It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown (1976)

Starring: Dylan Beach
Grade: B-

When Charlie Brown is on the verge of giving up on his team for messing up his field completely, do you know what Schroeder’s words of encouragement are?

“Beethoven never gave up!”

Somebody slap this dumbass kid.


With Charlie Brown (Dylan Beach) alongside him, Linus (Liam Martin) fixes his mother’s bike and places his little brother Rerun (Vinnie Dow) on the backseat, as he usually rides with his mother for her errands. His mother swears by the workout, though she’s not great at steering. Breaking the fourth wall, Rerun says she only hit four parked cars yesterday. So, the good news is that she’s getting better, I guess. Continuing, Rerun talks about all of his mom’s errands for the day, with the last one being the Arbor Day Committee Meeting.

Besides Arbor Day being mentioned, this meeting does not factor into the plot whatsoever.

In class, Sally (Gail M. Davis) does not want to be called on because she isn’t prepared, but she is as soon as she’s done saying this to another classmate. She’s asked what Arbor Day is, so a confident Sally explains that it’s the day when “all the ships come sailing into the arbor”. Of course, this is met with laughter by the rest of the class and she’s very embarrassed. After school, she explains what happened to Linus and how her teacher is now making her do a complete report on Arbor Day. To help, Linus says they can find some books at the library on the subject, and she appreciates it, mostly because she’s still madly in love with him. Snoopy (Bill Melendez) and Woodstock follow the two to the library, and Snoopy laughs hysterically while finding the book Obedience Training for Dogs (along with a couple more related titles). After being told to be quiet, Snoopy photocopies a few passages from the books but accidentally gets Woodstock caught in the machine and photocopies a picture of him too. Following this, both animals are kicked out. Meanwhile, Linus and Sally study together in the library. As Linus reads from the book he found, Sally writes notes. This is where Linus explains that Arbor Day is “spent on different days in different states, throughout the springtime month”. The first Arbor Day was April 10th, 1872 in Nebraska. The main idea behind the holiday is conservation, and the need to maintain and protect certain areas of our natural forest and woodlands. The word “Arbor” means tree, so this is a day dedicated to trees and their natural beauty and preservation. Sally flirts with him throughout his reading of the book and interrupts to say that they should find a tree and sit under it together. Then, they can hold hands, talk, and look into each other’s eyes. Unsurprisingly, Linus freaks and runs out of the library. Sally chases him and continues to suggest dating ideas.

Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty (Stuart Brotman) sit under a tree together nearby and notice the two running. Peppermint Patty doesn’t understand love and asks for Charlie Brown to explain it to her. He gives her a rather simple response:

“I can recommend a book, or a painting, or a song, or a poem, but I can’t explain love.”

When she presses further, Charlie Brown tries his best to give her a hypothetical scenario, but she immediately gets offended because he describes this fictional girl as “cute”, with Peppermint Patty arguing for girls with freckles and big noses. Going along with it, Charlie Brown describes this fictional girl as having a “great big nose”, but this description pisses off Peppermint Patty more, and she yells at him for it. Next, she changes the subject to baseball. She brings up their schedule for the new season and talks about how many times they’re facing each other and how they’re going to kick his ass. The season is starting in a couple of weeks, so they shake hands over it for good luck. Of course, Peppermint Patty thinks he’s flirting with her because their hands touched, with her saying that he knows more about love than what he led on. Later, Sally, Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock all walk together with gardening equipment, and Lucy (Sarah Beach) stops them to ask what they’re doing. Quoting J. Sterling Morton, who Sally exclaims to a confused Lucy was an early voice for conservation, she explains the basics of Arbor Day and how important it is to plant something. Lucy is intrigued and follows them to Charlie Brown’s baseball field, which Sally deduces as the perfect place to start planting stuff. Linus thinks it’s a bad idea to fuck up the baseball field without consulting Charlie Brown first, but Lucy argues this isn’t necessary and he should be happy they’re sprucing things up. She tells Sally and Snoopy to start planting and takes Linus with her to grab some more stuff.

Peppermint Patty calls Charlie Brown to remind him that their first game will be on his field, and she hopes it’s in good shape. He goes outside to check and runs into Linus and Lucy, with them walking a wagon containing a tree and more gardening equipment. Lucy tells him they’re going to fix up the field for him but doesn’t tell him any of the details on how they’re going to do it. When Linus tries to interrupt to say what’s actually going on, Lucy cuts him off and doubles down. An excited Charlie Brown goes back inside to call back Peppermint Patty with a report and says everything will be ready for the first game. Meanwhile, Snoopy and Woodstock are planting seeds directly in the dirt. Woodstock even eats some of them before getting water poured on him by Snoopy inadvertently. Lucy forces Linus to plant a tree directly on the pitcher’s mound. Though Linus knows Charlie Brown isn’t going to like it, Lucy argues that it makes things a bit classier, and it will give Charlie Brown shade on the hotter days. Next, she decides they should get the rest of the team to help. On the way, Charlie Brown suggests he can help, but Lucy tells him to stay put and work on his strategy for the game, insisting the field is in good hands. Sometime after, the entire team is working hard in turning the baseball field into a gigantic garden. As Frieda (Michelle Muller) helps Snoopy put a tree up against this wall, Snoopy accidentally bangs his paw with a hammer. He smacks the tree with the hammer as a response, so the tree ends up attacking him. While this goes on, Charlie Brown works on the batting order. He considers walking Peppermint Patty but decides against it because she would get mad.

Not really sure why this would matter, but it’s your team Chuck.

He considers his order and has Snoopy batting leadoff because he’s his best hitter. Then, he has Schroeder, Linus, and himself. He starts to talk himself up by saying he can come in and hit a home run but puts himself down for daydreaming once he says it. As Lucy continues to shout orders and Woodstock messes with the sprinkler on accident, Peppermint Patty and Charlie Brown have another phone conversation. After she talks more shit, she says she’s bringing her team over because it’s already time for the first game. Charlie Brown realizes it’s time to do the same. He goes outside and the team is already in their gear and waiting for him. Linus explains that the team has decided to rename the field “Charlie Brown Field”. He’s floored at the gesture and asks how he can thank them, but a noticeably worried Linus suggests following him and the rest of the team to the field. Wishing him a happy Arbor Day, Lucy presents the field to him and it’s almost completely unrecognizable. In fact, Charlie Brown passes out in frustration. Eventually, he’s woken up, and Sally explains that it was all her idea in celebration of Arbor Day. Understandably, Charlie Brown is flipping out because the field is unplayable, but Lucy argues they couldn’t play anyway, so they didn’t really lose anything. Seeing the tree on the mound and the scarecrow in the backfield, Charlie Brown is close to losing all hope. Freida makes things even worse by saying they used their bats to make stakes for the tomato plants.

Well, it doesn’t matter. Peppermint Patty and her team are showing up, and they’re ready to play some baseball, despite how embarrassed Charlie Brown is. What he didn’t see coming though was that this new terrain could be used to his advantage.

My Thoughts:

Right off the bat, I’m giving this program points for making an Arbor Day-themed special because there’s that few of them. In fact, I can’t think of a single other one talking about the holiday, so once again, Peanuts clears.

In another special centered around springtime, It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown gives us exactly what you’d expect and want out of Charles M. Schulz’s beloved characters during the colorful season as it shines a lot on America’s most forgotten holiday. It’s all about the trees, the environment, baseball, and a little bit of love. Now, it’s not necessarily an ode to the holiday as one would expect. Though you do learn more about Arbor Day than you knew beforehand (a guarantee), and its focus is looked at as a positive repercussion since it helps Charlie Brown’s baseball team beat Peppermint Patty’s until they’re rained out towards the end, the final note doesn’t necessarily remind us of the importance of the holiday like the Peanuts specials on Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Valentine’s Day. It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown‘s holiday spirit is similar to the effect of It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown in that the holiday is more of a background to what’s going on in the special, though it’s infinitely better. The reason why this comparison works but still isn’t a complete deal breaker compared to that poorly executed special is for three key reasons. The (1) actual plot and intertwining side stories are cohesive and a lot more entertaining, (2) the important characters actually factor into the story in a meaningful manner (if you remember, Charlie Brown was barely in the Easter special), and (3) they don’t waste the opportunity to make the special mean something in regard to the holiday. In the lowly Easter special, they barely touch the subject, with only Schroeder saying that it has to do with spring and “renewal” while completely avoiding talking about the religious aspects of it. Now, it’s understandable that they wouldn’t want to get into religion in a children’s program, but there are ways around it while still evoking the spirit of the holiday. It just takes a little more effort. Also, if they didn’t even want to go there, why make the special in the first place?

It’s like they only created it to get to the ending of Snoopy delivering colored eggs to everyone, though I digress.

Thankfully in this special, Schulz and company didn’t take the opportunity to talk about Arbor Day for granted. Obviously, they still wanted to get back to the antics and humor of Charlie Brown and the gang, but they do devote just enough time in explaining the basics of what the holiday is about with Linus reading directly from a text, as opposed to him just knowing his history like in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Honestly, it’s pretty realistic for him and Sally to have to do their own research because we know it’s not covered in school. Additionally, Linus not knowing anything about the holiday either is not only realistic but makes him more endearing as a voice of reason and smarter supporting character. If he just self-righteously explains things in every special like he’s done in the past, he’d delve too deep into the pools of unlikability, a pool where his sister Lucy swims alone and rightfully so.

Speaking of which, let’s get down to business. Once again, I take issue with the handling of Lucy, as it has become more wishy-washy with each out-of-order special I watch. Tell me right now, is she a know-it-all bitch, or is she just stupid? In a majority of the specials, she’s a constant thorn in Charlie Brown’s side, has an answer for everything, and seems a lot more intelligent than most in her age group. On the other hand, there’s a small selection of specials, usually whenever the sport of baseball is involved, where she’s the dumbest person in the Peanuts universe. Does she actually think planting a fucking garden to consume the entire baseball field is a good idea, including planting a massive tree on the pitcher’s mound, or is she doing this out of spite? It’s genuinely hard to tell. Though we have no reason to believe it’s her being evil, it’s hard not to think this way after seeing so many specials where she exists to cause shit for our protagonist. As soon as Sally brings up the idea to Lucy to plant trees on the field, she becomes so gung-ho about this objectively bad idea that it’s almost nefarious. Her expression isn’t a tell, but the way she responds to certain things seems to say otherwise, especially when Linus tries to reveal early on to Charlie Brown what’s happening because he knows how he would feel. As soon as he tries to explain things, Lucy immediately cuts him off like she’s trying to hide the surprise. She becomes so adamant about keeping Charlie Brown away, and later is so nonchalant about the whole thing when Charlie Brown is distraught when he sees what they did, that it has to be an antagonistic motivation. There’s no other explanation based off how we previously know her.

Basically, I just don’t believe she’s this fucking stupid. There’s no way.

For Sally, it does make sense. She’s the younger sister who isn’t an athlete and is still figuring out basic things on the daily. However, Lucy plays for the team! There’s no way she would actually think this was a good idea regardless of if it worked or not. The only logical explanation is that she was trying to piss him off, but if it was the former, how could she come to this conclusion in a realistic sense? A stance needs to be made on who Lucy is because it changes every few specials or so. If they’re trying to act like she is this stupid, then it needs to be more of a recurring theme in other specials because this feels almost out of character. Another instance of things being inconsistent in terms of characters and their personalities is the moment in which Schroeder tells Lucy he’ll kiss her at Homeplate if she manages to hit a home run, knowing she’s never hit the ball outside of the infield. It inspires her (she actually yells aloud in a funny moment, “Incentive!”) and miraculously nails a ball out of the park on the first pitch. The problem is when Charlie Brown gets in Schroeder’s face and kind of starts talking shit to him by reminding him that he has to fulfill his promise. The real Charlie Brown would never do this. Instead, he would give Schroeder one of those anxious looks and say something along the lines of, “Well, good luck”. For him to get up in his face and try to agitate him didn’t feel right at all. With this being said, Lucy refusing to kiss Schroeder because of his unenthusiasm, and championing “Women’s lib” as a result was amusing.

There are some noteworthy moments in It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown that garner some amusement like when Sally rides a raft after the field floods and calmly states that “At least it’s good for the crops”. Another great one is when Franklin hits a ball into the outfield, but it’s counted as an out because the scarecrow catches it by just sitting there. Charlie Brown just turns to the camera and smiles this innocent smile, and it’s actually hilarious because none of us were expecting this field to actually work in his favor for a change. Even he is surprised, and this simple and silent response was perfection. This is the genius of the character and his presentation. Most jokes revolving around his lines or actions are made funnier because of his mundane demeanor, being a step behind everyone in life and in luck, and his general “regular-ness” in everyday situations. After all, he’s just a kid figuring it out like the rest of us and he responds in kind. Just the simplicity of Peppermint Patty stating, “I don’t understand love”, and Charlie Brown responding with the eloquence of a poet with a simple, “Who does?” is a great example of the humor of Peanuts and why simplicity and realism can still be funny without fantastic elements being thrown in as a distraction.

The way in which this exchange is handled and how the scene plays out couldn’t be set up any better.

If you’ve seen a Charlie Brown special that revolves around baseball, you’ve pretty much seen them all. Charlie Brown throws fast balls down the center of the plate, and they’re all smacked with ease by Peppermint Patty and her team, with at least one pitch getting hit back towards him knocking all of his clothes off as he hits the ground, Lucy is still bad at baseball, and Snoopy has a decent game. However, the difference here is that once the field is transformed by Charlie Brown’s team for Arbor Day into a jungle of plants, flowers, and trees, the environment turns into a serious homefield advantage. The third act is the baseball game itself, and the action is different than usual, with Peppermint Patty and company having a lot of trouble with the terrain. It’s fairly amusing watching them trying to navigate through it, as well as Charlie Brown starting to revel in it because they start to win. Funny moments come out of it like Peppermint Patty not being able to find the bases and being thrown out and an unknown person catching a pop fly while hiding in the tree on the pitcher’s mound. Though it didn’t make sense for Linus to suddenly need his blanket while at bat considering he didn’t use it for the entire special up until that point (and it ends with him accidentally getting wrapped up with it and striking out), most of the baseball action was different than usual and was a welcomed departure from what we’ve grown accustomed to.

Also, I did like the design of the new field from an art perspective. Yeah, for baseball it sucks, but I loved the look of it! Charlie Brown should look back to old J. Sterling Morton and his quote that Sally reiterates to her class in that “If you seek my monument, look around you”. Considering they named the new baseball field after Charlie Brown, in a way, it’s kind of his own monument. He should take it in stride like Peppermint Patty points out in the ending. Dually, they should have made it a long-term thing that becomes a staple of the franchise, on account of the beauty of Arbor Day of course. It would give this special a legacy!

Side note, the voice acting work was subpar. Dylan Beach’s performance as Charlie Brown sounded a lot more like early Linus and a lot less like who we know Charlie Brown to be. It was very emotionally stunted compared to how he usually interacts with the others. At some points, it sounds as if he’s reading the lines straight from the script without remembering to act like the main character he was hired to play. Something tells me there’s a reason that this is Beach’s only performance as the character and in acting in general.

Ending the climax on the classic, Murphy’s law type of way was a great choice, as it’s about as Charlie Brown-like as you could get (“…but we were winning!”). When they do that good as a team, you know something bad is about to happen. As fans, we’re just wondering how it’s going to happen. As soon as he says there isn’t a cloud in the sky when Linus points out that only rain can stop them, you’re already smirking. Even when you see it coming, it still works. The final scene between Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty to remind him and the audience about the good they did in planting all those trees for the holiday was a great way to end things on a high note, as was the nice touch to have each picture in the credits be a different still of a growing tree.

It’s the little things, you know?

It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown is a far cry from the best work of holiday-related Peanuts specials. It’s still solid but a tier below, nonetheless. Even so, there’s still a lot of good with this one including some amusing moments and a decent arc that represents the holiday much better than you would expect. It may not be anything to write home about, but the good outweighs the bad, albeit by a slim margin. However, I still feel like not carrying on the garden look of “Charlie Brown Field” for the long-term is a real missed opportunity in making this a beloved special in the eyes of Peanuts fans.


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