Television special: Not rated
Rating: 3 stars out of five.
Review: What makes this one-hour special so charming? Is it the light and pleasant score mostly on piano? Could it be the humble voice-over “actors” who had never done such work before? Is it …. well, just Snoopy?
The answer may be all of the above as we watch the famous “Peanuts” crew on-screen for the first time. This would be the debut but be followed by many specials that Charles Schultz would work with animators and producers to bring out more featuring the title character and the gang.
I can’t pick more than a few favorites in this sweet but short mini-movie. I love (as well as many others) the antics of the walking-dancing beagle Snoopy, the frantic dancing of the kids whose looping movements make it entertaining as well as hard to glance away from, and the overall simple but effective art style.
A part that especially tugs on my heart-strings is Charlie’s plight to find a Christmas tree for their play. He goes far out to the sea of Aluminum trees (apparently too “commercial” for his taste) and ends up seeking what he didn’t expect. A lowly sapling. He talks about how he doesn’t think it’s too bad even though there are gorgeous huge trees in the midst of the selection but he picks it anyway.
I don’t exactly know why but that moment has made me misty-eyed almost every time (the first times I saw it I was too young to experience those kinds of emotions I guess :P). That and when Linus bravely pierces commercialism and tells loud and clear the true meaning of Christmas I feel are two big highlights (Note: Even at the time this was first released Linus’s speech was considered too controversial and the following year the special was aired it had been excised, causing viewers to be upset enough it was put back and its in that form to this day).
Now I know this is not a perfect little film. Seeing it recently I realized I didn’t find the unprofessional actors as charming as I did before though that wasn’t too much of a complaint. Another thing I found strange was Charlie’s constant ranting about how commercial the celebration had become. Now I don’t mind that it ends up revealing a message but him saying that word over and over again just felt nearly annoying.
Other than that this is a great special, a poignant portrayal of Schultz’s beloved characters, and a personal tradition of mine. I love to watch out for this on t.v. every year. And I wouldn’t be surprised if you do too.