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Dale’s Daily Data – Charlie Brown Christmas

It’s been on every year for as long as I can remember.  And it’s something Shelley and I look forward to every year.  It’s one of the traditions that introduce the Christmas season into our house – “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  So how did it get started?

In 1963, an independent producer, contacted Charles Schulz with the idea of producing a documentary about him and the Peanuts cartoon strips.  They did a couple of trial animations and shopped the idea around, but couldn’t find any network or sponsor to buy into it.  But in May 1965, Coca-Cola said they’d be interested in sponsoring a Peanuts Christmas special.  And in just six months, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was done and ready for air.

During that period they had a number of important decisions to make – the first was to use real children to do the voices of the characters, instead of the usual adults pretending to be children. They also decided, with the exception of Charlie Brown and Linus, to use amateurs with no previous experience.

Since their voices change as they grow, every few years a new set of voices had to be found and they tried to match the original voices as closely as possible and in some cases they were the younger brothers and sisters of the originals.

They also decided to hire jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi to write the music for the show and it was so successful – he wrote and performed the music for the first 14 specials (until his death).

Once “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was complete, CBS took a look and weren’t very happy because of it’s slow pace (compared with other cartoons), the religious message, and the amateur voices.  But when “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was aired, it was an immediate critical and popular success – it received a 45 share (meaning almost half of everybody watching TV that night had it turned on.   Four months later the show received the Peabody Award for “outstanding children’s and youth’s program,” and another month after that, an Emmy award.  And it entertains kids and adults to this day.

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