Just in time for Christmas, Apple TV+ cooked up a brand-new holiday special from the Peanuts gang. The charming show, titled Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne, debuts Friday and centers on Lucy’s attempt to pull off a New Year’s Eve party.
It will run alongside several classic Peanuts specials on the streaming service, so we don’t have to judge the new one in a vacuum. Luckily, For Auld Lang Syne pops the cork on some of that old-fashioned holiday magic that makes the Peanuts special so … special.
Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne review
As For Auld Lang Syne starts, Christmas is just around the corner and everyone’s getting excited in their own way. Charlie Brown is watching Citizen Kane. His sister, Sally, is ruining the ending of Citizen Kane for him. And Snoopy has invited his family over for a reunion.
Perpetual football-puller Lucy van Pelt is excited about her grandmother’s arrival, but her brother, Linus, is dreading it. (Grandma always wants to take away his security blanket.) Lucy can’t wait because grandma brings treats and presents and makes cookies for them. When granny calls at the last minute and says she can’t come, Lucy is crushed.
She suffers a panic attack thinking that the reason grandma didn’t show up was because she doesn’t like her granddaughter. So maybe … nobody likes Lucy? Maybe the only way to disprove that horrible idea is to throw a New Year’s Eve party and see who shows up.
Surprise! Charlie Brown has problems, too
Meanwhile, Charlie Brown is filled with angst because he didn’t accomplish any of his New Year’s resolutions from last year. Lucy, his crackpot therapist, tells him he ought not to reach so high with his goals. What if instead of building “the world’s biggest snowman,” he just built a normal-size snowman? That kind of thing. (Not bad advice, actually.)
Charlie Brown races off to accomplish his more measured goals. This doesn’t go so well at first, but Lucy points out something on his list that might be easily accomplished: Do something creative. How about for the party she’s about to throw?
Ultimately, Lucy enlists everyone in the Peanuts gang — Pigpen, Peppermint Patty, Sally, Marcie, Franklin, Schroeder, Snoopy and his family — to play their part in her New Year’s Eve spectacular at a ballroom she rented with all the nickels Charlie Brown gave her for therapy.
Lucy throws a New Year’s Eve party
The only trouble is, nobody does exactly what Lucy wants. Her request for finger sandwiches turns up jelly beans and mud pies. Her request for an ice sculpture in her likeness yields a misshapen joke. Her request for Snoopy and Co. to play music is sullied when they show up dejected because they broke cousin Spike’s camera and feel miserable about it.
Soon, Lucy is micromanaging and complaining that no one’s doing anything right. She’s alienating everyone, ruining what would have been a perfectly nice party due to her high standards. It all comes crashing down (literally) when poor, put-upon Linus gets fed up taking Lucy’s abuse and leaves just in time for Charlie Brown to pull the wrong lever. Is there still time for Lucy to learn the meaning of “Auld Lang Syne“?
View a great work of art
There’s no denying that there’s a charm to the old Peanuts cartoons that’s missing from some recent attempts at reviving these beloved characters. For Auld Lang Syne director Clay Kaytis (The Christmas Chronicles, The Angry Birds Movie) is plainly a huge fan of the original animation, so he doesn’t go as far afield in the redesign as Steve Martino did when he made the 3D-animated The Peanuts Movie in 2015.
That was a much more radical attempt to bring Charlie Brown to a young audience weaned on Pixar and DreamWorks animation. This new special is a more robust tribute to the original Peanuts specials from the ’60s, even if it’s got cleaner lines and deeper colors because of the way computers render these things. (Be sure to check out 1965’s A Charlie Brown Christmas and 1992’s It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown to see how the Peanuts franchise evolved. Both are also streaming among a clutch of other vintage Peanuts shows on Apple TV+.)
Here’s to Lucy
Kaytis and writers Scott Montgomery and Alex Galatis also do a bang-up job preserving the motivations and foibles of the original characters. I like that this is a Lucy-centric episode because she’s very often the most hyperactive member of the Peanuts gang. Plus, making her the focus keeps Charlie Brown creator Charles M. Schulz‘s mission of parity and diversity alive by not simply making this all about the boy with his name above the title.
In this special, Lucy is endearing even when she’s losing her temper and pushing people away. (That’s thanks in no small part to the voice performance of Isabella Leo, who ably played the role of Lucy in all the new Apple TV+ Peanuts programming.) Lucy’s delusions of aristocracy remain charming, rather than cloying.
Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne may not replace the original Charlie Brown holiday specials in the hearts and minds of fans. After all, it’s truly tough to top something scored to the incredible Vince Guaraldi Trio Christmas music. And the power of nostalgia can’t be overlooked, especially around the holidays.
Nevertheless, For Auld Lang Syne stands as a worthy addition to the canon of Charlie Brown programs, full of heart and frequently funny. Might as well start a new holiday tradition this year!
Watch Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne on Apple TV+
Snoopy Presents: For Auld Lang Syne premieres December 10 on Apple TV+.
Watch on: Apple TV+
Scout Tafoya is a film and TV critic, director and creator of the long-running video essay series The Unloved for RogerEbert.com. He has written for The Village Voice, Film Comment, The Los Angeles Review of Books and Nylon Magazine. He is the author of Cinemaphagy: On The Psychedelic Classical Form of Tobe Hooper, the director of 25 feature films, and the author of more than 300 video essays, which can be found at Patreon.com/honorszombie.