5 Little-Known Facts About 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'
Charles Schulz hated jazz music!
For Peanuts fans everywhere, it just wouldn't be Christmas without this classic holiday delight.
A Charlie Brown Christmas debuted in 1965, and has been aired during the holiday season every year since. In celebration of the annual holiday special, here are five fun facts about the film.
1. Most of the voice actors were cast from kids in the director's neighborhood
Charles Schulz (known to friends and colleagues as “Sparky”) wanted to bring believable voices to the characters he created, so the producers cast real children to give life to the 'Peanuts' gang instead of adult voice-over artists. Professional child actors were cast in the roles for Charlie Brown, Linus and Lucy since they were required to recite most of the dialogue. The rest came from children who lived in director Bill Melendez's Southern California neighborhood, most of whom had zero experience in acting or voice-over work.
2. Some of the child actors were so young, they couldn't read the script
Melendez and Schulz wanted to cast children in the special in order to preserve their innocence and voice because they believed it would not only make the cartoon more realistic, but also funnier and edgier. Their idea hit a snag when the production team realized that some of the children were so young that they couldn't read the script that was sitting in front of them. Melendez said in an interview for the book A Charlie Brown Christmas: The Making of a Tradition that he had to recite the script line by line for the children who couldn't read, including Christopher Shea who voiced Linus.
3. Charles Schulz refused to let CBS executives insert a laugh track
Since this was the first time Schulz's 'Peanuts' would be represented in an animated cartoon to a national audience, he had a strong hand in the production process and fought hard to preserve his creation by not letting the “suits” tinker with it. Schulz insisted that the cartoon not have a laugh track, something that was a standard for TV comedies at the time. Producer Lee Mendelson recalled in Schulz's biography that he was just as adamant that the special not have a laugh track to “help keep it moving along.” Sparky said at a staff meeting during production that the network should “let the people at home enjoy the show at their own speed, in their own way” and promptly walked out of the room ending the argument. Sounds like Schulz had a little bit of Lucy in him that day.
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4. Schulz actually hated jazz music
Musician and composer Vince Guaraldi's ensemble of holiday infused jazz for A Charlie Brown Christmas became just as famous and as much of a yuletide favorite as the cartoon that popularized it. Sparky, however, wasn't a big fan of the catchy tunes. In fact, according to his biography, Schulz told a reporter two months after the special aired that he thought jazz music was “awful.” Guaraldi's involvement with 'Peanuts' dates back to before production started on the Christmas special. Mendelson had been working with Schulz on a documentary called A Boy Named Charlie Brown that featured a soundtrack of jazz music composed by Guaraldi. Despite his feelings about jazz, Sparky insisted that they use Guaraldi's music again for A Charlie Brown Christmas with a mix of traditional Christmas hymns because it created the perfect “bubbly, childlike tone” for the show.
Related: How to Watch A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
5. Linus' “True Meaning of Christmas” speech was almost cut
Sparky was also a religious man and, according to his biography, “the life of Jesus remained for him a consuming subject.” He also insisted in the early days of production that the script feature some religious overtones, particularly a passage from the St. Luke gospel about the birth of Jesus Christ, to bring some meaning to the holiday that “had been lost in the general good-time frivolity.” The producers agreed to include a Nativity scene to represent Sparky's feelings, but by the time the script was finished, Mendelson realized he had included an entire minute-long speech directly from the New Testament. This led to the biggest arguments between Sparky and the producers, with Mendelson insisting that the special was an “entertainment show” and the speech would scare off advertisers by narrowing its audience. Thankfully, the now-iconic speech survived the final cut and has aired in the special every year since.
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