For those that watched A Charlie Brown Christmas shouldn't be surprised that it is before their time, but it is 50 years old. There will be a special celebrating its anniversary on Monday, and it has given some thoughts about the Peanuts legacy after the release of The Peanuts Movie.
According to Cleveland.com, the original A Charlie Brown Christmas special could have been very different. CBS apparently wanted it to a laugh track, without Vince Guaraldi's trademark jazzy music, and remove the part where Linus quotes from the Book of Luke. It was Peanuts creator Charles Schultz that insisted that several elements remained, and it has become a classic Christmas special for the holidays.
In April 1965, an advertising executive representing Coca-Cola approached producer Lee Mendelson about the idea of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The half-hour special was rushed into production to make the holiday deadline, and there was no time to make any changes. However, it proved to be a huge hit. Lee Mendelson and director-animator Lee Melendez began a string of Charlie Brown specials that aired on CBS for decades afterward.
ABC will be airing a 50th Anniversary of the special with a special that will air on 8 PM on Monday, November 30th. Kristen Bell plays host for the hour-long special, and it will be followed at 9 by the actual special itself. The special will also feature a visit from the popular group Pentatonix, as well as Kristin Chenoweth, who had a small part in the recent The Peanuts Movie.
It is very interesting that a Christmas special that actually quotes the gospel story of the birth of Jesus and then says "that's what Christmas is all about" still airs. The fact that it can still air on the holidays shows that people are still looking for the true meaning of Christmas, just like Charlie Brown was 50 years ago. It's something to think about whenever you hear the words: "The War on Christmas."
It is interesting to see how Peanuts can survive in this age. I had the opportunity to grow up with Charlie Brown by reading books with reprints of his old strips, and by that time, Schultz was able to develop his characters for decades.
I recently had the opportunity to watch The Peanuts Movie with my son, who only knows Charlie Brown from the animated programs that can be found on YouTube. My son is 11, and there haven't been any new Peanuts strips since 1999. I had to admit that I was worried when I saw that someone, even the competent animation studio Blue Sky (makers of Ice Age, and then all its mediocre sequels), attempt a 3D version of these characters.
However, the writers are from the Schulz family, and they had creative control of the film. The decision to put the characters in three dimensions worked out well, but the character's faces had a hand-drawn effect that really updated the Peanuts world into this era. Some of the elements in the 3D world were also hand-drawn, which created a new yet still familiar Peanuts world.
The Peanuts Movie shows a world where kids are not on smartphones or tablets all day, where they played outside in spite of several inches of snow on the ground. All of their phones were a rotary dial, and it was easy to get caught up in the cords. They still live in a suburban landscape filled with little houses that seem separated from the rest of the world, and no adults are seen. About the only thing in this world that felt modern was a song from contemporary pop singer Meghan Trainor called "Better When I'm Dancin'", but it felt like a good fit in the world of Peanuts.
The story of Charlie Brown is always about a character who tries and fails but never quits. This moral was actually stated as well as being shown, and, without revealing too much, the ending seems rather sudden. The reason Peanuts works is it shows the dark side of childhood and yet still keeps it light because all of us have been Charlie Brown, as we can't always win.
Watching the film made me feel like I was watching a Saturday Morning cartoon, but with the quality level raised. However, I have to admit that the Peanuts specials probably helped spawn what would eventually become Saturday morning cartoons, so it is hardly derivative on the part of The Peanuts Movie.
The issue is with The Peanuts Movie is that it felt like I was watching a classic Charlie Brown special. Not all of these were good, but The Peanuts Movie is of an above average quality. It might not be as great as A Charlie Brown Christmas, but it doesn't have to be. At least you feel like you are watching a film where the creators have really put their heart into it, and Charles Schultz left a legacy.
So what direction will the next Peanuts movie take? Well, there might not be one. Yes, the film was a hit, but CinemaBlend reports that Fox only has the rights for one. It is possible for the Schultz family to come up with another, as there is a lot of Source material they can draw from, but we will have to see.
The problem with Peanuts is when it attempts to be modern, such as a cringe-worthy attempt with the 1984 special of It's Flashbeagle, Charlie Brown, that was supposed to ride on the coattails of the 1983 movie Flashdance. Yes, that happened, and it hopefully won't happen again if the writers handle the Peanuts characters delicately as they did in The Peanuts Movie.