The ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ Story

The LA Times’ Meg James has written an item in honor of tonight’s airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas. The article recounts the story of the show’s making, which is a pretty good story if you haven’t heard it before. From You’re a good magnet for holiday ads, Charlie Brown.

When they finished about a week before the show’s December premiere, Mendelson and Melendez were disappointed with the show’s slow pace.

“We thought that we had ruined Charlie Brown,” Mendelson recalled.

CBS executives thought the show was awful, Mendelson said. They complained that there wasn’t enough action and that the jazz soundtrack was all wrong for a children’s show. Besides, they asked, what kids would talk in such a grown-up manner?

With the premiere broadcast just days away, it was too late to pull the plug. But as others braced for a flop, there remained one true believer in the little Christmas show.

“Sparky liked it from the beginning,” Mendelson said.

In December 1965, the first viewers tuned in to see snowflakes gently falling on a frozen pond…


The show was an immediate success. Nearly half of all homes with TV sets tuned in that night in 1965, and the show would go on to win an Emmy for best animated special.

Over the years, the show would bring in more than $50 million to the producers, United Media, Schulz and, later, his estate, and the two networks that have broadcast it.

Last year, ABC raked in $5.75 million in ad revenue for its two telecasts of “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” according to TNS Media Intelligence, which tracks ad spending. More than 13.6 million people watched the show, which led its time slot in all key demographic groups.

More than 30 companies bought ad time, collectively forking over five times the nearly $1 million in license fees that ABC paid to run the show.

ABC is anticipating another big audience tonight, and, thus, more happy advertisers. Companies that committed to buying time during the show last summer paid about $170,000 for a 30-second spot. Now, with so much demand, the price tag for latecomers has topped $200,000.

That’s almost getting up to the range where, Superbowl-like, the commercials would be sort of interesting to watch in their own right. But we won’t be doing that around here; like any normal person, we have the show on DVD.

2 Responses to “The ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ Story”

  1. enkidu Says:

    As someone who started his career drawing Snoopy in the second grade, I must say that Peanuts rocks (get the CD of the Christmas Special to set the right xmas mood)

    you may also enjoy a tune or two from here:
    Christmas mashups from various sources. #2 is pretty good.

    As a side note: jbc you should do a piece on how the RIAA is clamping down on mashups. What makes this ridiculous is that no one in their right mind would consider mashups as replacements for their sources. The recent Dean Gray (mashup/remix of green day’s American Idiot) is brilliant. And I don’t like Green Day much more than a wet cat, yet the mashup had me buying a few Green Day tracks from iTunes. So if I bought the tunes that make up each mashup, am I breakin the law by keeping the remixed/mashed up music?

    Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

  2. ymatt Says:

    Although I’ve never been much the Peanuts fan, I have to say that the Christmas special soundtrack is about the only Christmas music that I can tolerate. Vince Guaraldi rules.

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