JILL SCHULZ AND A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS
Peanuts Worldwide is kicking off a year-long celebration of 50 years of A Charlie Brown Christmas! December 2014 marks the 50th time the beloved special will air on television. To launch the celebration, Jill Schulz, 56, the youngest of Charles M. Schulz’s five children, recently sat down with bloggers around the country to share her personal memories of her Dad; the family Christmas traditions that she shared with her siblings Meredith, Amy, Monte, and Craig; and, of course, the way that A Charlie Brown Christmas has touched her life and the lives of millions of fans across the globe. We’re kicking off a year-long celebration of 50 years of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and there are actually two 50ths to celebrate:
- 50th time it will air will be this December 2014 on ABC
- 50th year since it was created, produced and debuted will be December 2015.
Nicole’s take: I am so happy to be an ambassador for Peanuts! We are marking the 50th anniversary of the airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas! and what a memory this program is from my childhood! Many of you know that I am Jewish and do not celebrate Christmas but pop culture has Christmas everywhere and we always watched Christmas TV specials. My favorite was always A Charlie Brown Christmas! I know it was for many of you and now you watch with your kids and grandkids – this is how family traditions are made!
Interviewing Jill Schultz, the daughter of Peanuts creator, Charles M. Schultz was so much fun. Here are some of my favorite portions of the interview!
Jill is on the right.
Q: Was there anything in the special that was similar to your childhood?
Jill: “There are elements that are supposed to come from my family. Like Lucy’s crabbiness came from Meredith. I’m told that Linus has a blanket because I always had a blanket.” But I can’t say there’s anything specific in the special.
“Dad was active in Sunday school when we were much younger, he taught there on Sundays for many years. So the Linus speech was something very important to him.”
“Lee Mendelson tells the story of meeting with the top guys at CBS—they said they loved the special, ‘But you need to take the Linus’ speech out.’ When Lee told Dad that he said, ‘Tell them to just forget it then.’ Now it’s become the most iconic part of the entire TV special. It’s one of my favorite parts because I know how important it was to my father.”
When producing the Christmas ice show at Knott’s Berry Farm, Jill suggested building a show around the special, and having the Linus character come to the center of ice, putting a spotlight on him and having him give the speech.
“The people at the theme park were kind of nervous, just like long ago. ‘Maybe we need to edit it.’ Because it was so important to my dad, I said, ‘We need to do it exactly as it happened in the TV special.’ Now the ice performance has a huge following, and one of guests’ favorite parts is seeing that performed live by the Linus character.”
Q: Did your Dad think the special would be around 50 years later?
Jill: “He wasn’t one to predict. The most important thing to him was drawing the comic strip. He’d always say, ‘I’m just a cartoonist.’ He was not setting out to make his cartoon famous, or sell merchandise. Those were everyone else’s ideas.”
“One thing he never understood was when people would say to him, ‘Mr. Schulz, you’re so successful now, why don’t you retire?’ He’d say, ‘Why would I spend my whole life to become successful at doing the thing I love to do, and then not do it?’ He passed away immediately after he decided he could no longer draw the strip. To him, it was all about drawing the comic strip.”
Q:Why do you suppose after 50 years, it’s still resonating with people?
Jill: “Because the characters, the experiences they have, in the strip and the TV show are things that every generation has, does, and will continue to experience in life. Football with Charlie Brown. Everyone experiences losing. Everyone comments on commercialism. It’s been happening for years, will continue to happen. Siblings teasing each other, fighting, even if they love each other.”
“All of these things are extensions of his own personality or things he would observe in others. He was always observing everybody, whether in the coffee shop at the ice rink, or on trips. He was a great observer of human nature. Like many of us, he hung onto and had a clear vision of his feelings as a child. That comes across in the strip and the special.”
Q: Who’s your favorite Peanuts character and why?
Jill: “My absolute favorite is Snoopy because I like his imagination and his free spirit, how he imagines whatever he wants to be. I had a pretend friend as a kid that everyone teased me about. And because he’s a dog and I love rescue animals. Then it would be Linus, because I like how calm he remains, how philosophical he is.”
Launch the holiday joy early, as you anticipate the 50th airing of A Charlie Brown Christmas! The soft and huggable Snoopy plush brings cheer any time of day or night, while the charming Be Joyful book keeps you in a Peanuts spirit year-round.
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Disclosure: Nicole is a Peanuts ambassador and receives occasional products as part of her participation. All opinions remain our own.
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