Western Animation / A Boy Named Charlie Brown


"Once a beginner, now he's a winner
Champion Charlie Brown!"

A Boy Named Charlie Brown is a 1969 American animated film, the first ever feature film based on the Peanuts comic strip. It was directed by Bill Melendez and was produced by Lee Mendelson Films and the CBS network's film division, Cinema Center Films, for National General Corporation. This was also the final animated Peanuts production to feature Peter Robbins as the voice of Charlie Brown. (Robbins had voiced the character for all of the Peanuts television specials up to that point, starting with 1965's A Charlie Brown Christmas.)

Charlie Brown can't seem to catch a break. Whether it being frequently humiliated by his other peers like Lucy, or causing his baseball team to lose the first Little League game of the season, it seems like nothing can ever go right for him. However, things change for him when Lucy jokingly tells him he should join the school spelling bee. Linus convinces him to join and, through determination, wind up making it from the school-wide spelling bee to the national bee. But can he make it through?

Earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Song Score.


  • Adaptation Expansion: The plot about Charlie Brown entering a spelling bee (and virtually all the dialogue and Chuck's inner monologue at the beginning of said spelling bee, as well as his inability to remember the "I before E" rule) is taken directly from the comic strip, but in the strip he only got to the first round as he blew the very first word he was given, the word "maze", which he spelled M-A-Y-S because he was thinking of baseball legend Willie Mays.
  • Better by a Different Name: Since Bill Melendez had worked at UPA and brought a bunch of UPA animators with him when he started his own production company, and clearly took a lot of his style cues from UPA's early Limited Animation work, this can be thought of as the unofficial third UPA feature film (after 1001 Arabian Nights and Gay Purr-ee).
  • Big Applesauce: Charlie Brown travels to New York City to compete in the National Spelling Bee.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Charlie Brown loses the spelling bee and his newly gained respect from the kids, but with some encouragement from Linus, he realizes the world's not over and he still has a lifetime to be winner.
  • Champions on the Inside: Averted. Charlie Brown is devastated over his loss and gets absolutely no hero's welcome or even consolation for his efforts. Then again, no one is angry with him — even Linus tells him that everyone missed him at school.
  • Covers Always Lie: The DVD cover shows Lucy clutching Charlie Brown's arm and staring up at him adoringly. Not only is the whole movie about the ways in which she ruins his life (without any Jerk with a Heart of Gold moments, either), this also makes no sense if you know anything about Lucy. This is a result of editing out important details. On the Laserdisc cover that it is sourced from, there's an extra bit where Lucy has a thought bubble of her own dressing room.
  • Dark Reprise: "Linus and Lucy," the Bootstrapped Theme of the Peanuts specials, has a minor-key variation playing at various points throughout Linus' blanket withdrawal. Of course, once he finds it note , the regular version plays throughout his rejoicing, serving as a Triumphant Reprise.
  • Disney Acid Sequence: A lot of the musical numbers fall under this.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The effects that separation from his Security Blanket have on Linus appear, to the audience, very similar to withdrawal symptoms.
  • Drama Queen: Linus without his blanket, hoo boy.
  • Dramatically Missing the Point: Charlie Brown fails to realize he not only won the state Spelling Bee championship but he came in second in the National championship.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The dynamic between Charlie, Linus and Lucy are established in the very first scene. Lucy comes off as the authoritarian, Linus sees archaic, intellectual objects in the clouds, Charlie sees just a duckie and a horsie.
  • Failure Hero: Charlie Brown. Of all the Peanuts animated specials and movies, this is the one that really hammers in what a miserable failure he is. It never stops him from trying.
  • Fainting: Linus, suffering from blanket withdrawal, goes to New York to get it back from Charlie Brown, with Snoopy in tow. While greeting Charlie Brown at his hotel room, he can't take it anymore and passes out in the hallway. Snoopy quickly runs to get a glass of water... and drinks it down himself. The gag is repeated three times.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: While Peppermint Patty's "official" big-screen debut doesn't come until Snoopy, Come Home, she can actually be spotted twice in this movie, as one of the kids cheering for Charlie Brown. The first time (right before the song "Champion Charlie Brown") she's easily spotted jumping up and down together with Frieda, Shermy, Pig-Pen and 5, and the second time (when Charlie Brown is about to board the bus) she can be seen in the crowd, holding up a sign saying "CHUCK".
  • Full-Name Basis: As per usual for Charlie Brown, but the lyrics of "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" and "Failure Face" actually avert this.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: At one point Linus goes to visit Charlie Brown, and Sally answers the door:
    Sally: Did you come to take me to a movie? There's one downtown. [suggestively] For mature audiences only.
  • The Great Politics Mess-Up: A minor one. When Linus is describing what he sees in the clouds, he mentions "British Honduras". You probably know it as Belize (the name changed in 1973).
  • "The Hero Sucks" Song: "Failure Face".
  • Heroic B.S.O.D.: Charlie Brown has one after losing the spelling bee.
  • Invisible Parents: Yes, it is the convention that adults cannot be depicted in the property, but it is pushed to the breaking point for believability when Charlie Brown and Linus arrive home late at night after the National Spelling Bee. Surely, Charlie Brown's parents would logically be there come hell or high water to take their 8 year old, and obviously devastated, son safely home. There's a reason why the animated movies eventually stopped using this trope, it was just too difficult to portray the world outside the Peanuts gang's little neighborhood without any adults.
  • Jerkass: Lucy isn't even sympathetic in this one.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Even by the standards of Peanuts, the kids are insanely abusive towards Charlie Brown, especially Lucy, Violet and Patty who go as far as singing a cruel song about him.
  • Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded; we get to see Charlie open his closet to reveal a rainbow of shirt colors, then choose the yellow one he always wears anyway.
  • Notable Original Music: Singer/songwriter/poet Rod McKuen contributed three original songs: "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" (which he also sang), "Failure Face", and "Champion Charlie Brown". He wrote a few more that didn't get used. And there was one other song, "I Before E (Except After C)." Averted with Vince Guaraldi's score; he didn't actually write any new music for the film, settling for fully orchestrated versions of his older Peanuts music.
  • Only Six Faces: Milder example - One of the contestants in the final spelling bee looks exactly like Schroeder, while another one is essentially Linus with blonde hair.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: In one scene, Schroeder plays most of the second movement (Adagio cantabile) of Ludwig van Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 8 in C minor, Op. 13 (Sonata Pathétique), and during that time, many Disney Acid Sequences occur, which is pretty creepy.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
    • As per usual, Lucy uses her function as a "psychiatrist" mainly as an excuse to deliver these to Charlie Brown. Throughout their session, she tells him everything that's wrong with him in increasingly creative ways, until he storms out, feeling worse about himself than ever.
    • Then there's the song "Failure Face" sung at Charlie Brown by Lucy, Violet and Patty.
  • Reluctant Gift: As Charlie Brown heads off to the national spelling bee competition, Linus gives him his Security Blanket for good luck. He looks away with a pained expression on his face as he presents it, and in fact fails to notice when Charlie takes the blanket and enters the bus, so Linus remains holding up nothing and saying "Here!" as the bus drives away. Eventually the absence of his blanket gets to him and he goes to New York to get it back.
  • Second Place Is for Losers: Played ridiculously straight, even for this trope. Not only does everyone ignore that he got second place in the national spelling bee, they completely ignore that he won State!
  • Spelling Bee: A major plot point.
  • Status Quo Is God: The rare positive example of the trope, with An Aesop: "Life goes on, no matter how badly you may think you messed up."
  • That Cloud Looks Like...: British Honduras, and/or a ducky and a horsie.
  • Wham Line: "The world didn't come to an end."
  • When He Smiles: Mentioned in the "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" song:
    Maybe it's a kind of magic
    That only little boys can do.
    But seeing Charlie smile,
    Can make you stop awhile,
    And get you feelin' glad you're you.
  • Wraparound Background: Used in the bus sequences.
  • Written Sound Effect: When Lucy shows Charlie Brown a slideshow of his flaws, she somehow captured the word "POW" on the slide showing his lack of style.
  • Yank the Dog's Chain: Happens three times. Most of the things Charlie Brown tries, he fails utterly at — but there are three occasions when he thinks he might make it.
    • The first time is when the movie continues the Running Gag from the strip of Lucy goading him into kicking a football but yanking the ball away from him at the last second. This time she has a bonus surprise; she set up a video camera to record the ordeal and shows him his failure in slow motion while delivering a "The Reason You Suck" Speech.
    • The second time is the movie's climax, when Charlie Brown has managed to become one of the two finalists in the spelling bee, and after having managed to spell a whole lot of difficult words right, gets a really easy one — "beagle." Which he has forgotten how to spell, despite owning a beagle.
    • The third time is the final scene in the movie when he tries to sneak up on Lucy to kick the ball again. Turns out she knew he was sneaking up on her, and once again the ball is yanked away and Charlie Brown falls flat on his back. However, it comes off as sort of heartwarming, letting Charlie know that nothing's changed, for good or ill.
  • Your Head A-Splode: This (symbolically) happens to the spelling-bee contestants whenever they get a word wrong. Even funnier because the head usually assumes an Oh, Crap! expression just before popping like a balloon.