What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?
|What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?
|Created by||Charles M. Schulz|
|Written by||Charles M. Schulz
John McCrae (for the poem In Flanders Fields)
|Directed by||Bill Melendez|
|Voices of||Brad Kesten
Stacy Heather Tolkin
Dawn Atkinson (arranged by)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of episodes||1|
|Executive producer(s)||Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates|
|Running time||28 minutes|
|First shown in||May 30, 1983|
|Preceded by||It's an Adventure, Charlie Brown|
|Followed by||It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown|
What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? A Tribute is the 26th prime-time animated television special based upon the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz, who introduced the special. It originally aired on the CBS network on May 30, 1983, Memorial Day in the United States, and one week prior to the 39th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion. It aired on CBS only one other time, on May 26, 1984, which was the Saturday before Memorial Day, and ten days prior to the 40th anniversary of the D-Day Invasion.
The special directly follows the events of the 1980 theatrical feature film Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!). Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Woodstock are returning from their student exchange in Paris. The film was purposefully open-ended in case there could be other adventures among the characters prior to returning home.
Charles Schulz said about its development,
|“||I kept thinking how interesting it would be if they should somehow get lost on this little trip and end up at Omaha Beach and envision the scenes of the famous D-Day Invasion of World War II. I even thought that they might pass through Belgium and we could show some landscapes affected by World War I, and how emotional it could be if one of the characters somehow could be made to recite the immortal poem, John McCrae's In Flanders Fields.||”|
Schulz struggled with development of the storyline until shortly after his open-heart surgery in 1981. While recuperating, he was able to finalize the concept with a common line that would tie everything together, "What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?"
The special opens with Charlie Brown back home, assembling a photo album of pictures taken from the trip. His younger sister, Sally, approaches and asks him how it went. From there, it is shown in a flashback:
As they begin to head back from the chateau to the train station for the return trip to London (where they would return to America by plane), their problematic rental car (a Citroen 2CV) slows their progress, before breaking down entirely in a small French town. Renting another one from a French lady (who immediately accepts their offer after realizing Snoopy is, in fact, a World War I Flying Ace) they soon become lost and camp at a nearby beach for the night. Linus, however, wakes up shortly before daybreak and walks along the beach, realizing they are at Omaha Beach.
Linus then tells of the battle of D-Day, leading the group to the nearby cemetery for all of the American soldiers. The voice of General Dwight D. Eisenhower is also heard, reminiscing about the experiences of the battle. Archival news footage is also used, in some cases with the characters inserted through rotoscoping.
While proceeding up north, they head towards Ypres, which Linus recognized as the site of a series of battles during World War I. They arrive at a field of red poppies, which grew throughout the wastelands of battles fought during the war, and which serves as a marker for the Ypres battle site. Linus then recites the poem In Flanders Fields, after directing the group to the British field dressing station where McCrae was inspired to write the poem.
They come away realizing what the impact of the wars were, and how important the sacrifice of the soldiers was. Standing among the field of red poppies, Linus then turns and asks, "What have we learned, Charlie Brown?". The scene flashes back to him and Sally. She then tells him that he is pasting the pictures upside down.
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The special opens with various scenes from Charlie Brown's bedroom, and especially the toys in his room. This short sequence is meant to show the things that children play with, and possibly by extension, the society and culture that they grow up in. Although the toys are varied, including baseball gear, stuffed animals, cars and dinosaurs, it is noticeable that many of the toys are of a military nature: two World War II era tanks, a pirate ship, a toy cannon, and so on. The prevalence of war-themed toys is a foreshadowing of what this Peanuts special is about and the major message behind it - war is a destructive horrible evil, and yet it is everywhere. The "lesson" to be learned, which is constantly alluded to throughout the special and is finally encapsulated by Gen. Eisenhower's quote, is that all people must find a way to live in peace with each other and do away with war forever.
After the toy sequence, there is a sequence showing books on a shelf in Charlie Brown's bedroom. Just like the toy sequence, the books concern a variety of subjects, but warfare is one of the subjects that is shown in the form of a biography on the Red Baron, who is a recurring presence throughout the entire Peanuts comic strip. Interestingly, some of the books are not fictitious, but are real books, such as Winnie the Pooh, The Hardy Boys, and The Lone Ranger.
When the voice of General Dwight D. Eisenhower is heard, reminiscing about the experiences of the battle of D-Day, it is here that we learn the major thesis for the story's plot: Eisenhower hopes that people in the future will have learned more about the need for establishing lasting peace than the people of his own time.
- Brad Kesten – Charlie Brown
- Jeremy Schoenberg – Linus van Pelt
- Stacy Heather Tolkin – Sally Brown
- Brent Hauer/Victoria Vargas – Peppermint Patty
- Michael Dockery – Marcie
- Monica Parker – French Lady
- Bill Melendez – Snoopy and Woodstock
- Created by: Charles M. Schulz
- Produced by: Lee Mendelson and Bill Melendez
- Directed by: Bill Melendez
- Written by: Charles M. Schulz
- Designed by: Evert Brown, Bernie Gruver, Dean Spille, Ellie Bogardus
- Music by: Judy Munsen
- Arranged by: Dawn Atkinson
- Animation by: Hank Smith, Bob Matz, Bob Carlson, Bill Littlejohn, Larry Leichliter, Jeff Hale, Al Pabian, Jim Duffy, Utit Choomuang, Joe Roman, Dick Williams, Phil Cummings
- Checking: Jane Gonzales, Eve Fletcher, Cindy Story, Marjorie Roach
- Ink and Paint Supervisor: Joanne Lansing
- Ink and Paint: Karin Holmquist, Micky Kreymann, Valerie Green, Emalene Seutter, Karen Webb, Roubina Janian, Joan Pabian, Ginny Tucker, Julie Maryon, Cheri Lucas, Susan Wileman, Elsa Labaw, Lee Hoffman, Evelyn Hairapetian, Colene Gonzales
- Editing: Chuck McCann, Roger Donley
- Production Manager: Carole Barnes
- Production Assistants: Sandy Claxton Arnold, Carol Neal, Sheryl Mason, Barbara Hiestand
- Camera: Nick Vasu
- Music Recording: Different Fur Music, San Francisco
- Dubbing: Producers' Sound Service
- With thanks to: The Defense Audio-Visual Egency for stock footage
- A Lee Mendelson-Bill Melendez Production
- In association with: Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates and United Media Productions
- THE END "What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?" © 1983 United Feature Syndicate, Inc.
The special won a Peabody Award for "distinguished achievement and meritorious public service" in broadcasting. Schulz would later say of the acclaim,
|“||The Peabody award we received for What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown? was a very gratifying response to the program, plus many wonderful letters from appreciative young viewers who said that they now understood what happened on June 6, 1944. We labeled this show with the subtitle A Tribute, because that was exactly what we wanted it to be: no more and no less. It proved also that the characters of Charlie Brown, Linus, Snoopy and the others were close enough to being real to handle delicately a subject that other animated characters would destroy.||”|
Home video releases
The special was released on VHS in 1996. The special is available for purchase on iTunes together with You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown and He's a Bully, Charlie Brown, and is now available on DVD in the Peanuts Emmy Honored Collection.
- Larkin, David, ed. (1999). Peanuts: A Golden Celebration. Harper Collins Publishers. p. 122.
- "You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown on iTunes".
- "TVShowsonDVD Charlie Brown/Peanuts Specials - 'Peanuts: Emmy Honored Collection' DVD Set this Fall".