A Charlie Brown Christmas is a lovely and well-crafted universal storybook application that brings the beloved 1965 television special to devices.
Few people - in the United States at least - need an explanation of this well-known Christmas story about Charlie Brown, who after feeling depressed about Christmas, is given the advice to get involved and becomes the director of the gang’s play, The Nativity.
This application is a very good adaptation of the special shown every year around Christmas. I do have a few memories of some scenes not part of this basic application that are now available as part of the "director's cut" available as a free in-app purchase, but what has been included in the basic download creates a strong narrative, translating this tale well to an application.
True to the style of other Loud Crow Interactive applications, this app opens up to a turntable playing a 45 rpm record of “Christmas Time is Here,” used as the background music for this app, and a red book with the title, A Charlie Brown Christmas, embossed on the cover.
I appreciate the crackling one can hear from the record playing on the turntable - sounds many children may have never heard as LP’s have become less and less popular, creating a lovely nostalgic feel for the adults who may love this app as much if not more than their children.
From here, one can adjust the volume of the music used in the background of this storybook, and one can choose to read this book to oneself or listen to the included narration, wonderfully voiced by Peter Robbins - the original voice of Charlie Brown.
It is also a real treat that the original dialogue from the characters found in the TV. Special are incorporated within as well throughout this application.
As is the style of other adapted storybook apps by Loud Crow Interactive, the characters found within this familiar story can be tapped for various interactions that correspond nicely to the page at hand, such as the gang ice skating at the lake, or Charlie Brown looking inside his mailbox.
Other interactions are included as well such as touching a falling snowflake in order to enlarge and to show great detail, as well as many other creative surprises.
It is worth noting that one should invest in the time to tap these hotspots more than once, as oftentimes, before the narration has been spoken, tapping the characters leads to effective but minimal interactions and verbal sound effects.
However, when voiceover is complete, do tap these characters again to have these narrated lines of text spoken found in speech bubbles alongside these characters, reminiscent of the traditional comic-style that Peanuts and other comics are known for. This is an especially nice effect when the narration is off, allowing readers to still hear the original cast - a very nice touch.
I also like the use of textured paper within the pages of this app, as well as simple paper-cut art used to create the characters and objects found, creating a layered dimensional look.
It is also a lot of fun to see Snoopy decorate his doghouse, with these actions playing over a series of taps after the voiceover has had a chance to finish, as readers scroll through the included tabs that make up the mini-pages of included text found within each page.
This way of breaking down the lines works well in minimizing both the space these words take on the page, as well as in not overwhelming readers, but it would be nice for an “Autoplay” to be included as I could see young children having some issues with the turning of these tabs before swiping to the next page.
I am happy to see that my favorite scene is included, where the kids all dance to the Charlie Brown theme om stage as they practice their play.
Once one is then prompted through the playing of the song “Linus and Lucy” on an included piano, the page becomes lively with each of the kids dancing his own way to Linus’s piano playing just the way parents will remember, and I am happy to say that this moment is also a favorite of my son’s.
It is lovely that children can decorate their own tree with included ornaments and other decorations, as well as a few that must be earned by finding all the hidden items as accomplishments. This area is found on the first title page of the book and can easily be overlooked as one starts to read. Please look for it.
I am also smitten with the last page of this app where the characters are all shown with image and name, and a tap letting readers hear the line they are most noted for in this story, a great section for me to go over with my son as he is new to these characters.
I, like most adults my age, have very fond memories of watching A Charlie Brown Christmas as a child, but more so, I remember my dad reading this book to me when I was young.
Quick Amazon and Google searches did not uncover the specific book I remember, possibly a novelization of this holiday special sold at our local grocery store. For me, this application brings back the memory of being read to as a child, possibly a more profound memory than that of watching the T.V. special.
This is the first year we have let my son watch television beyond a few select PBS shows and the like, but as my son has grown, I want him to be familiar with the pop culture references he will find out in the world, so we have included the holiday specials most kids are watching.
First, my boy saw It’s A Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown for Halloween, and my son’s first comment was “Who is Charlie Brown and why is everyone so mean to him,” and honestly I felt awful. My sensitive son enjoyed the special but did ask me to find him a Charlie Brown show that did not have everyone calling each other “stupid.”
I am glad to say that this ugly word in not a part of this application, and Lucy is not holding her iconic football for Charlie Brown to kick, but I am at a loss for what to say to my son about issues such as Charlie Brown’s obvious depression, and Pigpen’s hygiene issues that possibly stem from neglect - something that concerned me as a child.
This story, as classic as it is, did seem to put my son in a melancholy mood - something to think about as a parent.
For most, these concerns will be outweighed by how wonderfully charming this application and the holiday show itself are, having stood the test of time for all these years, and it makes me sad to think that my son, like other children, won’t have the experience of reading the comic on a daily basis as a family, we now read the majority of our news on-line.
The theme of the holidays becoming over-commercialized is still fitting today, but parents make note that the secularization of Christmas is also a topic handled here, and this app, like the TV show, has a nice moment of Linus reciting the Nativity story, from The Gospel According to Luke - something that will please many families.
Others who do not remember this religious moment from the TV show may be surprised if one is looking for something secular and not religious in the way that the Frosty or Rudolph holiday shows are.
If this application were to be updated in the future, the inclusion of autoplay would be wonderful. I also have to admit I have had problems finding the items one looks for in the “Lights and Display Contest,” this app’s version of achievements that players need to complete in order to unlock all the decorations they can add onto their personal Christmas tree.
This kind of thing is a pet peeve of mine if hints of some sort are not also included. I also found the tabs to the achievements page, credits, and other Loud Crow Interactive apps difficult to open when viewing this app on the iPhone.
All in all, I am impressed with the adaptation of this holiday show, as this application is certainly worth checking out on its own merits, as well as a lovely adaptation of a classic holiday show. Thoughtfully abridged for time, this version still maintaining the integrity of the original quite nicely.
People today are bombarded with synced images and sounds from TV, film and now applications. I find it interesting that simply listening to the sound track from this show while appreciating the included interactive illustrations at times has created more of a moment for me than watching the original, as I sometimes look for the alternatives to the basic moving pictures I am so used to seeing.
As mentioned before, a "Director's Cut" of this app adding back the four missing scenes not found in the application is available, free from this app's in-app purchase store, worth the download as many will remember these scenes fondly from the original special, as do I.
Extra decorations can be bought for one's Christmas tree here as well. Starting on December 13th, one can also participate in an in the app scavenger hunt during these 12 days to Christmas, check Loud Crow Interactive's website for more information.