The Making of an Icon: 40 Years of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

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When it comes to holiday traditions, you can’t get much more festive than A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. As much a part of the season as pumpkin pie, raking leaves, and playing football, Charles Schulz’s timeless classic has been entertaining audiences since 1973.

Based on a story of personal humility and friendship, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving finds Charlie Brown in quite the pickle after his band of lovable companions invite themselves over for a memorable holiday meal. Flustered, Charlie Brown pulls together a haphazard meal (with a little help from Snoopy and Woodstock, of course) just in time for Linus to impart to all assembled the real meaning of the holiday season.

The tenth primetime animated TV special based on the Peanuts brand, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is easily one of the franchise’s most recognizable stories. As such, it came as no surprise to the Loud Crow team when PEANUTS WORLDWIDE suggested we revive the iconic tale for a modern, digital audience.  Featuring dialogue, music and sound effects from the original 1973 animated special, the new A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving app is just one chapter in this story’s long and illustrious history.

How has this animated classic managed to stay at the top of the television ratings for the past four decades? We did a little analysis here at the Loud Crow office and came up with the following three reasons for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’s timeless charm:

1) It’s all about the kids.

Parental figures have never played an integral role in any of the Peanuts’ animated classics. According to the Peanuts Wiki, this is because parents simply didn’t interest Schulz. By leaving the parents on the outskirts of his comic strip and any subsequent specials, Schulz was able to give his stories a unique perspective, one that emulated a child’s point of view. As for the iconic, waah waah noises that magically appear whenever an adult enters a scene? We asked Lee Mendelson, the producer behind A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, to provide us with some insight:

“Because there were no adults in the comic strip, we decided that we needed something offstage; originally it was something to signify the teacher. Lee Mendelson, ProducerI asked Vince Guaraldi if he could come up with a musical instrument that sounded like an adult talking and so we ended up with a trombone. [It] became one of the most famous signatures of our shows.”

– Lee Mendelson, Peanuts Producer

By keeping his focus clearly on the kids, Schulz was able to preserve a sense of child-like wonder in the Peanuts world… which is why no one is surprised when Charlie Brown serve’s a Thanksgiving meal based entirely on candy, pretzels, popcorn and toast!.

2) It appeals to everyone.

In today’s trend-dominated atmosphere of high-tech advances and disposable entertainment, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving stands out as one of the few truly timeless classics still in existence. In fact, last year the animated special pulled in 8.1 million viewers when it aired on ABC – the largest audience the animated series has seen in four years. Couple that with a brand new digital app and there’s no telling how many new fans will tune into this year’s broadcast.

3) It reminds us of what really matters.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving - Table SceneFrom touchdowns and tailgating to Black Friday shopping madness, it’s easy to overlook the real reason for the Thanksgiving holiday season. Luckily, the true meaning of the celebration is clearly put forth in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, first by Linus in his dinnertime prayer, and again by Marcie: Thanksgiving is a day to be grateful for your friends, and your family; your freedom and your safety. As with many of the other Peanuts’ specials, Schulz is able to deliver this abstract message in a manner that’s not just fun, but also accessible to a younger audience.

Originally aired on CBS some 40 years ago, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is easily one of the most recognizable Peanuts productions. Celebrate four decades of festive fun with Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and the whole gang and add Loud Crow’s latest digital story masterpiece, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, to your family’s holiday entertainment library today.

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