The 1965 animated television special A Charlie Brown Christmas, based on Charles Schultz’ comic strip “Peanuts,” debuted 56 years ago today, December 9, 1965.
After the comic strip’s debut in 1950, Peanuts had become a phenomenon worldwide by the mid-1960s. In casting the characters for the Christmas special, the producers took an unconventional route, hiring child actors. The program’s soundtrack was similarly unorthodox, featuring a jazz score by pianist Vince Guaraldi. Its lack of a laugh track (a staple in US television animation in this period), in addition to its tone, pacing, music, and animation, led both the producers and the network to predict the project would be a disaster. However, contrary to their collective apprehension, A Charlie Brown Christmas received high ratings and acclaim from critics. It has been honored with an Emmy and a Peabody Award, and has become an annual presentation in the United States, airing on broadcast television during the Christmas season.