Network executives were concerned that the show seemed so different from other animated shows. A Charlie Brown Christmas used child actors, did not use a laugh track, the jazz-inspired music soundtrack was definitely a departure from other cartoons, the children used adult-level words like “eastern syndicate” and “real estate” and perhaps most significantly, Peanuts creator Charles Schulz insisted that there be a scene where a segment from the King James Bible, announcing the birth of the baby Jesus, was read.
When concerns about the Bible reading scene were voiced during production, Schulz replied, “If we don’t tell the true meaning of Christmas, who will?”
It’s a Hit!
While the television executives thought that Schulz and his team missed on the special, the viewing public completely disagreed! The show captured a 45% share of those who were watching television that evening and won the hearts of the critics as well.
“Happiness is Charlie Brown-animated. Charlie Brown’s Christmas is a special that really is special-one that bears repeating.”
“Linus reading the story of the Nativity was, quite simply, the dramatic highlight of the season . . . “
-New York World Telegram-Harriet Van Horne
“ . . . Charlie Brown was a gem of a television show . . . the script was right . . . the voices of the children were a delight . . .”
-San Francisco Chronicle-Terrance O’Flaherty
Since 1965, there has never been a year when A Charlie Brown Christmas has not aired on television. Not bad for a show that the network didn’t seem to like!
Charlie Brown was Charlie Brown
I think what made (and continues to make) A Charlie Brown Christmas a success is that Charles Schulz and the creative team created a television show that remained true to the comic strip. Of course, Charlie Brown would be depressed! Of course Lucy would ask for real estate. Of course, Charlie Brown would pick the scrawniest tree and of course, the other kids would make fun of him for it.
And lastly, when Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” didn’t it seem perfect that Linus would be the one to quote the book of Luke . . . and that the scene would be as powerful as it is, year after year.
Charles Schulz was right-only the Peanuts gang could have done what they did, in the way they did. The creative team embraced that idea, ran with it--and created a classic...by being themselves.
If not you, who?
There is power, strength and impact when you are authentically you, in all that you do. There are things right now that only you can do ... so I ask you, “If not you...who?”
The world needs a hit! The world needs you.