Release Date(s)2015 (March 8, 2016)
Studio(s)Blue Sky Studios (20th Century Fox)
- Film/Program Grade: B+
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A+
- Extras Grade: C
[Editor’s Note: As Ultra HD Blu-ray is a new format, much is yet to be settled in terms of establishing a proper display calibration baseline for evaluating UHD content. What follows is our best attempt to offer specific impressions on the format’s A/V quality improvements given those constraints. Note that the display used for this review is Samsung’s UN65JS9500, which is compliant with the full HDR10/Rec.2020 “Ultra HD Premium” specification, driven by Samsung’s UBD-K8500 Ultra HD Blu-ray player.]
Based on the classic newspaper strip Peanuts, by the late Charles M. Schultz, The Peanuts Movie tells the story of young Charlie Brown and all of his familiar neighborhood friends. Poor old Charlie develops a crush on the Little Red-Headed Girl that’s just moved in across the street, so he starts a campaign to impress her, even though only his best friend Linus seems to think he can succeed. But plan after plan goes awry, much to the amusement of Charlie’s friends, until he suddenly finds himself partnered with the Little Red-Headed Girl in composing a book report for school. Meanwhile, Charlie’s faithful dog, Snoopy, takes on an old nemesis while writing a book of his own… the infamous Red Baron. The Peanuts Movie was written by Schultz’s son Craig and grandson Bryan, along with Cornelius Uliano, and it’s based on many classic moments from the strip’s fifty years of storytelling. The challenge in making this film was figuring out how to stitch those moments together with a larger narrative that could sustain a two-hour story. The good news is that Craig and Bryan have succeeded admirably in that effort. Though the stakes are never high enough to really get the audience deeply invested, there are so many great and beloved sequences along the way that, by the end of the film, you’ll likely find that you’ve enjoyed every minute of it.
The Peanuts Movie was CG animated by Blue Sky Studios in 2K resolution and it was finished to a 2K Digital Intermediate (at the 1.85:1 aspect ratio). That 2K DI has been upconverted to 4K for this Ultra HD release. Obviously, CG animation is going to benefit differently on this format than would live action material. Here, the added resolution reveals itself in the many different (and often quite subtle) surface textures that are being CG-represented, from paper and pen strokes in the opening credits to character skin tones, clothing, and hair, as well as sky, cloud, grass, and the like. There are also a number of interesting atmospheric effects that benefit from the enhanced resolution, particularly in the Snoopy “World War I flying ace” sequences. The image’s High Dynamic Range certainly shows its strength in the vast color palette on display here, but do keep in mind that this image is highly-stylized by design – a unique hybrid of three-dimensional animation overlaid with pen strokes to keep the characters’ unique facial expressions true to the original comic strips. There are a few scenes where the HDR enhances shadows detailing and spectral highlights, but you’re not going to see the kind of really intense darks or brights – sunlight reflecting off glass or chrome, for example – that you’d find in live action footage. As is often the case on Ultra HD, the only notable image defect is some light color banding. Both Peanuts and the Ice Age short film were produced in a 16-bit color space, so when the source is converted down to 10-bit for Ultra HD, occasional banding is the inevitable result. But it’s very minor and seldom distracting.
The 4K disc’s audio is presented in a new Dolby Atmos soundtrack (core 7.1 Dolby TrueHD), that’s lively and quite playful. The height channels are used to great effect in everything from the sound of Woodstock fluttering overhead to the great loops, climbs, and dives of the bi-planes during the “flying ace” sequences. The rear channels are mostly employed for atmospheric effects. Dialogue is clean and clear at all times, and the Vince Guaraldi-infused score sounds full and wonderful. The regular Blu-ray had an excellent 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix, but the Atmos does edge it just a bit. Also included on the 4K disc is 5.1 English Descriptive Audio, along with 5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital, and 5.1 DTS in French, German, and Italian, with optional subtitles in English SDH, Spanish, French, Dansk (Danish), Nederlands (Dutch), Suomi (Finnish), German, Italian, Norsk (Norwegian), and Svenska (Swedish).
The only extra on the Ultra HD disc itself is the Ice Age: Cosmic Scrat-Tastrophe short film mentioned above (5:04), which is also in 4K. But the package also includes the regular 2D Blu-ray version, which offers 7 behind-the-scenes featurettes including Snoopy Snippets (2:45), You Never Grow Up, Charlie Brown (30:17), Snoopy’s Sibling Salute (1:55), Learn to Draw Snoopy (4:13), Learn to Draw Woodstock (3:03), Learn to Draw Charlie Brown (4:01), and Behind the Scenes of Better When I’m Dancin’ (2:53). You also get 2 music videos including Get Down with Snoopy and Woodstock and Meghan Trainor’s Better When I’m Dancin’, a “lyric video” for Better When I’m Dancin’ (essentially it’s a karaoke version), a Snoopy’s Playlist video jukebox of all the music in the film (it runs nearly half an hour in all), Image Galleries of Concept Art, Color Keys, Characters, and Final Art, and 5 theatrical trailers for the film.
[Editor’s Note: Given that nearly all 4K releases are multi-disc sets, with the extras often included on separate BD discs, our extras grades for these 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray reviews will reflect the bonus content across all discs in the set.]
The Peanuts Movie isn’t a truly great film, but it’s a very genuine, heartfelt, and entertaining cinematic adaptation of the classic strips – one that’s very true to the spirit of the characters Shultz intended. Children should certainly enjoy this, and older Baby Boomers and Gen-X audiences will find much to appreciate here too. If nothing else, the film makes for easy afternoon viewing and should leave you with a smile on your face.
- Bill Hunt