Tag Archives: charlie brown

Dec. 20 – A Charlie Brown Christmas

Original air date December 9, 1965.

Let’s continue our look at the best of the best in the field of Christmas specials with perhaps the most quoted, parodied, and maybe even beloved special of all time: A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is the special that shouldn’t exist. It’s one if you are able to separate your nostalgia for the special itself and the characters from Peanuts and just watch it for what it is you’ll find a very low key, boring, plainly animated piece of television. It’s one I’ve seen countless times in my life and when I finally had kids of my own I was surprised at how it became a favorite of theirs basically right from the start. And that’s because it isn’t bad and the special possesses a charm that’s all its own. It is low stakes, but sometimes that works because we don’t always need some manufactured Christmas catastrophe in every special that’s out there. And sometimes, simple is just better.

A Charlie Brown Christmas goes all the way back to 1950 when the Peanuts strip by Charles M. Schulz debuted. The strip largely focuses on semi-autobiographical character Charlie Brown who famously has terrible luck, is socially awkward, and possessed by a great deal of self doubt. The strip was a hit, and the only surprise is that it took until 1965 for the characters to make the jump to animation. Producer and documentarian Lee Mendelson approached Schulz about doing a biography on him and his strip and the artist was onboard. The problem was, when Mendelson went to sell it to television stations at the time none were interested, but they were interested in a Christmas special. Coca-Cola, to be exact, wanted to air a special that December so Mendelson phoned Schulz and the pair basically wrote the outline and script in a day and Coca-Cola said, “Ok.”

It feels like every 5 seconds there’s an iconic shot in this one.

Mendelson would bring animator Bill Melendez onboard to assemble a team to create the special with Vince Guaraldi handling the music. Schulz wrote the script himself and Melendez handled the boards and the whole thing was produced for about $96,000, which was about 20k over budget, but I think the return-on-investment has worked out for all parties. Children were cast to play the children in the special as Schulz felt that was most appropriate. Some, like Peter Robbins who played Charlie Brown, had been in the business for sometime while others were pretty green. Some, like Cathy Steinberg who played Sally, were too young to read so they had to do their character one line at a time which contributes to the disjointed feeling some of the dialogue has, which is just another imperfection that has become part of the charm.

Schulz wrote this one and one of the things he had to fight for was the speech Linus makes towards the end.

The whole special was basically assembled in less than 6 months, a very short turn-around for an animated production. The special is aired at only about 12 frames per second and the animation is certainly limited, but it’s far from ugly. The backgrounds have a surreal quality in places even if the actual drawings are fairly simple. This would be expanded upon in later specials and there were plenty of those to follow. A Charlie Brown Christmas was a huge success and remains one of the few animated Christmas specials to still find an annual airing on television. Or it did. Unfortunately, it no longer airs on CBS or any other major network following the sale of the entire Peanuts media catalog to Apple in 2020. Part of the terms of the sale mandated that this special, along with the Halloween and Thanksgiving specials, be made available for free on Apple TV for a 3-day window during the season for which the special should air, but that’s hardly the same as having it on ABC or CBS. Due to public outcry, Apple did strike a deal with PBS to show the special on that station ad-free in both 2020 and 2021. As of this writing, there’s been no announcement for 2022, and considering there was no PBS broadcast for It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, it looks like the PBS days may be over.

Charlie Brown’s search for what Christmas means to him is a timeless story and it’s a real shame it’s not something airing on television every year.

And that’s a real shame. Everything is monetized and obviously entities have been making money off of Charlie Brown for more than half a century at this point and I wouldn’t argue for that to change, but it’s disappointing to see the holiday special on broadcast television essentially die. ABC, by virtue of being owned by Disney, will likely always air something in December, but as much as I like Prep & Landing and Olaf’s Frozen Adventure neither has the pull that A Charlie Brown Christmas does. It feels like, in terms of classic Christmas specials, we’re down to Rudolph, Frosty, and maybe Grinch. And how much longer will that last? Will CBS one day decide that Rudolph belongs behind a paywall? Will the Grinch be packaged with a bunch of Dr. Seuss material and sold off to Warner to go to whatever streaming platform they come up with next? Why can’t Apple simply partner with one of the big networks for a commercialized broadcast each year? It seems like a simple solution exists, but no one cares to seek it out because the people in charge of said companies don’t give a shit about tradition – just money.

At least I’ll always have The Christmas Tape. Yes, we’re returning to my 35 year old VHS for this entry as well as I’ll be pulling screens from that edition for this entry. That does mean I’ll be working off of a TV edit from 1987 and some scenes are either missing or shortened. When this one aired on CBS back then, such edits were commonplace. It wasn’t until ABC got their hands on the broadcast rights much later that there seemed to be a desire to show the special uncut. That was partly because the network would pair it with a newer special to form an hour long block so they still got their commercials in. And also, I think in the era of cheap and accessible DVD media more people were aware of how much specials like this one were edited for television and wanted to see it uncut.

When you’re taking screenshots from a 35 year old VHS some of the shots aren’t going to be pretty, but that’s part of the charm for me.

The 1987 broadcast begins with the famous CBS special presentation logo. It’s still a thing of beauty. We go right into the special without a major opening title sequence. The original composition “Christmas Time is Here” sets the mood for a quiet, serene, motif with snow falling and children ice skating on a frozen pond. Much of this setting is basically pulled from Schulz’s own childhood growing up in St. Paul, Minnesota. While the children skate, Charlie Brown and Linus are shown exiting a building we’ll eventually come to know as the school, or the auditorium, where the play will be rehearsed. I don’t think the intention of this scene is to say the pair left that facility, rather it’s just a reused background for budgetary reasons and since it’s one of the first shots an ignorant viewer would have no idea it will be used for something else later. It’s a bit more confusing when we see the pair walking in a zoomed out shot shortly after and it’s night time. That background will be used later when the pair goes looking for a tree. They also don’t appear to be carrying their skating gear so we’ll have to look later and see if this is just a reused shot all together.

Linus is going to spend the rest of this special trying to make up for acting like a dick right here.

The two are shown walking once more, at daylight this time, as they presumably head for the pond. The pair come to rest by a brick wall in a shot that is now iconic and will be utilized in specials to come. It’s here that Charlie Brown (Peter Robbins) confesses to his buddy Linus (Christopher Shea) that despite Christmas being on the way, the day which the entire kid universe revolves around on the calendar, he doesn’t feel any joy. He’s depressed, and rather than find a sympathetic ear in Linus, he just has it thrown back in his face, “Charlie Brown, you’re the only person I know who can take a wonderful season like Christmas and turn it into a problem. Maybe Lucy’s right, of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest.” What an asshole!

Oh Snoopy! What a rascal!

The two resume their walk to the pond and join in the festivities. The kids are all skating and holding hands and even Charlie Brown’s dog, Snoopy (Melendez), is participating though he manages to skate without skates. He leads a chain of children and sends them all scattering to various parts of the pond when he goes into a spin move and falls down. Linus and Charlie Brown skate over and Snoopy immediately goes for Linus’s blanket. He grabs the thing with his mouth which entangles Linus, then Charlie Brown. The dog then does a very a un-doglike move by spinning the blanket and releasing it. Most would just chew it. The act causes Charlie Brown to rocket across the ice and into the deep, deep, snow where he collides with a small tree. As he rises out of the snow, stars circling his head, snow falls off of the tree to rebury him and we get the title displayed above for A Charlie Brown Christmas.

I’m not sure why no one likes Charlie Brown, but pulling stunts like this probably won’t make him any friends.

Following our first commercial break of the broadcast, we find Charlie Brown standing in his living room looking out the window. He grabs his coat and hat and heads outside to check the mailbox which ends with him uttering one of his catchphrases, “Rats!” He was hoping for a Christmas card, but finding none, he moves on with his life. He soon encounters Violet (Sally Dryer), and with a frown on his face thanks her for the Christmas card. She turns up her nose and informs him rather emphatically that she didn’t send him a Christmas card and walks away with Charlie Brown calling after her, “Don’t you know a sarcasm when you hear it?”

Following his confrontation with Violet, Charlie Brown takes his frustration out on the local poor kid.

Charlie Brown continues his walk through the snow and next comes upon Pig-Pen (Geoffrey Orstein), the poor kid who is always dirty, as he builds a snowman. Charlie Brown remarks to the boy that he’s the only one he knows who can raise a dust cloud in a snow storm. The kid ignores the insult and continues building his admittedly dirty snowman. Charlie Brown next happens upon Snoopy who is seated on the roof of his doghouse reading a newspaper and working on a stack of bones. He just casually crunches them into his mouth like one might consume a bag of potato chips, only his pile of bones never decreases likely due to budgetary reasons and because it would be hard for Snoopy to keep retrieving the bones from the pile as it decreases.

You can count on Lucy to bring the smug.

We’re then shown a group of kids consisting of Lucy (Tracy Stratford), Schroeder (Chris Doran), Patty (Karen Mendelson), and Linus. Patty suggests the other kids try to catch snowflakes on their tongue in the interest of fun. Linus does as he’s commanded and remarks that they need sugar. Lucy then informs the crowd that she never eats December snowflakes, she always waits until January which just prompts Linus to comment that they look ripe to him. At this point, we should see the kids attempt to knock a can off a fence with snowballs and all fail until Linus uses his trusty blanket as a sling, but that segment was cut for the CBS broadcast of 1987. There was a rumor for a long time that this scene was cut, and eventually edited, because the can was a Coca-Cola can but that was proven false a few years ago.

…and the greed.

Our version for today jumps to Schroeder pointing out to Lucy that she has a customer. I should also point out it has suddenly stopped snowing. Lucy apparently has a side hustle where she poses as a licensed therapist and offers psychiatric advice for the price of a nickel (or about 50 cents when adjusted for inflation). I guess you get what you pay for. Charlie Brown has taken a seat at her booth and Lucy approaches, but before he can spill his guts to her, she insists on payment upfront. When Charlie Brown deposits his coin, Lucy is delighted and shares with Charlie Brown her affection for money, the greedy little jerk. Finally, she attempts to diagnose Charlie Brown and find a source for his seasonal depression. She just lists a whole bunch of phobias, despite Charlie Brown never once suggesting he was afraid of anything, and one of them sounds like it should be a fear of a certain part of the male anatomy, but is instead fear of the ocean. When she gets to pantophobia, the fear of everything, Charlie Brown emphatically screams “That’s it!” causing Lucy to do a comical sequence of somersaults.

Wow! He can smile!

Charlie Brown then switches the subject from his fears to the real problem – Christmas. He confesses he should feel happy about the upcoming holiday, but instead he’s depressed. Lucy decides that to combat his depression, Charlie Brown needs involvement and proposes he direct their Christmas play. Charlie Brown seems flattered at the suggestion and momentarily happy, then the idea of directing seems to weigh on him and he starts back in with the self doubt. Lucy insists she’ll be there to help him and tells him to meet her at the auditorium later. As the two start walking she levels with Charlie and confesses that Christmas always lets her down too. The source of her frustration though is that she never gets what she wants and instead always gets toys, clothes, or a bicycle. When Charlie Brown asks her what she really wants she responds, “Real estate.”

Charlie Brown has a tendency to throw his arms up in the air and run away in a dramatic fashion when confronted by a situation he doesn’t like.

It’s at this point that Charlie Brown notices his dog is up to something when he walks past the two carrying a big box of Christmas decorations. Charlie Brown follows the beagle to his doghouse where Snoopy is putting up decorations for Christmas. This seems cute at first, but when Charlie Browns asks what’s going on Snoopy hands him a flyer. It seems the dog has eyes on winning a lights and display contest which will award the winner with a cash prize. Charlie Brown is disgusted with his pooch as he wails, “My own dog, gone commercial, I can’t stand it!” He very dramatically tosses the flyer and runs away, and this guy thinks he can’t be a director?!

See what I mean?

As Charlie Brown heads for the auditorium he comes across his sister, Sally (Cathy Steinberg). She indicates that she’s been looking for her big brother, but Charlie Brown just keeps walking. She follows and tells him she needs help writing a letter to Santa Claus. When he pauses, she shoves the pencil and clipboard in his face and Charlie Brown reluctantly agrees to help her. As she dictates the letter she begins with pleasantries before getting down to business. When she indicates she has a long list of presents, Charlie Brown can’t help himself and lets out an “Oh brother.” Before she can get to the actual list though, she gives Santa an out: just send money. When she suggests he supply that cash in the form of tens and twenties it becomes too much for Charlie Brown who wails and makes a dramatic showing once again shouting, “Even my baby sister!” Sally is just left holding her letter and pencil while she speaks to the camera to tell us, “All I want is what I have coming to me. All I want is my fair share!” It’s one of the more “broken” bits of dialogue in the special as they clearly needed to stitch some takes together from the young Steinberg, but the end result feels cute.

Ready for another iconic shot?

We now find ourselves at the auditorium. A bunch of nameless kids, and a few named, are all dancing to the now classic composition “Linus and Lucy” which is being played by Schroeder from his tiny piano. Snoopy is on guitar and Pig-Pen on bass, but notably no one is on drums even though the song clearly has them. This scene is obviously super famous at this point and will be parodied many, many, times following this as will the dance moves of the children present. Lucy interrupts the festivities to call for quiet on the set as their director is expected at any moment. When Patty asks “What director?” Lucy informs them it’s Charlie Brown which produces a sincere “Oh no, we’re doomed!” from Violet. Lucy then welcomes Charlie Brown to the arena and the children politely clap, even though most likely share Violet’s sentiments, but Snoopy boos loudly causing Charlie Brown to frown and sarcastically exclaim, “Man’s best friend!”

I think it’s fair to wonder if Snoopy even likes Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown then tries to address the crew with a motivational speech. As he goes on, the group apparently gets bored and the music comes back on as Charlie Brown asks to no one, “I said am I right?” Everyone is back to dancing and the same shot of the kids dancing we just saw is repeated. It’s allowed to go on for a solid minute before Charlie Brown cries out to cut the music. Speaking into a megaphone, he sounds just as loud as normal, but we’ll forgive it. He orders Lucy to hand out the costumes and scripts and refers to her as “script girl,” which surely will not go over well, but to her credit Lucy does as she’s told.

He got her!

Lucy first hands a costume and script to Frieda (Anne Altieri) who just can’t seem to focus on anything except her naturally curly hair. Next she hands Pig-Pen his script as he’s to be the innkeeper, meaning he’s to be paired with Frieda who is playing the innkeeper’s wife. Pig-Pen assures Lucy that despite his outward appearance he aspires to run a neat inn. Lucy then moves on to Shermy (Doran) who will be playing a shepherd. As Lucy walks off, Shermy informs us that he plays a shepherd every Christmas. This leads Lucy to Snoopy who is the Frank Welker of the production as he’s expected to play all of the animal roles. As she asks if he can handle each role, Snoopy demonstrates that he can culminating in him doing a decent penguin. Lucy is impressed, but once Snoopy starts to goof off a bit she goes on a rant about having discipline and respect for their director. As she does so, Snoopy just mocks her and once she catches wind of that informs the dog that he deserves a beating. She swings and misses, and Snoopy being the rascal that he is, responds with a big, doggy, kiss. This unnerves Lucy who starts running in circles calling for some disinfectant due to being kissed by a dog, but Charlie Brown just tells her to shut up and to continue handing out the scripts.

This is admittedly a clever way to threaten someone with bodily harm. Too bad it occurs in one of the most viewed pieces of media in recorded history so no one else can actually utilize it without being laughed at.

Lucy, once again, does as she’s told so at least she practices what she preaches about having respect for her director. She then hands Linus his script while also telling him to ditch the “stupid blanket.” Linus has no intention of doing so, but immediately starts fretting about the amount of lines he needs to memorize in order to play his role of a shepherd. When he demands Lucy provide one good reason why he should memorize these lines and put himself through such agony, she responds with an open hand and a declaration to give him “Five good reasons.” As she counts them off, she tucks in a finger until eventually forming a fist. Linus indicates those are good reasons and when she reiterates that he get rid of the blanket he retorts that “This is one Christmas shepherd who is going to keep his trusty blanket with him. See? You wouldn’t hit an innocent shepherd, would you?” he says as he wraps the thing over his head like a turban.

She’s clean and he’s filthy – comedy!

Lucy walks away in disgust to tell Charlie Brown that the cast is set and it’s time for him to take over. Charlie Brown is pleased by this and instructs Schroeder to set the mood for the first scene. Once he commands, “Action!” Schroeder just goes back to playing “Linus and Lucy” forcing Charlie Brown to yell, “Cut! Cut! Cut!” He then walks over to Frieda and Pig-Pen. Frieda is having a diva moment and refuses to perform because of the amount of dust coming from her co-star. She says it’s taking the curl out of her naturally curly hair and when Charlie Brown suggests she treat it like the dirt of some hallowed ground Pig-Pen seems flattered. When he tells Frieda she should treat him with more respect, she thrusts her mirror in his face and orders him to take a look at himself. This backfires as Pig-Pen declares, “On the contrary, I didn’t think I looked that good.”

Sally’s like five and already has boy lust.

Charlie Brown apparently felt that confrontation was resolved as he now turns his attention towards his baby sister. When Linus asks what he has planned for Sally, Charlie Brown informs him that she’s going to play his wife. This makes Linus blush as Sally comes over with hearts floating above her head. She flatters him by asking if he’s the cutest thing and compliments his sense of humor which just makes Linus blush even more. He hides his head under his blanket and tries to walk away, but Sally follows hanging onto his blanket with every step.

He may be a jerk, but Snoopy is one talented pooch.

Charlie Brown is then interrupted when Lucy declares a lunch break. He’s flabbergasted by this suggestion, but when he questions Lucy she gestures to Snoopy who is holding his doggy dish. He does some tricks with it, but Charlie Brown seems unimpressed. He declares this is no time for foolishness before adding, “We’ve got to get on with our play,” another often parodied line. This causes Lucy to wonder about her part and then asks “What about our Christmas Queen?” a role unassigned so far. She then asks Charlie Brown if he thinks she’s beautiful, but before he’s even allowed to respond she takes offense for if he really thought she was beautiful he would have spoken right up. Declaring “I know when I’ve been insulted,” Lucy storms off leaving Charlie Brown to utter, “Good grief.”

I think it’s fair to say that Charlie Brown isn’t feeling the respect from his actors.

Not one to let Lucy bother him, Charlie Brown just calls for the next scene and, predictably, Schroeder responds by playing “Linus and Lucy” again. The kids all dance some more and Lucy, apparently getting over the perceived insults of just a few seconds ago, is shown smiling and snapping along to the music. She asks Charlie Brown, “Isn’t this a great play?” but he just slams his megaphone and storms over towards the others pleading with them for some cooperation. He then returns to his director’s chair where he hangs his head. Lucy seems confused and asks once more if he thinks the play is great to which Charlie Brown responds, “It’s all wrong!” He then settles on the mood being what’s off and declares their production needs a Christmas tree! Lucy thinks that’s a great idea and instructs Charlie Brown to go get one, suggesting he get a big, shiny, aluminum, pink-painted Christmas tree. Charlie Brown is in agreement and declares he’ll take Linus with him, but in the meantime, he wants the others to practice their lines. As he and Linus depart, Patty offers some words of encouragement with “Do something right for a change, Charlie Brown!” As Charlie Brown and Linus stand outside the auditorium, we can hear “Linus and Lucy” coming from inside which causes Charlie Brown to remark in a somewhat exasperated fashion, “I just don’t know, Linus, I just don’t know.”

I always wanted to go to a place like this when I was a kid. In fact, I still do!

The two walk off into the night vowing to find a worthy Christmas tree for the play. Linus suggests they head towards some stick lights to find a tree lot. When they do, we see basically the same animation I mentioned we should look out for from earlier and the only difference between the two shots is the inclusion of said stick lights this time. When Charlie Brown and Linus reach the origins of the lights, they find a wondrous tree lot full of brightly colored trees all made of aluminum. It’s so odd looking since no trees like this have ever existed. I have to assume this was just an exaggerated take on the old aluminum pole with fiberglass needles and branches that are very common these days and were probably rising in popularity back in the 60s. And as much as I enjoy an authentic Christmas tree, I have to admit the artificial ones were probably a good idea back then given the fire hazard caused by those old, colored, giant, light bulbs that were commonly used on all trees.

There it is! A now common sight at Hallmark stores across the country.

The two look through the lot as “Oh Tannenbaum” is played in the background until Charlie Brown sets his eyes on a tiny tree. A tiny, real, pathetic, looking tree. It’s barely a weed, but Charlie Brown likes it for some reason. Linus, who only earlier today was willing to rip Charlie Brown over his depression, is rather polite in trying to talk his friend out of selecting this tree reminding him what Lucy said. Charlie Brown tells him he doesn’t care what Lucy had to say about a tree and insists that, once decorated, this little tree will be perfect for their play. He then adds, “Besides, I think it needs me,” suggesting that Charlie Brown feels some sort of kinship with the sapling. When he lifts it off the ground though, several needles fall off to the sound of keys which is pretty cute. The two take notice of the needles, but say nothing to each other about it, as they walk out of the scene.

We apparently have not reached our Snoopy quota just yet.

At the auditorium, Lucy is just lounging by Schroeder as he plays his piano. Schroeder declares he’s settled on a composition for the play and starts playing some Beethoven. When Lucy asks what he’s doing, he tells her, which causes her to go on a rant about how Beethoven wasn’t so great which Schroeder finds insulting. It would seem Lucy’s definition of greatness is heavily dependent upon that person being featured on a bubble gum card, and since no such card features Beethoven, he wasn’t so great. Schroeder can’t even argue with her and just says “Good grief,” before going into another song. Snoopy seems to like it as he pops over and starts tapping his foot. He eventually gets really into it and starts dancing on Schroeder’s piano. Once he and Lucy notice, he stops playing leaving Snoopy dancing to nothing. Blushing, he stops and slinks off.

Right now, Schroeder is likely wishing Lucy had an on/off switch.

With the dog gone, Lucy asks Schroeder if he can play “Jingle Bells.” He obliges, but Lucy apparently finds the composition too complex and tells him it’s not right. He then plays it a different way, and we have to ignore that his little piano turned into an electric organ to produce this different sounding “Jingle Bells.” Lucy still isn’t satisfied insisting “I mean Jingle Bells! You know – Santa Claus and ‘ho, ho, ho?’ And mistletoe? And presents to pretty girls?” As she recites that, she inches closer to Schroeder and smiles at him suggestively. Schroeder can only frown in response, and with one finger, plays “Jingle Bells” on the highest note on the piano in a manner only a non-musician would play it. Lucy listens intently, and then shouts “That’s it!” in what is basically a reoccurrence of the joke from earlier when Charlie Brown responded to her in a similar manner. And just like before, the shouting of “That’s it,” causes the recipient to spin in somersaults.

Well, on the bright side, your tree seems to be making people happy, Charlie Brown.

Charlie Brown and Linus then enter with Charlie Brown carrying his pathetic little tree. He places it on the piano and some of the needles fall. As he goes to hang his coat up, the other kids just stare at the tree in disbelief. Violet is the first to comment with “Boy, are you stupid, Charlie Brown!” Patty follows it up with “What kind of tree is that?!” and then Lucy piles on by sarcastically asking if he can tell the difference between a poor tree and a good tree. Charlie Brown just takes the abuse, finally uttering another, “Rats!” When they’re done ragging on him and his tree, the kids just burst into laughter, including Snoopy, and then walk away.

Lights, please.

Charlie Brown confesses to Linus that he should have listened to him. He then adds that he doesn’t know what Christmas is all about before shouting to the heavens, “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is all about?!” This kid really does have the drama nailed. Linus calmly assures him that he can tell him what Christmas is all about. He makes for center stage and requests the lights of someone, who is operating them is a mystery. Linus then recites a biblical passage, Luke 2: 8-14, which was a point of contention during the production of the special. Mendelson felt they should steer clear of the Bible, for even though America was certainly more secular in the 60s, shining a spotlight on religion in a Christmas special was apparently considered too controversial for television. Schulz was pretty adamant that it should be a part of it, and he apparently won that argument. Not only did he get Linus to quote scripture, it’s positioned in such a way that no network could ever consider removing it for the special wouldn’t make sense without it.

Sometimes, you just have to look to the stars for guidance.

When Linus is done, he walks over to Charlie Brown to reiterate “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” This causes Charlie Brown to smile, for in religion, he has found the true meaning of Christmas. While “Oh Tannenbaum” plays in the background once more, Charlie Brown grabs his coat and gathers up his little tree. He no longer needs involvement, or a play, because he has Christmas in his heart! He leaves the auditorium via a new background (making me wonder if the other shot of Linus and Charlie Brown leaving the auditorium was a mistake) while the other kids follow at a generous distance. As he walks under the night sky, Linus’s words echo through his brain about the birth of Christ, climaxing with the line, “And this will be a sign unto you.” He smiles as he says to himself “Linus is right, I won’t let all this commercialism ruin my Christmas. I’ll take this little tree home and decorate it and I’ll show them it really will work for our play,” as he skips off into the night.

Look! Another thing for Charlie Brown to overreact to!

The special basically could have ended right there, but it doesn’t. Instead, we see Charlie Brown coming upon Snoopy’s dog house. There’s a medal pinned to it indicating that Snoopy won first prize. Charlie Brown is shocked, and rightfully so since the display isn’t anything special. Maybe he got bonus points for being a dog and all? Either way, Charlie Brown isn’t going to let his commercial dog ruin things for him. He grabs an ornament from the house and places it on his little tree. It immediately tips over as the ornament comes to rest on the ground. Declaring he killed it, Charlie Brown turns to drama one last time whining “Everything I touch gets ruined!”

Hey man, don’t start thinking this makes up for that stuff you said to Charlie Brown back at the beginning. You still owe him an apology!

As Charlie Brown runs off, the other kids come upon the tree. Linus is the one to remark it’s not a bad little tree at all and wraps his blanket around the base of it providing enough support for the tree to stand. The other kids remove the decorations from Snoopy’s house and place them on the tree. Now it’s completely transformed into an impossibly beautiful little tree. Lucy is forced to admit that Charlie Brown actually picked out a nice tree after all. They all start to chant some “Ooo” thing, until Charlie Brown returns.

That is NOT the same tree!

Charlie Brown demands to know what’s going on before noticing the tree. He stares at it in disbelief as the camera zooms in on the resplendent tree and pans down. The kids all just shout in unison, “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!” before breaking into a rendition of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” Charlie Brown turns to the camera and smiles before joining the chorus. The kids sing us out until “The End” appears on the screen.

“Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown!”

And that’s the end of a bonafide Christmas classic! Nearly every scene from this one is now considered iconic and is frequently parodied or celebrated with an homage in another movie or special. I think South Park has done it at least three times at this point with both of the first two Christmas specials from that show climaxing with a “Merry Christmas,” someone. And it’s hard not to be charmed by this one. Charlie Brown is a rather dramatic individual, but he is sympathetic. And the older you get, the easier it is to relate to a case of seasonal depression. I love Christmas, but there will often be a time or two where it weighs me down for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s just the thought of the season leaving that gets me down, but whatever the reason, depression is depression and it’s something almost anyone can relate to on some level. Charlie Brown’s peers are largely a bunch of jerks. Even his lone friend, Linus, is insultingly dismissive of his problems early on and don’t think he redeemed himself just by quoting the Bible! The whole subplot of a Christmas play has always felt a tad underdeveloped, mostly because we just don’t know much of anything about the production they’re supposed to be rehearsing, but it serves its purpose and gets Charlie Brown to the tree lot and eventually his resolution.

Charlie Brown gets to experience some joy here, but I’m sure those kids went right back to treating him like dirt the next day.

The ironic thing about this special in 2022, and really for the last 20 or so years, is that it criticizes the commercial aspect of Christmas with one of the most merchandised brands in the world. Were they actually selling imitation Charlie Brown trees while Charles Schulz was still alive? I don’t know, but if they were and he saw them I have to believe it was something he would roll his eyes at. Or maybe not since the brand made him a ton of money and a lot of that is owed to this special which was the first of many. There wasn’t a holiday the Peanuts gang were unwilling to create a special for and commercialization was something the brand benefitted from more than any other. I suppose Schulz could take some solace in the special, with it’s anti-commercialism message, being so well-received and make the assumption that those who did see it took the right message to heart. I have no idea if that’s true though and the cynic in me says, “No freaking way.”

The special is what it is, and while Schulz could have refused to merchandize Peanuts, I don’t necessarily think the world is in a worse place because he didn’t go the Bill Waterson route with his creation. People like Charlie Brown and like the specials he and the others have been a part of these past 50+ years. And those shirts, statues, plushies, and other odds and ends have likely brought some kind of happiness to countless individuals and I think that’s fine. Some abhor taking pleasure in any material good, but not me, so enjoy your tiny, artificial trees, your Santa Snoopies, and absolutely make time each holiday season for A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 20 – Toy Tinkers

We’re rounding the corner to Christmas. With just five days left until the big day, that means we have time for just five more specials after this one! And since we’ve hit another multiple of five, it’s time to do another retro-lookback (or whatever I’m calling these things) at an all-time classic: Toy Tinkers. Toy…

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Dec. 20 – Inspector Gadget Saves Christmas

Once upon a time, Hanna-Barbera ruled the cartoon television universe. The company was one of the first to prioritize television over film when it came to cartoons, and it was a strategy that worked quite well. Come the 80s, cartoons were a Saturday morning staple and were taking over the weekday afternoon as well. Hanna-Barbera…

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Dec. 20 – Lilo & Stitch: The Series – Topper: Experiment 025

Last year, I fell down a bit of a Lilo & Stitch rabbit hole when it came time to do this list. I first researched the animated series known as Lilo & Stitch: The Series and its Christmas special “Topper: Experiment 025.” I ended up reading about the expanded lore the universe established in 2002’s…

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Dec. 13 – The 25 Greatest Christmas TV Specials

Five years ago The Christmas Spot did its first advent calendar countdown to Christmas and the theme was “The 25 Greatest Christmas TV Specials.” With that list, my approach wasn’t entirely forthright. I really had a list of 20 specials that I deemed worthy of such an honor and I devoted the back five to specials I felt were worth spotlighting that might otherwise have been overlooked. What I also should have added at the time was that the list is fluid. It’s going to change as we as a society of holiday consumers reevaluate the old and welcome the new. Seeing as it’s been five years, it felt right to look back on that list, re-arrange a few entries, add some more, and kick out some that have grown stale. I should stress, this is all one man’s opinion on television specials and as someone who loves Christmas I do tend to watch a lot of these specials too much and there’s definitely a fatigue factor. The list of holiday fare I indulge in year in and year out goes deeper than 25, so if your favorite isn’t here don’t sweat it. I probably think it’s fine.

For this exercise, I think it makes sense to just go down the list comparing the original to the revised edition. I’ll list the number and the entry with the previous ranking (if applicable) in parenthesis after and the 2015 entry after that, like so:

25. A Flintstone Christmas (#9) (Moral Orel – The Best Christmas Ever)

I like A Flintstone Christmas a lot, but I’ve also seen it a lot and I think it just doesn’t affect me in the same way now as it did years ago. As for Moral Orel, it’s a fine, dark, Christmas special and not something I need to watch every year.

24. American Dad! – For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls (UR) (Winnie the Pooh and Christmas Too)

American Dad! has become one of the titans of Christmas as it has a new special almost every year. “For Whom the Sleigh Bell Tolls” is bloody and insane, which is what makes it the most memorable for me, but there are a lot of contenders from this show. Winnie the Pooh’s foray into Christmas is plenty sweet, but also not very remarkable.

23. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (#13) (Robot Chicken’s Half-Assed Christmas Special)

Rudolph is a classic, but let’s not kid ourselves, it’s mostly included on all of these lists because of its classic status. It’s kind of ugly, and I think most of us watch it out of habit as opposed to pure enjoyment. Still, there’s no replicating that warm, nostalgic, feel it’s still capable of conjuring up. As for Robot Chicken, I very much enjoy the marathon sessions Adult Swim will air during December, but it’s designed to be disposable and the jokes are very hit or miss.

22. Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (UR) (Invader Zim – Most Horrible X-Mas Ever)

Olaf’s special wasn’t around in 2015, but it looks like it’s going to be an annual tradition for awhile. It’s funny, warm, and even features songs I don’t hate. He’s quickly become the most charismatic snowman around. Invader Zim is fine, but if you want an absurd Christmas story then I think there’s better out there (like American Dad!).

21. The Tick Loves Santa (UR) (Married…with Children – You Better Watch Out)

In 2020, offbeat and silly superhero stuff is really appealing given how superheroes rule the box office (or would in a normal year). That makes The Tick a series I can appreciate even more now than I did back in 94. And watching The Tick bumble his way through a Christmas story is a great deal of fun. It knocks off the only live-action special from 2015 to be featured on this list. Married…with Children is sort of like the sitcom version of American Dad! because it has a lot of Christmas specials, and most are pretty subversive. It’s still worth watching, but it was always at risk of being dropped for the simple fact that I favor cartoons.

20. Bob’s Burgers – Christmas in the Car (UR) (The Snowman)

Bob’s Burgers and American Dad! are battling it out to be the current king of Christmas since both are prepared seemingly year in and year out. I give the edge to the Belcher family, and while it’s hard to pick a favorite from this crew, I think “Christmas in the Car” is still the reigning champ though I seem to warm more and more to “Father of the Bob” every time I view it. The Snowman is the victim I feel the worst about. It’s not moving up the ranks, but out. I know a lot of folks adore it, but I’ve just never been able to feel the same way about it. Sorry!

19. Frosty the Snowman (#15) (It’s a SpongeBob Christmas)

Like Rudolph, Frosty is skating by on reputation at this point. Unlike Rudolph though, I still feel charmed by this one whenever I watch it. The characters are goofy, some of the plot points make no sense, and that damn song will forever remain catchy. As for SpongeBob, worry not for him, for he will appear later on this list in a more prominent position.

18. Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas (#18) (Beavis and Butt-Head Do Christmas)

Hey! One that didn’t change! Spoiler alert, but this one is just the first to not move a spot. This one is wonderfully stupid and subversive. Many confuse Beavis and Butt-Head for just stupid, but there’s a lot of satire to be found with the duo. It’s not for everyone, but it sure is funny.

17. Futurama – Xmas Story (#12) (A Muppet Family Christmas)

Futurama hangs on slipping just five spots. It wasn’t in any real danger to fall off as I love the show and I love it’s take on Christmas. The Muppets, on the other hand, were mostly on the old version for the novelty of their special and nostalgia. Admittedly though, the special isn’t great and has maybe 2 or 3 good laughs during its hour-long runtime. Plus that ending goes on and on…

16. A Charlie Brown Christmas (#4) (Yes, Virginia)

Hoo-boy was I coward in 2015! Charlie Brown is a classic, but it’s also quite dull. It’s quotable, has great music, and the good-bad voice acting is somehow really charming. It’s near the top of many lists because it’s been around so long and boomers love it while younger generations were forced to enjoy it. Top 16 is still good, but we all need to be more honest when it comes to Charlie Brown. Yes, Virginia is super sweet and I love the ending, it’s getting there that’s tough. The special is pretty slow and the CG is downright ugly. This one would have been a lot better as a short, but maybe someone will return to it and do just that. And if you hadn’t heard, A Charlie Brown Christmas is airing tonight on PBS at 7:30 PM local time (6:30 CT) which is big news since It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown was frozen out of a broadcast airing in 2020 for the first time ever.

15. A Pinky and the Brain Christmas (UR) (Frosty the Snowman)

This one was just an oversight on my part back in 2015. I had not seen it in years, but when I re-watched it for The Christmas Spot in 2017 I was reminded of how wonderful a viewing it is. That ending gets me every time.

14. The Night Before Christmas starring Tom and Jerry (UR) (A Very Special Family Guy Freakin’ Christmas)

Another one I forgot about and overlooked, Tom and Jerry’s battle under the Christmas tree is full of the usual gags the duo is known for. The animation is gorgeous, especially the backgrounds, and it tops it all off with a really sweet ending. Family Guy was generously ranked in this spot in 2015 and actually was a tough omission this time around. I do still like that special, easily the best Family Guy Christmas episode I’ve seen, but I basically gave it the boot in favor of the superior show, American Dad!

13. Duck the Halls (UR) (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer)

It’s Donald Duck and it’s Christmas – it was practically made for me! Duck the Halls is hilarious and the animation is great. Sure, it isn’t ink and paint like the old days, but I find it plenty pleasing. Tony Anselmo gives maybe his best performance ever as Donald, and if anything I’m penalizing this one because we have more Donald to come.

12. Rocko’s Modern Christmas (UR) (Futurama – Xmas Story)

I love Rocko, but in 2015 I had all but forgotten about his Christmas special. Well, not this time as I’m putting him just outside the Top 10. The story is fairly simple, but Rocko is so likable and sympathetic that it makes this one instantly charming. And let’s not forget the great gags like the constipated cloud and the living (until it’s not) Christmas tree.

11. It’s a SpongeBob Christmas (#19) (Prep & Landing)

SpongeBob is moving up in the world and actually is the biggest mover, in a positive direction, this time around. My affection for this stop-motion Christmas special seems to grow and grow each year. In 2015 it was still pretty new so a recency bias worked against it, but five years later I’m more than ready to declare this a modern Christmas classic. And the same can be said for the special that once occupied this spot.

10. South Park – Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo (#8) (A Garfield Christmas)

Mr. Hanky just barely hangs onto a top 10 spot this time out. Is his spot in danger? Yes, considering my love of SpongeBob and Donald Duck. For now though, let’s just reflect on how crazy this special was when it first showed up in 1997 and how South Park used to have a new Christmas special every year. My, how the times have changed.

9. Prep & Landing (#11) (A Flintstone Christmas)

I’m surprised I held Prep & Landing out of the Top 10 last time around, but like SpongeBob, I guess I just wasn’t quite ready to let someone new into the club. The CG still looks great on this one and the story is unique, fun, and even heart-warming. New Christmas specials arrive every year, but rarely does one actually add to the whole Santa Claus lore in a meaningful way, but that’s what Prep & Landing has done. These elves aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

8. A Garfield Christmas (#10) (Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo)

The fat cat who loves lasagna gets to move up a couple spots, largely benefiting from folks like Fred Flintstone and Charlie Brown getting kicked further down the line. This 1987 special is still a treat to take in that blends humor with a surprising amount of sentiment. It’s a shame it lost the network timeslot it held for many years.

7. DuckTales – Last Christmas! (UR) (Toy Tinkers)

DuckTales has made a comeback since 2015 and included among the new episodes is the show’s first ever Christmas special, and it’s wonderful! It turns the story of A Christmas Carol on its head, in a way, with a time travel tale all its own and features the first mother-son pairing of Della and Duey Duck. Plus it has a fantastic cameo from the late, great, Russi Taylor. If you have yet to see it, fix that this year. Especially since word has come out recently the show isn’t being renewed for a fourth season. 2020 just refuses to stop sucking!

6. Toy Tinkers (#7) (Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire)

The Donald Duck/Chip and Dale vehicle moves up one spot this year. It matters little as this is a cartoon all animation lovers and Christmas enthusiasts should make a point to watch every year. The only negative is that the gunplay contained within this one means Disney+ will likely continue to shun it making it a tad harder to come by.

5. A Chipmunk Christmas (#3) (Pluto’s Christmas Tree)

Alvin and the gang spin a fine Christmas tale. I thought highly enough of it to rank it in the top 3 last time, but I’m bumping it down just a couple of spots this year as I basically rearrange some things. This one is becoming a little harder to come by each year as you can’t guarantee a network showing, but DVDs are cheap so grab one if you need it!

4. Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire (#6) (A Charlie Brown Christmas)

The premiere episode of The Simpsons is still my favorite Christmas special the show has done. Sure, it’s a bit rough to look at these days, but the story is great, classic, Simpsons. I just wish it and the other 80s Christmas specials on this list were celebrated as much as the stuff from the 60s that hasn’t aged so well. Well, most of that stuff has aged horribly, but there’s one notable omission we’ll get to shortly.

3. Pluto’s Christmas Tree (#5) (A Chipmunk Christmas)

Alvin and Pluto essentially switched places largely because I just love this little short. It’s just perfect. The scenery inside the Christmas tree featuring Chip and Dale is just the best. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it every time I watch this short – I want to live in that tree. The physical comedy is fantastic, and I just absolutely adore this short. Unlike Toy Tinkers, you can find this one on Disney+ 365 days out of the year. I’ll probably watch it at least a dozen times between now and Christmas.

2. Mickey’s Christmas Carol (#2)

Mickey and our number one didn’t move, and that’s with good reason. This is my preferred version of A Christmas Carol, and frankly, we don’t need any more. It’s the only one on this list other than the parody featured in Beavis and Butt-Head (I don’t really consider “Last Christmas!” an adaptation) which is kind of surprising to me, but it also feels right. This one is beautiful and features some phenomenal voice acting. I’ll never not tear-up at the sight of a crying Mickey when he visits Tiny Tim’s grave, ditto for when Scrooge informs him he’s getting promoted at the end. I’m getting misty eyed right now just thinking about it.

  1. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (#1)

It was number one in 2015, and it will likely remain number one for as long as I’m alive. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is just a perfect Christmas special. It features a story full of heart, humor, redemption, and joy. It’s gorgeously animated with a style unique to both Dr. Seuss and animator Chuck Jones. The music is equally as memorable and the narration from Boris Karloff is the only voice people hear in their heads now-a-days when reading the source material. There’s nothing I’d change about this special, and if I had to pick just one Christmas special to watch annually it would be this one.

Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:

Dec. 13 – How to Grinch

Christmas has a number of characters that instantly come to mind at the mere mention of the holiday. The big man, good old S. Claus, is likely number one. Whether you know him as Father Christmas, Saint Nicholas, or something else, Santa Claus has dominated the holiday for decades now. Other characters commonly associated with…

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Dec. 13 – Donald Duck in Christmas on Bear Mountain

For these features, I like to do something a little different at the midway point. This year I’m going to take a look at the classic Donald Dock comic “Christmas on Bear Mountain.” Donald Duck wasn’t just a movie star back in the day, but he also starred in his own line of comics published…

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Dec. 13 – Christmas Commercialism Part II

We’re about halfway through our countdown and ever so close to that magical day that is Christmas! And since these posts seem to be getting longer and longer, here’s a nice breezy one to save me some valuable time. We’re often told and reminded over and over by Christmas specials that the spirit of Christmas…

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An Easter Viewing Guide


Never forget the reason for the season.

If you are a regularly reader at The Nostalgia Spot, then you’re probably familiar with the holiday version that comes every December:  The Christmas Spot. Christmas is such a big deal in our society that there is an abundance of Christmas themed media, enough to sustain an annual blog for 25 consecutive days. And people like Christmas, despite how much grumbling surfaces every year about decorations appearing in stores in October or the music filling grocery store aisles for weeks on end. I know people like it, because in all likelihood The Christmas Spot has more regular readers than the rest of the stuff I do. My readership always spikes in December and I assume there are a handful of readers that bookmark the page only to come around for December.

When it comes to television, no holiday compares with Christmas and the only one that comes close is Halloween. When I was a kid though, the holiday tier list when like this:  Christmas, Halloween, Easter, Thanksgiving, any holiday that resulted in a day off from school, and then the rest. Christmas was number one because it was the big one:  the toy holiday. I loved toys as a kid, and I still do, so it was a clear number one. Halloween came at number two because it was a unique experience, and it came with lots and lots of candy. Easter was like the compromise holiday. I had Catholic parents, but the religious aspect of the holiday was never enforced in my house so it was just a day that Santa-Light, aka The Easter Bunny, entered my home at night and hid a basket of goodies somewhere for me to find in the morning. That basket contained assorted Easter candies, all of which were awesome:  Reese’s Eggs, pastel M&M’s, Peeps, Cadbury Eggs, and so on. Usually there was one central, big, piece of candy be it a chocolate bunny or one of those giant candy bars that went beyond a king size. In my house, the Easter Bunny also always brought a toy of some kind. Usually it was a modest thing. At most I seemed to get a couple of action figures or a small toy vehicle playset like a TMNT motorcycle thing or something. And that’s why Easter felt like a compromised merger of Christmas and Halloween in my house. There were toys, but way fewer than what Santa would bring, but also a good amount of candy, but not as much as I’d come away with on Halloween.

The combination of toys and candy, plus the fun of hunting for an Easter basket or Easter eggs, made Easter an important day in my house. And I carry forward that tradition now for my kids and I look forward to watching them experience the holiday each year. And in my house, holidays are marked by indulging in moves and television based around that holiday theme. For Easter, I’ve had to put in some work to find stuff. There’s an assortment of biblical videos and such that are just terrible. I mean, if you’re into that component of Easter and get enjoyment from them then more power to you, but they’re not for me. I look for the fun stuff that centers around rabbits and junk. Somewhat to my surprise, I’ve put together a solid collection of Easter specials for my kids and I to take in this year and I thought I’d share that with you all. It might seem a little late in the game with Easter so close, but we’re not talking a massive volume here. And most are suitable for all audiences, so that’s a plus, though I did include one that would probably best be reserved for adults only, or at least teens and adults. And I should stress, I’m not saying these are all necessarily good or essential, there’s definitely some crap here, but it’s crap that at least has nostalgic appeal. And when you’re talking one, annual, viewing there’s a considerable tolerance level in place. Let’s get this going and we’ll go in chronological order of release starting with…


I can hear this image.

Easter Yeggs (1947)

The classic Easter themed Bugs Bunny short directed by Robert McKimson is probably best remembered for the annoying little kid that just says “I want an Easter egg!” over and over. He, like everyone else in the short, is voiced by the legendary Mel Blanc. In this cartoon, Bugs Bunny agrees to help out the Easter Bunny whom he stumbles upon early in the short who appears to be pretty stressed out over this whole Easter thing. Turns out he’s actually just lazy, but Bugs is game and finds out that being the Easter Bunny is no fun. He eventually encounters Elmer Fudd who has designs on consuming the Easter Bunny (what a killjoy) leading to a fairly traditional Bugs and Elmer cartoon. Which is just fine because Bugs Bunny cartoons are pretty wonderful and I need to write about them more. If you want to watch this one, it’s available as part of The Looney Tunes Golden Collection: Volume 3 and I can’t recommend the entire Golden Collection enough. It’s also available in HD on the Platinum Collection Volume 3. If you’re strapped for cash though, it can easily be found online for free.


He’s just so cute!

Happy Go Ducky (1958)

I completely forgot about this cartoon until this year when I just happened to stumble upon it. This is a Tom and Jerry short from the tandem of William Hanna and Joseph Barbera, who are better known for producing some of the worst cartoons you’ve ever seen. Back in the 40s and 50s though, they were the Tom and Jerry guys churning out award-winning cartoons to rival what Warner and Disney were doing. This little short features an appearance by Quackers, a seldom-used duckling character voiced by Red Coffee doing his best “duck” voice a-la Donald Duck. Quackers is just adorable, as he’s left as a gift for Tom and Jerry by the Easter Bunny, but proceeds to drive them nuts as he floods the home in search of an adequate swimming pool to meet his needs. The sweet thing is that he eventually overwhelms and wins over the duo with his cuteness. Watch this one with young kids and you’ll be hearing them imitate Quackers, as best they can, and his frequent line, “Happy Easter!” This short is available as part of the Tom and Jerry Spotlight Collection Volume 3 which is still easy to find and cheap to acquire (especially if you opt for a used copy). It can also be found online, but many places feature a cropped version that probably aired on television years ago as this cartoon was originally done in Cinemascope. Interestingly, there’s an edited version on YouTube just titled “Happy Easter” that isn’t cropped, but is missing several scenes as nearly 2 minutes were shaved off of the running time. This might be my favorite of this list.


Snoopy helping Linus avoid more embarrassment. He’s a good boy.

It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown (1974)

You can always count on The Peanuts gang for a holiday special. These kids even have an Arbor Day special, for crying out loud. Charlie Brown and his friends seem to have a problem with everything, including Easter. For Peppermint Patty, it’s teaching her friend Marcy how to color eggs. For Sally, it’s finding the right pair of shoes for the holiday. And for Linus, it’s people mocking him for his belief in an Easter Beagle. As was the case with Halloween, Linus appears to have picked the wrong holiday mascot to back. What’s rewarding is the other kids remind him of his Halloween foolishness, but he’s somewhat vindicated in this one. And then there’s Lucy, getting victimized by Snoopy once again. Despite the title, Charlie Brown plays a very small role in this one though he still gets reminded that he is indeed Charlie Brown come Easter. This cartoon gets bonus points for making a good Christmas joke when the kids go to the mall and find it already decorated for that holiday. See people, it’s not a new thing to complain about Christmas arriving early in stores as this thing was made in 1974. Strangely, it doesn’t look any network is airing this special this week (I may have missed an earlier airing this month), but it is available to stream on Amazon. Or you could be like me and just buy a DVD to watch at your leisure each season. Charlie Brown holiday DVDs and Blu Rays are often really easy to find at a cheap price during the offseason. And as a bonus, you’ll get that Arbor Day special!


This one just might cause you to miss the old shorts.

Daffy Duck’s Easter Egg-citement! (1980)

After the era of the cartoon short ended, but before the explosion of cable providing for a landing spot for old cartoons, Warner Bros. put their now meager staff to work making television specials starring the Looney Tunes characters. Many of them featured Bugs Bunny and some included old shorts with some new wrap-around animation connecting them, but many also featured all new toons. The catch for these though was that the quality was abysmal. If you thought the Warner shorts of the 50s looked poor then you better make sure you sit down before watching anything made in the 70s or 80s. Daffy Duck’s Easter Egg-citment is no except as it looks downright terrible in some places. There’s a shot of Daffy and Sylvester both digging for food out of the trash that is so garish and bright it makes me feel ill. This TV special contains three new shorts:  The Yolks on You, The Chocolate Chase, and Daffy Flies North. In between the shorts, Daffy is present to argue with the animator as he did in the classic short Duck Amuck only it’s far less amusing this time around. None of these shorts are particularly good and all recycle old gags and concepts from past toons. Some even recycle assets from other cartoons. Of the three, I suppose Daffy Flies North is my favorite, but it’s also the least festive. Mel Blanc is at least on hand to do the voices, though he’s obviously a little old at this point. It was also an odd choice to pair Daffy with Sylvester in The Yolks on You since both characters sound so similar. This TV special isn’t a very good Looney Tunes production, but a not very good Looney Tunes production is still better than a lot of other stuff. Plus it’s a lot shorter than The Ten Commandments! If you want to watch this, it’s included on The Looney Tunes Golden Collection Volume 6 as well as The Essential Daffy Duck. It’s also received a stand-alone release. Warner isn’t particularly protective of it, so you can also find it online without too much issue.


This really happened.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles – “The Turtles and the Hare” (1991)

The Fred Wolf produced Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon that dominated the late 80s and early 90s did not feature a Christmas episode, but it did find time for an Easter one. In it, the Turtles are preparing for Easter when they have a chance encounter with Hokum Hare who actually isn’t the Easter Bunny, but is actually the hare from the fable The Tortoise and the Hare, hence the episode’s title. He sure looks the part through as he’s a big, white, bunny in purple overalls. He’s also pretty annoying. The Turtles end up in his world, Fableland, in pursuit of some crystal and the story turns into mostly nonsense as many episodes of this show do. It all ends with Hokum serving as the Easter Bunny for some Channel 6 Easter Egg Hunt. Most of the episodes of this show are terrible and this really isn’t an exception. It’s amusing for how absurd a concept it is to basically have the Turtles meet a pseudo Easter Bunny, and as terrible as the show is it usually never fails to produce a smile or two from me just because I once loved it so. For nostalgia lovers only. You can find this episode as part of Season 4 of the old cartoon which is available on DVD. If you’re feeling really retro it received a stand-alone VHS release back in the day too. It’s also not particularly hard to find online as well.


Cartman is relegated to one scene in this episode, but it just might be my favorite one.

South Park – “Fantastic Easter Special” (2007)

South Park has had a pretty nice run of holiday specials, and it saved one of its best shots for Easter. A parody of The Da Vinci Code takes on the form of an Easter special in which Stan questions all of the bizarre traditions surrounding Easter and tries to square them up with the whole Jesus thing. They don’t make sense, and he soon uncovers an underground Easter Bunny cult of sorts that his father belongs to which seeks to protect the true meaning of Easter, as well as the true pope of the Catholic faith. It’s bonkers, and it never lets up as it finds a way to just keep escalating the crazy as the episode continues ultimately building to a pretty satisfying conclusion. This one being South Park, it’s not for the kids nor is it for those who take the holiday seriously. It’s pretty hilarious though, and it came around when the show really hit its peak. If you want to indulge in this one, you’ll be able to see it for certain on Comedy Central (as well as the other, lesser, Easter special) tonight at 5 EST and it’s available in various formats as part of Season 11 of the show.



Teen Titans Go! – “Easter Creeps” (2017)

The Teen Titans Go! series has become a reliable source of holiday entertainment. Often times, they find a way to work Santa into the mix too as they did in the first Easter special and in the “Halloween vs Christmas” episode. “Easter Creeps” is amusing to me because the show envisions the Easter Bunny as a humanoid rabbit. He basically looks like The Noid only he’s pink and wears a vest. He lays eggs, which grosses every one out, and he’s overall just kind of creepy as the episode title implies. And because of that, he’s declared the worst thing about this otherwise wonderful holiday. This episode is a bit like the “Halloween vs Christmas” one as it’s going to pit the Easter Bunny vs the Tooth Fairy. It’s a silly experience that’s funny enough without overstaying its welcome. Cartoon Network airs this show all the time and tonight is no exception. A block of Easter programming is premiering at 7 EST tonight that will feature a new Easter special from the show. I can only assume this episode will be featured as well since it’s a full hour of programming.

That’s my list for 2020. If you think I missed any worthwhile Easter entertainment feel free to let me know. I’m always on the look-out for more holiday specials. Happy Easter!


#4 – A Charlie Brown Christmas


A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

Old Chuck has been around for awhile now. No one can say his special has failed to stand the test of time. And even so, the origins of A Charlie Brown Christmas are pretty humble ones. Few expected it to be a success, especially after creator Charles Schulz wanted Linus to recite a passage from The Bible on the meaning of Christmas. The production values were low, and basically every voice actor was an amateur, and a kid.

Despite all of that, A Charlie Brown Christmas has been a monumental success. It has lead to numerous other Peanuts themed holiday specials and television shows. It’s soundtrack has been a best seller and its main theme “Linus and Lucy,” composed by Vince Guaraldi, has become the official theme of the Peanuts brand.


The soundtrack for A Charlie Brown Christmas is almost as famous as the actual special.

The story goes, Charlie Brown is depressed around the holidays because he doesn’t really understand what’s so great about Christmas. Part of that is derived from the rampant commercialism surrounding him and also by the fact that no one seems to like him. Lucy, in a rare moment of compassion, decides to offer Charlie Brown the position of director for their Christmas play. She seems to think the play will direct itself and Chuck couldn’t possibly screw it up. When Charlie Brown arrives at the auditorium he finds everyone is only interested in dancing around and few are serious about putting on the play. Frustrated, he decides to get a tree which just makes things worse, prompting Linus’s famous speech.

Amongst the specials on this countdown, A Charlie Brown Christmas is easily the most secular. It does so without turning off the unreligious, with the biblical meaning of Christmas serving as a reminder that the holiday isn’t all about getting presents and seeing who has the most lights on their house.  Still, I’m sure the devout Christians out there probably appreciate what A Charlie Brown Christmas has to say since most specials ignore that Jesus fellow.

Now obviously the special has become a bit of an ironic one. The primary message of A Charlie Brown Christmas is that commercialism has distorted the holiday’s message, and yet today, few properties have become more commercialized than Charlie Brown. Especially this year when the special celebrates its 50th year. None of this causes the actual special to be any less charming, and I certainly don’t mind the abundance of Charlie Brown merchandise as it’s an easy fail-safe when shopping for Christmas gifts.

As one of the most popular Christmas specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas is featured prominently on television and is also available on DVD and Blu Ray. It was shown this year along with a one hour special celebrating its 50th anniversary. If you missed that broadcast it will be shown again on Christmas Eve on ABC.

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