Mommy Blog Expert: Remastering Iconic A Charlie Brown Christmas - Ron Smith Technicolor Interview #CBXmas

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Remastering Iconic A Charlie Brown Christmas - Ron Smith Technicolor Interview #CBXmas


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4th Post in a #CBXmas Series

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This post series celebrates the 50th airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas which aired earlier this week and runs again on ABC on Tuesday, December 16 at 8 p.m. ET. My interview with Ron Smith, Account Executive Mastering and Restoration at Technicolor -- the fourth involving people closely connected to the iconic family animated picture was absolutely fascinating. I think you'll agree, especially considering that for every film that gets restored, there are 1,000 more that haven't been preserved and protected.

Ron Smith of Technicolor
How was today's cutting-edge technology including 4K scanning and finishing used to make the 50 year-old classic look as fresh and new as the day it first aired? Read on and you'll learn all about the editing room magic, not in techie language but in everyday words that are easy to understand for all us non-filmmakers. 

Smith has worked on Peanuts specials over the years in three different positions: first at CBS, which was airing the Peanuts series at the time; then at Paramount, which was distributing the show during that period, and now at Technicolor. 

"One of the things that really struck me," relates Smith, "when we started working on it here at Technicolor was that I discovered I wasn’t the only one with a special relationship to the material. The colorists here, grown men and women, were fighting over the project. That’s how fondly it’s remembered by so many people."

From a personal perspective Smith is equally touched by the privilege of being involved in the project. "A Charlie Brown Christmas is probably my favorite Christmas show," he says. "If the Linus scene doesn’t get you all choked up, then nothing will. My kids like it, and my daughter has a child who just turned 5, and she loves it."

Who can forget that scraggly tree in A Charlie Brown Christmas? Image from Peanuts

Now for some highlights from my conversation with Smith...

What 4K means to Peanuts

"You’ll see a richer image that’s closer to the original film than any previous digital version of the special. There are more pixels per inch, so the picture quality is better than ever before on any television screen. Peanuts is at the forefront of this technology, which “future-proofs” A Charlie Brown Christmas and the other Peanuts specials for the day when ultra-high-definition TVs are the standard in every household. And the soundtrack has been cleaned and restored, too, providing the perfect sound for home theaters.

From the viewer’s point of view, what’s the first thing we’ll notice now that the special is in 4K?

"That it actually fits on your widescreen television! The picture is now designed for that screen. All the other presentations are designed for the old 4x3 screens."

"You’ll also notice the soundtrack and music have been upgraded for modern viewing: it’s in stereo surround 5.1 We’re lucky that the original negative exists for these shows, and all the original soundtracks and magnetic tracks. We were able to go in, separate those tracks, and clean them up, along with the sound effects. You’ll get that nice stereo music in your surround speakers. So the special not only looks better, but sounds more current, too."

Is there any scene in particular where we’ll notice the difference?

"When I watch one of the shows at home, everything looks kind of small. Particularly any of the group scenes, the skating in the beginning, the rehearsal scenes for the Christmas play, they all look kind of distant. Now you’ll be able to see it much more clearly."

Image from Peanuts Worldwide
What are some of the dos and don’ts of restoring classic animation? Is there a danger that it can it look “too good,” so you lose the charm of the hand-drawn originals?

"There are some classic mistakes. It can look too sharp or over-enhanced. With the Charlie Brown stuff, you have to embrace the original look. The picture changes from frame to frame. You’ve got to realize you can’t fix everything. You’ve basically got to take the show as a whole, not nitpick it, then go back and smooth it out."

"We were lucky to have the original artwork, the original cels, so we could see what the original colors were for characters and what they wore. Everyone in Peanuts family has been involved in this in some way, and they’ve been very helpful."

If you are as huge a Peanuts fan as I am, you'll likely be intrigued by MBE's other posts in this series based on interviews with Mr. Schulz's daughter Jill Schulzactress Sally Dryer who, as a child, voiced Violet in the iconic Charlie Brown TV special that first aired in 1965, and David Benoit, the composer, arranger and musician behind the music CD 40 Years of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Giant Snoopy Holiday Inflatable

Next up in this A Charlie Brown Christmas I'll be interviewing the legendary Lee Mendleson. In 1965 he produced A Charlie Brown Christmas which won an Emmy and a Peabody and went on to become one of the most beloved animated films appealing to multiple generations ever made.

About A Charlie Brown Christmas
Since 1964 A Charlie Brown Christmas has touched the lives of millions of fans around the globe. In 2014, Peanuts Worldwide kicks off a year-long celebration of 50 years of A Charlie Brown Christmas. December 2014 marks the 50th time the beloved special airs on television on ABC. In December 2015 it will be the 50th year since it was created, produced and debuted.

FTC Disclosure: I disclose that I am a 50 Years on TV Peanuts Brand Ambassador. I received a Peanuts prize package to facilitate this post and the associated giveaway. See complete FTC Disclosure information that appears at the bottom of MommyBlogExpert's main page and at the bottom of every individual post on this blog, including this one.

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