Two Charlie Brown Christmas Movies

This year, I discovered two Charlie Brown Christmas movies I had never seen before.  Part of me was excited, but I also wondered how the more modern short films would compare to A Charlie Brown Christmas, the 1965 short I’ve grown up watching.

Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales

Charlie Brown's Christmas TalesCharlie Brown’s Christmas Tales is an extremely brief film at only eighteen minutes in length.  One at a time, the short film focuses on each of the main Peanuts characters, depicting brief scenes of the protagonists and highlighting their personalities.  Each section of the film is like a Christmas postcard about the main characters, and the movie lacks a major storyline.  Interestingly, Christmas Tales introduces a new character to me, Lucy and Linus’ little brother Rerun.  At first I thought Rerun was Linus, but I eventually figured out who he was as I began watching the next short film.

I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown

Rerun and Snoopy

Rerun and Snoopy

A much more substantial forty-three minutes, I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown stars Rerun and Snoopy.  The main storyline follows Rerun’s attempts to get a dog of his own.  Rerun pesters Charlie Brown about playing with, and even buying, Snoopy and is constantly inventing new tactics for acquiring the dog he longs for.  Like Linus, Rerun is very serious but is still convincingly the youngest child because he is more whiney and less well-read than his older brother.

Conclusion

While I still prefer the 1965 Christmas short film, Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales and I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown are enjoyable too.  I like the new storylines involving Snoopy in I Want a Dog, and Rerun is a fun new character.  Both films are humorous and have the jazzy Peanuts music I love, including some additional tunes.  And although neither film has messages as deep as in A Charlie Brown Christmas, Charles Schulz still includes some thought-provoking moments.

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The Peanuts Movie

KiteFrom classic kite scenes to new and creative elements, The Peanuts Movie is a fun film.  The animated children’s movie is well-rounded in character development, story, and humor, for the scriptwriters skillfully craft familiar elements of the Peanuts comic strip into an over-arching storyline that unites the fragmentary comics into a seamless whole.

Football, snow days, Red Baron duels, the Little Red-Haired Girl, and Snoopy’s typewriter all make appearances in the film.  Yet, while The Peanuts Movie alludes to the previous short films with Christmas carolers and pumpkin references, there are many new elements.  For example, there are moments when some little event spirals into a distinctive part of the comics, and when viewers think to themselves, “So that’s how the Red Baron storyline started.”  (Note: As I am not an expert on Peanuts, I don’t actually know how each storyline began, but The Peanuts Movie presents plausible scenarios.)

The Peanuts Movie is more than nostalgia and references to the past, however, for it has its own unique elements.  Charlie Brown becomes a developed and sympathetic character.  In spite of failures, he keeps going, and without realizing it, he’s always achieving and succeeding at what matters most.  While the roles and characters of Lucy and Linus are more downplayed than in past stories, Snoopy and the Little Red-Haired Girl join Charlie on center stage.  Snoopy and typewriterMy impression of Snoopy has always been negative; he seems to be 95% mean and annoying, at least in his roles in the two Christmas short films and in many Peanuts comics I have read.  Although vestiges of these characteristics remain, Snoopy turns out to be a good friend to Charlie Brown and a very imaginative daydreamer.  Finally, the Little Red-Haired Girl has an interesting character.  She has no name, and the audience knows almost nothing about her, yet the scriptwriters gradually reveal that she is sweet and nice—if only Charlie Brown could summon the courage to introduce himself!  But such things are easier written than accomplished, as the movie demonstrates.

In addition to a fun storyline and excellent character development, The Peanuts Movie also has good messages.  Charlie Brown discovers popularity isn’t as important as it seems and doesn’t change who a person is underneath.  As Charlie Brown struggles with what he calls “a serious case of inadequacy,” I appreciate his honesty with himself (“Quotes”).  Too often people promote “self-esteem” and self-confidence over humility, and the movie reminds us that we aren’t always going to be successful or feel “adequate.”  Everyone has Charlie Brown moments, but few people can swallow their pride and face their problems as he does.

Lucy and Charlie“If you really want to impress people, you need to show them you’re a winner,” Lucy advises Charlie at one point in the film (“Quotes”).  In an unexpected twist, Lucy is right, though not in the way she intended.  While Charlie Brown never really loses his chronic inadequacy and tendency to failure, he does show people that he’s a winner: someone who doesn’t give up and who is humble, honest, sympathetic, and kind even when it means sacrifice on his part.  In the end, Charlie Brown does impress people, but not with the kind of success he, or Lucy, would have imagined.

Works Cited

The Peanuts Movie (2015) Quotes.”  IMDb.com.  2016.  Internet Movie Database.  14 Jun. 2016 <http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2452042/trivia?tab=qt&ref_=tt_trv_qu&gt;.

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A Charlie Brown Christmas

Charlie Brown ChristmasWhy do I like A Charlie Brown Christmas?  I’m sure nostalgia plays a part, but the main reason this short film is one of my favorite Christmas movies is because of the music, characters, and themes.

To begin with, I really like the music.  The tunes are catchy and are among the few jazz pieces I enjoy listening to.  Above all, I like when the children sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” at the end of the film.  Interestingly, CBS almost didn’t air this Christmas special in 1965 because CBS executives thought people wouldn’t like or understand the jazz music (Slife).  In spite of these predictions, audiences loved the movie, and it won a Primetime Emmy award and was nominated for a Grammy award (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”).

Another part of the appeal of A Charlie Brown Christmas is the characters.  Although CBS executives didn’t like that the characters were voiced over by children, this actually makes the characters real and endearing (Slife).  Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus, Schroeder, and Sally act and sound like children and make the story fun, entertaining, and yet somehow thoughtful.  When Charlie Brown desponds about how Christmas is being commercialized, I can relate, for what was true when the show aired in 1965 is still true today.  Lucy is her usual bossy, worldly-minded self, giving out psychiatric help and chasing dreams of real-estate.  Solemn Linus drags his blanket about and doles out wisdom that deserves to be heard by more than just his peers in the film.  Schroeder pounds away with dedication at his piano, and Sally tags around after Charlie Brown and Linus, exasperating and embarrassing them as she busily composes a letter to Santa Claus.

Charlie Brown and LinusWhat I love most about this film, however, are the themes.  Although Charles Schulz may not have been a Christian, his work often rings with truth, and this story contains some of the best examples (Schulz 305).  Through the characters’ actions and words, Schulz highlights the problems plaguing modern Christmases, particularly commercialism, and he explains “what Christmas is all about.”

As the story opens, Charlie Brown tells Linus, “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.”  Of all the characters, Charlie Brown seems to be the only one who understands that something is wrong about how everyone is celebrating Christmas.  Are Christmas lists, cards, plays, and presents what make Christmas wonderful?  Or are they reminders of a greater wonder, the Son of God born in Bethlehem, the greatest Gift the world has ever known?

Works Cited

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965 TV Special): Awards.”  Imdb.com.  24 Dec. 2015 <www.imdb.com/title/tt0059026/awards?ref_=tt_awd>.

Schulz, Charles M.  The Complete Peanuts: 1950 to 1952.  Ed. Gary Groth.  Seattle, WA: Fantagraphics Books, 2004.

Slife, Joseph.  “Charlie Brown Almost Didn’t Get to Celebrate Christmas in Prime Time.” Worldmag.com.  2 Dec. 2014.  24 Dec. 2015 <www.worldmag.com/2014/12/charlie_brown_almost_didn_t_get_to_celebrate_christmas_in_prime_time>.

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