A Charlie Brown Christmas

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Directed byBill Melendez
Produced byBill Melendez
Lee Mendelson
Written byCharles M. Schulz
StarringPeter Robbins
Christopher Shea
Bill Melendez
Music byVince Guaraldi
Distributed byUnited Feature Syndicate for CBS
Release date(s)1965
Running time25 min.
IMDb profile
For the album, see A Charlie Brown Christmas (album).

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) is the first of many prime-time animated TV specials based upon the popular comic strip Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz. It was produced and directed by former Warner Bros. and UPA animator Bill Melendez. It is also the first special in which Melendez voices Snoopy.


A Charlie Brown Christmas features Charlie Brown's search for meaning in the Christmas holiday. He starts the special seeking to understand why he always ends up depressed around the holidays. On the advice of Lucy, he gets involved in directing a school play about the Nativity. When he loses control of the production because of the cast members' refusal to listen to him, he is given the lesser responsibility of finding a Christmas tree for the play.

Instead of buying a "big, shiny, aluminum" artificial tree as he was instructed to do by Lucy, he chooses a pitiful little tree, which happens (somewhat symbolically) to be the only real tree on the lot. This makes him the target of laughter and derision by all except Linus. Charlie Brown cries out in abject desperation, wondering if anyone understands what Christmas is all about. Linus answers him by reciting the story of the birth of Jesus, from the Gospel of Luke.

Meanwhile, Snoopy has decorated his famous doghouse with colorful flashing lights and other baubles, and won first prize in a decorating contest. Charlie Brown takes the decorations and puts a single ornament on his tree, which promptly collapses under the weight. He flees in despair.

Having heard Linus's explanation of what Christmas is all about, the other kids realize they have been too hard on Charlie Brown, and fix his tree up into a brilliant Christmas display using the rest of Snoopy's decorations. Charlie Brown returns to find the whole gang gathered around his tree. In a rare moment of happiness, he joins the crew in singing the Christmas carol "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing", as the closing credits roll.


The story touches on the over-commercialization of Christmas, and 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.


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 and Lucy, Peter Robbins and Tracy Stratford, respectively, 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 at times is noticeably choppy and poorly enunciated. 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 (Lk 2:8-14); 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.) 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 show first aired on Thursday, December 9, 1965, preempting The Munsters. 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 quirks, along with several other choices, are what lent the show such an innovative, authentic and sincere feeling. For instance, Linus' recitiation 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."

A full 50% of the televisions in the United States were tuned to the broadcast 1. A Charlie Brown Christmas won an Emmy and a Peabody award, and is considered by many to be a timeless holiday classic. Watching it is an annual tradition for countless viewers. The success of A Charlie Brown Christmas gave rise to a series of animated Peanuts TV specials, several full-length animated feature films, and a Saturday morning cartoon over the years.

In 2000, the broadcast rights were acquired by ABC, which is where the special currently airs. On September 12, 2000, the special was released to DVD. 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. 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.


The special has not been seen in its original, uncut form since the first three telecasts in 1965, 1966 and 1967. Much of this is due to the opening and closing credits containing references to Coca-Cola, the show's original sponsor. Specific, acknowledged cuts are:
  • The main titles have Linus crashing into a Coca-Cola sign after Snoopy has spun both him and Charlie Brown around with Linus' blanket. In the versions currently available, the viewer never sees where Linus' trajectory lands him.
  • In the "fence" scene, where several of the Peanuts gang are attempting to knock cans off a fence with snowballs, Linus is seen knocking down a can with his blanket. In the original airing, this is a Coke can, but was later replaced with a nondescript can.
  • The final end credit originally had text and graphics wishing the viewer a "Merry Christmas from the people in your town who bottle Coca-Cola." This is why the "Hark!" chorus sung at the end trails off oddly before the song would normally end, as an announcer originally did a voice over this point in the credits to repeat and reemphasize the local bottler's well wishes to the TV audience.http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Th1GdWQiYPM
Although the FCC eventually imposed sanctions preventing sponsor references in the context of a story (especially children's programming), this had no effect upon the decision to impose these edits. The Coca-Cola product placement elements were removed when the company ceased being the sole sponsor, replaced in 1968 by Dolly Madison snack products, who continued to sponsor the Peanuts specials through the 1980s. While current FCC product placement rules would prevent restoration and broadcast TV airing, the sole reason this footage has not been restored for the DVD or VHS releases has been related to royalties that would have to be paid to The Coca-Cola Company for use of their trademarks.

Finally, there is some disagreement among those who have studied the various releases of the special about whether or not another edit was made after the initial airing. A quick — and arguably sloppy — cut occurs during the "Auditorium" scene, when the gang begins dancing to "Linus and Lucy" right after Charlie Brown gives his "am I right? I said, am I RIGHT??" speech. The moment of the cut occurs as the camera is zooming in on Schroeder, and quickly jumps to Linus dancing with Sally. The camera proceeds to pan around to the rest of the gang as they go through their own unique dance styles. The sloppiness of this cut is exacerbated by the fact that the music makes an audible jump as well, actually skipping a beat forward and sounding rather awkward. No information as to the nature of this cut has been determined, and none of the production staff (including director Bill Melendez) can recall if or why such an edit was done.


  • According to Bill Melendez, some of the child actors could not read, so were given their lines to recite one at a time. Long lines sometimes had to be spliced together in the studio after the recording session was over. This led to the now-familiar Peanuts delivery style ("A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition", Bill Melendez).
  • The cast of Scrubs redubbed A Charlie Brown Christmas, resulting in a viral video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=20Of_mna-Rs.
  • In Buffy The Vampire Slayer, the cartoon is mentioned as a yearly ritual of Willow and Xander. Willow, who is Jewish, would go over to Xander's house to watch it when they were children. He reminds her of this in the episode The Replacement, declaring "I would do the Snoopy Dance!" before demonstrating with some hilarity.

Full cast

Peter Robbins: Charles "Charlie" Brown

Christopher Shea: Linus Van Pelt

Tracy Stratford: Lucille "Lucy" Van Pelt

Kathy Steinberg: Sally Brown

Bill Melendez: Snoopy

Sally Dryer: Violet Gray

Ann Altieri: Frieda

Geoffrey Ornstein: Pigpen


Enlarge picture
Cover from the soundtrack album for A Charlie Brown Christmas
The musical soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas, by jazz composer Vince Guaraldi, has become as well-known as the story itself. In particular, the instrumental "Linus and Lucy" has come to be regarded as the signature musical theme of the Peanuts specials. Additionally "Christmas Time is Here" has become a popular holiday tune. A soundtrack album for the special was released by Fantasy Records and remains a perennial best-seller. (While the CD release of the soundtrack contains much music that does not appear in the TV special — it runs, after all, some 20 minutes longer than the special itself — it also fails to include two musical themes which appear in the special.)

A Charlie Brown Christmas is often credited with spearheading the popular stigmatization of artificial Christmas trees.

A Charlie Brown Christmas has also been performed as a charity stage program in live theatrical venues across the country. The stage show attempts to replicate, in rather humorous detail, the exact delivery of the special's child actors and the awkward, stiff movements that the animation style allowed. The show has been quite popular and has raised tens of thousands of dollars for charitable causes. This program is completely unauthorized but does not make any profits and therefore avoids potential legal complications: all money raised from donations goes directly to the charitable organizations involved. Notable venues include Penn State University (via the Outlaws organization) and the Asolo Theatre Festival in Sarasota, Florida (via the Asolo Late-Nite series).


Three lesser-known true sequels were produced decades after the 1965 original. All three are 30 minutes in length (with commercials) and aired on CBS Television: All three avoid the social commentary of the original, placing the emphasis on light-hearted humor. The latter two were made after the death of Charles Schulz and were based on his Peanuts comic strips. Of the three, Christmas Tales and I Want a Dog... both air annually on ABC television; the former packaged as an addendum with the original A Charlie Brown Christmas as one full one-hour show and the latter as a stand-alone special. It's Christmastime Again has not been seen on television in over a decade; however, pirated versions are available on the Internet. There was also a VHS home release.

While not true sequels, two other Charlie Brown holiday season specials were produced and are generally regarded as higher quality than the '90s/'00s shows: 1973's A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (still aired annually on ABC), It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (also aired annually on ABC), and Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! from 1985.

Further reading

External links

Preceded by
"A Boy Named Charlie Brown"
Peanuts television specialsFollowed by
"Charlie Brown's All-Stars"

Be My Valentine… | A Boy Named… (documentary) | A Charlie Brown Celebration | A Charlie Brown Christmas | A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving | A Charlie Brown Valentine | Charlie Brown's All-Stars | Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales | Happy Birthday… | Happy New Year…!| He's A Bully… | He's Your Dog… | I Want a Dog for Christmas… | Is This Goodbye…? | It Was a Short Summer… | It Was My Best Birthday Ever… | It's Arbor Day… | It's Christmastime Again… | It's Flashbeagle… | It's Magic… | It's Your First Kiss… | It's a Mystery… | It's an Adventure… | It's the Easter Beagle… | It's the Girl in the Red Truck… | It's the Great Pumpkin… | It's the Pied Piper… | I Want a Dog for Christmas… | Life Is a Circus… | Lucy Must Be Traded… | Play It Again… | She's a Good Skate… | Snoopy's Getting Married… | Snoopy's Reunion | SnoopySnoopy Someday You'll Find Her… | There's No Time for Love… | What Have We Learned…? | What a Nightmare…! | Why, Charlie Brown, Why? | You Don't Look 40… | You're Not Elected… | You're a Good Man… (television special) | You're a Good Sport… | You're in Love… | You're in the Super Bowl… | You're the Greatest…
Bill Melendez (born José Cuauhtemoc Melendez on November 15, 1916 in Hermosillo, Mexico) is a Mexican-born American character animator, film director, and film producer, known for his cartoons for Warner Brothers and the Charlie Brown series.
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Bill Melendez (born José Cuauhtemoc Melendez on November 15, 1916 in Hermosillo, Mexico) is a Mexican-born American character animator, film director, and film producer, known for his cartoons for Warner Brothers and the Charlie Brown series.
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Lee Mendelson (born ca. 1933) is an American television producer. He is best known as the executive producer of the many Peanuts animated specials.

Mendelson, a native of San Francisco, California, entered Stanford University in 1950, where he studied creative
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Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922[1] – February 12, 2000) was a 20th-century American cartoonist best known worldwide for his Peanuts comic strip.

Life and career

Charles M.
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Peter Robbins (b. August 10, 1956, Los Angeles, California) is a former child actor best known for his voice-over work as Charlie Brown in the 1960s. He provided Charlie Brown's voice in several Peanuts television specials and film from 1965 to 1969.
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Bill Melendez (born José Cuauhtemoc Melendez on November 15, 1916 in Hermosillo, Mexico) is a Mexican-born American character animator, film director, and film producer, known for his cartoons for Warner Brothers and the Charlie Brown series.
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Vince Guaraldi (July 17, 1928 – February 6, 1976) was an American jazz musician and pianist best known for composing music for animated adaptations of the Peanuts comic strip. Guaraldi was born in San Francisco, California.
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United Media is a large editorial column and comic strip newspaper syndication service based in the United States, owned by The E.W. Scripps Company. It syndicates 150 comics and editorial columns worldwide.
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CBS Broadcasting, Inc. (CBS)

Type Broadcast radio network and
television network
Country  United States
Availability    National; also available in  Canada,  Mexico, and the Caribbean
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-1965- 1966 1967 1968  1969 .  1970 .  1971 .  1972  . 1973  . 1974  . 1975 

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A Charlie Brown Christmas is an album by the Vince Guaraldi Trio, released in 1965 as the soundtrack to the CBS Christmas television special of the same name. It is among the most popular holiday music albums of all time.
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Prime Time is the major news analysis, current affairs and politics programme broadcast on Radio Telefís Éireann in Ireland. It is broadcast regularly on RTÉ One on Tuesday and Thursday nights (reducing to once a week in the summer) between 21:30 and 22:10.
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Animation is the rapid display of a sequence of images of 2-D artwork or model positions in order to create an illusion of movement. It is an optical illusion of motion due to the phenomenon of persistence of vision, and can be created and demonstrated in a number of ways.
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A television special is a television program, typically a short film or television movie, which interrupts or temporarily replaces programming normally scheduled for a given time slot.
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comic strip is a drawing or sequence of drawings that tells a story. Written and drawn by a cartoonist, such strips are published on a recurring basis (usually daily or weekly) in newspapers and on the Internet.
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The Peanuts gang.
Top row: Woodstock, Snoopy, and
Charlie Brown
Bottom row: Franklin, Lucy van Pelt,
Linus van Pelt, Peppermint Patty, and
Sally Brown
Author(s) Charles M.
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Charles Monroe Schulz (November 26, 1922[1] – February 12, 2000) was a 20th-century American cartoonist best known worldwide for his Peanuts comic strip.

Life and career

Charles M.
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Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc., or Warner Bros. (pronounced Warner Brothers), is one of the world's largest producers of film and television entertainment.

It is currently a subsidiary of the Time Warner conglomerate, with its headquarters in Burbank, California.
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United Productions of America

The UPA opening title card from "How Now Boing Boing" (1954)

Formation 1944
Key people John Hubley
Stephen Bosustow
Henry G.
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Bill Melendez (born José Cuauhtemoc Melendez on November 15, 1916 in Hermosillo, Mexico) is a Mexican-born American character animator, film director, and film producer, known for his cartoons for Warner Brothers and the Charlie Brown series.
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Charlie Brown
Peanuts character

Age 8½, started out as 4 in his debut
Gender Male
Family Sister Sally Brown and unnamed parents
Original voice actor Peter Robbins
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Jesus Christ
Church Theology
New Covenant Supersessionism
Apostles Kingdom Gospel
History of Christianity Timeline
Old Testament New Testament
Books Canon Apocrypha
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depression refers to any downturn in mood, which may be relatively transitory and perhaps due to something trivial. This is differentiated from Clinical depression which is marked by symptoms that last two weeks or more and are so severe that they interfere with daily living.
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Lucy Van Pelt
Peanuts character
Lucy slugs Linus
Age 8
Gender Female
Family Middle Brother, Linus Van Pelt, Youngest Brother Rerun Van Pelt, Blanket Hating Grandmother, and Unnamed Parents

Birthday Unknown (debut date is March 3rd)
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The Nativity of Jesus, or simply the Nativity, is the story of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.

For Christians, the authoritative accounts are those given in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke that form part of the New Testament of the Bible.
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A Christmas tree, Yule tree or Tannenbaum (German: fir tree) is one of the most popular traditions associated with the celebration of Christmas.
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Linus van Pelt
Peanuts character

Age 7
Gender Male
Family Rerun van Pelt (brother),
Lucy van Pelt (sister),
Blanket-hating grandmother
Original voice actor Christopher Shea
Other voice actors Jeremy Miller
Peter Knight (stage)
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Jesus (8–2 BC/BCE to 29–36 AD/CE),[2] also known as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity, and is also an important figure in several other religions.
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The Gospel of Luke is a synoptic Gospel, and the third and longest of the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament. The text narrates the life of Jesus, with particular interest concerning his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection; and it ends with an account of the
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Peanuts character

Gender Male
Family Siblings: Brothers Spike, Andy, Olaf, Sister Belle and three others; owner Charlie Brown
Original voice actor Bill Melendez
Other voice actors Robert Towers, Cam Clarke (stage)
Birthday August 28
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