Christmas time was here

December 29th, 2010 / #christmas, #observations, #television

I realize it’s sacrilegious to criticize American icons like this, but since no one reads what I write anyway, let’s get down to business.

A Charlie Brown Christmas, while charming, is really terrible.

I understand that part of the allure of gathering the tots around the tube every yuletide is to reflect back upon memories of simpler times while appreciating the historical significance of the cartoon, but c’mon: the production value of the thing is just awful.

Whenever I catch a Charles Shultz biography or similar documentary, they are quick to point out that, in a radical move uncommon to the industry, Charlie Brown cartoons used actual kids rather than grown-up voice actors for the audio track. Neat idea, I guess, but did they have to use the least convincing children on the planet for the job? The lack of trained child voice actors in the heyday of animation results in Shultzian quirks that, thanks to broadcast television’s annual promotion, remain with us to this day: long, awkward pauses; weird voice inflections; and a final speech by Linus that’s delivered so quickly it seems like he has to pee or something.

Also (and this is an aside not solely related to the original Christmas show), using child voiceovers necessitates whole new casts for future iterations of Charlie Brown cartoons. After they air A Charlie Brown Christmas, they air I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown! with an entirely different cast. I realize that the latter was made decades after the former and that it would be nearly impossible to use the same cast for both, regardless of age, but something tells me it would be easier to emulate the original voices had they been well composed by professional voice actors. Just my two cents.

However silly these kids sound, though, I still watch A Charlie Brown Christmas every year (in all its terrible glory). I don’t know, maybe it’s that I’m a sucker for convention and to watch Peanuts cartoons on major American holidays is the most conventional way a middle class white kid can spend his youth. Maybe my relatively newfound discovery of jazz music has drawn me once again to the cartoon’s soundtrack. Or maybe I just like to watch for the purpose of participating in the greatest of all American pastimes, rampant and unfounded criticism.

Look out for my Christmas post next year, in which I attempt to discern the origins of this new-fangled “Rerun” character. That kid sucks.


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