While I was doing research on the book adaptations of A Charlie Brown Christmas for yesterday’s post, I was delving into online newspaper archives – which is a great black hole for me, drawing me in and destroying the rest of my world. I get off on tangents, investigate odd things. I’ve got a couple articles coming up and some books I will publish based on what I have found, but it tends to derail other efforts.
Anyway, as I was saying, I ended up looking at pre-release coverage of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and found an interesting entry in the “After Last Night” column by Will Jones in the November 14, 1964 issue of the Minneapolis Tribune. He cites “a guy who has seen about 12 minutes of a rough-cut of the show” which would air on December 9. “It will be the first half-hour special in TV history, totally animated except for a brief moment at the end of the show where Charles Schulz himself appears on camera.”
What what what? Was it the first half-hour special? The first half-hour animated special? I’d never really thought about that. I don’t really know, but the earlier specials that come to mind are indeed an hour. But the Schulz appearing on camera bit suggests to me that maybe some short version of this was shown to network affiliates, and that Schulz put something on there that was meant to be a greeting to the affiliates or executives, rather than anything that was actually ever intended for the special.
He goes on to describe contents of the special, some accurately, some curiously, ultimately saying (presumably because of the special covering the “real” story of Christmas) that “it is, in effect, an animated documentary.” Can’t say that I’ve ever heard it called that before!