Monday, December 22, 2008


Jingle jingle to all, and today for our 25 Days Of Christmas celebration we're looking at Charles Schulz's A Charlie Brown Christmas. Like Rudolph, Frosty and the Grinch, Christmas with the Peanuts gang is something we look forward to during the holiday season, and a recent brand-new DVD release from Warner Bros has just arrived, with remastering and extra features.

Originally airing in 1965, Charles Schulz and producer Bill Mendelez (who also voices Snoopy for this production) brought the idea for an animated Peanuts special to CBS with sponsoring from the Coca-Cola company. Created on a shoestring budget, this production was originally considered a bust by CBS network execs, due to the use of untrained child actors (Kathy Steinberg, who voiced Sally, was too young at the time to read her lines and had to be cued line by line during the soundtrack recording), Vince Guaraldi's now-classic jazz soundtrack and Linus's reading of the Gospel Of Luke in the pre-climax. Both Schulz and Melendez valiantly fought for their vision, and the resulting critical and commercial success of the show proved the network execs wrong and created a holiday classic. Also, Linus' telling of the Nativity drew whopping critical praise and turned out to be the highlight of the 1965 holiday season.

The story has Charlie Brown unhappy and uncertain (as usual) about the coming of Christmas. Put off by the commercialism he sees around him (such as Snoopy's participation in a house decorating contest and his sister Sally's desire for "tens and twenties" for Christmas), he turns to Lucy for advice. She asks him to direct the school Christmas play, but he cannot get control of the other kids, who are more interested in a modern version of Christmas than the simplicity and traditionalism Charlie wants. When Charlie chooses a small but very real baby tree for the play over a lot full of fake aluminum Christmas trees, he is castigated by everyone except Linus, who answers his anguished question of "what is Christmas all about" by a quiet center-stage recitation of the Nativity story. Touching on themes of overcommercialization of Christmas, as well as reminding viewers of the real Christmas story, A Charlie Brown Christmas has carried on to become a perennial of the season, and also won Emmy and Peabody Awards.

The new DVD includes remastering and special features including the special It's Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown and an all-new featurette on the making of the original special. Like its predecessor It's The Great Pumkpin, Charlie Brown, some free music downloads from iTunes are also included. But whether you prefer the special features or not, this is a must-have for anyone assembling a collection of holiday DVDs, and should be at the top of everyone's list. We in the Monster Shop cannot stress enough the importance of seeing this tale, whether through broadcast, ownership, or even a rental. God bless and keep Charlie Schulz in our hearts, and Merry Christmas to all our readers of The MonsterGrrls' 25 Days Of Christmas!

POST-MORTEM: Click the DVD cover picture above for an ordering link from Amazon, and click here to read more about this fantastic Christmas special from a column at PopMatters by Brian Heater.