The Daring Story of Christmas with Peanuts [Full-Length Video]
December 9, 1965, your local CBS Network television station broadcast an ill-advised and nervy Christmas cartoon for the first time. In the 7:30 pm primetime slot, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” preempted “The Munsters” and played warm-up for “Gilligan’s Island” that night. The only one with faith in the doomed project was its creator, Charles Schultz.
The cartoon lacked a laugh track. Real children voiced the characters. Its pace was slow. And, boldly, its clear religious mentions did not conform to the recent rebellion against “institutional authority.” In fact, in a way, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is a paradigm of the 1960s and ground zero for America’s current civil disobedience that not only opened the door for Donald Trump but eight years ago for Barak Obama, as well.
But I digress. It’s a rad little story about some cool kids disheartened by the season’s not so bright sides, but finding it’s real meaning at the end.
Charlie Brown: “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Linus: “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights, please.”
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not [Linus drops his trusty security blanket]: for, behold, I bring you [good] tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
A few little-knowns of “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
- Linus dropped his trusty security blanket when the “angel said unto them, Fear not …”
- Coca-cola was the original broadcast’s sponsor. It was Coke who approached Schultz to submit a proposal for a Peanuts Christmas vehicle to sell their product. A smattering of irony given the cartoon’s overt anti-commercialism theme. As an example of their blatant product placement, in the opening scene, ice skating Snoopy tosses Linus and Charlie into the snow. Where Linus lands is edited because he slides into a sign advertising it’s sponsor. Another is the weird fade of caroling during the closing credits.
- Charles “Sparky” Schultz was a religious man. So when asked to construct an outline of a Charlie Brown Christmas special he was adamant about one thing: “If we’re going to do it, I think we should talk about the true meaning of Christmas – or at least what it means to me.” Linus’ iconic Christmas speech was deemed “too religious” by his two partners and CBS. Sparky insisted that if the show would air at night and his beloved characters were going to play a part in the season, something recognizable of Christ’s birth would be a precondition. To Coke’s credit, they gambled, and they won, big.
- Ronald Reagan’s older brother Neil consulted on the project. Neil was a former employee of CBS who suggested they quicken its pace to match the vaudevillian style still prominent in television.
Many letters flooded CBS and Coca-Cola after that night. Some were from annoyed chaps, but mostly they received praise for their willingness to open a dialogue around why one might bring Christ into a Christmas conversation.
One letter to the President of Coca-Cola came from a woman writing from Miami Shores, Florida explains plainly the reason “A Charlie Brown Christmas” remains iconic.
“I particularly salute you for sponsoring a program stressing the true meaning of the Christmas season. In this dark day of everyone being afraid to mention Jesus and the Church for fear of some group boycotting their product or getting a court order handed down, of prayer being banned from schools and public meetings and the mention of God in general being hush hushed, I highly commend you for this timely presentation.”
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is now ABC’s baby and it’ll re-air Thursday, December 22 at 8 pm! It’s cool to own the DVD, but there’s something about tuning into the live broadcast like when I was a kid. I feverishly scoured the TV Guide, underlined it’s exact day and time and laid claim to the tv for the 30 minutes that would hold in my memory until the next Christmas.
Hey, RedStater’s! You’ve found the WaterCooler. It’s RedState’s only Daily open thread. Tell me, What’s your most anticipated Christmas program?