Stuff I Watch in December: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Happy Holidays and welcome! We are counting down the days until December 25th and, in that time, I will be reviewing each and every Christmas/holiday film I watch during the month. They’re mostly a selection of films in my own library or films and shows that have been recommended to me.

Please enjoy and leave a comment!

And if you missed any of our past reflections, take a look:

Holiday Inn (1942)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
The Bishop’s Wife (1947)
White Christmas (1954)
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)

Our next film is…

WATCHING: A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A Charlie Brown Christmas

DIRECTOR: Bill Melendez who was a long-time animator both for Disney and Warner Brothers and who became the go-to director for just about each and every Peanuts animated special following this one.

WHAT IS IT?: This was the animated Peanuts special which gave birth to a series of nearly 50 animated specials and five animated full-length feature films.

THE PLOT: Here, we find Charlie Brown, fittingly depressed about Christmas and how over-commercialized it’s become. His sister sends detailed letters to Santa requesting freshly-pressed cash (“How about 10’s and 20’s,” she requests in all seriousness). Lucy tells Charlie Brown that she doesn’t much care about gifts because her interest is in the investment of real estate. The Christmas trees in every lot are gaudy and phony with pink and purple coloring instead of the normal green.

It only gets worse when he’s tapped to direct the big neighborhood Christmas play, his friends don’t take it seriously and would rather play around and treat the entire affair as a huge joke. Frustrated, Charlie Brown tries to do one good thing to salvage it all: he buys a tiny, plant-sized (but REAL) Christmas tree comprised of a few small branches sporting a tiny amount of pine needles, an act which cause all of his friends to laugh in his face and ridicule him, which finally pushes his best friend, Linus, to school him and all of his friends on the true meaning of the holiday.

WHAT DID CRITICS THINK?: The show has a lower aggregate rating from Rotten Tomatoes than Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I don’t understand that one bit. The show received high marks from just about every single television critic with one source calling it “haunting”. That’s a word you don’t usually hear when you think “children’s Christmas special”.

WHAT DID I THINK?: Those who know me know that I’m not the religious type and one might be inclined to look back at this special and dismiss it as heavy-handed and preachy (especially with Linus reciting passages straight from the Bible near the end to give us our “lesson”) but this is a classic regardless of that fact, buoyed by a relaxed atmosphere comprised of snowy sets and colorful backgrounds with a gorgeous, classic jazz score by the Vince Guaraldi Trio who churns out the beautiful “Christmastime is Here” and “O Tannenbaum” among other timeless Christmas jazz pieces.

The lines are also read so genuinely and so honestly, you cannot help but feel something for each and every character — and you might actually find yourself feeling somewhat emotional by the end of the thing.


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