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Trivia / A Charlie Brown Christmas

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  • Blooper: Given the insistence by Schulz and Mendelson on using actual children to play the Peanuts characters (and children doing voice acting for animation wasn't really a thing in 1965), it's no surprise some lines were flubbed:
    • Lucy calls the fear of cats "ailurophasia" instead of "ailurophobia".
    • Sally trips over the line "All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share."
  • Channel Hop: After airing on CBS for 36 straight years, A Charlie Brown Christmas moved to ABC in 2001. In 2020 Apple TV+ purchased the exclusive rights for this special as well as It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. However, all three specials have been made available for free viewing for limited time windows around the relevant holidays, and a deal was struck for A Charlie Brown Christmas to air on PBS and PBS Kids as well.
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  • Children Voicing Children: At the instigation of Charles Schulz, this was the Ur-Example, and boy, was it a hassle for the crew! Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins), Linus (Christopher Shea) and Lucy (Tracy Stratford) were all voiced by Hollywood-based child actors, but the majority of the others were non-professionals from the San Francisco Bay Area recruited by Lee Mendelson (including some neighbors and children of his acquaintances), and they needed extensive coaching from Bill Melendez on their line readings. In the case of 4-year-old Cathy Steinberg, who voiced Sally, she didn't know how to read and needed to have lines fed to her phonetically (leading to the "All I want is my fair share" flub mentioned above). It's even been suggested that you can hear traces of the Mexican accent of Bill Melendez in the way certain lines are said, in imitation of his coaching (particularly Linus saying "those are good reasons!").
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  • Christmas Rushed: Schulz and his team were given six months to complete the special in time for the holiday season, and animating didn't start until the third month in. The result speaks for itself.
  • Dawson Casting: invoked Famously averted. Schulz insisted on having actual children voice his characters, the first time something like that had ever been done in a cartoon. However, some of the kids in this special were so young they couldn't read well yet (or, in Sally's case, at all), so they had to be fed their lines, leading to the stilted delivery that became emblematic of the franchise.
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  • Defictionalization: Ironically, given the short's anti-commercialism message, replicas of the little flimsy tree Charlie Brown gets have become popular Christmas decorations.
  • Edited for Syndication: In its original 1965 broadcast, this cartoon clocked in at just over 26 minutes. Nowadays, American TV networks have a lot more time devoted to commercials than back then. So for most of its subsequent airings, several scenes have been cut short (the first dancing scene) or cut out entirely (much of the beginning). Even in its first VHS release, the scene of the kids throwing snowballs at the can on the fence was cut out. It was restored for its second VHS release and was re-instated in network broadcasts in 1997.
    • Coca-Cola was the special's original sponsor, and two brief shots were animated near the beginning of and at the very end of the special mentioning this. The first occurs after Snoopy slings Charlie Brown into the tree during the ice skating scene: Snoopy is shown slinging Linus in the opposite direction of Charlie Brown, and Linus skids across the ice before bumping into a sign with a Coke advert on it. The second is at the very end of the credits, which brings up the same advertisement message for a few seconds before cutting to the end card. Once Coke's sponsorship deal ended, these scenes were edited out, with later broadcasts simply fading to black before the adverts can show up. For decades, people thought that these adverts were permanently lost, with the only video evidence of their existence being sourced from low-quality VCR recordings.note  However, in late 2018, a 16mm film positive of A Charlie Brown Christmas with the Coke ads intact was recovered, digitized, and dumped online, allowing one to view the uncut special in high quality. The only caveat though is the quality of the transfer: reds and greens are unnaturally prominent thanks to the dyes in the film stock having faded over the years, dust is noticeable here and there, and a linear scratch runs across the entire length of the print. Because this was a raw transfer, no restoration work was done, and an official restoration based on this print is unlikely due to rights issues regarding the Coca-Cola brand name.
      • Interestingly enough, Coca-Cola offered to restore the cut sponsor tags when the special was remastered, but Schulz's estate turned them down, believing A Charlie Brown Christmas to be perfectly fine without them. To be fair, they would undermine the anti-commercialism message of the story.
    • The 21st-century showings on ABC (which generally broadcasted both the cut version and the uncut version over a given holiday season) had taken further cuts, removing such iconic moments as Lucy pestering Schroeder over the proper playing of "Jingle Bells", to even cutting poor Shermy's only line.
    • The show was often paired with the much shorter Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales so that it could be shown intact and allowed to run over time. Now no longer relevant with the move to Apple TV+.
  • Executive Meddling: Ultimately averted. CBS executives had issues with the special as it was originally put together. They objected to…
    • The Scripture quotation that Linus recites to explain the meaning of Christmas.
    • Using actual children to voice the Peanuts characters.
    • The absence of a laugh track.
    • The Vince Guaraldi jazz score.
    • The fact that Santa's not in it.
    • In other words, nearly everything that makes this program a timeless classic. Fortunately, Charles Schulz, Lee Mendelson, and Bill Melendez stuck to their guns and were vindicated the moment it aired. note 
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance:
    • Nobody behind the project thought it was any good when they finished; Lee Mendelson and the rest of the team felt they "ruined Charlie Brown" when they looked at the final cut before it aired.
    • It apparently took a while for Charles Schulz himself to realize how iconic this special had become. In the late 1980's he fretted that he hadn't produced his "own Citizen Kane" and invested a good deal of time and money on his intended masterpiece, the flop live-action/animated combo It's the Girl in the Red Truck, Charlie Brown. Any fan could've told him he'd already made his Citizen Kane way back in 1965. (For added irony, Orson Welles didn't consider the actual Citizen Kane to be his masterpiece either)
  • Network to the Rescue: CBS made some cuts to the special in the '90s because shows made more room for commercials by then (see Edited for Syndication above). When ABC acquired the rights in 2001, they blocked out a full hour for the special so that it could run uncut, commissioning Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales to fill the extra time. Note that ABC also aired a cut version during the season, but there was always at least one full-length airing.
    • When Apple TV+ gained sole rights to the Peanuts holiday specials in 2020, public uproar basically forced Apple to make a deal with PBS and PBS Kids to preserve the traditional over-the-air broadcast of the special.
  • Never Work with Children or Animals: Schulz's insistence on using actual children as the voice actors for the cast meant that the recording sessions were apparently complete chaos, with many of the young actors (some of whom couldn't even read and had to be fed their lines one at a time) struggling with the complex dialogue and excited children running rampant around the recording studio. Impressively, despite the difficulty of working with actual children, they still managed to complete all the recording in one day.
  • Not Screened for Critics: CBS was so disappointed in A Charlie Brown Christmas before its first airing that they refused to let any TV critics see it beforehand, terrified that the inevitable avalanche of bad reviews would sink everyone's careers. They were eventually forced to relent in recognition of what happens when this trope is played, and let one writer from Time magazine in – he watched the special at CBS' office and then left without saying a word. Initially, this vindicated CBS' decision, but when the next issue of Time came out, the critic's review of the special was glowing.
  • Off-Model: Several animation errors exist, thanks in no small part to its cheap and rushed production:
    • One that Schulz himself often pointed out was that Charlie Brown's tree inexplicably grows a few branches between its introduction and the point where Charlie "kills" it.
    • The words on Lucy's "Psychiatric Help 5¢" stand change twice in less than a minute.
    • In the original closing credits, with the Coke sponsor tag, Snoopy appears to be singing along with the kids, as his lips are flapping along with the music. His mouth is even moving when they all shout, "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" This was later altered and fixed so now Snoopy is simply howling to the music. Additionally an error where the background characters overlap the foreground characters for one frame also occurs though strangely it is not present in the original 1965 version.
  • Pop Culture Urban Legends: There's a false rumor that the special originally featured characters throwing snowballs at a Coca Cola can that was removed when the sponsorship deal fell through. While the scene being cut to save on time was nothing out of the ordinary, possibly what sparked this rumor was the fact that it was also missing from home video releases (which aren't confined to time for commercials) for some amount of time, leading people to falsely believe that it had to be cut for that reason. Later, when the scene was added back in for certain broadcasts, viewers noticed that the kids were throwing snowballs at a generic tin food can, not a Coca-Cola can, leading to rumors that it was Edited for Syndication, again due to the Coca-Cola deal having lapsed. Both rumors were finally laid to rest when an old film print that still had the sponsorship tags intact resurfaced on the internet, showing that the food can was indeed always a food can.
  • The Red Stapler: Inversion: The special almost single-handedly destroyed the market for Aluminum Christmas Trees so completely that later generations have to be reminded that such a thing actually existed. That's the reason they're even a trope, tacky metal Christmas trees vanished from American culture overnight so thoroughly that many younger viewers thought they were something Charles Schulz had made up.
  • Throw It In!: Since the special ran on limited production time, the crew did this to a lot of the kids' lines. One notable example is Lucy misidentifying "ailurophasia" as the fear of cats instead of "ailurophobia".
  • What Could Have Been:
    • When CBS ordered this special, they wanted a lighthearted goofy cartoon with the Peanuts characters that just happened to take place at Christmas time (evidently the suits hadn't read the comics very closely). They weren't expecting the potshots at commercialism or Linus's Bible recitation. It's a good thing the special didn't go this direction, because it wouldn't be nearly so memorable otherwise.
    • The slam against commercialism and the Bible recitation were only two of what the suits perceived as a laundry list of "issues" with the show. Others were the lack of a Laugh Track† , the use of actual children for the voice acting instead of adults, and the Vince Guaraldi jazz score. (The tune "Linus and Lucy" became an icon of the franchise, and Vince scored 17 other Peanuts specials and the feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown before his death). Thank goodness Schulz and Melendez stood their ground.
    • "Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales" seems to fit the idea of what CBS expected. So in a way, ABC got what CBS originally paid for.
    • Dave Brubeck and Cal Tjader both turned down offers to do the music, because they were too busy. Brubeck later did the score for the This Is America, Charlie Brown episode "The NASA Space Station."
    • Before it was decided to limit Snoopy's vocalizing to grunts and laughs by director Bill Melendez, consideration was given to putting his Thought Bubble Speech onscreen (until it was realized that younger children wouldn't be able to read the text), and to presenting his thoughts in voiceover, which was deemed confusing (though the concept would later become the bread-and-butter of Garfield cartoons, and Peanuts even tried it for the animated versions of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown and Snoopy! The Musical).


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