‘A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving’ Celebrates 45th Anniversary With Annual Airing On ABC

The 1973 holiday classic marked a major milestone for the Peanuts cartoon franchise.

The characters from 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving'
United Feature Syndicate Inc. / ABC

The 1973 holiday classic marked a major milestone for the Peanuts cartoon franchise.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving is set to sail for its 45th airing. The animated TV special, which first aired on November 20, 1973, will play once again his year, per ABC News. In addition, This Is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers, a special bonus cartoon from creator Charles M. Schulz, will air following the Peanuts classic.

Longtime Peanuts fans are familiar with A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which follows the beloved lead character as he plans what turns into a holiday feast for his pals. Caterers Snoopy and Woodstock serve up a measly menu of toast, popcorn, pretzel sticks, and jelly beans as the main dish.

Of course, even die-hard fans may not realize that this was the 10th Peanuts animated special. The classic holiday cartoon made its debut years after the more popular A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, both of which debuted in the mid-1960s. According to the Los Angeles Times, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving premiered on CBS in 1973, and ran on the network annually until moving to ABC in 2001.

In an essay for the Huffington Post, Peanuts producer Lee Mendelson revealed that he and Charles M. Schulz had a “rare” dispute during the creation of the Thanksgiving-themed special, but that later cuts to the program — instigated by CBS — helped to temporarily rectify it.

“Mr. Schulz insisted that Woodstock join Snoopy in carving and eating a turkey. For some reason, I was bothered that Woodstock would eat a turkey. I voiced my concern, which was immediately overruled. Years later, when CBS cut the show from its original 25 minutes to 22 minutes, I sneakily edited out the scene of Woodstock eating. But when we moved to ABC in 2001, the network (happily) elected to restore all the holiday shows to the original 25 minutes, so I finally have given up.”

Scene from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
  United Feature Syndicate Inc. / ABC

In addition, the holiday special marked an interesting milestone for the Peanuts franchise.

Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi — whose famous keyboard playing was a signature part of previous Peanuts specials — actually sang in A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Guaraldi performed the song “Little Birdie” in the TV special, marking the first time an actual adult human voice was ever featured on the animated series, according to MentalFloss. Mendelson also wrote about Guaraldi in his HuffPost piece.

“Vince Guaraldi was one of the main reasons our shows got off to such a great start. His ‘Linus and Lucy,’ introduced in A Charlie Brown Christmas, set the bar for the first 16 shows for which he created all the music. For our Thanksgiving show, he told me he wanted to sing a new song he had written for Woodstock. I agreed with much trepidation as I had never heard him sing a note. His singing of ‘Little Birdie’ became a hit.”

The voice cast for A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving includes Todd Barbee as Charlie Brown, Robin Kohn as Lucy, Stephen Shea as Linus, Hilary Momberger as Sally, Kip DeFaria as Peppermint Patty, Jimmy Ahrens as Marcie, and Robin Reed as Franklin.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and This is America, Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers will air on November 23 — starting at 8:00 p.m. on ABC.