There used to be something called the Museum of Television and Radio…it is now The Paley Center for Media, with locations in New York City and Beverly Hills. Among their over 150,000 archived programs is a copy of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” exactly as it was broadcast for the first time on Thursday, Dec. 9 1965, on CBS at 7:30…preempting “The Munsters.” It was sponsored solely by Coca Cola, and as was the custom in those days, Coke was credited at both the beginning and the end of the show.
At the beginning, when the skating Snoopy catches Linus and Charlie Brown in Linus’ blanket, Charlie Brown goes flying to the right and hits a tree. Today, we never see where Linus goes…but originally he flew off to the left, hitting the sign shown below. Also today, at the end of the show, the children’s singing of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” begins to echo and fades out before they finish. Originally, the on-screen credit below was seen and the song continued to its very end. Both of these sequences can be seen on YouTube.
When did they disappear from the broadcast version? Nobody seems to know…so here’s my 5¢ worth, please. I have collected TV Guides for every week the show has been on, starting with 1965 until TV Guide stopped being TV Guide in 2005. For each year from 1965 thru 1970 there was an advertisement on the page listing the show, and the only sponsor mentioned was Coca Cola. For 1971 and 1972, the issues I have do not have an ad. Then they start up again, but now Coke is co-sponsoring with McDonalds (1973), Kellogg’s (1974), Peter Paul (1975), then Dolly Madison in 1976 and for several years thereafter. That’s all I know…altho I can tell you that YouTube also has an ending credit from 1969…it’s for Coca Cola only, this time spoken by an announcer instead of an on-screen message…and again, the song goes to the very end.
Speaking of TV Guide, above is the very first listing along with it’s Coke ad. Now many local TV Week-type magazines featured the gang on the cover…as you can see, TV Guide went with Juliet Prowse in a footie…no complaints from me. But this first airing of the show was considered a pretty big deal, and TV Guide did commission Charles Schulz to draw a special cartoon for the occasion, on pages 10-11.
Two things are interesting about this strip…first, the background colors are done with a watercolor wash as opposed to solid newsprint colors. And second, at the top of the second page, we see Snoopy “saying” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Presumably this should be a thought balloon, not a dialogue balloon. It is said that over the entire run of the “Peanuts” newspaper strip, only once does Snoopy talk instead of think. My humble judgement is that these are both oversights…for all his perspicacity, he’s still a dog, right?
Now some of the scenes on the show originally appeared in newspaper strips…I’ve been able to track down some…and one of the more interesting is this one…from Sunday, June 4 1961.
This strip was a Classic Peanuts in 2008…and altho you can’t tell the original day it ran (there are other ways of finding that out!), you can at least tell the year…all these reprints have the original copyright notice, as I’ve shown above. As you can see, the phobia episode was in the summertime, and Linus was the patient, not Charlie Brown. Otherwise, all is pretty much as the TV show would portray it 4 years later. Notice that fear of cats is spelled correctly, ailurophobia…altho on the show, Lucy says ain-uh-ro-phasia…changing the L to and N, and the malady itself from a fear (phobia) to a speech disorder (phasia). Today, it’s just another of the show’s endearing boo-boos.
Speaking of the newspaper strip, the entire cast of characters as it existed in 1965 appears in “A Charlie Brown Christmas”…and all have speaking parts except for one boy and the twin girls, altho they certainly help dance up a storm. Some may assume these are nameless extras but that’s wrong…they have names and were introduced 2 years previously…
For several months, the “number gags” continued…like how the teacher keeps mispronouncing their last name, saying “95472” when the accent should be on the 4. This BTW was the zip code of Sebastopol CA, north of San Francisco, where Schulz and family were living at the time…and is the most compelling bit of evidence of where the Peanuts gang actually lives…playing the Fan Logic Game, which you need not, but why not, sez me. But in closing, I’m going to tell you something you may not want to believe…
…and that is that every time you see a Peanuts character drawn, it may not have been drawn by Charles M. Schulz…and that makes sense, because besides the daily comic strip, there were over the years hundreds if not thousands of tie-ins of all kinds…toys, games, books, comic books, advertisements, special strips for magazines and other uses, etc. You see, up until the mid-1950s, Schulz’ “day job” was at a company called Art Instruction Schools, in Santa Rose CA, a stone’s throw north of Sebastopol. At least 3 of his colleagues there, Dale Hale, Jim Sasseville, and Tony Pocrnich pinch-hit for Sparky at various times, altho the party line has always been that the daily strip was never the work of anyone except Schulz.
But taking the long-running series of Peanuts comic books as an example, the current thinking is that Schulz probably drew the cover for every one of them…probably…but the contents, when it was original and not newspaper reprints, was drawn by others…the only exception being the first issue, which Schulz claimed he did draw himself.
Another example is the hardcover children’s book version of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” published to coincide with the TV show and the soundtrack LP, late in 1965. We know that Dale Hale drew that, and thus we might forgive him for not knowing exactly how the twins 3 and 4 should have looked…as you can see above, they are blondes! But hold on…don’t be so quick to blame Dale…because in this 1964 strip…
…drawn by Schulz himself, right?…he has made the girls fair, forgetting that they were originally dark. Oops and double-oops…anyhow, hope you’ve enjoyed these “A Charlie Brown Christmas” stocking stuffers!
Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved