‘Charlie Brown’ Christmas Special Celebrates 50 Years, As Voice Actor Receives Prison Sentence

Charlie Brown and the beloved Peanuts gang have been a staple during the holidays for fifty years. Celebrating the milestone on December 9, everyone remembers Charlie Brown’s famous scraggly Christmas tree. Even Twitter is alight with news of the anniversary, with Twitter recognizing the anniversary as a “moment.”

The Times Free Press reports that Amanda Hostetler, from Chattanooga, remembers watching the premier broadcast of the Charlie Brown special. She is now 55 years old, and has seen it almost every year. It brings back memories every time.

“I think it brings back good memories from your life. All that just seems to be brought out when I watch it. [It makes] people think about the good things that are happening, instead of the bad things.”

But according to Lee Mendelson, who was interviewed by PopMatters, A Charlie Brown Christmas almost never happened. Coca-Cola sponsored the creation of the Charlie Brown special, and when their executives and the executives of CBS saw it, they were not convinced of its merit. Neither were Mendelson and the others.

“They said, ‘We’ll play it once and that will be all. Good try.’ Bill and I thought we had ruined Charlie Brown forever when it was done. We kind of agreed with the network. One of the animators stood up in the back of the room — he had had a couple of drinks — and he said, ‘It’s going to run for a hundred years,’ and then fell down. We all thought he was crazy, but he was more right than we were.”

Bill Melendez, the animator behind A Charlie Brown Christmas, told PopMatters that it touches something in the viewer.

“I think it touches something in the viewer. We didn’t do it on purpose, but there’s something ethnic about it.”

Part of the charm of A Charlie Brown Christmas was the sad, pathetic tree Charlie Brown found to place on the stage for the play they were performing. The tree has become so popular that similar trees are selling like hotcakes this holiday season. CBC reports that David Kirkpatrick of Lo-Hi Christmas Tree Farm has sold over three hundred “Mini Trees.”

“They get excited when they see them. Just 50-year-old men getting excited to have this little tree and he can’t wait to go home with it and have it in his man cave.”

CNN reports there are a number of things most people don’t know about the classic Charlie Brown special. For instance, Linus’ famous speech almost never happened, because the producers were hesitant to have a Bible passage recited in the show.

Also, some of the actors doing the voices were not actors at all, but just kids that lived in Melendez’s neighborhood in Southern California.

Yet, one of the children’s voices on A Charlie Brown Christmas was done by a legitimate child actor. NBC San Diego reports that Peter Robbins, who performed Charlie Brown’s voice for the Christmas special and a number of other productions, is now 59. As his iconic character, Charlie Brown, is being celebrated, Robbins has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison for sending criminal threats to the manager of the Laguna Vista Mobile Home Park in Oceanside and to offering payment to have San Diego County Sheriff Bill Gore killed.

Despite the state of Robbins’ life and his obvious loss of innocence, the innocence of Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts crew lives on, and probably will for many years to come. Many kids today will be able to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the classic Christmas tale in another fifty years. That will be a special time indeed!

[Photo by catwalker/Shutterstock]