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50 Years Of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas': Share Your Sad Tree Photos

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50 Years Of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas': Share Your Sad Tree Photos

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50 Years Of 'A Charlie Brown Christmas': Share Your Sad Tree Photos

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/367848354/367938741" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Now a small but possibly measurable percentage of this nation's energy consumption will power video screens this holiday season. Video screens playing this.

(SOUNDBITE OF VINCE GUARALDI SONG, "LINUS AND LUCY")

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

That is, of course, the music of Vince Guaraldi. It's the soundtrack to "Peanuts" specials, and they include Charlie Brown Christmas special, starring Linus and Lucy and Snoopy and, of course, Charlie Brown himself, who never seems to do anything right.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS")

LEE MENDELSON: (As Patty) What kind of a tree is that?

TRACY STRATFORD: (As Lucy Van Pelt) You were supposed to get a good tree. Can't you even tell a good tree from a poor tree?

GREENE: This holiday season, the characters created by the late Charles Schulz celebrate an anniversary.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE")

VINCE GUARALDI TRIO: (Singing) Christmas time is here, happiness and cheer.

INSKEEP: Tonight marks the 50th year in a row that "A Charlie Brown Christmas" has aired on network television.

GREENE: And for those who are not familiar with it, the story begins with Charlie Brown feeling a little down as Christmas approaches.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS")

PETER ROBBINS: (As Charlie Brown) I think that there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel.

CHRISTOPHER SHEA: (As Linus Van Pelt) Charlie Brown, you're the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem.

JEANNIE SCHULZ: "Peanuts" in general on the Christmas special points out our foibles.

INSKEEP: That last voice is Charles Schulz's widow, Jeannie, who says her late husband's work is still relevant.

J. SCHULZ: It points out our greed, our commercialism and it points them out with humor so we can laugh at them, laugh at ourselves.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS")

ROBBINS: (As Charlie Brown) What's this? Find the true meaning of Christmas. Win money, money, money.

J. SCHULZ: And then Charlie Brown says, my dog's gone commercial.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS")

ROBBINS: (As Charlie Brown) My own dog, gone commercial. I can't stand it.

GREENE: Now, Lee Mendelson, the producer of "A Charlie Brown Christmas," says Charles Schulz wanted an even more profound meaning.

MENDELSON: Mr. Schulz said, if we're going to do this show, we should really deal with the true meaning of Christmas. And I think I'm going to have Linus read from the Bible.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS")

SHEA: (As Linus Van Pelt) For, behold, I bring you tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior.

INSKEEP: It's a somber moment when the characters' arguing stops. Schulz's plan to deal directly with religion met some resistance. So did having the "Peanuts" characters voiced by real children, as he told NPR in 1995.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

CHARLES SCHULZ: Some of the advertising people thought we should use adults imitating children, but that didn't work at all. And then, of course, I think the biggest decision was the fact that I said no laugh track.

GREENE: Instead the special is punctuated with jazz.

(SOUNDBITE OF VINCE GUARALDI SONG, "LINUS AND LUCY")

JERRY GRANELLI: You know if you play "Linus and Lucy," I mean, everybody knows who it is.

INSKEEP: That's Jerry Granelli who played drums with the Vince Guaraldi Trio on the soundtrack.

GRANELLI: It's proven to be, over time, a genuine moment of creative energy that really touched people.

MENDELSON: Of course, the music itself has become part of the whole Christmas life even in the department stores.

GREENE: Charlie was right. Everything's gone commercial. This is producer Lee Mendelson.

MENDELSON: And it's still surreal for us to go around, you know, at Christmastime and hear our music everywhere. It's almost spooky.

INSKEEP: And that, says Mendelson, is something he never would've imagined before the first broadcast in 1965.

MENDELSON: Frankly, we thought, we maybe had ruined Charlie Brown. And I remember one of the animators stood up and said, you're crazy, this thing's going to run for a hundred years.

GREENE: Just 50 more to go.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS")

CHILDREN: (As characters) Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.

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