Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Very Christmasy, But More Expensive: "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" Is Problematic.

The Good: Decent detailing, Sound effect is decent
The Bad: Poor balance, Terribly expensive, Batteries not included.
The Basics: A poorly balanced Peanuts ornament with a lackluster light effect, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" is saved by its detailing and sound effect.

Last year, as part of insuring that I didn't look entirely like a geek when I was reviewing holiday ornaments, I tried to review a few ornaments from niche markets I might not have otherwise had interest in. I figured Peanuts were quite popular, so I got my hands on the "Just The Right Tree" ornament and evaluated that. This year, I'm starting out early with a Peanuts ornament review with the brand new "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" ornament. Unfortunately for Peanuts fans, this is a very expensive Christmas tree ornament which lacks the finer qualities of most other Hallmark ornaments.

"Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" takes a moment from A Charlie Brown Christmas and immortalizes it as a Hallmark Keepsake ornament. At the climax of the episode, the wise Linus and Charlie Brown's chief antagonist, Lucy, all get together and sing Christmas carols before their tree. It is Linus, Snoopy, Lucy and Charlie Brown standing in the snow in front of the full Christmas tree that is the subject of the "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" Hallmark Ornament. As part of the Hallmark Keepsake line, this "magic" ornament features working sounds and lights.

However, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" is instantly problematic in that it does not include the AAA batteries needed to activate the light and sound effects. Moreover, the ornament is in an entirely different scale than the "Just The Right Tree" ornament, so those making the ultimate Peanuts tree need to choose which scale they truly want to collect or else have a very lopsided appearance to their ornaments!


The "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" ornament recreates the final moments of A Charlie Brown Christmas with all of the characters getting along quite nicely. It features four characters standing on a pedestal of snow before the lush, fully-decorated Christmas tree. The ornament, released in 2010, is riddled with problems, but looking good is not one of them! Hallmark was able to get this one quite right because the characters in it are animated and as a result, do not require much in the way of shading detail. Thus, the simplistic looks to the smiling Charlie Brown and singing Snoopy, Linus and Lucy are all perfectly normal and reasonable for the ornament.

Hallmark, however, could have done "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" a little better, though the pedestal base is nicely detailed with a diorama of village the Peanuts characters live in in winter. Measuring four and a half inches tall, 3 3/8" wide and and 2 inches deep, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" ornament is one of the largest Peanuts ornaments. Hallmark seems to be capitalizing on the success of "Just The Right Tree" last year by increasing the number of musical Peanuts ornaments that have both lights and sounds. They seem to be feeling free to exploit them by raising the price as well and "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" was released with a $28.95 issue price.

The Hallmark "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" ornament is made of a durable plastic and has the three children and the dog facing the person looking at the ornament. The snow and characters are colored properly, though the snow is actually a pearlescent white color instead of actual white. Hallmark similarly gets away with not having proper flesh tone realism because this ornament is based upon a cartoon where the fleshtones are not realistic at all.


As a Hallmark Keepsake ornament, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" has both a light effect and a sound effect. Pressing the button on the top, front - in front of Snoopy and Lucy - of the ornament activates the light and sound effect. The light effect is a remarkably weak illumination of the star atop the Christmas tree and the lights on the actual Christmas Tree. The lights that pop to life on the Christmas tree do not blink, but in normal or low lighting, the effect is surprisingly unimpressive.

The button to activate the effects is right on the front of the ornament and it is large enough that even children may activate the ornament's effects. When one presses the button, in addition to the lights coming on, there are two sound clips. The sound chip plays one of two clips from the Christmas special. One has just the musical accompaniment from the end of the episode (I cannot place the song) and the second clip has the Peanuts gang singing. The sound effect is clear, even though the speaker is rather small. The speaker array is actually cleverly hidden slits around the Christmas tree!


As with all ornaments, the intent of the Hallmark Keepsake "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" ornament is to be hung on a Christmas Tree. For those creating the ultimate Peanuts Christmas Tree, the "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" ornament is a mediocre addition. The ornament has the standard brass hook loop embedded into the top center of the star atop the tree. This is fairly obtrusive and necessary for the ornament. Unfortunately, the ornament is very poorly balanced. Because the characters are standing before the tree, the ornament leans forward. As well, the weight of the battery in the base pulls the ornament down.

I've not found a way to correct the pitch problem, but the "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown" ornament sits better on a shelf than it hangs from a tree.


Hallmark Keepsake began delving into the collectibles market in 1991 with Star Trek when it introduced the exceptionally limited edition original U.S.S. Enterprise ornament (click here for the review of that ornament!). Since then, they have made ornament replicas of virtually everything that has ever had collectibles associated with it (and some that Hallmark has pioneered). The "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" ornament had very broad appeal as A Charlie Brown Christmas was almost universally popular from the first time it aired through contemporary times. As a result, it is probably quite adequately produced to meet demand, but unlikely to be much in the way of a collectible. In other words, this is a great ornament to purchase because one likes it and its functions as opposed to an ornament one hopes might appreciate in value.


The sound function and look of the "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" ornament are definite pluses, but the weak light effect and balance problems pull the ornament down into more average territory. Peanuts fans might enjoy this, but for those creating a uniform Peanuts tree, the balance is thrown off by this oversized, pricy ornament. This is a weaker "recommend," despite the fact that many, less picky fans might like this.

For other Hallmark ornaments, please check out my reviews of:
Hallmark Gold Crown U.S.S. Enterprise blown glass ornament
2010 Limited Edition Lando Calrissian ornament
2010 "Defender Of Justice" Iron Man 2 ornament


For other ornament reviews, please check out my index page!

© 2010 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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