A Charlie Brown Christmas for iOS: Oh, so Charming

| In-Depth Review

This iOS app is based on the 1965 TV animated special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Of course, it’s aimed at children, but even adults who grew up with Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts cartoon series will enjoy it — it’s just so darn appealing. Filled with touchy-feely and sound effects charm, it recreates the TV special — which itself reminds us of the true meaning of Christmas. The iPad version is fabulous.

The app steps through the Christmas special in 19 chapters, starting the with the frozen pond’s ice skating rink, Charlie’s selection of a Christmas tree, the Christmas play, and the final decoration of the tree. Each scene is a still, but is interactive and uses the original cast’s voices. In the Christmas play, Linus retells a short version of the Christmas story, the birth of baby Jesus.

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Each chapter has multiple pages, indicated by smal tabs on the right. The player first steps through the dialog by swiping the pages when prompted. When each scene is done, it’s time to start touching and hearing. The reader can pop a snowflake by touching it, cause a falling star, interact with some of the items on the screen, and generate new or recap dialog by touching the actors. In one scene you can play a short Christmas melody by touching each member of Charlie’s gang in sequence. In another, you can bring up a piano on the display and play Shroeder’s piano.

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If you touch the right things in the right sequence, you win prizes in the “lights and Display” contest, extra things with which to decorate Charlie Brown’s tree. [See the green tab on the right in the first image above.] Not only does the app charmingly recreate the Christmas special movie, but it has some pedagogical value. The words in the dialog are highlighted as the narrator, the original voice of Charlie Brown, Mr. Peter Robbins, speaks. You can go back and touch any single word, and it’ll be spoken aloud.

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The result is that one can approach the app on many different levels. Kids can just step through the chapters, treating it as a shorter version of the TV show. Or they can stop to mess around and touch things in each chapter. Or they can use it to learn and pronounce new words. I can see how parents who grew up with the Peanuts series will want to cuddle up with their child on a snowy weekend and step through the story. In fact, if you’ve ever had your child say, “Tell me a story,” this is a great one to fire up during the holidays.

What I Liked

  • Original dialog from the 1965 TV classic
  • Narration by Peter Robbins, the original voice of Charlie Brown
  • Option to set level of background music
  • Multiple levels of interaction & things to touch
  • Charming sound effects
  • Repeat button to hear the dialog again
  • Unlock rewards by touching things
  • Bookmark ribbon for a pull-down table of contents page

I could swear that the first time I ran the app, I didn’t see the ribbon to pull down the table of contents. Perhaps the first time it’s played, the ribbon doesn’t show up right away. That gets the player moving along, focusing on the progress of the story.

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A Classic

Make no mistake, this is a kids app. I downloaded it on a whim because I’ve been a life long Peanuts fan and more or less grew up on the Charlie Brown Christmas special, along with all the other Peanuts TV specials. If you’re an adult, you may get a kick out of it for awhile, but it’s really designed to be used by (and with) children. I suppose kids could play it alone, but it does seem to promote a loving parent nearby, pointing out some of the features, and perhaps filling in the details of Charlie Brown and his gang. A book of Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts cartoons might be a perfect companion gift. (Off hand, I didn’t see any of those in iBooks.) It’s selling really well and will likely become an iOS Christmas classic in its own right.

It might have been cool if some of the scenes could have dropped into full animation video of the original series, but I surmise that couldn’t be licensed. And the point here is interaction. Anyway, the DVD can always be purchased in addition.

This iOS app is well conceived, well executed, charming, fun, and educational. And it reminds the reader of something very important — why Christians celebrate Christmas. It just doesn’t get any better.

The app is universal and requires merely iOS 3.2.2 or later. It’s also available for Android.

Product: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Company: Loud Crow Interactive, Inc.

List Price: US$6.99

Pros:

Playable on several levels, charming, educational, interactive, whimsical, well conceived and executed.

Cons:

None noted.

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