Wednesday, December 10, 2014

A Charlie Brown Christmas Review

This is not my living room. But, one can wish can't they?

Well, it's Christmastime once again. Everyone has been scurrying around trying to find the perfect gift for their loved one.

"You give me a book; I give you a tie. Aunt Martha has always wanted an orange squeezer and Uncle Henry could do with a new pipe."  -The Bishops's Wife (1947)

 By now, everyone one has thrown their decorations against every wall in and outside the house. People are no doubt baking cookies in the shape of gingerbread men and Santa Claus. Speaking of which: children are sitting in the poor old guys' lap, asking for every known toy. On Christmas morning, children will rush to the tree, retrieve their gifts of all sizes and colors, unwrap them with no knowledge of how long it took to wrap, and oo and awe at the many wondrous things that lay before them. Families will travel from California to New York, or maybe two house down, to see their long forgotten relatives who have been through the same things they have this season. Gifts will be exchanged. Hugs of thankfulness will be also, even if they hated the present. They all return home, and go back to their everyday lives. The kids go to school, parents go to work. Then they wait. Wait for it all to happen again; only 364 days away.

Christmas, I regret to say, has become an over-lapsing occurrence. It happens every year, and we do the same things. This is what got Charlie Brown down. You see, all the things I just mentioned, most of which I do myself, are commercial. I'll explain what that is in a moment. But first, let's take a look at this timeless classic of a Christmas Special: A Charlie Brown Christmas.


Charlie Brown explains to his friend Linus that he just doesn't get Christmas.

"I think there must be something wrong with me, Linus. Christmas is coming, but I'm not happy. I don't feel the way I'm supposed to feel. I just don't understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed." -Charlie Brown

Linus replies lovely..."Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you're the Charlie Browniest."

Linus and Charlie go skating. Alas, Charlie doesn't feel at all Christmasy. He goes to Lucy's Psychiatric Help stand. 

Charlie Brown tells Lucy that he doesn't feel Christmas. She suggest that he direct the gang's Christmas play they are putting on. On the way to the school auditorium, he sees Snoopy decorating his doghouse for a contest. Charlie then exclaims that his dog has gone commercial! He also runs into his sister Sally who wants him to write down a letter to Santa. She asks for money....

He makes it to the school. Everyone is there, dancing to the beautiful music provided by Schroeder.

 Charlie Brown gives out the parts to everyone, but he can't get anyone to concentrate on the play. Lucy sends him out to find an "aluminum tree" to put on the stage. He goes to get one with Linus, in the metal Christmas tree jungle.

The one he wants to take is a small twig/tree. As soon as everyone sees it, they laugh. Charlie Brown exclaims that trees are definitely not what Christmas is all about, but wonders what it could possibly all be about. Linus explains, in what might be one of the best speeches made in all cinematic history.

 "And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, 'Fear not: for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the City of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.' And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.'"

"That's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

This inspires Charlie Brown. He looks at the tiny tree, takes it with a smile, and walks off the stage; friends following him. He takes his tree to Snoopy's doghouse and sits it down next to it. Charlie takes an ornament from the doghouse, and puts it on the top of the tree. The tree falls over. Charlie, discouraged, walks away.  His friends fix the tree. Charlie Brown comes back. He is amazed by the tree, but more by his friends. We end with a "Merry Christmas" and "Hark the Herald Angles Sing."

And that was A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is on most peoples' list of favorite Christmas specials. It's on mine too. But why? Why is this one of the best of the best? Grant it, Peanuts is a big franchise. That's coming from someone whose tree is covered in Peanut ornaments. We will get to the exact reasons why in a moment, but first, I'd like to talk about "commercial."

The word commercial in the sense that this special takes it, is defined as follows: prepared, done, or acting with sole or chief emphasis on saleability, profit, or success. 

Let's take a look at the two times Charlie Brown announces the word commercial. He sees his dog decorating his doghouse. He doesn't get mad at this. He only is mad when he sees an advertisement announcing a contest. The reward: money. The second time is when he runs into his younger sister Sally. She wants him to write down a letter to Santa. This doesn't upset him. Until she asks for: money. Commercial is when someone does something just because they may get money out of it. This is what Charlie is upset about. Some may have thought is was because of the decorations, or because of Santa. 

Many people do things just because of money. Lets look at the entertainment companies. Most, if not all, movies franchises are made solely because the first one did well. For example, the Shrek movies were made one after another, because people kept going to the previous one. It only stopped when people started realizing that it needed to stop. People buy trees, and decorations, and presents most of the time because of the commercials we see on TV. We are feeding the monster, if you will. 

Am I saying don't buy a Christmas tree, or ornaments, or gifts? Of course not! I'm simply suggesting that we buy them because we think Christmas trees are pretty, and that we want to give others gifts, because it make them feel happy and us. Not just because our television say so. 

Whoever made this did a terrific job, I must say.
Now let's talk about the special as a whole. The reason I believe it has been taken so well is because it is not afraid to say what it means. Yes, this was made in 1965. A time that was much more acceptable towards Christianity and the stories of the Bible. But still, it's hard for any picture to say a thousand words. And this said a thousand-and-one. I'm not sure if people see this or not, but this special is entirely about Jesus. It says God, Lord, and Christ many times in the way they were meant to be said and not as curse words. Linus' speech is of course what I'm talking about. It truly is amazing. If only we could see people put things on television today like this, with pride for their beliefs. If only...

The special is so simple. It's very refreshing, and indeed beautiful. The animation is gorgeously simple in a way you don't see often at all. One of my favorite things about the Peanuts is the voice-acting. It's so unprofessional and I love it. It's a show about kids, voiced by real kids, not adults with high voices. Not that I don't like it when adults with high voiced play the parts, but I think it's so much more effective when kids voice them. My dad made mention while watching this that it was very much like the early Rugrats. I'd have to agree very much. A Charlie Brown Christmas has a lot of what some might call "filler." There are many times when the characters are really not doing anything to advance the plot. Such as when they are throwing snowballs at a can or when Lucy and Schroeder are arguing about the music for the play. I personally think that it really does add to the story and over all atmosphere of the show. It really is the way you see things, as to whether you'll like this special a lot. I think a fair comparison would be Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs by Disney. It has some of the same qualities that this has.

This is just an amazing special that is meant to be shared and enjoyed by every person this Christmas season. If you haven't seen it yet, I definitely think you should give it a try. I'm most certain that it will not disappoint.


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