A Charlie Brown Christmas

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Title card.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is the first Peanuts television special, first broadcast on CBS on 1965-12-09. The script was written by Charles Schulz and the film was directed and produced by Bill Melendez. The theme music and main score was composed by Vince Guaraldi, and the soundtrack was separately published. The cartoon has re-aired on television around Christmas every year since it's release and it has been released to a variety of home media formats. It has also been released several times as a book, a read-along book, a board game, and a variety of other merchandise. It is arguably the most popular Christmas cartoon in history.

In the film, Charlie Brown is depressed about Christmas, but he isn't sure why. He is encouraged by Lucy to get involved with holiday festivities, but the lack of tradition and overt commercialism only makes him more depressed. After his friends mock him for trying to incorporate a real tree into their Christmas play, he reaches his wit's end. Only his friend Linus is able to give him hope by explaining to him that Christmas is really about the birth of Jesus.

Personal

I loved Christmas as a child and this was one of my favorite Christmas cartoons. Well into my teens, I was still always eager to watch it on TV. When I was a Christian, I especially loved the fact that it addressed, what I though at the time, was the true meaning of Christmas. I think my cousin Brian had a VHS copy of it, because I seem to remember watching it at his house. When I deconverted, I stopped appreciating the religious aspect of the film, but still like the over all concept of learning to appreciate the importance of Christmas without focusing on the commercialism.

Cast

The film doesn't credit the voice actors.

Actor Characters
Peter Robbins Charlie Brown
Christopher Shea Linus
Tracy Stratford Lucy
Cathy Steinberg Sally
Chris Doran Schroeder / Shermy
Sally Dryer Violet
Ann Altieri Frieda
Geoffrey Ornstein Pig-Pen
Karen Mendelson Patty
Bill Melendez Snoopy

Review

— This section contains spoilers! —

Good

  • The general idea of the film — trying to appreciate the spirit of Christmas while not getting dragged into the commercialism — is a nice message.
  • Vince Guaraldi's score is wonderful. The jazzy Lucy and Linus theme is now iconic, and Christmas Time Is Here sung by a children's choir is very fitting.
  • I appreciate that the child characters are voiced by actual child voice actors (though this backfires in later specials where they try to keep continuity and the actors voices have changed).
  • I like the fact that, just like with the Peanuts comic strip, there aren't any parents to be seen, even during the rehearsal of the Christmas play, making this truly a children's film.
  • Despite it being his first time, Charlie Brown is actually a competent director who works hard to keep his disobedient actors on track.

Bad

  • When I was a Christian, I loved the fact that the cartoon pushes the religious aspect of Christmas. However, after reading about the history of the holiday and discovering that pretty much every aspect of Christmas comes from a variety of older religious traditions, I now see it more as appropriation. Also, since I now have a negative view of the Christian doctrine of salvation, it irks me to see it in a Children's cartoon. However, I appreciate that it doesn't go into any depth on the topic and focuses mostly on the "peace on earth and goodwill toward man" aspect.
  • There are several places where the animation is pretty choppy, poorly drawn, or using mismatched paint. The voice overs also have odd pauses between sentences — sometimes too short, other times too long. My guess is this is the result of trying to synchronize the recorded speech with the mouth movement of the animation.

Ugly

  • Nothing.

Media

Covers

Quotes

Fan Art

Videos

Original commercial.
Score
Comparison of the 1965 original and 1966 rework.
SNL paradoy.
Animation Domination parody.

Representation

Strong female character?PassLucy is a very take-charge girl.
Bechdel test?FailThere are several female characters, but, whenever they talk to each other, it's about Charlie Brown.
Strong person of color character?FailEvery character is white. Franklin wasn't introduced into the strip yet.
Queer character?FailDoesn't feature Peppermint Patty or Marcie who would be the only possible contenders.

Adaptions

This cartoon has been adapted to book format several times, a children's musical, and a stage production.

Links

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