A Charlie Brown Christmas was the primary Peanuts particular, capitalizing on the recognition of the sketch in 1965. By this level, Charles Schulz’s Peanuts had been operating for 15 years with the identical fundamental premise: listed here are some youngsters, considered one of them has a canine. Not a lot occurs in a typical Peanuts plot. The bigger world of the kids barely exists.
The attraction of Peanuts was, and nonetheless is, in merely being with these youngsters and understanding their rhythms. As Umberto Eco wrote within the New York Evaluation of Books in 1985, “over this fundamental scheme” of watching youngsters and a canine go about every day life, “there’s a regular move of variations, following a rhythm … thus you would by no means grasp the poetic energy of Schulz’s work by studying just one or two or ten episodes: you will need to totally perceive the characters and the conditions, for the grace, tenderness, and laughter are born solely from the infinitely shifting repetition of the patterns, and from constancy to the elemental inspirations.”
A every day cartoon strip turned out to be the right medium for infinitely shifting repetition. The primary ongoing Peanuts gag is maybe its most well-known: Charlie Brown lacking the soccer each Fall season. Whereas its first iteration wasn’t a trick, it quickly turned a routine: Lucy van Pelt holds out a soccer for Charlie Brown and comes up with some excuse to persuade him to kick it. Charlie Brown involves consider her excuse, and decides to method kicking the soccer with all his may. As he prepares for a mighty kick, Lucy pulls away and Charlie Brown goes flying into the air, tricked once more.
As Sarah Boxer has famous in The Atlantic, Lucy was, for Schulz, “in essence, society itself.” She was manipulative, merciless, and appeared extra keen on transactional assist, as seen in her psychiatric sales space the place she’ll see any affected person “who has an issue and a nickel.” Described in a jokey essay printed within the medical journal The Lancet because the “best-known psychiatrist of the twentieth century,” Lucy’s recommendation is at instances extra involved with getting 5 cents than any precise assist.
That’s how issues begin in A Charlie Brown Christmas. Charlie Brown is depressed, although it’s Christmastime. After failing to knock a can down with snowballs, he goes to Lucy’s sales space and drops in a nickel. Earlier than she helps him out, she rattles round her can and proclaims how a lot she loves the sound of nickels rattling round. However ultimately she units Charlie Brown on a path: he wants an exercise. And, fortunate sufficient, her Christmas play wants a director.
Earlier than airing on CBS, each animator Invoice Melendez and community executives had been anxious about a number of elements of A Charlie Brown Christmas. Everybody thought it was too sluggish, the plot appeared threadbare, the music didn’t appear to match the setting, the animation was stilted, and the kids’s voices gave the impression of amateurs.
All of those critiques are roughly true. The present is disjointed, loosely centered round Charlie Brown discovering the that means of Christmas. Snoopy thinks it’s adorning his doghouse, Lucy thinks it’s about getting an enormous shiny aluminum tree she will be able to paint pink. However the true that means of Christmas is uttered very straightforwardly by Linus: Christmas is in regards to the start of Jesus, as described within the E book of Luke.
But the particular’s stilted nature merely provides to the appeal half a century later. Maybe the very fact that there have been solely three TV channels when A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired helped solidify it as a basic. However even right now, as one Apple TV Plus’ exclusives, and in a sea of family-friendly content material, it stands out. The youngsters sound like actual youngsters. They spend time doing nothing in worlds of their very own creation, like actual youngsters. And like actual youngsters, they get unhappy.
There’s additionally Vince Guaraldi Trio’s soundtrack, which has a richness that carries the particular. The haunting vocals of “Christmas Time is Right here” let the viewer into Charlie Brown’s head as we watch the kids skate (Pig Pen’s mud clouds following him on the ice is a superb contact), and on the flip-side, the effervescent optimism of “Linus and Lucy” appears to encourage heat and camaraderie.
Like particular person panels in a strip, A Charlie Brown Christmas is all about tiny moments. The youngsters dancing when they need to be rehearsing. The suave model of the aluminum Christmas tree lot (an precise fad throughout the Sixties which this particular helped kill). Charlie Brown abandoning his unhappy, little tree after an decoration makes it droop over, and the remainder of the gang getting collectively and fixing it.
Linus is correct, Charlie Brown decides on the finish: Christmas is in regards to the start of Jesus. But he doesn’t make his solution to a church. Relatively, he sees that his mates, merciless and irresponsible as they are often, have discovered one thing damaged and given it the love that it must flourish. That form of earnestness can reduce throughout any tradition, any second in time, and any viewer.
A Charlie Brown Christmas is out there to stream on Apple TV Plus.