TV Review: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

(Update: This video has since been removed from Youtube.  Sorry.)

I see that A Charlie Brown Christmas is playing on the teevee this week, so I had to show it here on the blog.  It's much easier this way.  You won't have to feel frustrated with network-imposed cuts and too many commercials.  And watching online has a certain anti-establishment feel, which Charles Shultz' holiday classic shares.

I always say this is my favorite American animation of all, and I mean that sincerely.  I love the art style.  I love the way the Peanuts characters are brought to life on the screen.  I love those jazzy off-color backgrounds for the closeups.  Most of all, I love the story, so simple and sincere.  It's a story about childhood and the need to preserve their innocence from the cynicism of the adult world.  It's joyous for the sake of being joyous.  Moments come and go for no greater purpose than to depict daily life.  I'm thinking especially of the terrific opening on the lake.

In this regard, A Charlie Brown Christmas is the American Totoro.  For all the praise given to Hayao Miyazaki, I can't name a single animation produced in this country that strives to capture Totoro's lifelike pastoral feel.  Sparky Shultz and Bill Melendez were the only ones to ever pull it off.

And I am still amazed that this cartoon was even allowed on the air.  A prime-time cartoon show that decries and openly mocks commercialism?  Don't they know last week was Black Friday, the most important day of the year?  I got a lot invested in this ride!  Shut up!  Look at my furrowed brows of worry...this has to be real.

Ahem.  Don't know how I thought up Bill Hicks just there.  Maybe A Charlie Brown Christmas, as the saying goes, comes from a more innocent time.  Maybe the television medium was still new enough for more experimental content.  Maybe mass media has too much money attached to it in the 21st Century.  I wonder, as I munch on my Dolly Madisons, could Charlie Brown be made today, the same as it was in 1964?  What challenges would today's animators face?  Could the internet make a difference as an alternative outlet, away from the conglomerates who own the networks?  I'm really curious to know that, and I'd like to hear what the animation community as to say.

In any case, enjoy Charlie Brown.  This is one of the hallowed holiday traditions, like egg nog and Nat King Cole records and snow days.  Enjoy.


James said...

By the time "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was conceived, Peanuts was already popular. Peanuts had already made the cover of Time Magazine, a documentary had been filmed. Lee Mendleson, the producer of that documentary, actually lead to the sale of "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

John Allen of the McCann Erikson Agency (who was representing Coca-Cola as his client) actually proposed to Mendleson the idea of a Christmas special after seeing Mendelson's documentary. Mendelson basically "sold" it without Schulz's knowledge. Shortly after, he told Schulz about it and needed an outline in a few days. Sparky got on it without any trouble. Months later, Coca-cola approved the outline.

When CBS execs finally saw the screening of the finished product, they didn't like it but aired it anyway.

After the first airing, it was a hit and an Emmy Award winner.

A Charlie Brown Christmas continues to air because it is a popular classic that -make no mistake- earns money. It's run by a big eastern syndicate you know!

I wouldn't really call '65 an innocent time. Compared to today it might be but I think a Charlie Brown Christmas participates in satirical cynicism for the sake of a genuine message.

Could this be made today? If Peanuts were a brand new "unknown" comic strip today, it would face more difficult challenges. Newspaper comic syndicates are too picky. But I have to think the work would eventually slowly gain momentum online. I doubt it would reach the heights it has reached today however. And I don't think any of the main networks today would approve of such an overtly religious special.

btw, there's no "t" in Schulz!

Keenan said...

Great post! I was just wondering, have you seen Garfield's Christmas Special. Most of the comments you make I think also apply to Garfield's Christmas. I watch it every Christmas ever since I was a kid. It's hard to imagine cartoons like these were ever made. It certainly wouldn't be made today sadly.

Daniel Thomas MacInnes said...

Ah, yes! Garfield Christmas! I remember that one. It's been so long since Garfield was any good. That's such a tragedy to see a once-great comic strip reduced to soulless pabulum. But at least there was the '80s cartoon show.

Oops! Turns out I've been misspelling Charles Shulz' name all these years. It's probably the Minnesota accent, which puts a hard "t" on the name. Yaay! Yoo beTCHa. That sort of thing. Strange that I never noticed that until now. Goodness knows, I see those Peanuts sculptures all over the Twin Cities.

Bonus Fun Fact: In Bogota, Colombia, there are horse sculptures scattered around the city, just like the Peanuts sculptures in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Small world, huh?

Chris Sobieniak said...

Don't be upset Dan, I've made that mistake a few times as well (although you forgot the "c" this time)! :-)

Chris Sobieniak said...

Noticed apparently they just re-aired it earlier this week, but in a half-hour format that required editing (the horror!). Glad I don't watch TV anymore.

Bruno said...

I Know That this is not related to the subject, but the torrent of the Lupin III: The Castle Of Cagliostro(720p) cannot be found. Would someone please re-upload it for me??

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