Wednesday, December 25, 2019

I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown (2003)

I'm pretty sure I never saw any part of this on TV in the years since it was first aired and I definitely know I'd never heard the title until just recently, when I was looking up some other Peanuts-related Christmas cartoons. So, when I went into it on Dailymotion just a week before I started this review (which was a very annoying experience, due to that site's trying nature and technical difficulties), I knew nothing about it, other than, due to the title, it apparently revolved around Snoopy and was 41 minutes long rather than the usual 24 or so. I figured that maybe it was going to be the story of how Charlie Brown first got Snoopy, receiving him as a Christmas present; I definitely didn't expect it to revolve around Rerun, whom I've barely seen featured in any of these cartoons, nor did I expect to see Snoopy's brother, Spike, whom I'd only seen beforehand in an episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show (at this point, I've not seen any of the other cartoons that feature him). After watching this special, I do think it's more well-made and benefits from having a more consistent main plot than what you get in something like It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, but it tends to drag due to being longer than your typical Peanuts cartoon, I didn't find it to be all that funny, and I kind of hate seeing a five-year old kid getting repeatedly screwed over. It's already rather sad to see an older kid like Charlie Brown get caught up in such misery and bad luck but when it happens to one as young as Rerun, it can feel downright mean.

Christmas is coming, but Rerun van Pelt isn't having the best time in the days leading up to it. Besides his terrifying rides on the back of his mother's bicycle, he's embarrassed by Linus, bullied by Lucy, and, the day before Christmas vacation, he gets suspended from kindergarten for telling a little girl that the two of them run away to Paris as a joke. Since he likes to play with Snoopy, Rerun decides that he wants to have a dog for Christmas but, unfortunately for him, his mother won't allow it, saying dogs are too much trouble to take care of. He tries to compensate by playing with Snoopy more often, but Snoopy soon loses interest in doing so. Rerun then goes as far as to offer Charlie Brown money for him and asks a sidewalk Santa and his "secretary" (Snoopy and Woodstock) to bring him a dog for Christmas but neither of his plans work out. When Snoopy receives a letter from Spike, his brother who lives in the desert, it gives Rerun the idea to invite Spike to come live with him and he has Snoopy write a letter to him. Sure enough, Spike makes a trip across the country to visit, but Rerun's plan to make him his dog may involve more than Spike is able to handle.

This would prove to be Bill Melendez's next-to-last work as director, as he died just five years later and two years after his truly final one, 2006's He's a Bully, Charlie Brown. As with the previous special, Lucy Must Be Traded, Charlie Brown, Melendez co-directed this one with Larry Leichliter, who'd been involved with the Peanuts as far back as 1975's You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown, on which he was an assistant animator, and had gone on to serve the same role on many of the specials and feature films that followed, as well as the first two Garfield specials, which Melendez produced. By this point, he'd directed 2002's Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales on his own and would co-direct He's a Bully with Melendez, before moving on to work on other cartoons (most notably, he's directed over a hundred episodes of Adventure Time).

Like Charlie Brown, Rerun (voiced by Jimmy Bennett) is a character whom you can't help but have sympathy for, given how his day-to-day life is far from enviable. He has to endure rides on the back of his mother's bicycle as she goes on trips into town and nearly hits about everything in her path; bullying and verbal abuse from Lucy; the embarrassment of having Linus as an older brother (he goes as far as to insist that he's an only child when other kids ask him about his siblings); he gets suspended from kindergarten for simply suggesting to a girl in his class that they should head off to Paris, which is labeled as "harassment"; a shop-owner literally throws him out the front door for telling him to put a price on his "tab"; and he would like nothing more than to have a dog for Christmas but his mother won't let him, as she says they're too much to deal with. The only little bit of genuine fun he has is when he plays with Snoopy, but even that doesn't last, as Snoopy loses interest and actually gives him a rejection slip at one point. Rerun is so determined to have a dog that he tries to buy Snoopy off of Charlie Brown, except he only has 16 cents, and then asks a sidewalk Santa, whom he doesn't know is actually Snoopy, to bring him one for Christmas. Eventually, he gets the idea of taking Snoopy's brother, Spike, in as his own dog and has Snoopy send him a letter to invite him down to do so. While Spike does come along and Rerun gets to have some fun with him after Lucy fattens up his skinny frame, it isn't long before he's no longer allowed to keep him and Spike heads back to the desert. As if Rerun weren't already bummed, Lucy then ropes him into being in the school play and he nearly forgets his one line, only remembering it when Lucy threatens to clobber him if he doesn't.

It's a shame Rerun has to go through so much crap because he's not only an innocent five-year old but is infinitely more optimistic than the rather dour Charlie Brown, as he believes Snoopy is the greatest dog in the world and that Charlie Brown is lucky to have him. He's also a lot smarter and wittier than you would expect, given his age. For instance, when Lucy threatens to knock his building blocks over at one point, he tells her, "Years from now, after you're married, and you and your husband want me to cosign a note so you can buy a new house, I'll refuse," and when she stomps off, he comments, "Younger brothers learn to think fast." He placates his kindergarten teacher by acting like the project she gives them is so ingenious, whispering to the pig-tailed girl, "When she's happy, we're happy." When he gets suspended just for a dumb joke, he's smart enough to know that it was idiotic for what he said to be construed as harassment, saying bluntly to Lucy, "Stupidity." And when he's stuck on the back of his mother's bicycle, he takes time to reflect on things, such as "people" and "life," at least, when he's not terrified that she's going to crash into something. In any case, at the end of the special, Rerun goes back to Snoopy to try to get him to pull him along on his sled. After some nudging from Charlie Brown, Snoopy does join him outside but makes Rerun pull him along on the sled instead, prompting Rerun to wonder if his mom was right about a dog being too much trouble.

Just because Rerun is her little brother doesn't mean that Lucy (voiced by Ashley Rose Orr) is any easier on him than Linus. She pushes him around just as bad, if not worse, stating outright early on that she has 90% of the rights in the household and each of her brothers only has 5%. She also doesn't even understand why she should be expected to live in a house with two brothers, yelling about it and storming out. There's even a moment where she literally grabs him and throws him out the front door when he starts talking about how if it's possible that the youngest child of three can develop an immunity against his siblings' weirdness. Later, when Rerun is playing in the sandbox, which has been moved into the garage, Lucy shows up with Sally, demanding that he leave and threatens that the two of them will gang up on him if he doesn't comply. She also continuously tries to dissuade Rerun in his desire for a dog, telling him that their mother won't let him have one, that dogs aren't always fun, saying he should ask Charlie Brown for confirmation on that, and she refuses to take him to see Santa Claus because she'd rather go flirt with Schroeder. But, besides her bullying, Lucy also does what she considers to be her looking out for Rerun, describing herself as his "compass." When Snoopy is dressed as a sidewalk Santa, she tells Rerun exactly what he is but this doesn't discourage him, as he likes this "Santa" all the more for it. And, as usual, Lucy constantly aggravates Schroeder while he's practicing on his piano, trying to disparage him by saying that a child's piano only has a range of one octave and criticizing Beethoven, calling him a bad influence on him since Schroeder is so set on copying the man's every decision.

To Lucy's credit, when Spike shows up after she doubted if he would find them, she takes pity upon his thin, malnourished physique and decides to fatten him up, which she succeeds in doing. By the end of it, though, Spike ends up thin again and Lucy informs Rerun that their mother, who was only letting Spike stay before out of pity for how bad he looked, says they can't keep him anymore but assures him that Charlie Brown will find him a home (that doesn't work out). Then, in what she says is an attempt to take his mind off losing Spike, Lucy signs Rerun up to be in their school play and assures him when he becomes nervous about it that he only has one line he has to remember. But, come the night of the play, Rerun starts to freak out about not being able to recall his line and Lucy threatens to beat him up when they get home if he doesn't remember. This threat is enough to jog his memory and he says his line, after which he promptly faints.

Unlike his brother and sister, Linus' (voiced by Corey Padnos) role here is very minimal. Save for a couple of moments where he tells Charlie Brown about how his mother takes Rerun with her when she bikes into town and notes that her riding isn't quite as hazardous as it once was (i.e., she goes through a hedge instead of a brick wall), his only significant scene is after the opening credits, when he's sitting on the couch with Rerun and Lucy. He's not too thrilled about Rerun denying that he's his brother, due to how he sucks his thumb and carries his blanket around, and, as usual, he's terrified of Lucy. When she tells Rerun that, as an older sister, she's like a, "Compass to guide him through life," Rerun asks Linus if that's true. With both Rerun and Lucy looking intently at him for an answer, he hides his face under his blanket and says, "I'm not here." This prompts Lucy to storm off, shouting about how could she be expected to live in a house with two brothers, and Linus tells Rerun, "Big sisters are the crabgrass in the lawn of life." That's when Rerun, again, brings up his infant-like habits, which he himself doesn't do, despite being five, and says, "As the years go by, you'll probably develop a real resentment towards me." Irked, Linus throws his blanket over Rerun, who then comments, "And you'll find different ways to get even." Later, when Spike shows up and Lucy decides to fatten him up, Linus is horrified when he sees that she gave him his blanket to wear as a hospital gown and asks her why she wouldn't fix a milkshake for her own brother. And like, Charlie Brown, Rerun, Lucy, and other members of the gang, he takes part in the Christmas play at the end.

While he has more of a role than Linus, this is another example of a Peanuts special where Charlie Brown (voiced by Adam Taylor Gordon) is not the focus of the story. After a couple of moments early on where he's shown hanging out with Linus and/or Lucy, his first major scene comes when he tells Rerun about Snoopy's relatives and the ill-fated visits some of them have paid him. He allows Rerun to play with Snoopy whenever he feels like it, acting as something of a middleman to set up their play-dates, although Snoopy himself ultimately decides whether or not he's interested, and sometimes he does stuff with Rerun while Charlie Brown is searching for him. After Snoopy loses interest, Rerun asks Charlie Brown if he could buy him. He does ask Rerun how much money he has but, when he sees that Rerun only has 16 cents, he tells him he'd need $10 million and walks back into the house. When Snoopy receives a letter from Spike about his attempts to celebrate Christmas out in the desert and Charlie Brown tells Rerun that Spike does live out there by himself, it gives Rerun the idea to invite Spike to be his dog. But, when that plan doesn't work out, Charlie Brown tries to have someone else in the neighborhood adopt Spike but doesn't get any takers, so Spike ultimately goes back to the desert. At the end of the special, after convincing Snoopy to go out and play with Rerun one last time, though not in the way Rerun intended, there's a rather random scene before the credits where Charlie Brown is lying in bed, with Snoopy on top of him, and he says, "Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, 'When will it all end?' Then a voice comes to me that says, 'Right after the credits.'"

Sally (voiced by Hannah Leigh Dworkin) has a few scenes here, first appearing before the opening credits when Rerun first asks to play with Snoopy. After telling him that Snoopy's resting, she rather meanly says to go find something else to do, suggesting he go home and read a book. When Rerun says he can't do that, Sally goes, "Well, that's too bad. Find something you know how to do," and goes back inside, with Rerun answering, "Well, I know how to play with a dog!" She's later seen with Lucy when she tries to make Rerun remove himself from the sandbox in the garage and later tries to give a sidewalk Santa, whom she doesn't know is actually Snoopy, her Christmas list, only for it to get chucked in the trash by Snoopy's secretary, Woodstock. Sally's biggest scene comes when she makes the mistake of using Snoopy's "Ace Airline" to go Christmas shopping. First, you see her getting dressed but having all sorts of trouble: not being able to tell which boot goes on which foot, fighting with her coat's zipper, and unable to put her mittens on because she can't tell where the thumb goes. She gets frustrated and declares, "I wasn't made for winter!" Regardless, she still goes with Snoopy, though she complains about the flight's lack of complimentary orange juice and that no one welcomed her aboard (Snoopy kisses her on the nose to make up for the latter), learns that the emergency "oxygen mask" is just a paper bag with eye-holes cut out of it, and that her complimentary lunch if Snoopy's dogfood. When they run into snow, she demands he take her back and he does, though the two of them get knocked off the doghouse at the end of the "flight" and she stumbles dizzily back into the house.

Schroeder (voiced by Nick Price) spends about 98% of his screentime doing, what else, playing his piano and getting annoyed by Lucy. Right off in his first scene, he counters Lucy telling him that she liked him the moment she first saw him with, "I disliked you the first time I saw you," and, when she asks him if Beethoven had any girls around him when he was practicing the piano, he growls, "No, I don't think Beethoven had any crabby females hanging onto his piano while he was trying to practice." Snoopy and Woodstock help him get rid of her the first time by coming in and shaking the snow they're covered in onto her, and when she bugs him a second time, he flings his piano out from under her twice and then uses the musical notes to literally attack her, sending her running out of the house. The third time she shows up, he's shocked when she calls Beethoven a bad influence but, when Charlie Brown is trying to find Spike a new home later on, he refuses to take him because he says Beethoven never owned a dog (if he was such a fan of him, he'd know Beethoven actually had a number of dogs). And he also takes part in the Christmas play at the end.

Franklin and Pigpen (both voiced by Jake Miner) make brief appearances near the end of the special. Franklin is one of the kids Charlie Brown tries to pawn Spike onto, describing him as a good watchdog. He asks if he's the kind of dog he'd like by his side if he had to go somewhere at night and Franklin says, "I sure wouldn't want to be seen in the daylight with him." He then takes part in the play, as does Pigpen, who speaks his lines quite eloquently and proper. Violet (voiced by Kaitlyn Maggio) is someone Charlie Brown tries to give Spike to but she isn't taking him, saying that she'd rather have one of the coyotes that live out in the desert with him. Maggio also voices the pig-tailed girl who's in Rerun's kindergarten class but isn't too happy about being there, complaining about the projects they're forced to do. This is prompts Rerun to suggest they run away together to Paris and leads to him getting suspended for "harassment."

Snoopy (voiced by Bill Melendez) gets up to quite a bit of mischief here, with the special opening with him going sledding in his food-bowl along with Woodstock and a group of his bird friends. Later, he harasses Linus and his blanket, gives his bone to a depressed Rerun who's sad about not getting a dog, helps Schroeder chase Lucy off by shaking a bunch of snow onto her, getting excited by his piano playing to where he goes out and dances with Charlie Brown and Rerun, before flinging them into a snowbank, and is good enough to play and spend time with Rerun for a bit, particularly when he offers to give him a Christmas cookie. But, he soon tires of it and gives Rerun a full-on rejection notice when he shows up another time. After collecting some of Schroeder's musical notes and decorating a small tree with them, Snoopy dresses up as Santa and works a sidewalk, with Woodstock acting as a secretary who writes down everything that Sally asks for Christmas and then throws the list into a waste basket. As in It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown, Lucy makes the mistake of questioning whether or not Snoopy is a real Santa and gets bopped on the nose with the hand-bell he rings. Though Lucy then tells Rerun that he's just a dog dressed up as Santa, Rerun ends up liking him because of that and asks him for a dog for Christmas. Snoopy motions for them to make a contribution and when Rerun does, he shakes his hand and mutters something that Rerun translates as thanking him, that it's for a worthy cause, and to say hello to, "The stupid kid with the blanket, and his crabby sister." Later, he takes Sally on quite a wild "flight" when she tries to go Christmas shopping and gets a postcard from Spike, who talks about his attempts to have Christmas in the desert. Rerun later gets the idea to have Snoopy send Spike a letter inviting him to come be his dog and the two of them greet Spike when he shows up, though it isn't longer before they have to see him off back to the desert. At the end of the special, Rerun tries to get Snoopy to come pull him on his sled. Snoopy initially laughs off the suggestion but Charlie Brown implores him to and he does go outside, only to make Rerun pull him on the sled.

Spike, Snoopy's thin as a nail brother who lives out in the desert, sends Snoopy a letter detailing his attempts to celebrate Christmas there: decorating a tumbleweed, getting some snow, only for it to melt, making a tumbleweed man rather than a snowman, and stringing lights around a cactus, only to get tied to it as a result. Hearing that he lives alone, Rerun comes up with the idea of having Snoopy send Spike a letter to come be his dog and Spike does indeed drop by, carrying a cactus with him the whole way. However, when he arrives, Lucy is so taken aback by how thin and unhealthy he looks that she decides to fatten him up (this same plot was used in an episode of The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show that featured Spike). She succeeds in making him much pudgier than he was when he first arrived and he does have fun playing with Rerun, but after he gets dragged along on one of the terrifying bike rides Rerun has to take with his mom, he's back to being as skinny as he was before. Lucy then tells Rerun that their mom has decided they can't keep him anymore, as she simply felt bad for him when he first showed up, and that Charlie Brown will find him a good home. But that plan doesn't work either, so Spike has no choice but to go back to the desert. Thinking about the ordeal he had on Mrs. van Pelt's bike, it's clear he figures he'd be better off back there anyway. He says his goodbyes and makes the long journey home, stringing up Christmas decorations again once he gets back.

Other members of Snoopy's family are briefly featured in flashbacks. His brother Marbles, who looks more like a Dalmatian than a beagle, is said to have visited at one point but left after Snoopy took him for a wild ride on his doghouse/airplane. Two other brothers, Olaf and Andy, are also shown to have dropped in on him but, after the two of them made an enormous mess in his house, Snoopy suggested they go visit Spike instead. But, they took a major wrong turn somewhere and ended up in Alaska rather than the desert and became sled-dogs. Snoopy's sister, Belle, who lives in Kansas City, is mentioned but is never actually seen, although she had appeared before in the 1991 special, Snoop's Reunion. And finally, Woodstock pops up randomly here, usually hanging out with Snoopy or acting as his "secretary" when he's dressed as Santa Claus, though he also appears in a jack-in-the-box that Rerun has with him when he's confronted by Lucy and Sally out in the garage.

As you might have noticed by now, this is one of the most visually appealing Peanuts specials that's ever been made, benefiting greatly from being produced in the 2000's. Not only are the colors very bright and vibrant and the backgrounds and settings nice to look at, especially when they're covered in snow and have a gray, overcast look to them that brings about the feeling of winter, but the animation is also better than what you normally get with the Peanuts, coming off as surprisingly fluid and energetic in some instances (like when Schroeder is really tickling those ivories and Snoopy dances with Charlie Brown and Rerun), and the whole just feels very technically sophisticated. What I especially like is how you get a bit more variety of environments and settings, with the interior scenes having more detail to them instead of just being a blank wall and floor with a smidge of furniture. In the van Pelt house, you get to see the living room, which is almost completely beige, with purple-colored furniture, the kitchen/dining room, and a bedroom, and you also see the interior of Rerun's kindergarten class, a type of classroom I don't think had ever been shown in one of these cartoons before. I especially like how, when Lucy goes to Schroeder's house for the second time, you see her walk into this hall full of artwork and sculptures of Beethoven and with wallpaper where the bottom has rows of piano keys drawn on it, before she rounds a corner to go into the room where Schroeder is always practicing his piano, which has a small Christmas tree in the background. Speaking of interior scenes, during the flashback to Andy and Olaf's visit with Snoopy, you see that the inside of Snoopy's doghouse apparently has a den with lots of funky furniture. And I like seeing a bit of the desert where Spike lives, as I think this kind of environment has always looked really good when it's been done in the Peanuts style, most notably in the movie, Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown.

One thing I forgot to mention in It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown but applies to both of these specials is that Christmas itself never seems to come during the story or, if it does, you don't see the characters celebrating it the way they do the other holidays. It seems to be implying that the day Spike arrives is either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, seeing as how Lucy told Schroeder "Merry Christmas" in an earlier scene, but then, Spike stays long enough for Lucy to fatten him up, spend time playing with Rerun, get roped into going with Rerun and his mother to get a Christmas tree, and when he goes back home to the desert, he's still putting up Christmas decorations. And it's after he goes home that Lucy ropes Rerun into participating in the Christmas play, so it feels like the holiday hasn't come and gone until the final scene, when Rerun goes to play with Snoopy again. Yes, this is being overly nitpicky for a Peanuts cartoon but, after a while, I find myself wondering if this thing forgot it was supposed to be Christmas-related. Like I said, Christmas never seemed to really come in It's Christmastime Again but that one was so scattered, being made up of random vignettes, whereas this has a more straightforward narrative and, therefore, it's much more noticeable. In fact, Christmas itself never appears to come during the plot of A Charlie Brown Christmas, seeing as how most of that special is about the rehearsal of a play that they never actually put on, but the feeling of the holiday is so intrinsically part of it, with Charlie Brown wondering what it's actually all about, that I never thought of it until just now.

That leads me to another major issue with this one: even though it's only 41 minutes, it still feels like it overstays its welcome and the story starts to drag. You get so many scenes of Rerun wishing he could have a dog, only to be reminded that his mother won't allow it, him spending time with Snoopy, and learning about his extended family from Charlie Brown that you could start to wonder if it's going to go anywhere. Moreover, the scenario where he gets suspended the day before Christmas vacation starts, the scenes between Lucy and Schroeder, the section where Snoopy does his Santa routine, and Sally's uncomfortable flight with Snoopy come to feel like what they are: padding. And it's because of this special's prolonged nature that it feels like Christmas gets extended much more than it should be. Long story short: these specials have such simple plots that it's not a good idea to stretch them out for longer than a half hour.

And finally, as I've touched on, it rather sucks watching Rerun get put through all of this hell. It's no secret that Peanuts, despite its deserved classic and family friendly status, can sometimes come off as rather mean-spirited and cruel in regards to the unfairness, humiliation, and emotional abuse the kids, especially Charlie Brown, deal with, and while Rerun doesn't get it as bad as the other kids have in past specials like You're in Love, Charlie Brown, Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown, and especially It's Your First Kiss, Charlie Brown, which actually enraged viewers with how badly Charlie Brown was treated, it's still pretty crappy. While it's not unexpected that Lucy would be as mean to him as she is Linus, seeing her attempting to full-on intimidate him out of the sandbox in the garage comes off as especially jerkish, even for her, as it does when she threatens to beat on him if he forgets his line during the play. While I can accept the notion of Rerun's mother not wanting him to have a dog, as that's hardly uncommon, the moment where that store-owner literally tosses him out the door and into a snowbank ranks up there with all those dickhead adults who gave Charlie Brown rocks when he went out trick-or-treating. That's to say nothing of Rerun, a five-year old, getting suspended from kindergarten for him telling that girl they should run off to Paris together, which, sadly, is something I could see happening in this day and age, despite how ridiculous it is. Even Snoopy, who's not exactly known for his compassion anyway, eventually stops playing with Rerun, actually giving him a rejection notice and forcing him to pull him on his own sled. And then, there's the moment where Rerun tries to build a snowman but the hot sun causes it to melt, despite his attempts to save it. Rerun's comments after it's completely melted make it come off as more comical than it would have been otherwise, especially with his frantic begging beforehand, but still, it feels like even nature is against him.

The special opens with Snoopy leading Woodstock and a group of his friends up a steep hill that overlooks the town. Snoopy motions for the birds to get into his food-bowl, which he's brought with them, and he pushes it back down the way the way they came, hopping in and joining them. They have a quick but wild ride, going down the slopes and around curves, before flying off into the air and landing in a small tree down below. Charlie Brown and Linus walk up, the latter commenting, "Christmas decorations are getting more lifelike every year, Charlie Brown." After that, the two of them, along with Lucy, are seen building a snowman, when Linus tells Charlie Brown that their mother took Rerun with her on her bicycle for some Christmas shopping. It then cuts to Rerun on the back of the bike, who's already fretting about his mom's crazy pedaling, even though they're just now leaving the garage. He describes himself as a "white-knuckle flier" in this kind of predicament, yelling for her to look out at various obstacles and trying to calm himself by singing Jingle Bells, which doesn't help at all. Following that bike ride, Rerun, completely wiped out, heads over to the Brown house to play with Snoopy, but Sally doesn't let him come in, telling him that Snoopy's resting.

After the credits, you get a scene where Linus, Lucy, and Rerun are sitting on the couch, as Rerun talks about how he tells the other kids that he's an only child and that he won out in a discussion about crabby sisters (Lucy is actually proud of this, declaring herself a celebrity since everyone knows about her). Per Lucy's suggestion, he tries to figure out what his "job" in the family should be, when she suddenly storms off in irritation about having to live in a house with two brothers, while Rerun annoys Linus with his comments about blanket and thumb-sucking that he throws his blanket on him to make him be quiet. Following the moment between Rerun and Lucy over the former's building blocks, Rerun's theory about a third child developing an immunity to his siblings' weirdness annoys Lucy to where she picks him up and chucks him out the front door. The next day, Rerun is in his kindergarten class, placating his teacher by telling her how great the project she's given them is, while spending time with the girl with the pigtails. When she says she's tired of all this kindergarten stuff, Rerun suggests they run away to Paris. She asks him if he has any money and he says he has 50 cents, which he thinks should get them bumped up to business class. But, the next day, that girl tells Rerun that the principal wants to see him and when he does, he finds out that he's been suspended for harassment. He goes home and tells Lucy about it, describing it as having been "fired."

Linus is pulling Rerun around on a sled, as Rerun says their mom should let them have a dog, when Snoopy, who'd been spying on them from behind a tree, runs at Linus, grabs his blanket, drags him around by it, swings him around, and then flings him through the air. He slams into a snowman Lucy finished making, as Rerun walks up to them, asking, "Having a dog could be fun, don't you think?" That night, Rerun makes a letter to Santa Claus, intending to ask for a dog. When Lucy asks him if he thinks Santa will bring him something their mother doesn't want him to have, Rerun responds with this remark: "Ooh, Supreme Court stuff!" The next day, he head to a pet store, passing by Snoopy, who walks out carrying a bone, and asks the owner for a leash, collar, and food-bowl, asking him to put it on his tab. This leads to him getting tossed out and into a snowdrift, landing right next to Snoopy. He tells Snoopy that Lucy's right and Santa won't bring him a dog, sighing that he'll likely just get a pair of socks and an orange, if he's lucky. He sheds a tear over this and Snoopy gives him his bone, seemingly out of pity. Later, he's playing in the sandbox in the garage, when Lucy and Sally show up, the former demanding he leave so they can play in the box, saying that it's two against one. But, Rerun cranks a jack-in-the-box, which pops open to reveal Woodstock, indicating that it's now two on two. Lucy growls in frustration, when she hears her mother calling. Rerun is not happy about hearing this, groaning, "It's B of the B Day!", and runs out of the garage. Sally asks Lucy what that meant and she explains, "It's Back of the Bike Day." Instantly, Rerun finds himself on the back of his mother's bike, passing by Charlie Brown and Linus on the sidewalk. Charlie Brown comments on how well Mrs. van Pelt handles the bike, noting that she went through a hedge instead of a brick wall, while Rerun says that they only hit four parked cars the day before. He then sings, "Over hill, over dale...", then looks behind him and says, "Poor Dale." Rerun then takes the time to wax philosophic, since it's giving him a lot of time to think, including about what would happen if they ran into a tree, before noting that they're heading for the cleaners and drag a line of connected coat-hangers behind them. With the sound of a barking dog, Rerun explains that it's a German shepherd that chases them every day and never stops until he throws a shoe at it, adding, "I'm running out of shoes!" His mother goes through a short burst of snow, Rerun explaining that they tend to slide all around, as well, and they then proceed to go to the supermarket and through the mall, before getting back on the bike. Rerun says he sometimes goes through a whole day without ever touching the ground.

Meanwhile, Lucy is over at Schroeder's house, aggravating him with her fawning over him and reading facts about toy pianos that he doesn't want to know. That's when Snoopy and Woodstock come in, covered with snow, and shake it off all over Lucy, sending her storming out of the house. Schroeder high-fives Snoopy and he and Woodstock start dancing to the music, with Snoopy bounding happily out the door. He comes upon Charlie Brown and Rerun on the sidewalk and briefly dances with them before sending them into a snowdrift behind them. Charlie Brown why he can't just have a normal dog, while Rerun tells him he's lucky to have a dog at all. He asks him if he Snoopy has any family and Charlie Brown mentions Belle. He then tells him about his brother, Marbles, who visited for just one day, as Snoopy took him for a wild ride on his doghouse, and shows him a picture of two other brothers, Olaf and Andy, saying that they spent some time with Snoopy as well. However, the flashback to their visit shows that they destroyed the inside of his house, so Snoopy suggested they go visit their other brother, Spike, out in the desert. Charlie Brown shows Rerun a picture of Spike and comments that Andy and Olaf somehow ended up in Alaska when they to visit him. Rerun laments that he wishes one of Snoopy's siblings could be his dog, before asking Charlie Brown if he could come over sometimes and play with Snoopy, which he allows as long as his mother is fine with it.

One day, Rerun attempts to play with a basketball by himself, only to end up flipping over with it and sliding across the ice when he tries to go for a slam-dunk. He then heads over to Charlie Brown's house with the ball and tells him to see if Snoopy wants to come outside and shoot some baskets. He goes to look for Snoopy, when Snoopy runs out the door, takes the ball, bounces it around, sinks a basket, and then heads up from the net a little bit and tosses the ball, making another basket. He heads back to the house, hands the ball back to Rerun, and runs inside. Charlie Brown shows back up, saying he couldn't find Snoopy but says he doesn't think he would be interested. Rerun then offers to give Snoopy a Christmas cookie if he comes out to play. Hearing this, Snoopy comes charging out and plays with Rerun, swinging with him and jumping out of the swing and into the snow with him. Rerun gives him the cookie, only for Snoopy to grab the whole bag of cookies and take off, munching them as he goes. Rerun figures, "I guess dogs have to eat a lot." The two of them are then seen playing with bubbles. Rerun blows one up into the air, only for Snoopy to jump up and catch and hold it in his mouth like a ball, before letting it go and allowing it to pop, leaving Rerun to wonder how he did it. After that, they're sitting on the front step, when Rerun asks Snoopy how he decides if he should back at any passersby. The answers? Snoopy takes out a coin, flips it, looks at it, and then lets out a tiny, "Woof." Next, they're in Rerun's house, playing with cards by throwing them up into the air. The idea is to see how many each person has facing up on the floor but Snoopy proceeds to grab all of the cards out of the air and build a house with them, again amazing Rerun. Some time later, Rerun comes by to play fetch with Snoopy, only for Snoopy to hand him a slip of paper that reads, "Thank you for your offer to come out and play. We are busy at this time, however, and cannot accept your offer. We hope you will be successful elsewhere." Incredulous, Rerun says to himself, "Dogs have rejections slips?!" Undeterred, Rerun shows up again the next day, this time asking if Snoopy wants to come out and "frolic." He explains to Charlie Brown that he says "frolic" because they're updating the neighborhood and then tells him to ask Snoopy to come out and "romp" in the snow, explaining to Charlie Brown what romp means. Charlie Brown pops back in the house, and then sticks his head out the door again, telling Rerun, "He says no. 'No' means to deny, or refuse, or disagree." After he fails that evening to get his mother to agree let him have a dog, Rerun next tries to buy Snoopy off of Charlie Brown but he tells him he has 16 cents and he'd need to have $10 million. Charlie Brown walks back in the house and Rerun asks, "How would it be if I gave you 16 cents now, and the rest later?" That doesn't work, so Rerun decides it's time to see Santa Claus.

He intercepts Lucy just as she's going into Schroeder's house again and asks her to take him to see Santa, but she tells him that she's busy and that she might take him the next day. She walks into the house, through the main hall, and leaves her coat and small hat on a figure of Beethoven before heading into the living room, where Schroeder is again practicing the piano. She leans on the piano, as always, and asks Schroeder if Beethoven ever bought his girlfriend fuzzy mittens as a Christmas present. When Schroeder says he doesn't think so, Lucy tells him that now is his chance to do something Beethoven never did, but he's already planned to do such a thing... and yanks the piano out from under her, sending her flying. Undeterred, Lucy crawls back over, now asking if Beethoven ever played Jingle Bells, suggesting he probably thought he was too good for it. Schroeder, again, yanks the piano out from under Lucy. This time, he plays the piano hard enough to where the musical notes take form, float over to her, and rain down on her, sending her running. Snoopy then shows up and, noticing the shower of notes, collects some in a bucket, and uses them to decorate a small Christmas tree, sitting down next to it with a proud grin on his face. Apparently inspired, he then runs to his doghouse, digs out his Santa Claus suit, borrows a literal piece of music from Schroeder, and sets up on his street corner, where he rings his bell in tune with it. Sally shows up and attempts to give him her Christmas list, which Woodstock scribbles down, only to chuck into a waste bucket when he's done. Sally then goes home and tells Charlie Brown about what she just went through.

The next day, Lucy keeps her promise to Rerun and takes him to see Santa, though when they come upon Snoopy, she decides to check him out before allowing Rerun to talk to him. Lucy quizzes Snoopy about his lack of reindeer, about how he's going to land on the rooftops, go down chimneys, and come back up, declaring he'll give up after three houses. Snoopy proceeds to bonk her on the nose with his hand-bell, sending her away. Charlie Brown then brings Snoopy his food-bowl and he sits down to eat some, only for a little girl to spot him and exclaim to her mother that Santa is eating out of a dog dish. Lucy then brings Rerun up and tells him that this Santa is merely a dog in a Santa suit, but Rerun runs up to Snoopy and hugs him, before asking for a dog as a Christmas present. Snoopy rings his bell and motions for a contribution. Rerun flips a coin into the box and shakes Snoopy's hand, when Lucy drags him off. Unfortunately for Rerun, Lucy, again, tells him their mom won't allow it and that he wouldn't know how to take care of a dog anyway, later telling him to just ask Charlie Brown. Rerun later visits Charlie Brown again and he tells him that dogs need a lot of care and attention. Rerun decides to watch how Charlie Brown is with Snoopy so he can be better prepared for caring for one should he get it. As they watch, Snoopy, wearing his pilot hat, puts a banner on the side of his doghouse's roof that reads ACE AIRLINE. Sally, after struggling to get her winter clothes on, comes out, planning to use this "plane" to go Christmas shopping. Snoopy helps her get on top of the doghouse and, appearing to crank an invisible propeller, they appear to take off. Sally complains about there not being any complimentary orange juice and that no one welcomed her aboard, which Snoopy makes up for by kissing her. After that, Sally comments on how smooth the flight is, as if they're not flying at all, only for Snoopy to do a loop. She asks about the emergency oxygen masks they're supposed to have and Snoopy puts a paper-bag with eye-holes over her head. When she then says that she thought passengers were served a lunch, Snoopy gives her his food bowl, and follows that up with a question about what happens when they reach the ocean, which is answered by Snoopy putting a diving mask on. It starts snowing and Sally, saying she's getting cold and wet, demands to be taken back and Snoopy complies, apparently "landing" hard enough to knock them both off the roof. Seeing all this, Rerun proclaims Snoopy to be the greatest dog in the world, while Sally dizzily walks back to the house.

Charlie Brown gives Snoopy a letter addressed to him. He opens the envelope and takes out a note, laughing as soon as he looks at it and reads. He gives it back to Charlie Brown, who tells Rerun that it's a letter from Spike. In the note, Spike details his attempt to celebrate Christmas by decorating a tumbleweed, which worked, until the thing blew away. He also mentions attempting to be like a tumbleweed, bouncing through life without a care, but that didn't work out well. He goes on to describe some cold mornings that prompted him to light the fireplace in his home, which is a big, hollowed-out cactus, and that it even snowed, prompting him to attempt to build a snowman. But, he didn't get far before the snow stopped, prompting him to build a tumbleweed man instead. He strung Christmas tree lights around a cactus, saying that it was fun up to a point, as he ended up getting snagged in the lights and tied to the cactus. With the letter done, Snoopy walks away, laughing, while Charlie Brown tells Rerun that Spike does, indeed, live in the desert by himself. This gives Rerun the idea to make Spike his dog and asks Snoopy to send the letter. Snoopy pulls out a typewriter and types a letter to Spike, Rerun saying that he can be his dog and that they'll celebrate Christmas together.

Again, Lucy is over at Schroeder's house, bugging him. After telling him merry Christmas, she says that she notices there isn't much mistletoe in the room, prompting him to again jerk the piano out from under her. Though she tumbles in the air again, she composes herself quickly and calls Beethoven a bad influence, citing that a number of musicians never get married because he didn't. She pounds her fist on the floor and sends Schroeder flying, insisting, "That's what I call a bad influence." Later, Rerun is building a snowman to greet Spike and it turns out well, as he gives it a hat, a tie, and two sticks for arms. Woodstock comes in and lands on its left arm, but then, it quickly melts under the sun, despite Rerun's attempts to salvage it. He's left laying in the slush, groaning, "You can talk to the moon, but the sun won't listen." Despite this bit of discouragement, Rerun is then overjoyed when he's told that Spike answered Snoopy's letter, saying that he and his "friend" are making a painful journey to come visit him. The reason why he describes it as a painful journey is because the friend in question turns out to be a potted cactus he's lugging around. Rerun and Snoopy wait for Spike on the former's front porch and, despite Lucy's skepticism, it isn't long before he comes walking down the path to their house. Snoopy runs to greet his brother and the two of them dance excitedly after embracing. However, Lucy is shocked when she sees how skinny Spike is, calling him, "As thin as a promise," and deciding to take him into the house and feed him. With that, Lucy is seen dressed as a nurse, while Spike, wearing Linus' blanket as a hospital gown, gets into bed, where Lucy serves him a milkshake. Linus, already taken aback by Spike wearing his blanket, asks Lucy why she never fixes her own brother a milkshake and she answers, "When he's through, you can lick the straw." Some time later, Lucy joins Charlie Brown and Linus out in the snow, proclaiming that, thanks to her, Spike is no longer skinny, and sure enough, when he walks out the front door, he's now got a big belly on him.

With that, Rerun starts playing with Spike. First, the two of them play fetch with a ball, though Rerun dubs the game "slobber ball," due to how wet it is when Spike brings it back to him. Next, the two of them are playing cards and each put their various hands down hard enough to send the other twirling up in the air. Lucy asks them what this game is called and Rerun says, "We don't have the slightest idea." After that, the two of them are jumping up and down on a jigsaw puzzle. Rerun explains to Lucy that they're forcing the pieces that don't fit to fit. Lucy just walks and the two of them carry on, when one of Rerun's teeth pops out, making him fret, "I must be getting old. Next, I'll start losing my hair!" Unfortunately, Rerun has to go with his mother to pick out a Christmas tree, and Spike gets dragged along for the ride. Instantly, the two of them are panicking, as it seems like Mrs. van Pelt is going to hit everything in her way, with Rerun commenting, "I hate looking at the world through my fingers." Following that, Spike is once again skinny and Rerun's mother has decided they can't keep him anymore. Lucy assures Rerun that Charlie Brown will find him a nice home, but his efforts don't go too well. First, Violet turns down the offer because of how bad Spike looks, and so does Franklin. Then, Schroeder turns him down simply because he says that since Beethoven never had a dog, neither should he. When he goes back in the house, Charlie Brown exclaims, "Beethoven would have liked this dog!" Spike then has no choice but to go back to the desert, and after remembering the ordeal he had with Rerun on the bicycle, he figures that it's for the best. He shakes Charlie Brown's hand and hugs both Snoopy and Rerun, before picking up his cactus and heading home. He tries to thumb a ride but doesn't get any takes, until a hippie-looking girl on a skateboard picks him up and takes him on to the desert.

Dejected, Rerun then learns that Lucy has signed him up to be in their Christmas play, a prospect that terrifies him, as he says he can't memorize lines. Lucy assures him he only has one line and that she'll help him. Come the play, Rerun is up there with Lucy, Charlie Brown, Violet, Linus, Schroeder, Pigpen, Franklin, and Patty, when he starts freaking out because he can't remember his line. He whispers this to Lucy, and when it comes around to when he's supposed to say his line, Lucy tells him he'd better remember or she'll slug him when they get home. With that, Rerun blurts out his line, "The star that shone at Bethlehem still shines for us today," saying it perfectly, and fainting once he lets it out. On their way home from the play, the kids talk about whether Spike got home in tune to celebrate Christmas and we're shown that he did, as he ties a banner that reads MERRY CHRISTMAS to the arm of a cactus, though he has to hold one end up himself. Rerun then tries to sell Charlie Brown a picture he drew of Snoopy but he says he'd be more willing to pay him if he were a "starving artist." He then asks if he could have Snoopy come out and pull him on his sled. Charlie Brown ducks back in the house and then pokes his head back out, saying that Snoopy won't stop laughing at the request. Rerun has him ask Snoopy again and this time, Charlie Brown comes back with a question from Snoopy: if Rerun has a silver harness with golden bells and fancy tassels. Needless to say, he doesn't, but Charlie Brown goes back in and implores Snoopy to play with Rerun. Snoopy does join him outside, only to jump on the sled himself and force Rerun to pull him down the street, making him wonder if dogs are too much trouble after all. We then get that last scene with Charlie Brown and Snoopy in bed before the ending credits roll.

As he had done for several specials at this point, jazz composer David Benoit handled the music by both using Vince Guaraldi's old themes like Linus and Lucy (this time, the actual Guaraldi version, rather than a redone one) and Christmastime is Here and also coming up with some pieces of his own that fit in well with Guaraldi's material. He reuses a bit of a nicely jovial, festive theme that was featured in It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown and comes up with some nice, low-key, mellow music for much of the rest of the special that goes well with the story's wintertime setting. My favorite original part of the score is the theme he composed for Spike, which is this rustic, old-timey piano piece that sounds a bit like Go Tell It On The Mountain and fits really well with the country vibe of someone who lives out in the desert.

I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown is a pretty fair Peanuts special, mostly in the technical department, as it has nicely colorful visuals, a versatile number of environments and settings, some pretty good animation, good music, and it's interesting to see more obscure characters like Rerun and Spike get major roles. But, the story drags due to the special's extended length, it's never really funny, Christmas itself never seems to truly come except near the end, and it's kind of sucky watching Rerun get put through so much crap, especially at the hands of the ever-unseen adults. If you're a Peanuts fan and you'd like to see something other than the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas, you could do a lot worse than this, but it's also possible to do better, so keep that in mind. In any case, merry Christmas, everyone.