels. Also, when Lucy gets angry at Schroeder and destroys his piano and bust of Beethoven, there’s a great sight gag when Schroeder calmly gets up and walks over to two nearby closets where a backup supply of the miniature piano and bust are waiting.
Most of all, You’re in Love Charlie Brown also captures the messages and philosophies that Schulz would always convey. This special touches upon those universally relatable moments of low self-esteem and the pain of unrequited love.
You’re in Love Charlie Brown ends with an exuberant Charlie Brown (after receiving the note), pausing as he realizes he won’t see the Little-Red-Haired-Girl until fall, saying, “Good Grief! How will I LIVE until September?!” That hits straight through the heart whether you’re in grade school or beyond.
The Pink Panther in: Pink at First Sight (1981) – Suggested by Top Cat James
One of the more episodic, at times surreal, and downright bizarre TV specials you’re bound to see, but even with all of that, The Pink Panther in Pink at First Sight is watchable for all of those reasons.
Poor Pink Panther finds himself alone and broke on Valentine’s Day. He dreams of having a Valentine and sees visions of a lovely female Pink Panther everywhere he looks. He accidentally receives a singing Valentine’s Day telegram and a gift (of what looks like lingerie) delivered to him that was meant for someone else.
Returning the gift to the delivery service, Pink Panther tries to get a job but doesn’t pass the rehearsal to prove he can entertain. To solve this, the Panther goes to a record store and purchases a cassette of the opera Pagliacci. Lip-synching to this, he gets a job and delivers Valentine’s Day gifts.
His night of deliveries includes tangling with a jealous husband, a classically trained violinist, and a crime boss. There’s also a scene where Pink Panther hallucinates while on laughing gas and another sequence where he pretends to sing, sounding a lot like Dean Martin.
It all ends well, however, when Pink Panther finally meets the Valentine’s dream girl he has fantasized about throughout the special and walks off with her in slow motion.
All of these eclectic plot points in Pink at First Sight, are pulled together by director Bob Richardson in the first cartoon that served as a co-production between Marvel Productions and Depatie-Freleng (in 1981, DFE was sold to Marvel). It was also the first Pink Panther cartoon from the studio without Friz Freleng’s involvement.
Pink at First Sight, which aired on Valentine’s Day, 1981, sometimes comes off as a bit of a fever dream. Still, the familiar DePatie-Freleng style and well-crafted pantomime animation of the Pink Panther bring back reassuring TV cartoon memories.
The Berenstain Bears’ Comic Valentine (1982) – Suggested by Justin Knox
From the popular children’s book series by Stan and Jan Berenstain about a bear family comes this comforting animated Valentine’s Day special, which initially aired on February 13, 1982.
Like the books, this special is told in rhyme and focuses on the son, Brother Bear, who is trying to prepare for a big upcoming hockey game but is distracted by Valentines he keeps receiving from his secret admirer, Honey Bear. Meanwhile, Papa Bar tries to create the perfect Valentine’s Day gift for Mama Bear, and Little Sister plays cupid with the recluse, Bigfoot-like bear, Big Paw.
Directed by Mordicai Gerstein and Al Kouzel, The Berenstain Bears’ Comic Valentine captures the look of the artwork in the books, translating it well to animation. There’ an especially nice opening prologue where the Bear family take us through the different seasons of the year, as well as a humorous moment at the conclusion when Big Paw finally finds love.
Also, like the authors’ books, there’s a nice message, this time around acceptance and the true meaning of love.
While it’s obviously intended for younger audiences, The Berenstain Bears’ Comic Valentine has an innocence and sweetness that, like all the Berenstain Bears’ stories, has made it a favorite for generations.
There they are – three more animated specials from another time, each one, in their own style, getting right to the heart of Valentine’s Day.