Friday, April 21, 2017
Lee Mendelson Films
By 1969, Lee Mendelson Films had a few TV specials under their belt and decided the time was right to make a movie based around the Peanuts characters. The plot followed a strip storyline from 1966 and involved Charlie Brown going to a Spelling Bee and being a failure in general. What's new? A Boy Named Charlie Brown was a hit, grossing $12 million and getting rave reviews. Many heralded it as a nice alternative to Disney, as Disney was starting to lose momentum after Walt Disney passed away. This was followed up by the stand-alone sequel, Snoopy, Come Home in 1972. Sadly, this movie would not fare anywhere near as well as its predecessor, not even grossing $1 million. Like its predecessor it was a critical darling, and its one I remember fondly as a child. While I remember liking Snoopy, Come Home, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown was by far my favorite. This was the one where the Peanuts gang is at camp and has a boat race with some bullies. It fared better than Snoopy, Come Home, but reviews were so-so at the time. I must have watched this one a million times as a kid and I still love who ends up winning the race. Mendelson only made one more Peanuts movie, named Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and don't come back!). Released in 1980, it follows Charlie Brown and the gang as they are foreign exchange students in Europe. I remember this one too, but only little bits and pieces. This movie did as well as Race for Your Life, both critically and financially.
The Peanuts movies did well in a time where Disney wasn't doing as well, though Rescuers still grossed $71 million by comparison, so Disney is still going to reign supreme. Lee Mendelson Pictures was still making that sweet TV money so they seemed to stop focusing on releasing movies to theaters and instead just stuck with made for TV. This will not be the last time you see Peanuts in this series however, but it won't be from Lee Mendelson Films.