A Valentine’s Day look at three Disneyland-Vista vinyl versions of two CBS TV Peanuts specials about Charlie Brown’s love for the little red-haired girl.
YOU’RE IN LOVE, CHARLIE BROWN
Charlie Brown Records #3705 (Disneyland-Vista) (12” 33 1/3 RPM LP With Read-Along Book / Mono)
Released in June, 1979. Producer: Jymn Magon, Warren Lockhart. Writer: Charles M. Schulz. Music: Vince Guaraldi. Arranger/Conductor: John Scott Trotter. Running Time: 22 minutes.
Voices: Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown); Sally Dryer (Lucy); Christopher Shea (Linus); Gai DeFaria (Peppermint Patty); Cathy Steinberg (Sally); Anne Altieri (Violet); Bill Melendez (Snoopy).
The fourth Peanuts special, You’re in Love Charlie Brown, gets surprising little airplay nowadays despite being one of Charles Schulz’s most beloved storylines. It’s one of the finest of the Peanuts half-hours, chock full of charm, humor and heartache, almost all culled from classic comic strips.
From this special we were first introduced to the “voice” of Charlie Brown’s teacher (presumably Miss Othmar), the “wah-wah’s” likely supplied by trombonist Chuck Bennett, who was a member of Vince Guaraldi’s ensemble in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. This voice eventually became an iconic way to render such characters, though adult voice actors did perform in the feature Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown and the This is America, Charlie Brown limited series.
This is the second special to contain an original song. “You’re in Love, Charlie Brown” is usually included as an instrumental on Peanuts musical compilations, but this is the only recording that presents the a capella version complete with “nyah-nyah” lyrics that, to paraphrase Charlie Brown, “just lie in your stomach and burn.”
The special epitomizes the Peanuts structure of early ’60s. Making her TV debut is Peppermint Patty, who with Snoopy would eventually put Charlie Brown in the position of an “anchor” character with Lucy and Linus in supporting roles. Also introduced are Charlie Brown’s visual torment by giant animated “HA-HA’s.” These elements of witty hyperbole would resurface in successive Peanuts projects that would never themselves achieve the same level of sly freshness.
Very little of the soundtrack was altered for the album, except for additional recorded material produced in 1978 (first released in the read-along below) required to explain action that cannot be seen. Though several 7-inch LP and cassette read-along Charlie Brown recordings were released after this title, this is the final 12-inch LP in the series. History-making Disneyland Records producer Jymn Magon (whose Grammy nominations included his work on Charlie Brown Records) recalled his experiences working on the series:
“I met Charles Schulz at his office in Santa Rosa, and I spoke to him on the phone a couple times. On August 22 (of 1980-something), I called to wish him a Happy Birthday for Peppermint Patty, and he chuckled, “I’d forgotten that!”
“There was much more contact with Warren Lockhart (president of Charles Schulz Creative Associates, managing the marketing and distribution of Peanuts merchandise worldwide with United Features Syndicate). He died six years ago.
“Good ol’ Charlie Brown… er, Schulz. When he died, he took the Peanuts gang with him. Nice man. He liked to write his own gags. Warren told me that one day on a golf course, he (Warren) cracked a joke about Charlie Brown. Schulz was pleasantly chagrined. “Dang. That’s good. I wish I could use it, but I didn’t come up with it.”
YOU’RE IN LOVE, CHARLIE BROWN
Charlie Brown Read-Along #405 (Disneyland-Vista) (7” 33 1/3 RPM LLP or Cassette Tape / Mono)
Released in October, 1978. Producer: Jymn Magon, Warren Lockhart. Writer: Charles M. Schulz. Music: Vince Guaraldi. Arranger/Conductor: John Scott Trotter. Running Time: 10 minutes.
Voices: Peter Robbins (Charlie Brown/Soundtrack); Arrin Skelley (Charlie Brown/Recording); Sally Dryer (Lucy/Soundtrack); Michelle Muller (Lucy/Recording); Christopher Shea (Linus); Bill Melendez (Snoopy).
IT’S YOUR FIRST KISS, CHARLIE BROWN
Charlie Brown Records (7” 33 1/3 RPM LLP / Mono)
Released in 1980. Producers: Jymn Magon, Warren Lockhart. Music: Ed Bogas, Judy Munsen. Running Time: 10 minutes.
Voices: Arrin Skelley (Charlie Brown); Laura Planting (Peppermint Patty); Michelle Muller (Lucy); Daniel Anderson (Linus); Bill Melendez (Snoopy).
Charles Schulz was the only person who ever wrote or drew the Peanuts comic strip. To this day, the strip that appears in newspapers is still sourced from his previous work. Schulz established specific, unbreakable rules for the strip, including that the Great Pumpkin did not really exist; Charlie Brown would never kick the football when Lucy offered to hold it for him; and that we would never see the little red-haired girl as her appearance was better left to our imaginations.
Schulz remained true to these and other caveats within his comic strip as the true canon. Anything to do with the characters outside those little newspaper squares were up for discussion and whimsical speculation, even if it moved outside with the strip’s “realities.”
That’s what happened in the 16th CBS TV special, 1977’s It’s Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown. The network and sponsors must have been concerned with the dwindling supply of holiday upon which to base new Peanuts specials, since the special that preceeded It’s Your First Kiss was It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown. Premises from the comics were still viable, but not as plentiful as in the past. The marketing for the 1977 feature film Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown even boasted that it was not based on any other Peanuts story or comic strip.
Revealing the visual identity—and the name—of the little red-haired girl was also a pure prime time attention-getting device in a television age of stunts, gimmicks and “very special episodes.” Though Schulz wrote the special, he had no input as to the look nor the name—Heather—of this landmark character.
The story had to have painted Schulz into a corner. Charlie Brown is placed in several contradictory positions. Throughout the story he is both a loser and a winner but never really true to form either way. He has a key position in a “big” football game; is for some reason assigned to dance with and kiss the homecoming queen; and according to Linus, becomes the life of the party (doing “the hustle, the bump and chicken and all those other new dances”). At the same time, he is publicly disgraced during the game by Lucy’s antics with the football—while it is painfully obvious even to small children that the losses are her fault. His triumph at the party (which seems out of character and off screen perhaps for that reason), is ultimately–and inexplicably—erased from his memory.
The football game was so frustrating for home viewers, some wrote letters, resulting in alterations to the broadcast soundtrack to mute Peppermint Patty’s insults. On the read-along however, her “Chuck, you can’t do anything right!” line can be heard. This may have been the one time in which viewers felt more like Charlie Brown than he did.