A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)

Even if you can’t stand sports or watching competitions on TV, you know how they end. The camera celebrates the winner. That’s why this lovely, lovely moment at the end of A Boy Named Charlie Brown remains one of my all-time favorite gags in any movie. Charlie Brown has blown it, again, and instead of showing the triumph of the kid who won the spelling bee, the camera focuses on the first loser. The winner is completely forgotten. Lucy – voiced by the wonderful Pamelyn Ferdin – switches off the TV to rant at her friends, turns it back on, and the focus is still on Charlie. It slays me every time. They should try that the next Super Bowl just to drive home how downright mean this is.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown is 51 years old. It probably didn’t feel that downright mean then. Just to put that in perspective, 51 years before that, we were trying to wrap up World War One. I’m fascinated by the way society moves and changes and evolves. Since our culture shifted the way we teach children from “stand up to bullies” to “don’t bully” – I’m not sure why it took so long for us to figure this out – Lucy comes across very differently today than she did in the 1970s and 1980s.

Another little thing that comes across differently to this family just in the last couple of months is that our son has mostly retired his security blanket. Regular readers have seen me mention his little blue blanket, named Bict, several times over the years. For a while, it was joined by several other stuffed animals. But those only watched TV with him for a few months until only Bict remained, and one day in the spring we realized Bict wasn’t with him anymore. Bict stays in bed for cuddling when he sleeps.

Poor Linus may never get to that stage. One day without his own little blue blanket and he’s a mess. He gives it to Charlie Brown for luck, and unable to stand its absence, he and Snoopy take a bus to New York City to find it. The idea of a kindergarten kid staying out all night looking in trash cans in the alleys around the NYPL might just be one of the most fanciful things we’ve ever seen.

I’ve always liked this movie and it holds up very well. I like the musical detours and the interesting changes to the animation and art direction when it leaves the plot behind for Schroder’s concerto and Snoopy’s game of hockey. Our son was really amused by the slapstick and silliness, but had his heart broken a little when Charlie Brown flops in the end. He was really getting into the spelling bee, too. We made sure to tell him afterward that real national spelling bees go on for a whole lot longer than the four or five minutes this one takes. They’re more like dance marathons than the Super Bowl, aren’t they?

Our son has seen some of the other Peanuts movies and most of the TV specials. I’d been saving the best one for last and I’m glad that he enjoyed it. He says that it’s the best of all of them – I’d say it’s probably joint first with the Christmas special, honestly – and added it to his DVD collection with a smile. He’ll be getting another of the old paperbacks for his next road trip next month. In fairness, he doesn’t quite enjoy Peanuts as much as Garfield, but a new-to-him book of strips is just the right thing for a long car trip.