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This television classic features the Peanuts characters in the story of Charlie Brown's problematic efforts to mount a school Christmas pageant. Everybody's on board: Lucy, Snoopy, Schroeder, Pig-Pen, but the biggest impression is surely made by Linus, who stops the show with his recitation from the gospels of the story of Christ's birth.--Tom Keogh

A Charlie Brown Christmas
CBX Blu-Ray cover.jpg
Genre Animated TV Special Created by Charles M. Schulz Directed by Bill Meléndez Voices of Peter Robbins
Chris Shea
Tracy Stratford
Kathy Steinberg
Chris Doran
Geoffrey Ornstein
Karen Mendelson
Sally Dryer
Ann Altieri
Bill Meléndez Theme music composer Vince Guaraldi Composer(s) Vince Guaraldi Country of origin USA Language(s) English Production Producer(s) Bill Meléndez
Lee Mendelson Running time 30 minutes Broadcast Original channel CBS Original airing December 9, 1965 Chronology Preceded by A Boy Named Charlie Brown Followed by Charlie Brown's All-Stars

A Charlie Brown Christmas is the first prime-time animated TV special based upon the comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. It was produced and directed by former Warner Bros. and UPA animator Bill Meléndez, who also supplied the voice for the character of Snoopy. Initially sponsored by Coca-Cola, the special aired on CBS from its debut in 1965 through 2000, and has aired on ABC since 2001. For many years it aired only annually, but is now telecast at least twice during the Christmas season. The special has been honored with both an Emmy and Peabody award.

A Charlie Brown Christmas is also one of CBS's most successful specials, airing annually more times on that network than even MGM's classic motion picture The Wizard of Oz. Oz was shown thirty-one times on CBS, but not consecutively as the Charlie Brown special was; between 1968 and 1976, NBC aired the 1939 film.

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[edit] Plot

On their way to join the rest of the Peanuts gang all skating on a frozen pond, Charlie Brown confides in Linus that even though Christmas is approaching he still feels depressed despite all the presents and cards and tree decorating. His depression and aggravation only get exacerbated by the goings-on in the neighborhood. Though his mailbox is empty of Christmas cards, he tries sarcastically to thank Violet for the card she "sent" him, though Violet says she did not send him a card.

Ultimately, Charlie Brown visits Lucy in her psychiatric booth. On her advice, he gets involved in directing a school play about the Nativity. She also sympathizes with Charlie Brown about holiday depression, always getting "a lot of stupid toys" instead of what she really wants: real estate.

On the way to the auditorium, Charlie Brown is drawn to Snoopy, who is frantically and gleefully busy decorating his doghouse. After Charlie Brown demands an explanation, Snoopy hands him a flyer about a neighborhood lights and display contest.

Charlie Brown walks away in frustration at his own dog being bitten by the commercial bug. He then gets accosted by Sally, who wants Charlie Brown to take dictation for a letter to Santa, in which she ultimately asks him (Santa) to "just send money", particularly tens and twenties, causing Charlie Brown to run away in exasperation of even his sister's commercial corruption.

Charlie Brown arrives at the rehearsals, but try as he might, he cannot seem to get control of the situation as the uncooperative kids are more interested in modernizing the play with dancing and lively music. Charlie Brown, on the other hand, is determined not to let the play become commercial and to direct the traditional side of the story.

Thinking the play requires "the proper mood", Charlie Brown decides they need a Christmas tree. So Lucy takes over the crowd and dispatches Charlie Brown to get a "big, shiny aluminum tree...maybe painted pink". With Linus in tow, Charlie Brown sets off on his quest. But when they get to the tree market, Charlie Brown zeroes in on a small baby tree which, ironically as well as symbolically, is the only real living tree on the lot. Linus displays surprise upon seeing the tree and exclaims, "Gee, do they still make wooden Christmas trees?”

Linus is reluctant about Charlie Brown's choice of this tree, but Charlie Brown is convinced that decorating it will be just right for the play, and so they return to the school auditorium with the tree, only to be verbally castigated by everyone, especially Lucy, about his choice. Second guessing himself, Charlie Brown begins to wonder if he really knows what Christmas is about, loudly asking in despair. Linus quietly says he can tell him, and walks to center stage to make his point. Under a spotlight, Linus quotes Scripture, particularly the second chapter of the Gospel of Luke, verses 8 through 14: [King James Version]

"'8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"

Charlie Brown now realizes he does not have to let commercialism ruin his Christmas. With a newly found sense of inspiration, he quietly picks up the little tree and walks out of the auditorium, intending to take the tree home to decorate and show the others it will work in the play.

On the way, he stops at Snoopy's decorated doghouse, which now sports a first prize blue ribbon for winning the display contest. Letting his dog's commercialism roll off his back, Charlie Brown takes an ornament off the doghouse and hangs it on his tree, but the ornament's weight is too much for the small branch and pulls it to the ground much to Charlie Brown's shock.

Unbeknownst to Charlie Brown; the rest of the gang, having also heard Linus' recitation, began to realize they were a little too rough on Charlie Brown and quietly followed him from the auditorium. Linus goes up to the little tree and gently props the drooping branch back to its upright position, ornament and all. After they add the remaining decorations from Snoopy's doghouse to the tree, the kids then start humming the Christmas carol, "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing". When Charlie Brown returns, he demands to know what's going on. When he sees what they have done with the tree, he cannot believe his eyes, and the kids give him a rousing "Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!" before singing "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" as the end credits roll.

[edit] Themes

The story touches on the over-commercialization and secularism of Christmas, and serves to remind viewers of the true meaning of Christmas: the birth of Jesus Christ, continuing a theme explored by satirists such as Stan Freberg and Tom Lehrer during the 1950s.

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Details

CastPeanuts Gang, Sally Dryer, Peter Robbins, Christopher Shea, Tracy Stratford, Bill Melendez, Ann Altieri, Chris Doran, Karen Mendelson
DirectorBill Melendez
Genre:  Family
Release Date:  January 1, 1965
MPAA Rating:  Unrated
Runtime:  30min
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More A Charlie Brown Christmas reviews
review by . November 28, 2011
This is one of my favorite cartoons of all-time. Poor Charlie Brown picks out the poorest Christmas tree. The gang gets so mad at him and you feel sorry for Charlie Brown who will now have a rotten Christmas. As it turns out, with a little decorating the poor tree becomes nice. All is forgiven and then Chalie will have a great Christmas after all! Great stuff!
review by . December 10, 2010
Like a lot of people, I grew up watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on television when it was shown every year. When I had the opportunity to purchase it on DVD back in 2000, it was a release I made sure to get.      Most people know the main story of this special, and about how Charlie Brown laments the commercialization of Chritstmas and how he tries to find the true meaning of the holiday. One of things that has always stood out to me was the part where Linus was quoting Scripture. …
review by . December 02, 2003
A TRUE Christmas classic. There are lots of great Christmas movies and TV shows that are fun to watch each year, from CHRISTMAS VACATION to THE GRINCH. But there is something special about Charlie Brown's take.First of all, it's the only mainstream Christmas classic that actually DARES to bring the story of the birth of Jesus to front and center!! When Linus takes centerstage and quotes the bible for us, you can almost feel the air suck out of the room. It's a moment of simple drama that can really …
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A Charlie Brown Christmas
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