Today marks the 48th anniversary of the very first airing of the holiday favorite, “A Charlie Brown Christmas!”
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” has been part of American families’ holiday traditions for almost half a century now. Directed by animator and Snoopy’s voice Bill Melendez, the 25-minute animated TV special first aired on the network CBS in its primetime block. Since then, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” has been airing annually, on CBS until 2000 and on ABS in the following years.
Finding the true meaning of Christmas is the central theme of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” The titular character, Charlie, finds himself down in the dumps because of the “over-commercialization” of Christmas. This well-loved show actually faced difficulties in the beginning, as the network executives from CBS were said to have not approved on some aspects, namely: the inclusion of the Nativity story from the Bible to be recited by the character Linus, the absence of a laugh track usually heard in primetime shows of that era, the employment of actual kids instead of adult actors to voice the characters, and the use of jazz soundtrack composed by Vince Guaraldi. It was also done on a very limited budget, resulting in a number of noticeable technical problems.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” was the first among the many TV specials featuring the characters from Charles Schulz’ Peanuts comic series, and its creation was sponsored and funded by the Coca-Cola Company. Apparently, an agent from the company got in touch with Lee Mendelson, who a couple of years before the short came to be produced a short documentary called “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” Mendelson would end up also producing the Christmas special.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” has been honored by various award-giving bodies, the Emmys for Outstanding Children’s Program and the Peabody Award for Excellence in Programming. Three more Christmas specials featuring the characters from Peanuts were produced after the first one. These are “It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown” in 1992, “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales” in 2002, and “I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown” in 2003.
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