On the face of it, there’s nothing much to it. The run time is under half an hour, the animation is shoddy, and the voice actors mostly inexperienced. The plot is rudimentary at best. And yet … there’s something about Charlie Brown and his friends that appeals to people all over the world. They inhabit a world of their own, devoid of adults, half in reality and half in fantasy. In reality they go to school, play, have their worries and concerns. In fantasy, Schroeder plays cool jazz on a toy piano, Linus can make his blanket into a shepherd’s head dress, and Snoopy can enter a Christmas lights competition (and win!)
What makes this funny and relevant are the characters, their problems and the solutions. Charlie Brown says of Christmas, ‘I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.’ This really nails a problem many people face – Christmas is held up as a special, happy time full of good cheer, but for many, the reality does not match the greeting card image that we’ve been told to expect. Charlie Brown’s dilemma is real.
The Christmas play is something of a mystery. One assumes the children are supposed to be putting on the traditional birth of Christ story, but the details are dubious, especially if you ask Lucy. (Christmas Queen?) She also asks Snoopy if he can pretend to be a penguin. What a penguin has to do with anything is anyone’s guess.
The Christmas tree lot is filled with rather horrific aluminium trees (artificial trees were made out of aluminium at the time this was made.) In the middle of all this is one real … well, calling it a tree would probably be optimistic. Sapling, maybe? Charlie Brown immediately latches onto this little tree as being far more real than any of the gaudy metal monstrosities. Just as naturally, the other children call him names and make fun of him, because the tree does not fit with their expectations.
So in the end it is Linus (resident philosopher) who explains what Christmas means by quoting the Bible. Charlie Brown, encouraged, takes home the little tree to try and decorate it, but struggles to do that and becomes disheartened again. However, Linus’ words seem to have an affect on the rest of the children, who decorate the tree (which magically gains foliage and height in this process), making Charlie Brown happy again, and they all sing a Christmas carol.
So this is one of those shows that appeals because it is, to put it simply, nice. Charlie Brown finds his Christmas spirit, and in the end the rest of the children gain something too. The untrained children voicing most of the parts are not particularly great actors, but they don’t have to be. Their simple recitation of the words seems to be in keeping with the whole theme of simplicity in Christmas. The jazz soundtrack composed by Vince Guaraldi is a great accompaniment.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” is 25 minutes of sweet simplicity. It will make you smile, and give you, like Charlie Brown, a true Christmas spirit.