What a Boner, Charlie Brown!

jokerThat’s “boner” in the old sense of the word…a mistake, an error, a flub…geez you blockheads, get a grip! See?… the Joker knows what we’re talking about. Now has there ever been a TV show or movie that didn’t have its little screw-ups, in continuity or otherwise? Yeah, probably, but what fun would that be? You’d miss a Viking wearing a wrist-watch, or a truck rumbling by in the background of a prehistoric tableau. One of my favorites is “Sudden Impact,” where in some scenes Dirty Harry’s bulldog is a male, in others it’s a female…honestly…watch for it next time.

And yes, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” is no exception. If you watch attentively, you’ll see all sorts of funky stuff…but 2 sequences are especially messy. The first is Lucy’s psychiatrist’s booth.

booth

Seeing she has a customer, the first thing Lucy does is brush the snow off the counter (1)…then she reaches over to turn the white sign around from OUT to REAL IN (2). The next shot is a close-up of the writing on the booth (3)…I suspect that if CBS had gotten its way and aired the show with a laugh-track, here’s where a chuckle would have been inserted…can you imagine? But notice that the word DOCTOR has moved…it was between THE and IS…now it’s above REAL IN. Back to a full shot of the booth, and the writing has changed back to the way it was before (4)…and it stays that way….unless we get a side view (5), in which case REAL IN has changed to just IN, and the white sign has again changed its position.

You never noticed that before? Makes sense…once you read it at the beginning of the sequence, you ignore it the rest of the way…you’re paying attention to the dialogue and the action…to the story, not the scenery. Which is pretty much why these types of bloopers happen in the first place…hardly anyone notices and there’s no real need to correct them.

Likewise, the final scene, with the spiffed up tree and the chorus of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is loaded with goofs…it’s actuality quite astonishing when you run thru them.

nice tree

Here the kids have just decorated Charlie Brown’s tree and are admiring it…Lucy says “Charlie Brown is a blockhead, but he did get a nice tree.” As her line is ending, the scene shifts dramatically…notice that except for the twins 3 and 4 in the purple dresses on the left, every character is suddenly in a different position! Not to mention Lucy’s red hat has disappeared…and Pigpen has popped up out of nowhere…true, he had walked outside with them, but he wasn’t in the tree-trimming scene.

pigpen headNext, the kids start singing their loo-loo-loo version of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”…we see them all in a full shot, then a medium close-up starting at the left and moving across to the right. And when we get to the kids on the right side, and just as they take a breath, something flashes on Pigpens face. A single screen capture reveals what’s happened…Shermy and Patty should be behind Linus and Pigpen, but for one split second, they’re not!

This is a technical glitch, as opposed to inconsistent continuity, and it has been corrected in some of the newer DVD and Blu-Ray releases. Will it show up on the broadcast this year? I’m guessing not, but watch for it…as the scene has panned all the way to the right, just as the kids take their breath, focus on Pigpen’s head…and yes, you’ll notice that their “breath” is just them smiling…another detail you don’t notice unless you’re watching for it.

blue yellow

Now Charlie Brown comes over and sees the tree…they stop singing. Watch these 2 boys, 5 on the left in a blue jacket, and Shermy on the right in a yellow jacket (1). It’s a little hard to tell the color of 5’s coat, because Sally’s yellow hair is in the way, but below her hair, you can see the coat is blue. (2). There’s a medium shot close-up of the tree (3)…forget that the front row of kids has magically disappeared…5 is still blue and Shermy is still yellow. Then we pull back to a full shot and the kids shout “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” And Shermy’s yellow coat has now turned blue (4).

5 shermy

Or has it? As you can see above, comparing the hairstyles, which isn’t easy since the sky has turned from dark blue to nearly black, that isn’t Shermy any more…it’s 5…and from here on out, there are 2 5’s, one on each side. How this happened is anybody’s guess…likely these scenes were made by different people at different times…and when put back to back, they don’t match up. And notice how the position of the tree has moved between (1) and (4)…see?

Now here’s something interesting…in the 2000 book “A Charlie Brown Christmas — The Making of a Tradition,” animator Bill Melendez says this…[boldface mine]

“When we saw the finished show…it had so many warts and bumps and lumps and things. A year later we fixed up a few things.  But we never completely recreated the show. The inconsistencies and little problems seem to make it even more endearing to a lot of people and Sparky never wanted to change it.”

You might naturally ask, what did they fix? Not Pigpen’s disappearing head…that  was still in there on older DVDs. Without watching a tape of the initial broadcast, who can say? But here’s one possibility…

snoopy sings

An old copy of the show’s finale used to exist on the net. The link to it has been taken down due to copyright concerns…guess I was lucky to get the screen captures when I did! As the kids are singing, Snoopy “sings” too (left, black & white)…and his mouth is always drawn open. Today, his mouth is just a line…it’s closed (right, color). No doubt this change was made because Snoopy doesn’t talk. Well, sure…except that in watching this older version, I just assumed he’s howling, not singing the words. Still, that they felt worth changing…

retcon

Finally, I’d like to end with a pet peeve…it’s a retcon, which stands for retroactive continuity…when the past is unilaterally changed. You see the image on the right everywhere these days…I first noticed it in 2002 on a 23kt gold-edged collector plate. “Who can forget the wonderful moment when…”  reads the ad copy. And that’s the problem, we certainly do remember, and we know that Franklin, Peppermint Patty, Marcy, and Woodstock simply weren’t there…they couldn’t have been…in 1965 Schulz hadn’t invented any of them yet!

And comparing to the image on the left, we see that the twins, 5, Violet, Frieda, Shermy, and Patty have all been “erased from the photo”…altho not for nothing, at least Lucy got her red hat back!

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Copyright © 2013 Mark John Astolfi, All Rights Reserved

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One Response to What a Boner, Charlie Brown!

  1. Raymond says:

    I hate it when they omit Patty, Frieda, Violet, Shermy, 5 and his twin sisters. They’re all in the new movie coming out next year except for the last 3.

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