I managed to let the new Peanuts Mother’s Day special, Snoopy Presents: To Mom (and Dad), With Love, get right by me, because life was rather full about that time. So I caught up with it tonight, and I’m glad I did. The special features various Peanuts kids trying to celebrate Mother’s Day, but the strongest focuses are on two for whom this is not an easy thing — Woodstock, who goes off on a quest to find his mother (with Snoopy’s help), providing the slapstick for the episode; and moreso Peppermint Patty, who never had a mother, and is faced with the sadness of the holiday, but finds a way to deal.
I really like the look of these recent works, well-grounded in the visuals of the strip, but with a lush sensibility. Having said that, some of the shadow modeling on the character faces is aggressive, looks wrong, and detracts from the experience.
When dealing with Peppermint Patty’s one-parent family, the special did take care to mention a range of non-default family forms, including adoptive families, foster families, and two-mom families (I particularly appreciate the last, as I’ve helped form a few such families.) But between having done so and making a passing mention of her dad missing her mother, they’ve narrowed the possible meanings when Peppermint Patty says she “never had a mother”. I’ve always liked the fact that there were a range of histories that could be fit into that — mother dying, abandonment, her father removing her from a mother who was majorly unfit, or single-parent adoption — because it meant that a range of people in non-default situations could find a character to identify with. But the narrowing is not that big.
This continues them making the holiday specials 38 minutes long, which I guess would fit into an hour broadcast slot with commercials. (Whether they’re airing like that in some markets that lack Apple TV+, or whether that’s just planning for possible future uses, I don’t know.)
These specials will never have the place in the culture that the key early specials do, but that’s not a comment on their quality but on the changing nature of TV, with ever more product splitting up the audience. Still, I hope that they find their audience, and that it helps to turn the youth of today towards Peanuts.