Merry Christmas, Flashbeagle!

As an adult, my interest in Christmas comes and goes, comparing any given year to another. Some years, I just don’t feel it.

This year, I feel relatively positive about (essentially secular eclectic) Christmas. Life, and the world, are in interesting places, about which more can be said another time. But relatively not terrible. Christmas demands upon me are few, and I am pleased with the modest activities that I choose. My cards are coming along. I found some nice things for the small number of people to whom I give presents. I didn’t leap into the task of putting up decorations, but I feel an odd satisfaction this year each time I look at my little Charlie Brown Christmas tree, even though I have changed nothing about the set-up in years.

Speaking of Charlie Brown and Christmas, this weekend I splurged on my own copy of the classic TV special.

I have thought about this over the years, and never quite wanted to spend the money on something which I only want to watch once per year, which is reliably televised for free around that time. But I suppose that 1) I really only want to watch it when I feel like watching it, not within ~10 days of that; 2) ABC’s cutting of scenes in order to squeeze in an extra commercial was really starting to bug me; and 3) the price was pretty reasonable at last.

On balance it was very reasonable, in fact, providing DVD and blu-ray versions of the Charlie Brown Christmas, the forgettable sequel, and Flashbeagle. That last basically made the whole purchase worthwhile, I have now decided.

It was not part of my initial calculation. I bought this to watch a good presentation of the Charlie Brown Christmas. I got to see that. In fact, while I questioned the idea of a blu-ray release upon first hearing of it, the truth is that the background artwork in particular had a lot of textural detail which I certainly never saw on low-res standard definition TV broadcasts growing up. It occurs to me that generally speaking, no one saw this special with this kind of picture quality until HD sets came along after it had already been airing for well more than 30 years.

Otherwise, though, it’s the Charlie Brown Christmas. I don’t have any new observations to add this year.

However I do feel compelled to write a bit about the novelty of watching It’s Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown once again in 2018.

Its inclusion with this package definitely seems random. If someone wanted to round things out with a third special, I might have expected the ice-skating one (She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown). Flashbeagle looks to have received nothing like the restoration work of the main feature, further suggesting a lot of indifference behind its inclusion.

Yet I have to say, this seems like a hidden gem.

Unlike the Charlie Brown Christmas, I cannot have seen even a second of Flashbeagle for at least 25 years, at a guess. I did see it, way back when (I was six years old when it debuted). I suspect that I saw it a lot, at some point, probably on a VHS copy recorded from television. I remembered much of the special.

I did not necessarily remember all of the scenes as appearing in Flashbeagle, however. The binder scene—! I would rank this scene as a classic out of the whole history of Peanuts animation, and it was in Flashbeagle; go figure. I’m not a Peanuts superfan by any stretch, but if there’s a deep popular appreciation for Flashbeagle, it escaped me (and apparently the people who make decisions about what to package on DVD and with how much effort).

After watching it, I saw something on IMDb to the effect that some fans subtract points from this one for its lack of any message or moral. Certainly there is no moral, or poignant observation about life, or even much of a storyline. Flashbeagle’s “story” is basically: Snoopy has taken to partying until dawn, and sleeping halfway through the day, and continues doing so.

Around this nonexistent story, Flashbeagle arranges various mostly unrelated song-and-dance scenes, a few gag sequences, and Charlie Brown complaining. That’s about it.

It is glorious.

The songs are fun. The gags are delightfully zany. There was no discernable point to Flashbeagle except to amuse, and this seems to have worked well!

There is a bonus novelty element or two, admittedly, watching it now in 2018. As noted, it stirred memories probably 25 years old or more. Also it’s such a wondrous artifact of the exact time it was created, it’s almost like opening a 1984 time capsule.

The aerobics outfits. The boom boxes. The (glaringly tokenish) African American kid breakdancing. The scene of Snoopy choosing his outfit for his big night out at the disco feels almost self-aware, so intense is its zeitgeist: after trying on a smart looking Saturday Night Fever leisure suit look, Snoopy discards it for a torn-up sweatshirt, as though thinking “that look just went out; this is what’s coming in.”

In an odd way, meanwhile, I’m ever so slightly reminded of the Ghost in the Shell sequel Innocence. While a far deeper film than Flashbeagle, Innocence is almost decadent in comparison with other Ghost in the Shell stories. Yet it’s beautiful and satisfying and if it is decadent I kind of like that; Innocence makes me think that there’s a point right at the threshold of decadence which, depending on tastes, becomes rich and wondrous in a way that purer work cannot.

Maybe. At all events I do know that not every animated outing for Peanuts was a classic, and that there’s a long list of TV specials out of which just two or three are really regarded as approaching important-work status. I don’t think that Flashbeagle approaches that status at all.

But it delights at both age 10 and age 40, so, that’s something.

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