Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown

Hey, Facebookians... click on over to Clouds in My Coffee to see this post correctly...  and then, come back to Facebook and become a fan by searching "Clouds In My Coffee"!

Hey, Coffee Drinkers... Merry Christmas to you and your family.  I'll allow Linus to explain the truth of what we celebrate...

Be honest... you find it kind of surprising that this program is still allowed on television, right?  What, with "Christ" and "Jesus" and "Saviour" in the text, its almost enough to make you think about God--wouldn't want to force that on America, would we?

By the way, for some light reading, here is the story behind A Charlie Brown Christmas, via Wikipedia:

Bringing the Peanuts characters to television was not an easy task. The strip's creators, with funding from sponsor Coca-Cola, presented the CBS network with an idea for a Christmas television special starring Schulz's characters.

The production was done on a shoestring budget, resulting in a somewhat choppy animation style and, from a technical standpoint, poorly mixed sound. With the exception of the actors who voiced Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) and Lucy (Tracy Stratford), none of the children had any experience doing voice work. This was especially challenging for Kathy Steinberg, who voiced Sally: she was too young to read and needed to be cued line by line during the soundtrack recording. The technical issues are in evidence on the show's audio track, which to some may seem noticeably choppy and poorly enunciated. One of the more noticeable quirks in the special include a shot in which Schroeder abruptly stops playing the piano, but several of the characters continue dancing for a couple of seconds. Melendez has said he remains somewhat embarrassed to see the show repeated every year with all its problems, but Schulz vetoed his idea of "fixing" the program years later.

Network executives were not at all keen on several aspects of the show, forcing Schulz and Melendez to wage some serious battles to preserve their vision. The executives did not want to have Linus reciting the story of the birth of Christ from the Gospel of Luke;  the network orthodoxy of the time assumed that viewers would not want to sit through passages of the King James Version of the Bible. A story reported on the Whoopi Goldberg-hosted version of the making of the program (see below) that Charles Schulz was adamant about keeping this scene in, remarking that "If we don't tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?"

Another complaint was the absence of a laugh track, a common element of children's cartoons at the time. Schulz maintained that the audience should be able to enjoy the show at their own pace, without being cued when to laugh. (CBS did create a version of the show with the laugh track added, just in case Schulz changed his mind. This version remains unavailable, though unauthorized copies have appeared on YouTube.)

A third complaint was the use of children to do the voice acting, instead of employing adult actors. Finally, the executives thought that the jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi would not work well for a children's program. When executives saw the final product, they were horrified and believed the special would be a complete flop.

The half-hour special first aired on Thursday, December 9, 1965, preempting The Munsters and following the Gilligan's Island episode "Don't Bug the Mosquitos". To the surprise of the executives, it was both a critical and commercial hit. None of the special's technical problems detracted from the show's appeal; to the contrary, it is thought that these so-called quirks, along with several other choices, are what lent the show such an innovative, authentic and sincere feeling. For instance, Linus' recitation was hailed by critics such as Harriet Van Horne of the New York World-Telegram who said, "Linus' reading of the story of the Nativity was, quite simply, the dramatic highlight of the season."

50% of the televisions in the United States were tuned to the first broadcast.  A Charlie Brown Christmas won an Emmy and a Peabody award, and is considered by many to be a timeless Christmas holiday classic. Watching it is an annual tradition for countless viewers. The success of the animated special, A Charlie Brown Christmas has given rise to numerous other specials (including ten others that are also holiday-themed), a miniseries devoted to America, Saturday morning cartoon, and four full-length feature films.

In January 2000, one month before Schulz's death, the broadcast rights were acquired by ABC (as part of a deal between the network and Schulz), which is where the special currently airs (and has aired there since CBS's final airing of the special on December 25, 2000). On September 12, 2000, the special was released to DVD [it had previously been released on VHS through Shell Oil for sale at their gas stations]. The show enjoyed its 40th anniversary with its broadcast of Tuesday, December 6, 2005. This broadcast had the highest ratings in its time slot.

On December 6, 2001, a half-hour documentary on the special entitled The Making of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (hosted by Whoopi Goldberg) aired on ABC. In 2002, it was replaced by Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales. This documentary was released (along with the special Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales) as a bonus feature with the special I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown on October 26, 2004.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Join us soon for the beginning of "The 100 Coolest Things of 2009"... will you make the list?  Find out!

No comments:

Post a Comment

I want to hear your response! Click here!!