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"A Charlie Brown Christmas", the first animated special featuring characters from Charles Schulz's beloved comic strip Peanuts, aired on CBS the evening of Dec. 9, 1965. Over the years, the ode to the holiday season has become a tradition. The program now airs annually on ABC.
Work began on "A Charlie Brown Christmas" in the spring of 1965, when Schulz met with producer Lee Mendelson and animator Bill Melendez. Instead of hiring adult actors, the group decided to take the then-unusual step of having children provide voices for most of the characters.
Schulz insisted that the program should not have a laugh track, which he considered cynical and unnecessary. "Let the people at home enjoy the show at their own speed", he said, "in their own way". Composer Vince Guaraldi contributed a memorable jazz score. "Linus and Lucy", a lively piano tune that plays in the film, is still synonymous with Peanuts.
Schulz's script focuses on Charlie Brown's search for the true meaning of Christmas. All around him, his friends are enjoying themselves, but he is bothered by the season's commercialism. "I just don't understand Christmas, I guess", he tells Linus. "I like getting presents, and sending Christmas cards, and decorating trees and all that, but I'm still not happy".
Watched in more than 15 million American homes, "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was a smash hit. It won the George Foster Peabody Award and an Emmy Award for Outstanding Children's Program.