A Charlie Brown Christmas Review: Charming Retelling
Many classics of TV, film, and literature have already made jumps into iOS apps. Now, just in time for the holidays, they’re being joined by that classic Christmas television tradition, A Charlie Brown Christmas. The beloved Peanuts staple makes its way to the device via a charming and well-executed storybook app that faithfully brings the spirit and style of the cartoon to your iPhone and iPad.
Let’s get this out of the way first: this is not a game. There’s no minigames, or bonus material, or newly created content based on the lisence. Instead, the app is a storybook, telling the tale of the Christmas special in a touchable, narrated format.
And it’s a pretty good storybook, too. It’s about as completely faithful a translation of the television special as one can get in a virtual storybook, with no major scene missing or rewritten (though some of the minor ones have been left out, like Lucy and Schroder’s “Jingle Bells” — a scene that often gets cut for commercial time nowadays, as well). The virtual artwork has recreated the style of the special very accurately. This looks and feels like A Charlie Brown Christmas.
And it sounds like it, too. Audio clips from the show are liberally scattered throughout the telling, as is the wonderful Vince Guaraldi Trio score. It’s good to hear Linus’s voice telling the Nativity story, or Lucy calling Charlie Brown a blockhead. And for the narrated parts of the story, the devs went out and hired Peter Robbins, the man who actually voiced Charlie Brown in the special all those years ago.
Of course, this wouldn’t be an iOS app if there weren’t interactive moments. And sure enough, each page features touchable elements that kids can have fun activating, from popping snowflakes to skating children to a keyboard upon which to play the signature “Linus and Lucy” theme song. None of these elements is vital to the story — and can distract from the telling of it, truth be told — but they’re fun and not obtrusive and your kids will love them (mine did).
There’s a lot of consternation about this app in the App Store reviews concerning the price. And compared to a lot of games, there doesn’t seem to be much *to* this app. But this isn’t really an *app*; it’s a *book*, and probably reflective of the way more children’s’ books are going to go in the near future. Compare the price of this app to children’s’ books or Kindle books, and the pricing does seem more reasonable. Or even compare it to the price of the special it’s based on; downloading A Charlie Brown Christmas in iTunes will cost you $9.99. So call the pricing a mixed bag; pricey compared to what you’re used to paying for apps, but not compared to what you’re paying for media content.
Beyond price, there’s precious little to complain about here. Only, it seems to have a memory issue with older devices. It crashed occasionally on my iPad 1, and it ran reeallyyy slowly on my 3rd gen iPod. The iPod screen felt too small for it, anyways; this is definitely an iPad app, regardless of its Universal status.
If you’ve got nostalgia for the beloved cartoon, or if you’ve got kids, then A Charlie Brown Christmas is a sweet little app to pick up. Sure, it’s a premium price for what seems, at first, to be a limited amount of content. But that’s the way these storybooks are headed, and I hope more of them sport this level of quality. If your kids are anything like mine, they’ll get a lot of delight out of playing with the storybook many times over, and you’ll get the warm fuzzies watching them enjoying such a classic.
Our Score: 4.5 out of 5