A Look at Charlie Brown Holiday Specials
I wanted to take a look at the Charlie Brown holiday specials. Yes, I know there are hours and hours of Charlie Brown cartoons and movies which have nothing to do with the holidays, but hey it’s two weeks before Christmas so I want to zero on the holiday specials in particular. Since I have already talked about these in other articles, I am going to take a different approach with this article.
The Charlie Brown Christmas special is a timeless classic. After Rudolph, it is the standard that other specials aspire to. However, I have to admit that my personal favorite was the Halloween special.
Here is why.
Charlie Brown Christmas is great, don’t get me wrong. However, “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” has always has the first place in my heart. I think the reason comes down to the story. In the Christmas one, Charlie Brown has chosen to be miserable because he doesn’t understand the holiday. Christmas is what you make of it, and he doesn’t figure it out until the end when he takes his tree home to have Christmas how he wants it, non-commercial. That’s all well and good, but he has still chosen to be miserable so it’s hard for me to really sympathize with him. Even Linus doesn’t feel sorry for him. However, in the Halloween show Sally doesn’t have to spend the night with Linus in the pumpkin patch, but she wants to trust him because she loves him. So, when it turns out it was for naught she feels betrayed, rightly so. As I noted in my Halloween article, the great thing is Charles Schultz didn’t just let Linus off the hook; Sally lays right into him and chews him out. It’s a great scene, and I truly always felt for Sally especially when I was a kid. Trick or treating is one of the highlights of being a kid and it goes away once you get older, I would have been mad if someone made me miss out on something that happens once a year and that will disappear once I reached a certain age.
Here is the exchange:
Sally Brown: I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin when I could have been out for tricks or treats! Halloween is over and I missed it! You blockhead! You kept me up all night waiting for the Great Pumpkin and all that came was a beagle! I didn’t get a chance to go out for tricks or treats! And it was all your fault! I’ll sue! What a fool I was. And could have had candy apples and gum! And cookies and money and all sorts of things! But no, I had to listen to you! You blockhead. What a fool I was. Trick or treats come only once a year. And I miss it by sitting in a pumpkin patch with a blockhead. You owe me restitution!
Linus: You’ve heard about fury in a woman scorned, haven’t you?
Charlie Brown: Yes, I guess I have.
Linus: Well, that’s nothing compared to the fury of a woman who has been cheated out of tricks or treats.
That’s why I like the Halloween one more.
Ok, now that I have said my little speech I do want to emphasize that I do love the Christmas special. The story is good, the music is amazing. Everyone talks about Linus and Lucy, but my favorite is the one in the opening. “Christmas Time is Here” is so underappreciated; this is such a great little song!
We all kinow the story, Lucy gets Charlie Brown to direct the play she he will get involved in something. Lucy is actually a pretty good friend in this one. For me the special doesn’t really get going until Charlie Brown goes to look for that tree. The stuff about the play, it is a play right?, just seems like filler. Then of course when Charlie brings that tiny tree in he gets laughed at. Poor Charlie Brown! So, Linus steps in and explains what Christmas is all about. Linus’s speech is the best part of the whole thing, it’s just so moving.
The special ends with the entire cast singing, which I would make fun of but this special is over forty years old so I will let it go. This special is pretty good, right down the voice casting. It is a perennial favorite, and I suspect always will be.
Of course, there were other holiday shows.
We have the Thanksgiving special which I already discussed. but in case you didn’t read that article here it is in a nutshell:
-The story is weak
-There is too much boring filler
-Usually you can dismiss the absence of adults, but here it hurts the story
-Peppermint Patty is a total bitch in this one
I didn’t mention it last time, but I did like they sang To Grandmother’s House We Go at the end. That was cute.
While not the strongest entry I do think overall this is regarded as a classic right after the Christmas and Halloween ones. Now let’s talk about a holiday special which is not so highly regarded, and with good reason
Happy New Year, Charlie Brown! not only has a crazy plot but it does something I never thought possible. It makes Linus a jerk. The story is simple; Charlie Brown gets a school assignment which spoils his vacation not to mention his New Year’s Eve. The assignment? Read War and Peace and then write a book report. Ok, let’s get started with the barrage of questions.
What school would assign homework over Christmas vacation? Even worst, what school would assign War and Peace to an elementary school kid? The book deals in graphic detail with the events leading up to the French invasion of Russia. No problem! The assignment is given to the class (it appears), so why isnâ€™t anyone else worried about it? Why is it impossible for Patty to listen to people (for some reason, I hate her more and more every year) and why canâ€™t she accept Chuck just doesnâ€™t like her that way? I mean, itâ€™s not as if he leads her on, itâ€™s pretty clear! Why does Linus act like its absurd Charlie canâ€™t plow through a book written by a Russian author decades ago? Why does Charlie Brown bring the book to Patty’s party, I realize he is running out of time and he assumes the red haired girl wonâ€™t show, but still why not just relax and enjoy for a few hours? Why did he bother to invite the little red haired girl at all if he was more worried about his homework? Why does he wait till almost Midnight to start reading? How come no one goes out to look for him when midnight rolls around and Charlie isn’t there, Patty knew where he was why not go get him rather than standing there yelling?
I am exhausted after that. When I was a kid this special was hard to come by, but whenever I would hear what the plot was it sounded kind of silly. The worst thing about this show is that when the little red haired girl that Charlie Brown invited shows up, he has fallen asleep outside. Does Linus look for him? No, he dances with her and has a great time. Some friend he is! Then there’s the end. I know Charlie Brown is supposed to lose everything, but giving him a D- after all his trouble just seems cold. The reason for the grade is because the teacher claims the report looks like it was done on the last day of vacation. Um, what does this teacher want? A laminated cover? When I was in high school and did summer reading all the teachers cared about was that I was basically familiar with the material. Usually major book reports are given weeks to get done and certainly not over a vacation where the student is going to be very distracted, and this was high school!!. Aaargh, I could go on and on! Basically, the story just seems mean spirited and doesn’t make any sense. It is no wonder this holiday special doesn’t get the attention the others deserve.
The ironic thing is if that they had dropped the stupid book thing, this could have been a sweet little story about Charlie Brown asking a girl to a New Yearâ€™s party. The scene where he tries to invite her but fails is classic. The plot feels hacked on and is just plain silly. In doing some research on this I discovered that this was based on a strip in which Charlie Brown is struggling with Gulliverâ€™s Travels. They changed it because War and Peace was Charles Schultzâ€™s favorite book. With all due respect to the late, great Charles Schultz that was a mistake. Also cramming the story into a New Yearâ€™s special doesnâ€™t work either.
Finally, let’s discuss â€œI Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brownâ€. Except for the fact that Re-Run talks about asking Santa for a dog, this isnâ€™t the Christmasiest special. The focus is very much on Re-Run, the first half is his whining while the rest of the gang becomes supporting cast for him. Then the story segues into one about Snoopy’s family, as we meet his brother Spike. Not terribly bad, but it’s not a classic. It’s on my “if I have time I’ll watch it” list, but is not a must see every year.
I am not talking about those other Christmas specials which are just animated cartoon strips with no storyline and, by the way, no charm to them at all. Of course, there is also a Valentine special and an Easter special. I have decided to hold them off until we get to the appropriate time of the year. I will give a little hint, It’s The Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown is one of my favorites. It just feels off to discuss an Easter special now (it was hard enough talking about Halloween), so I will talk about it sometime in April. 😉 What about the Arbor Day one? I should really see that sometime.
Posted by Rich B