The Beloved Christmas Special That Almost Never Aired
Of all the animated holiday specials that hit our TV screens each year, arguably the most beloved is, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."
It's hard to believe that, 66 years after it first aired, it almost didn't see the light of day.
According to Wikipedia, the special was thrown together in about six months, and everyone connected with the production was convinced it would be a disaster.
You know the story - as happens with many people this time of year, the holidays found Charlie Brown depressed. When tasked with picking out a tree for a Christmas play, he picks out a scrawny little sapling, which is ridiculed by his friends.
There were many things that made the making of A Charlie Brown Christmas unique as animated specials went in 1965.
First, the time frame for the show to become reality. The Coca-Cola Company wanted to sponsor a Christmas special. The idea of A Charlie Brown Christmas was pitched in July of 1965, and, oh by the way, Coca-Cola wanted it to run in December of that year.
Usually, adult actors would be brought in provide the cartoon voices for such projects. But Peanuts creator Charles Schulz insisted hiring child actors, a couple of whom were too young to read their lines.
The music for the special was anything but traditional. A combination of holiday music and jazz became the theme, anchored by what is now a classic, the jazz piano tune Linus and Lucy.
And, network executives and sponsors were extremely nervous about anything that expressed a religious point of view. But Schulz was adamant about including the recitation of the Christmas story from the Second Chapter of Luke in the story.
In my opinion, one of the most "goose-bumpy" moments in television history.
Once the special was done, many involved in project believed that, if Coca-Cola hadn't already made the commitment, the show never would have aired.
But, as has happens so often, the "experts" were very wrong. The popularity of the Peanuts gang, along with the simplicity of the story, has made A Charlie Brown Christmas a holiday must-watch on CBS, ABC and now Apple TV+ and PBS every year since 1965.