Wednesday December 9, 2020 Smile of the Day: A Charlie Brown Christmas

On this Day:

A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired in 1965.  This animated television special was the first TV special based on the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz.  In this special, Charlie Brown finds himself depressed despite the onset of the cheerful holiday season. Lucy suggests he direct a neighborhood Christmas play, but his best efforts are ignored and mocked by his peers. After Linus tells Charlie Brown about the true meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown cheers up, and the Peanuts gang unites to celebrate the Christmas season.

After the comic strip’s debut in 1950, Peanuts had become a phenomenon worldwide by the mid-1960s. The special was commissioned and sponsored by The Coca-Cola Company, and was written over a period of several weeks, and produced on a small budget in six months. In casting the characters, the producers took an unconventional route, hiring child actors.

Its lack of a laugh track (a staple in US television animation in this period), in addition to its tone, pacing, music, and animation, led both the producers and the network to predict the project would be a disaster. However, contrary to their collective apprehension, A Charlie Brown Christmas received high ratings and acclaim from critics.

It has been honored with an Emmy and a Peabody Award, and has become an annual presentation in the United States, airing on broadcast television during the Christmas season. Its success paved the way for a series of Peanuts television specials and films.  Live theatrical versions of A Charlie Brown Christmas have been staged (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

What’s the most popular candy in Charlie Brown’s candy drawer? Peppermint Patty.

Second, a Song:

A Charlie Brown Christmas program’s soundtrack was similarly unorthodox, featuring a jazz score by pianist Vince Guaraldi. Its jazz soundtrack achieved commercial success, selling four million copies in the US. Vincent Anthony Guaraldi (July 17, 1928 – February 6, 1976), born Vincent Anthony Dellaglio, was an American jazz pianist noted for his innovative compositions and arrangements and for composing music for animated television adaptations of the Peanuts comic strip including their signature melody, “Linus and Lucy” and the holiday standard, “Christmas Time Is Here”.

He is also known for his performances on piano as a member of Cal Tjader’s 1950s ensembles and for his own solo career. His 1962 composition “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” became a radio hit and won a Grammy Award in 1963 for Best Original Jazz Composition.

In 1963, while searching for music to accompany a planned Peanuts documentary entitled A Boy Named Charlie Brown, television producer Lee Mendelson heard “Cast Your Fate to the Wind” on the radio while driving home from a meeting with Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz. 

Mendelson then contacted Ralph J. Gleason, who put him in touch with Guaraldi.

Mendelson offered Guaraldi the job of composing several jazz scores for the documentary, which Guaraldi gladly accepted. Within several weeks, Mendelson received a call from an excited Guaraldi who wanted to play a piece of music he had just written. Mendelson, not wanting his first exposure to the new music to be marred by the poor audio qualities of a telephone, suggested coming over to Guaraldi’s studio. Guaraldi enthusiastically refused, saying “I’ve got to play this for someone right now or I’ll explode!” He then begun playing the yet-untitled “Linus and Lucy” for Mendelson, who agreed the song was perfect for Schulz’s Peanuts characters (per Wikipedia). 

Here is Schroder playing Linus and Lucy with the rest of the Peanuts gang as only Vince Guaraldi can do it.  I hope you enjoy it!


Thought for the Day:

“You’re a good man, Charlie Brown.” – Charles M. Schulz


Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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