A Charlie Brown Christmas
December 05, 2012
It’s Christmas time! Faith, family, and fun are all different aspects that people enjoy around the holiday season. Although December 9, 1965 isn’t written about in any history books; it’s a date most people will appreciate. It’s the first time that the beloved Charles M. Schultz classic, A Charlie Brown Christmas, was aired on CBS! It now airs regularly on ABC since it acquired the rights from CBS. It has claimed both an Emmy Award and Peabody Award.
The little cartoon is only 25 minutes long, but the work required to produce it wasn’t that easy. Coca-Cola funded the little special on a shoe-string budget. The animation is quite choppy, and the sound wasn’t mixed particularly well. Both qualities made the CBS producers believe that it would not be received well by its audience. Many at CBS wanted to go back and correct all of its quirks, but Schultz vetoed every attempt.
The voices by all the different Peanuts characters were actually voiced using children verses adult voice actors. This made the little film even more sincere in the minds of the public. Some, but not all of the words, were poorly enunciated, and in fact, Sally’s character was so young that she couldn’t read and had to be cued "one line at a time" while recording the soundtrack. For lines that were too long for the children; they simply read the sentences in parts. After the recording, the producers had to go back and splice the lines together, which also makes the film’s delivery special.
Executives were also not fond of Linus’s recitation of the birth of Jesus as found in the Gospel of Luke. Charles Schultz was adamant about keeping it in. Harriet Van Horne, who was a popular critic for the New York World-Telegram said, "Linus’ reading of the story of the Nativity was, quite simply, the dramatic highlight of the season."
Also noticeable was the lack of a "laugh track." which was commonly used in children’s cartoons at the time. Schultz believed that the audience should be able to enjoy the short film on their own without being told when to laugh. CBS did create a version with a laugh track just in case Schultz would ever want to change his mind.
Another memorable part of this classic cartoon is the music! Jazz musician Vince Guaraldi was hired to compose the score, and it would be eventually played by the "Vince Guaraldi Trio." The producers were horrified at the thought of jazz being the soundtrack to the cartoon. Many within CBS thought that it would be a flop.
It was finally aired on December 9, 1965 before The Munsters and immediately following Gilligan’s Island. To the executives surprise, it was both a commercial and critical hit with the public. It became an instant classic. According to an article published by USA Today, 50% of American TV’s were tuned in to the very first broadcast! It has been airing continually since its debut. Today one can purchase the classic on DVD and even on Blu-Ray, as well as check it out at the Library.