It wouldn’t be the festive season without a visit from the Peanuts gang. Spending time with Charlie Brown, Snoopy and friends is a holiday tradition for many with beloved classics such as ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ and ‘It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown’ annual appointment viewing. Every year, I always kick off my festive movie marathon with Charlie Brown and Linus pondering the true meaning of Christmas, watching it more times than I could possibly remember. Even though I’m from the UK, where Peanuts doesn’t have quite the same following as it does stateside, it doesn’t feel like Christmas has truly begun until I hear that opening score of smooth jazz from the Vince Guaraldi Trio filling my living room.
Since debuting on TV+, I’ve been a big fan of what Apple has done with the Peanuts name and corresponding library. Having all of the specials in one place and restored in higher resolutions has been a joy, with the recent ‘Snoopy Show’ and ‘Snoopy In Space’ series’ retaining that same classic, comforting Peanuts vibe when it would have been tempting to take the new material in a completely different direction. Additionally, the feature-length documentary 'Who Are You, Charlie Brown?' which joined the Apple TV+ library earlier this year forms a brilliant love letter to Charles M. Schulz legacy and the Peanuts story.
‘For Auld Lang Syne’ is the first new holiday special to come from Apple’s partnership with WildBrain and the first Peanuts special to be released since 2011’s ‘Happiness Is a Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown’, which aired on FOX. Any new release after such an extended period of time was always going to come with high expectations and a certain level of anticipation. This new adventure; thankfully, not only honours the Peanuts legacy and provides plenty of fan service, but also offers something fresh and original and is sure to help capture a whole new generation of Charlie Brown and Snoopy fans.
Written by Alex Galatis, Scott Montgomery and Clay Kaytis, who also directs, the story sees Lucy experience a disappointing Christmas because her Grandma couldn’t visit. She becomes determined to bounce back and throw the best New Year’s Eve party ever for the entire gang and runs into a few hiccups along the way. Charlie Brown, meanwhile, struggles to accomplish just one of his resolutions before the clock strikes twelve and Snoopy and his visiting siblings celebrate a family reunion and struggle to take the perfect holiday photo.
It’s great to see Lucy take centre stage here, offering up a fresh perspective. Charlie Brown, Snoopy and all of your other favourite characters are still very much present and there’s multiple storylines involving them that weave throughout the 38 minute run time - but this is Lucy’s story and it delivers some excellent character development and one or two emotional hits that I wasn’t quite expecting. We also get to see a bit more of Linus than usual and there’s a few very funny moments involving him and his trademark security blanket which had me grinning from ear to ear. There’s plenty of laughs throughout that will entertain kids and adults alike as well as nods to longtime fans, a few moments of typical Peanuts melancholy and a heartfelt, uplifting message.
As heartwarming and enjoyable as the story is, the animation is the highlight here and it’s absolutely gorgeous. Animation director Justin Smith and the rest of the team have kept the classic Schulz art style very much alive whilst also giving it a modern twist thanks to today's advances in animation without detracting from the familiar feel of what's come before. The result is a rich and inviting world that I wanted to spend much more time in brought to life by some of the best looking animation seen this year. The vivid colours, warm hues and lifelike lighting linger over every scene and the cozy, detailed backgrounds really convey that festive feeling resulting in a comforting hug. It’s evident that a painstaking level of detail has gone into creating ‘For Auld Lang Syne’ and that everyone who has worked on this has a real love for Peanuts and all of the comic-strips and specials that have come before it. The beautiful artwork and new animation will also appeal to all, but especially younger fans, possibly being introduced to Peanuts for the first time. Peanuts veterans will find themselves hitting pause more than a few times to admire this next chapter in the franchise - and I for one truly can’t wait to see what comes next from everyone involved.
It may have been ten years since the last Peanuts special was released, but the team at Wildbrain have kept that same magic alive. An excellent addition to the library and a gift of a special that can rightfully sit alongside the likes of ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ and any of your other favourites that have come before. 'For Auld Lang Syne' is one Peanuts special that is sure to become part of your annual festive viewing rotation for years to come.
James has been a fan of Apple for as long as he can remember. He is a film & TV obsessive and has also written for several publications such as BBC Good Food Magazine. He lives in Glasgow, Scotland and can usually be found drinking copious amounts of coffee, watching Apple TV+ and talking about it with anyone who will listen.