Charlie Brown Christmas – The Backstory

A friend recently sent me the text portion of the story below. The story describes how the TV producers were very reluctant to put a program on TV having someone quoting from The Bible. (And this was back in 1965!)

Here is the story:

On December 9, 1965, at 7:30 pm, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” premiered on CBS. Fifteen million homes tuned in to watch the special, placing it number two only behind the very popular “Bonanza” on NBC. Later that evening, CBS received the Nielsen ratings showing a 49% share of the market! Numbers unimaginable today! Honored by both an Emmy and a Peabody award, it has aired every year since its premier! Truly remarkable!
But just one week before this historic event took place, CBS executives previewed the special and were vastly underwhelmed! “There was just so much wrong with it,” they exclaimed! There wasn’t enough action, and it moved too slow. The voices were not of adult actors, but that of real kids who were non-actors. They wanted it to include a laugh track, but that, too, was absent. There was jazz music (Vince Guaraldi) in a children’s Christmas special! And to top it off, Linus reads from the Bible!!
(“You can’t read from the Bible on network television!” they declared)
Producer Lee Mendelson was told after the screening, “Well, you gave it a good shot. Believe me, we’re big Peanuts’ fans, but maybe it’s better suited to the comic page.”

But, because of the commitment CBS had already made to their sponsor, Coca-Cola, who funded the project, and the fact that the TV guides were already in print, they felt they had no choice but to air the special. “A one-and-done,” they said! Well, I guess this year marks its 54th year of “one-and-done” then!

Did you notice the timing there? Because the producer had all the promotional material already printed, and the sponsor had already agreed, CBS executives felt they had to go along with the project.

I love stories like this! And I love the fact that when Charles Schulz was approached by Mendelson to do this project and put the Peanuts gang into animation, he stayed true to it being about the true meaning of Christmas. When director Bill Melendez was told by Schulz that he was adamant it include Scripture, Bill was shocked! “You can’t do that; this is religion. It just doesn’t go in a cartoon.”
Schulz’s reply “Bill… if we don’t… who will?”
The result: truth was displayed in a 25-minute children’s Christmas special, and history was made!

(The producer of the video below didn’t include this dialogue:)

Frustrated by the commercialization of the holiday on his search for the true meaning of Christmas, a depressed and dismayed Charlie Brown cries out, “Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?” Then in the beauty of simplicity and truth, little Linus says, “Sure Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about,” and recites from the Gospel of Luke 2:8~14

(Here’s the Bible passage that Linus recites:)

“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them, and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, “Fear not; for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

On the very day I sat down to write this article, an email I received from someone had a link in it to this video excerpt from the classic animated Charles Schulz story “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.
It’s only 58 seconds long. Enjoy!

- Jan



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  • Catherine 01/03/2020, 2:30 PM

    PS. Joyful Epiphany to you !

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  • Catherine 01/03/2020, 2:27 PM

    This is the only Christmas special that I will actually watch. Linus’ sweet child voice proclaiming the coming of our Lord makes me tear up every time. Charles Schulz was a sincerely lovely man ! He too suffered from very debilitating anxiety and Agoraphobia and look at what an amazing thing he did with his life. Jan, it has been much too long since I have been in touch. I thank you for all the work you do for God to bring people to God. Here is to being a grateful Charlie Brown kid ! Many…

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  • Di 12/31/2019, 7:46 PM

    I was a wee kid who watched the Charlie Brown Christmas special every year. Linus’ speech was beautiful;it can bring a tear to the eye, and to have not have it in the special would have been tragic. I watched this with my kids, and they too enjoyed it (as well as It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown). A beautiful show. A very Happy, Healthy, and Peaceful New Year to you and yours, and God Bless you!

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    • Jan Smith 12/31/2019, 10:40 PM

      Di, THANK YOU for that blessing!! I’m so glad you got to read that little story and watch the short video! It delights me no end to know that people are reading and enjoying these things that I write and publish on the internet.

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