Sally: I haven't even finished eating all of my Halloween candy!
The tenth of the Peanuts animated specials, and naturally enough a Thanksgiving Episode, it first aired on CBS on November 20, 1973note and became an annual tradition thereafter. Much as Thanksgiving itself is somewhat overshadowed by falling between the higher-profile Halloween and Christmas, this special has never become quite so iconic as the similarly holiday-themed A Charlie Brown Christmas and It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, but is fondly remembered in its own right, and like them continues to air each and every year.
The plot concerns Peppermint Patty inviting herself, Marcie, and Franklin over to Charlie Brown's house for Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, Charlie Brown is going to his grandmother's house for dinner and he can't seem to explain this fact to Peppermint Patty, mainly because she won't let him get a word in! So—with help from Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock—he scrambles to throw together a makeshift backyard "dinner" consisting of toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans.
In 2001, annual broadcast rights to the special moved to ABC, where it was typically paired with an edited version of "The Mayflower Voyagers," the premiere episode of the 1988–89 mini-series This Is America, Charlie Brown (the two specials are commonly paired on DVD as well). In 2020, this and the other Peanuts specials moved to Apple TV+ as part of a streaming deal. However, it aired on PBS and PBS Kids that year as part of a last-minute arrangement, which ended after 2021.
Followed by It's a Mystery, Charlie Brown in 1974.
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving contains examples of:
- An Aesop: Delivered by Marcie toward the end.Charlie Brown: I just feel bad because I ruined everyone's Thanksgiving.Marcie: But Thanksgiving is more than eating, Chuck. You heard what Linus was saying out there. Those early Pilgrims were thankful for what had happened to them, and we should be thankful, too. We should just be thankful for being together. I think that's what they mean by "Thanksgiving", Charlie Brown.
- Animate Inanimate Object: When setting up the Thanksgiving table, Snoopy struggles with a folding chair that won't stay unfolded. The chair comes to life and starts to fight back.note
- Armor-Piercing Question: Marcie gives Peppermint Patty one when she starts complaining about Charlie Brown's "dinner". It's what makes her realize she was being too harsh on him.Marcie: Now, wait a minute, sir. Did he invite you here to dinner, or did you invite yourself, and us, too?
- Artistic License – History: Asked to say grace before dinner, Linus provides a thumbnail sketch of the first Thanksgiving in 1621 Plymouth (itself heavily mythologized),for the record... then recites a paraphrased version of a prayer that Elder William Brewster might have given for the colonists. (The prayer itself is made up for the special.)
- Balloon Belly: Not exaggerated like the usual use of the trope, but Snoopy and Woodstock are patting very round bellies at the end of the credits.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Downplayed, but Marcie suitably shames Peppermint Patty when the latter berates Charlie Brown for his last-minute Thanksgiving dinner. She turns the tide of Patty's opinion and then goes to comfort "Chuck" at Patty's request.
- Brick Joke:
- Snoopy fights with a lawn chair, breaking it. Later that day, when Charlie Brown hosts his impromptu Thanksgiving dinner, Franklin goes to sit on the same chair. He nearly falls off it and can barely see across the table.
- During the end credits, Snoopy enjoys a real Thanksgiving dinner with Woodstock, including a whole turkey and pumpkin pie. One wonders where Snoopy was hiding it while the others were having popcorn, toast, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans.
- Cannot Spit It Out: When Peppermint Patty calls and invites herself, Marcie, and Franklin over, Charlie Brown is reduced to stammering, unable to explain that his family has already made plans, mainly because Patty keeps interrupting him.
- Carnivore Confusion: The ending scene features Woodstock joining Snoopy in eating turkey. On a DVD commentary, Bill Meléndez admitted that even he thought the scene was rather morbid.note
- Cartoon Throbbing: When Snoopy tries to unfold a lawn chair, the chair snaps and closes on his paw, causing it to turn red and throb.
- The Chew Toy: Snoopy goes through quite a bit of physical punishment in this one: getting thrown into the basketball hoop over the garage, getting squashed by the garage door opener, and dealing with an angry chair that comes to life and attacks him. And that's just the first half. He Earns His Happy Ending during the end credits.
- Christmas Creep: The characters briefly complain about this; Sally tells Charlie Brown that she went into town to look for a "turkey tree" and could only find Christmas decorations. When Linus joins the conversation and Charlie Brown laments the impending arrival of Thanksgiving, Sally wails, "I haven't even finished eating all of my Halloween candy!" note
- Complaining About Things You Haven't Paid For: Patty invites herself over for Thanksgiving dinner when she isn't even family for Charlie Brown, honorary or otherwise. She did volunteer to help with the dishes, but that's about it. Linus suggests they have a smaller dinner earlier so that Charlie Brown won't be late. Peppermint Patty complains that the food isn't traditional dinner, and it's more an array of snacks. Marcie does call out Patty for it.
- Conversation Hog: The whole plot is jumpstarted by Peppermint Patty repeatedly interrupting Charlie Brown during a phone conversation and inviting herself over to his house because she thinks he's having a party for his friends. She hangs up before he can even explain to her that he's going to his grandmother's house. In the third phone call, the only word he gets the opportunity to say is "Hello".Linus: Why don't you just call her back and explain it to her?
Charlie Brown: You can't explain anything to Peppermint Patty, because you never get to say anything! I'm doomed.
- Cool Old Lady: Charlie Brown's grandmother talks with him about his hosting an impromptu Thanksgiving dinner and that the guests aren't satisfied. She invites the other kids to her house for dinner, much to their delight.
- Crippling Overspecialization: Snoopy blunders and goes through hell just to make the kids a barebones "alternate" meal of toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans. During the ending, though, he ironically proves able to conjure up a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with little to no fuss.
- The Ditz: Peppermint Patty, of course. Perhaps even more so here, with her inviting herself, Marcie and Franklin to Charlie Brown's place for Thanksgiving despite Charlie's protests.
- Elongating Arm Gag: As Woodstock tries to sneak away before Snoopy puts a pilgrim outfit on him, Snoopy stretches his arm all the way offscreen to drag him back.
- Enmity with an Object: Snoopy struggles with a folding chair that won't stay open, and at one point starts to fight back.
- Full-Name Basis: Charlie Brown identifies himself as "Charlie Brown" to his own grandmother over the phone.
- Got Me Doing It: Charlie Brown quickly corrects himself when he calls himself "Chuck" by accident to Grandma.
- "The Hero Sucks" Song: "Little Birdie" is a bizarre case. The song is sung with Woodstock in mind specifically, with the first half telling him that he doesn't need to worry so much, but then the second half is dedicated to telling how much Snoopy makes everything more complicated than needed and is too easily distracted.
- Homage: Towards the end, the special becomes a Gender Flipped version of The Courtship of Miles Standish, with the brusque tomboy Peppermint Patty sending the more eloquent and intellectual Marcie to speak to Charlie Brown on her behalf. The analogy is Lampshaded by Linus, but Peppermint Patty doesn't see it. Later, Marcie refers to her as "Priscilla," although technically Charlie Brown is Priscilla in this analogy.
- Irony: Peppermint Patty has an ungrateful rant on a holiday that exists for the explicit purpose of expressing gratitude. Of course, this sets up Marcie's Aesop about the holiday's true meaning.
- Jerkass Ball: Peppermint Patty holds it for the special, inviting herself and the others to Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving feast and acting ungrateful.
- Jerkass Realization: Peppermint Patty has one after Marcie calls her out for yelling at Charlie Brown about the dinner.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Peppermint Patty after insulting Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving dinner where she apologizes and learns what Thanksgiving is really all about.
- Limited Wardrobe: Lampshaded.Peppermint Patty: Old Chuck is pretty cool about dates. He always wears that striped shirt of his.
- New Sound Album: This special marked the point where Vince Guaraldi really started leaning in more of a jazz-rock fusion direction with his Peanuts scores, incorporating a Fender Rhodes electric piano and Clavinet keyboard (famously used by Stevie Wonder on "Superstition") alongside his traditional piano, and adding electric bass, Funk-inspired drumming and elaborate horn arrangements to the mix. He continued in that mode for the remainder of his Peanuts work.
- "Oh, Crap!" Smile: Woodstock does this after accidentally toasting and buttering Snooopy's ear.
- One-Note Cook: Lampshaded after Linus suggests that Charlie Brown host a dinner for his friends.Charlie Brown: I can't cook a Thanksgiving dinner! All I can make is cold cereal, and maybe toast.
Linus: That's right. I've seen you make toast. You can't butter it. But maybe we can help.
- Out Of Control Popcorn: One of the things Snoopy does when preparing the food is to make the popcorn. But there is that one time that he forgets to put the lid on the pot when throwing in the next batch of kernels...
- Projectile Toast: Done by Charlie Brown and Linus in the kitchen, while Snoopy pops corn.
- Silent Snarker:
- The chair gets outright sassy when it gets into a wrestling match with Snoopy.
- Woodstock has a few moments, like when he refuses to wear the little pilgrim outfit.
- A Simple Plan: Linus suggests to Charlie Brown that if he has three uninvited guests, he should just put on a second, earlier dinner before leaving for the big celebration at Grandma's. When Charlie Brown argues that he can only make cereal and toast, Linus and Snoopy help him to assemble a meal of toast, popcorn, jelly beans and pretzel sticks to serve in the backyard. It almost works, too; Peppermint Patty complains, but the other kids—after being weirded out by Snoopy tossing them their food—happily dig in.
- Ungrateful Bitch: Peppermint Patty, who takes on Lucy's role of Jerkass in the special. After inviting herself and the others to Charlie Brown's Thanksgiving, she has the audacity to yell at him for not having a "proper" holiday meal in spite of the fact that one, he can't cook, two, he's only about ten or so years old (the same age as every other child in their group of friends save for Linus, Sally and Rerun), three, Snoopy did the majority of the cooking and four, that she wasn't properly invited. Thankfully, Marcie called her out on her behavior.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Lucy isn't seen, or even mentioned, after the Football Gag teaser at the beginning. This is especially odd given the substantial role that her brother Linus has in the main story. Moreover, Linus joins the Brown family for Thanksgiving dinner instead of spending it with the Van Pelts.
- You Didn't Ask: Charlie Brown and Linus enlist Snoopy to help prepare and serve their "alternate" meal for the gang. After they leave for Grandma's at the end, Snoopy pulls out a fully-cooked, traditional Thanksgiving meal for himself and Woodstock.