Sunday, November 13, 2016

The Endurance of Peanuts Holidays


This year marks the fiftieth anniversary since the television special, "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," aired on television (almost one year after the equally-popular Christmas special). Along with the "Thanksgiving" special (released in 1973), these cartoons have become holiday staples in recent years, churning out the warmth and wit that cartoonist/creator Charles Schultz embedded into his beloved comic strips. Here are a few reasons why these specials still hold up, for kids and adults alike. 

1. Their simplicity. Schultz had a specific style and design of his characters that some would argue looked imperfect, yet still appealing. The quality of the character designs and even the world in which they occupied didn't call for magic kingdoms, fantasy worlds, or slapstick romps like Disney or Warner Brothers at the time. It was always about the characters and the(ir) stories.

2. The characters. Speaking of which, every character was (and still is) very distinct and relatable. To name a few, the titular Charlie Brown is the ambitious kid who always feels like a failure yet never gives up; Linus is philosopher and counselor to his best friend; Lucy is the bossy girl that every kid has seen in school; Peppermint Patty is the quintessential tomboy; and Snoopy is far from any "normal" dog, yet the kind of dog most (if not all) people wish they had.  


3. Their wit and writing, as well as their historical significance. Charlie Brown and company may be kids, but they speak and mingle as contemporary philosophers on day-to-day activities, hardships, and other universal circumstances, periods in history (who could forget Snoopy's WWI "Flying Ace"?) and, yes, holidays. Linus, for instance, mentions "three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin." And it's all done with an often dry, yet very clever, funny and sincere, sense of humor. 

4. Their reverence for their respective holidays. On that same note, each special both satirizes and pays homage to its respective holiday, reminding viewers of the old-fashioned--and less consumer--approach when celebrating. Linus waiting for the Great Pumpkin stands as an alternative to those who don't prefer going trick-or-treating, yet shows other characters who do (including Charlie Brown, who always ends up with rocks). Snoopy makes an unconventional Thanksgiving dinner yet shows a deserved definition of being thankful, even without the turkey and pumpkin pie. And, lest we forget, the true meaning of Christmas is illustrated in the unforgettable moment where Linus recites the Christmas story from the book of Luke onstage. Though Schulz's production colleagues tried to talk him out of including that scene in the special, Schultz was famous for saying, "If we don't do it, who will?"

5. Vince Guaraldi's music. The late jazz musician/composer's scores are practically synonymous with the world of Peanuts, from "Linus and Lucy" to "Christmastime is Here" to his score for the feature film A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969), Guaraldi will also be remembered for bringing jazz music to the public's eye, and in the most unexpected way. 


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