Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown

It’s a timeless story, all right.

“We got a call from Coca-Cola,” remembered Melendez. “And they said, ‘Have you and Mr. Schulz ever considered doing a Christmas show with the characters?’ and I immediately said ‘Yes.’ And it was Wednesday and they said, ‘If you can send us an outline by Monday, we might be interested in it.’ So I called Sparky on the phone and told him I’d just sold ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas,’ and he said, ‘What’s that?’ and I said, ‘It’s something you’ve got to write tomorrow.’”

We learned in that American Masters series that Schulz had some ideas of his own for the Christmas special, ideas that didn’t make the network suits very happy. First and foremost, there was no laugh track, something unimaginable in that era of television. Schulz thought that the audience should be able to enjoy the show at its own pace, without being cued when to laugh. CBS created a version of the show with a laugh track added, just in case Schulz changed his mind. Luckily, he didn’t.

The second big battle was waged over voiceovers. The network executives were not happy that the Schulz’s team had chosen to use children to do the voice acting, rather than employing adults. Indeed, in this remarkable world created by Charles Schulz, we never hear the voice of an adult.

The executives also had a problem with the jazz soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi. They thought the music would not work well for a children’s program, and that it distracted from the general tone. They wanted something more…well…young.

Whatever would we do without the “experts” and almighty executives to run things from the top down for us? It’d be a pretty sobering exercise to just sit back and seriously contemplate for a bit the grey, somber world they’d have us living in if they always got their way. Read the rest; like I said, it’s a timeless story all right, and an instructive one as well.


2 thoughts on “Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown

  1. In both TV and music, it’s a wonderful thing that these parasitical paper shufflers are gone. The few I’ve known clearly felt resentment at having to give in to *any* demands or requests from the creative types. I think it’s mostly because every such case reminds them of what they lack – sufficient creative capability to add any value at all to a work.

  2. William H Whyte published “The Organization Man” in 1956. He examined the then new culture of the large, “scientifically” organized corporation and some his own experiences in them.

    A crazy aspect of those companies (and how many today?) was their idea that they would be more productive if the employees and executives were “normal”. They tested for this normality by using tests based on abnormal psychology. They would screen out the abnormal, leaving the normal. They also were screening out the unusually intelligent, artistic, and creative.

    Whyte reported having to take some of these tests. Whyte was abnormally creative and intelligent himself, and often scored poorly for promotion into higher management. He figured out how to beat the tests. He identified the general type of person that the tests were looking for. Whyte recommended pretending three basic attitudes to successfuly answer these tests:

    (1) I enjoy sports, but I don’t like art and music very much.
    (2) I think things are pretty good just the way they are.
    (3) I love my wife and family, but my job comes first.

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"America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." – Claire Wolfe, 101 Things to Do 'Til the Revolution

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