Our favorite Christmas movie almost wasn't a movie at all
For most of us, the holidays just don’t seem like the holidays without at least once sitting down with family to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. From the very first note of “Christmas Time Is Here” to the rousing jazz classic “Linus and Lucy,” this Peanuts hit is the Christmas movie, so it’s crazy to think that it almost didn’t happen. The reason why? Executives didn’t like it.
If I was having a drink of water, I’d do a spit-take right now. Didn’t like the movie? What’s not to like about that sad, little Christmas tree? The ridiculous dancing? The heartwarming message? Apparently, it all started with ad agency McCann-Erickson. Coca-Cola, one of their clients, commissioned the special, but turns out the executives weren’t infected with the spirit. Lee Mendelson, the executive producer of the film, explains, “He said: ‘This isn’t very good. I don’t know what I’m going to tell the agency. If I tell them what I think, they’re going to cancel the show.'”
But Mendelson had faith. “I said, ‘Well, wait, whoa, this is all very rudimentary. If you believe in Charles Schulz and his characters, you’re just going to have to trust us that this is going to be great.'”
However, by the end of production, even Mendelson had started to doubt the project. “We thought that it was maybe just too slow and we had failed poor Charlie Brown.” And CBS, who was set to air the 25-minute special, was equally as cautious. “They didn’t like the [voice] actors being kids, and they just didn’t like the show in general,” Mendelson continued. “They said: ‘You made a nice try. We’ll put it on the air, obviously, but it just doesn’t work.'”
This is all crazy talk, clearly, because when the special aired on December 9th, 1965, it was an instant hit, and continues to charm audiences every year. In fact, last year the special still pulled in a whopping 6 million viewers, and we don’t think this year will be any different. Some things just are Christmas, and we’re happy that A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of them.
(Image via CBS)